Metzengerstein is Edgar Allan Poe’s first published short story.
Summary: The families Berlifitzing and Metzengerstein of Hungary have been rivals for centuries. Legend has it that the reason is this prophecy:
“A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing.”
The story begins when one night, the stables of today’s Berlifitzing family catch fire. At that same time, in his own castle, Baron Frederick von Metzengerstein notices the horse in the tapestry suddenly look alive. The painting depicts a Metzengerstein while dead at his feet, fallen from his horse, is a Berlifitzing, whom he killed. Only a few minutes later a ferocious and demon-like steed is found by the Metzengerstein guards. The horse is fiery and energetic, and has the letters “W.V.B” branded on its chest. News later reaches the Metzengerstein family that Count William von Berlifitzing died in the fire. Baron Frederick decides to keep the monstrous horse, unknowingly setting the prophecy in motion.
“In the glare of noon – at the dead hour of night – in sickness or in health – in calm or in tempest – the young Metzengerstein seemed riveted to the saddle of that colossal horse, whose intractable audacities so well accorded with his own spirit.”
My thoughts: This is the first time I have read anything by Poe (apart from listening to and not understanding the Raven once, a long time ago.) I really liked the prose. That something so modern was written more than a hundred years ago seems amazing. The tale, like the subtitle says in some prints, is argued to be a subtle mocking of the typically German gothic writings. While it is only argued (and not definite) and I am certainly no expert; I did detect a slight satire.
I loved the authority the narrator has over the text. He is almost a part of the story (as opposed to a silent observer) and is the only one left standing, at the very end. The key theme of the story, as is hinted to us very early in the story, is the general belief of those times in Metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul.
I liked the eeriness of the story and do see myself reading more of Poe’s famous short stories. Meanwhile, you can read this story here. This review is a part of Peril of the Short Story from the R.I.P. Challenge. You can read more short stories on Short Stories on Wednesday at Risa’s Bread Crumb Reads.