Synopsis: A man laments with exquisite grief the loss of his wife Ligeia. He takes us to their long ago meeting in a decaying city near the Rhine where he was at first entranced with her beauty, her gracefulness, and her intelligence. He never asked after her family because he simply didn't care. Peasant or princess, Ligeia was his.
She was an educated woman, who knew far more than even a man her age. She could speak of music and science and literature.
She was a striking woman, tall with a graceful way of moving. Silent was she moving through their home. Her skin was pale, flawless. Her eyes were large, perhaps too large but fit within her face. She was slender and, as she aged, emaciated. Her face was not cut from the classic mold but was uniquely her own.
He not only loved her; she loved him. As she progressed towards death, only then did the man begin to grasp the depth of her feelings for him. As he sat at her beside, she would hold his hand and speak at length of her love. One day, she begged him to memorize a verse she had written. At the end of the verse, Ligeia leapt to her feet, her arms extended to the heavens, she beseeched God quoting a passage from Glanvill: "Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will."
And then she died.
Hours turned to days, days to weeks, still the man was destroyed by the loss of his Ligeia. Some months later, he left his home, purchasing an abbey in some disrepair and took on the task of rebuilding it. He married again, taking a young wife. He gave her every worldly thing he could, everything except the one thing he couldn't give her-his love.
About two months after their marriage, his wife, Rowena, was attacked with a sudden illness. Fever made her sleep uneasy. She spoke of sounds and motions in her wedded chamber. The fever broke and she recovered only to face another attack, this one far worse. She survived but never fully recovered. She continued to hear sounds and see motion others did not.
She again fell ill, deathly ill. The man attended his wife, staying at her bedside. Death was close. He wanted to call for aid but he could not do so without leaving her. So he stayed.
Quietly, silently, she passed.
He wrapped her body, covering her face. He sat, watching her, thinking of Ligeia.
He became vaguely aware of some sound coming from the bed. It was a sigh. He rushed to the bedside, certain he saw her lips move. There was color in her cheeks. Then, just it was gone. The color, the movement, the sound. All gone.
Certain, yet uncertain, he refused to leave. He watched.
Again, he swore he saw color through the cloth. Movement. Again, it stopped as suddenly as it started.
A third time, he witnessed her eyes pressing tightly together. He might have dreamed Rowena was fighting death except then the shrouded figure rose from the bed and walked in staggering steps to him. He didn't tremble. He wasn't afraid. His mind raced to make sense of the sight before him. The cloth fell away from her mouth showing the radiant features of a young woman, his Rowena, but had her illness made her taller? What trickery was this?
We end here to give you the opportunity to enjoy yourself: https://poestories.com/read/ligeia
Ligeia. How do you say her name? I don't know. Wikipedia suggests a pronunciation but it is worse than the name itself. In my head, I pronounced the "geia" with a soft j beginning and rhyming with "Leia" of Star Wars fame. I preceded it with Li, with the i being short, as in lid.
It is a horror story, but one of beautiful grief. Maybe it is even a fantasy to those who have lost their dearest ones.
Spoiling starting...now. As the cloths fall away, it is not Rowena but his beloved Ligeia returned to him. Wow. Talk about your happily ever afters. (Of course, I feel bad for Rowena, who I'm certain deserved to be more than a poor substitute.)
Of all the things in this story, my mind went to the transition of Rowena into Ligeia. Rowena was shorter, blond, and younger. Ligeia was taller, dark haired, and older. Not to mention an angel- at least, that's the way I read it. I will admit, I did not read the various postings on the interpretation of the story. I don't care for literary dissections of stories-they take all the fun away.
While I can suspend belief that one woman can transform to another (love it), I have to play by the rules of our world. The conservation of mass says that the mass of an object, in this case Rowena's body, changes only with the interaction of other objects of mass. If Ligeia took over Rowena without bring mass of her own, then the mass of Rowena's body would stay the same. If she was taller, as the story said, then she had to also be thinner, essentially redistributing the mass. Or she would be missing an arm or some other part that balanced out her height.
To take over Rowena's body, it would have taken energy and discomfort (pain?) to grow/stretch adult bones to match her height. As her face was transformed, the bones of the skull would have also had to change. With this happening over a course of a few hours, it would have hurt like a b$%^&. From experience, I know the way a body changes during pregnancy is not without aches and pains. I see it in my children as they grow from kids to teens. They eat like maniacs, sleep like the dead, then grow two inches. They also ache in their legs and bodies. I think Poe should have made the transfiguring Rowena/Ligeia scream her head off, or at least moan incessantly for a few hours. Now that's horror.