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Themes

The majority of "The Haunted Palace" (four out of six stanzas) is about the way that the palace used to be. So in a way, this poem is more about the past, about the palace that people remember, than the way things are in the present. In this case, memory is kind of bittersweet, too—the way it often is. According to our speaker, the past was a golden age, much better than the darkness and grim misery that followed. If only he had some kind of time machine…

Questions About Memory and The Past

  1. Why does the happy part of this poem take place "long ago"? How does the change in time tie in with the change in mood from happy to sad?
  2. If the images of the palace are a metaphor for a human head, could the change in time be metaphor for the changes of a human life?
  3. In the last two stanzas, the speaker connects the past with death, like when he talks about "old time entombed" (40). Does that make sense to you? Does the past die as it fades into memory?
  4. Is the past comforting in this poem? Do all those sweet memories lighten the mood at all, or does it finally not matter how happy and beautiful things used to be? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Memory is no comfort at all in "The Haunted Palace." The joy and beauty of the palace is gone forever, and those happy memories just add to the feeling of loss and torment. Sheesh—can't anything cheer us up?

Even though the poem ends on a sour note, it's dominated by happy images and sweet memories. The supposedly dead and vanished past is brought back to life by the speaker's descriptions. So, he's got that going for him.

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