The Last Temptation
E. A. Poe, Esq.,

R.G. Liberty, Esq.,




It was night and it was cold
And I was alone.
For how else can one be when he has no friend?
But perhaps I have misspoken,
Loneliness was my friend
And a good friend it was,
For I have yet to find one as constant.

From where I sat I could see the World.
The world outside my dirty window,
My world.
And I regarded the moon in her quarter
Rising up from darkness.
I smiled, then I laughed,
For such was my fancy.

And nothing more.

Thus I sat, alone, with my phantom friend,
To talk with, to sing with
Or to cry with.
Upon my wooden chair
Within my darkened room,
So I remained.
My attention occasionally teased by the sound
Of a tiny spider
Spinning her web of gossamer
Which shimmered silver in the moon's
Harsh light.

From outside came the thunder of
A thousand crickets mocking me
With busy conversation.
The questioning cries of predatory owls
And the terse replies of mangy black birds.
Damn this torment!
Even night creatures sneer at me
From their companionships.

I cursed Heaven for the Hell
That was mine alone.
I had lived a life of sorrows, solitudes and phantasms.
But no more.
I resolved to rekindle a fond friendship.
And so I did.

Lifting myself from my chair
I solemnly stole down into my cellar.
The place was so like my mood;
Damp and dark and permeated by
The stench of putrescence.
Once down there I proceeded to seek
The whereabouts of my Cache of Amontillado.




The hissing candle sputtered,
For the atmosphere was so very heavy
With portent, omen, foreshadowing
And similar plot devices.
Notwithstanding, my venture was successful.
Taking hammer and pick I violently broke
Through a legended brick wall,
Exposing my goal.

Having thus located the nectar
Amid a scattering of pussycat bones,
I approached it with a touch of hesitation,
Remembering that my last rendezvous with the grape
Had left me but a step from Death's door.

It might be said that I had been somewhat
Of a drinker in days past.
But it is not usually said
With such delicacy.
Indeed, to my everlasting,
(but hardly inhibative)
I had been nominated perpetual town drunk.

Nevertheless ~

I recovered one of three bottles
(Wisely hid in a lucid moment)
And quaffed a goodly portion of it.
For, it must be remembered,
I was much in need of comfort.

How can one express the feeling?
The rush of warmth
As the sweet liquid gushes down one's
Throat to the pit of the belly
Where it sloshes and burns
Like lava from an angry volcano.
Presently the fury subsides
And the lava cools.
The brain is numbed and
Every fibre of the body sings with
Exquisite and familiar pain.
Soon there is a need for more
And this need must be respected.
And is,
Again and again.

And from out the fountain sprang
A flowing fire to ignite my soul.
So it is, and so it was,
That I had found a friend.
O glorious and benevolent friend
Wash away my sorrow.
Take me to the place wherein I may
Find the rewards I so deserve . . .

Seeming to hear my plea,
The bottle vibrated within my grasp,
Twisted and jumped free
And assumed the aspect of an angel
In my view.
Growing and glowing with singular
It sprang into the air before me and
Tilted its neck to touch my lips
With full, flowing radiant

My senses became acute,
I sensed all things in the heaven and in the earth
I sensed many things in hell.
I laughed at my loneliness
And reveled in self righteousness
And light abandon.

Until a thought struck me like a sledge!
I must forestall the imp of the perverse!
I must not overindulge.
I would take only two of the bottles
And secrete the last.

How I accomplished this
Was simple in its design
And ingenious in its execution.
I first carried the near empty bottle,
And one of the remaining two,
Up into my velvet-cushioned study
And placed them on the table,
Beside the placid bust of Pallis
Just before my chamber door.
I then retraced my steps to the cellar,
Ensuring to take a spool of thread
Along with my candle.




Down-down-still down-
Till a hideous dizziness oppressed me
At the mere idea of the interminableness
Of the descent.
Until at length,
Finding myself with the bottle I intended to hide
I took it into my hand,
And with the candle in the other,
Walked back to the foot of the stairs.
Here I fastened one end of the thread
To the banister.
Blowing out the candle was the first stage
Of my scheme to deceive.
Finding myself, as anticipated, in total darkness,
I advanced to the second stage.

Taking the spool in my right hand
And the bottle in the left,
Or last,
Remaining hand,
I continued.
Feeling carefully along the wall
In the oppressive, cloying darkness,
(deep into that darkness)
I crept with the utmost caution
Parallel to the niter-coated wall
Until I reached a spot sufficient to my needs.

I then proceeded at an angle perpendicular to the wall
For an uncounted number of paces.
Of course, still grasping the thread,
For how else would I find my way back to the stairs
In that deep and deathless darkness,
If not to follow the singular, thin line?

After walking another, uncounted, number of steps
(for I strove to confuse myself to a great degree,)
I was ready.
Now the final, and paramount, stage
In my game of hide and seek.

Being that I was lost in the depth,
I began to spin myself violently around,
Whirling like a purported dervish!
By doing this, I would lose all sense of direction,
As was my wont.
But, in so doing, I felt the bottle slip from
My perspiring grasp.
For an eternal instant I was paralyzed
With terror ~
In anticipation of the crash of
Shattering wine.

Yet to my astonishment
There was no sound.
Not one single tintinnabulation
Did musically well.

I ushered myself toward the conviction
That the bottle had met with
Some cushioned object
Which had altogether broken its
Fated fall.

Secure in my relief,
(and believing it, therefore
safe and well hidden,)
I followed the singular, silken skein
Through the blackness,
Back to my point of departure
At the foot
Of the stairs.

Which procedure consumed considerably more
Time, time, time,
Than it would have,
Had I not become hopelessly
Entangled in the guiding thread
Due to my violent dirvishing.

Nevertheless . . .

Being now
Back into my chamber turning
Toward the table,
I made a point of partaking
Of a long slow, sweet
Sip from my crock
of Amontillado.




Presently my eyes grew glassy
And my brain a little sassy.
And to my delight my wooden chair
Was no longer of any substance.
It transformed into a jeweled throne
Of violet velvet!

And I was no longer the poor wretch
I once was.
I now felt that I was a king!
And this feeling was made evident by
My newest and dearest friends.

Therefore I drank.
And I drank.
I Drank.
Until the bottle had fully given up its life
And died in my cause.

Poor, sweet soul-
To think not of thyself,
But to render to me
Thy life's blood.

Alas and alack!
He'll never come back.
He's dead, he's dead-
And I'm out of my head
With grief for El Dorado.

Ahem . . .

Understanding my state,
I am certain you will not deem me mad
As I relate to you my actions. 

When he was empty
And my friend was dead
I devised a most elaborate
For this brave, and lofty

Taking him into my arms,
I laid his corpse upon a Royal Purple
(It may have been my handkerchief.)
Whereupon I carried him into the churchyard
Behind my palace.
(There is a wetland beyond my back door.)
And ordered his remains entombed within
The family vaults.

My return journey from this dreaded spot ~
Ashen and sober skies-
Crisped and sere leaves-
Withering and sere leaves-
Was one of anguish and great remorse.

Such are natural emotions
When one has been bereft
Of a dearly
Held friend.

Upon my arrival back into my chamber
Turning upon the bust of Pallis,
I saw that the glitter was gone!
I needed a dear, warm light
In my moment of darkness,
A radiant smile to penetrate
My gloom.

And so . . .

Taking up the second bottle from
Off its rest upon the table,
I removed an offensive cork with my teeth
And quickly consummated a new and most
Glorious friendship.




Quaff, O, Quaff
This kind nepenthe-
And indeed ~

For many a long hour
I sat engaged in conversation
With this companion.
With this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt
And humorous companion-
Whose jibes now burned
Into my bosom's core

Together we resolved the worlds woes.
But, for certain, we could not agree
Upon the vicissitudes of poetry.
And it took the best part of the evening
For me to convince him
He could not sing.

He, in like turn, brought me up short
And swift regarding the realities
Of my own lack of talent
Against my desire to
Play the castanets.

Notwithstanding, he sang
And I played.
I clapped spoons
And he tapped his glassine
And we enjoyed a wonderful
Indeed, I found him much more amenable
Than his late,

Not only was he better company,
He possessed a greater vocabulary of unknown words
And a wider knowledge of arcane tomes,
As well as a keen insight into social gossip.

Alas . . .

As the sages are wont to point out,
In irritating ways
And at inappropriate times,
Good things seldom last
. . . As long as is required for true
(And I will put that in quotes
If you insist!)

Perforce, as the evening waned,
My friend lost a great deal of weight
And became transparent.
And finally Death stole him away from

Here is thy sting,
You hungry thing
My knight has parted
I'm back where I started.
Wretch, I cried,
My mentor's died.

Ahem . . .



Thus, in my torment,
In my most immemorial year,
I engaged to arrange for this fallen
Angel ~
(Take this kiss upon the brow)
The most elaborate funeral
Within my power.
I proceeded with his pallid crust
Up into my bedchamber turning
To where I laid him out.

I then proceeded back downstairs and
Snatched up the
Tiny spinning spider,
Crushed it,
And put the bottle down
Beside her.

On the deck
Of my model of Jason's Argo
And set the whole afire
In my tub.
I could scarce bring myself to gaze
Upon so melancholy a scene.

And therefore . . .

Turned away in a paroxysm
Of sighs;
Turned away in a region
Of sighs.
In sorrow, I trailed back down
Into my chamber, turning
To light a scented lamp.

And I reached my sanctum,
Now devoid of his scintillating
And I sank into the cushion's
Velvet lining with the
Lamplight gloating o'er
Sat and moped
And nothing more.

Alone again, interminably,
I regarded the clock on the wall.
Its hands moved Hellishly slow-
Were they mocking me in my despair?

Then the hands made a sound.
Much such a sound as a watch makes
When enveloped in cotton.
The noise arose and continually increased.

It grew louder ~ louder ~ louder.
I felt that I must scream
Or die.
Hark! Louder ~ louder ~ louder!

Taking up the bust of Pallis
I heaved it 'cross my chamber floor
And through the face of the
Hideous clock
And through the wall on which
It docked!
To hear that ticking-




Yet. withal, my senses, cruelly ,
Grew increasingly acute!
I listened as the silver spider web rattled
And clanged at the
Slightest breeze.
Could this be a manner of haunting?
Crickets stampeded in hordes
Outside my window!
Repeating on my ears like
A cannonade.
Could they be heralding the crime
I committed on the innocent spider?

Could they be forewarning me
Of my fate for partaking of
Forbidden nectar?
Could my machinations
Be weighted in the balance
Of my sins
Against me in the life to come?

Hear the loud alarum bells -
Brazen Bells

My dread was not exactly the dread
Of physical evil,
Yet now I was wretched beyond
All wretchedness
And resolved to take my own life!
Leaping from my chair I raged towards
The dingy window!

My crashing escape proved successful ~
In its execution, only.
The impact upon the hard ground below
Was insufficient to render me lifeless.
(Being but three feet below
My window lattice.)

Embarrassed I was, as I staggered to
My feet and slunk back into
My chamber turning
To retrieve a purple curtain
With which to sop a flow of blood
From my sheepish brow.




My soul grew quiet.
Ha! what need had I to riot?
There was still one, golden
Flask of Amontillado!
Hail and well met,
My wayward

Let my heart be still a moment
And this postulate explore.
I go downstairs,
I get one more!

Can you perceive the joy I felt?
Here I burst upon the stairwell,
And in one step,
Fell straight to the bottom.

Yet in my haste,
I had neglected to carry a light!
Therefore, I stood,
Or attempted to,
In the deepest blackness
Of the darkest place in any world.
Without a guiding light!

Trying desperately to pierce the umbra
With my insufficient vision.
I realized my adventure was doomed
To disgrace
And fell to my knees, sobbing;
Tears welling in my reddening
As my hopes sank further into the gloom . . .

My moistened orbs caught the ghostly
Glimmer from some secret object,
Reflecting the dim light straight
Up into my chamber turning
Back the light from
The solitary lamp, gloating down.

Could that object be?
(Ianthe, dearest see?)
The full and final bottle
Who silently rests upon a hidden
Unharmed by life's
Meaner charms?

A single, silent tear splashed
From my eye to the floor.
And then the light from above
And I was completely in the dark
Once more.



Was it a trick?
Was it a ruse?
Was the Imp of the Perverse
Truly loose?
Was the illusive bottle shunning
Hiding from my sight?
That I could not
My ire became engaged,
A roar of anger split the night.
And by degrees,
I grew enraged.

I screamed for the thing
To show itself!
I pleaded.
I cajoled.
I entreated!
I attempted to recall
The exact number of turns
I had completed
While I spun,
With cunning delight
This self same night.

Pshaw! decided I,
Threaten the devil . . .
But, never having to harass
A container of wine before,

I found that making a start presented
An embarrassing vista.

Nevertheless, feeling within my rights,
I devised and articulated the most gruesome
Tortures a figure of his ilk could hope to endure.
My ears strained in the dark
To catch his terrible whimpers.
But, there were none!

Was he made of stronger stuff?
I continued my narrative of his descent
Into Hell.
But I stopped short and refrained
From the final curse
When I heard a sepulchral voice
Toll a trembling response to my invective!

The timbre of the voice was that
Of an empty barrel being pounded
By a heavy stick.

. . . Vulture, whose wings are dull
Realities . . .

Spake the voice in timorous

. . . Seek you not a shelter in some
Happier star?

My ear caught the direction from which
The voice reverberated
Yet, withal, I restrained
Until I could mark the spot

. . . Hast thou not drawn Diana
From her car?

I nearly had him . . .

. . . Hast thou not torn the Naiad from
Her flood?

I had the creature, now!

. . . The Efin from . . Ooof!

I ran and dove with all the strength
And speed
Within my trembling form.
And crashed
With a triumphant cry . . .

Headfirst into the cold, damp
Nitre-coated, breached, brick wall
From which I had disinterred
The Cash of Amontillado
In the first place.


As I lay there, in the dark,
On the cold and earthen floor,
With the music of the spheres
Surrounding me, once more ~

And as the sad and certain trickle of
The sweet Amontillado
From the broken, final bottle,
Spread its stain upon the floor,
I saw my trials become
A bloody fiction
As I slipped deftly from reality ~
Into the pages of
Romantic contradiction.

They claim they found me in Baltimore.
Ah, believe them,

. . . Nevermore.

© 2000
RG Liberty