The Haunted Palace
by Edgar Allan Poe
This is definitely the big hitter in this poem. It's the main image, the one the speaker describes in the most detail. It's also a complex and kind of mysterious extended metaphor. Poe uses the image of the palace to symbolize a human head, and then he parallels the changes in the palace with the collapse of human reason. There's a lot going on here, we know, but we'll break it down for you. Never fear (or, you know, fear just a little—this is Poe, after all).
- Line 3: The words that describe the palace here help to set up one of the key images in the poem. When the speaker calls the palace "fair" (that means beautiful) and "stately" (that means elegant, fit for a king), we get a pretty good idea of the kind of building we're supposed to imagine. These words set a mood, too, helping us to relax at the beginning of the poem.
- Lines 9-10: In these lines, the speaker describes the yellow banners that are flying on top of the castle. We may not quite have put things together yet, but these banners symbolize blond hair flowing on the top of a human head. Be sure to check out the assonance and the alliteration (hey, a two-for-one deal) in the words "glorious" and "golden."
- Lines 33-34: Now, all of a sudden, the palace is under attack. Some kind of "evil things" have "assailed" the king's "high estate" (that could mean either his royal presence, his stature, or the actual palace he's living in). Again, these "evil things" are symbols for whatever terrible thing is happening to the person that the palace represents. Maybe they symbolize insanity, or sickness, or death. Whatever they might be, they're bad news bears for the palace and the person it stands in for.