Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Said we, then—the two, then—"Ah, can it
- Up until now, the speaker and Psyche, his soul, have been split apart, arguing. Now they join together and speak with one voice.
- We think this is a neat little way of starting to wrap the poem up. First it was just the speaker's voice, then he added Psyche's voice, and now he mingles them together.
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls—
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls—
- This is kind of weird territory at the end here. Fun, but weird.
- The speaker and Psyche decide that maybe the ghouls who live in the woods aren't so bad after all. Maybe they were actually "pitiful" (meaning "full of pity," not "pathetic") and "merciful." Perhaps the ghouls were trying to help them out.
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds—
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds—
- Maybe the ghouls were trying to block ("bar up") the speaker and Psyche from getting to the hidden secret of this place. We imagine that "secret" is the tomb of Ulalume.
- The ghouls, they think, were protecting them by trying to forbid ("ban") them from seeing that terrible place.
- Poe refers twice here to the "wolds." That's an old word for an open stretch of rolling hills. That makes sense, more or less, but we think Poe was thinking more about sounds and rhymes here than about strict definitions. He just can't resist a cool new word.
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
- According to the story the speaker came up with, the ghouls called up a ghostly image ("spectre") of a planet (Venus/ the goddess Astarte) in order to block them from going farther, to keep them away.
From the limbo of lunary souls—
- Apparently they pulled her (Venus/ the goddess Astarte) up from the "limbo of lunary souls." Huh? This one needs a second look.
- Limbo is a religious term for a place between heaven and hell, where the souls of the dead are neither damned nor saved.
- "Lunary" means "having to do with the moon."
- So, this specter must have been floating in limbo around the moon. Weird.
- We'll admit that it's hard to pin down exactly what Poe's talking about here. We think he's trying to get us to imagine a vast, overwhelming, crazy spirit world swirling around these two characters. Plot is important here, but we think the sounds and the hallucinatory visuals they produce are just as meaningful.
This sinfully scintillant planet
- These final lines are full of crazy drama and amazing sounds. They don't give us closure in the normal way, but we think they are a great finish for this trippy sonic journey.
- Here the speaker refers to the planet they saw as "sinfully scintillant" (scintillant = sparkling). We just love this word combination! Doesn't it seem like the perfect description of the sexy, scary, maybe dangerous star goddess we heard all about in lines 35-50?
From the Hell of the planetary souls?"
- Kind of a grim ending. Before the speaker called this place "limbo" (line 102), but now he describes it as "Hell."
- Again, we think he's describing a feeling, a mood, as much as any place we could name or see. Having the gloom of hell fall over everything at the end leaves us on a pretty sad note.
- With an ending this full of wild emotion and crazy descriptions, it's easy to feel like maybe our speaker is losing it a little.