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THE PIT
AND THE

PENDULUM
BY

EDGAR ALLAN POE

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COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
Short Story: “The Pit and the Pendulum” Author: Edgar Allan Poe, 1809–49 First published: 1843 The original short story is in the public domain in the United States and in most, if not all, other countries as well. Readers outside the United States should check their own countries’ copyright lawsto be certain they can legally download this e-story. The Online Books Page has an FAQ which gives a summary of copyright durations for many other countries, as well as links to more official sources.

This PDF ebook was created by José Menéndez.

Impia tortorum longas hic turba furores Sanguinis innocui, non satiata, aluit. Sospite nunc patria, fracto nunc funeris antro, Mors ubi dira fuitvita salusque patent. [Quatrain composed for the gates of a market to be erected upon the site of the Jacobin Club House at Paris.]

I WAS sick—sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me. The sentence—the dread sentence of death—was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears. After that,the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum. It conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution—perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill-wheel. This only for a brief period, for presently I heard no more. Yet, for a while, I saw—but with how terrible an exaggeration! I saw the lips of the blackrobed judges. They appeared to me white—whiterthan the sheet upon which I trace these words—and thin even to grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of firmness—of immovable resolution—of stern contempt of human torture. I saw that the decrees of what to me was Fate were still issuing from those lips. I saw them writhe with a deadly locution. I saw them fashion the syllables of my name; and I shuddered because no soundsucceeded. I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment. And then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels 3

4

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM

who would save me; but then, all at once, there came amost deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help. And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in the grave. The thought came gently andstealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul intoHades. Then silence, and stillness, and night were the universe. I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber—no! In delirium—no! In a swoon—no! In death—no! even in the grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from themost profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to life from the swoon there are two stages: first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence. It seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could...
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