But unlike the reader in the “poem,” if you’re tapped on the shoulder, run!
In 1876 Guy de Maupassant, best known for his short stories (and short life), wrote a poem for the “Republic of Letters,” under the pseudonym of Guy de Valmont. Like the poems of Poe, which inspired “Terror,” its lines are long, the language ornate. Try as I might, I was unable in verse to capture the mood of de Maupassant’s tribute to the poet of Halloween, so I have translated it as a prose poem.
trans. by C. C. Mambretti
Author of CHALK GHOST and SNOW GHOST (coming soon)
Into the night I read—on and on I read—read one poet, only one—until, at the instant the clock struck midnight, I was overcome with dread. Shaken, I gasped for breath, knowing only that some nameless horror hovered in the air.
Then I sensed a figure standing behind me, a brash figure; it snickered—a ghastly laugh. I sensed, yet I heard nothing. To feel it bend over to kiss my hair; to feel its hand poised to tap my shoulder, was torture. Worse, I feared that if it so much as brushed against me, I would die.
Still, it leaned over me, still oh so close.
And I? No move made I to save myself, not even to turn my head away. My thoughts whirled, like birds by tempests battered. The sweat of death frosted my limbs. In my chamber no noise was heard but my clicking teeth.
No noise until . . .
A thunderous crack! Wild. Horrific—and a howl more terror-filled than had ever issued from a living breast.
Stiff, I fell back, back, back . . . .
I wonder where he fell. Into the pit with the pendulum, do you suppose? Or into the dank tarn into which the House of Usher sank—the original house-eating sinkhole.
Here’s why your parents always told you never to stay up too late reading: