The Lines 

“But it now struck me for the first time that there must be one great and ruling embodiment of fear,

a King of Terrors to which all others must succumb.” ~“What Was It? A Mystery” by Fitz-James O’Brien


“There must be a way to capture it,” he’d reasoned.

“Though Terror is emotion and not thought,

Words convey meaning AND feeling if well-wrought.

And Fear—True Horror!—might, with skill,

    be seasoned

Into key wordings—so that there be unlocked

The confines where the King of Terrors is kept,

Where the embodiment of fear has slept.

But, thus far, all my strivings have been blocked.”


“In the mad poet’s notes when we found him more

than dead,

On the last page those words in blood were scrawled.

Clutched in his hand they found the poem that


One lad among us—Oh! too hastily read!

Aghast we watched the selfsame blight that crawled—

Mouths locked in screams, eye sockets burned and



Seeking to end this horror and to destroy

That parchment leaf, we made a loathsome pyre

That soon consumed the poet and the boy.

But, when we spread the ashes from that fire,

We found the page intact! How could this be!?

And so, an awful task was given me:


Careful to keep the writing folded in,

I locked those words of Horror in a strong box

Of lead—but silver lined. They lie within.

Chains wrapped around and sealed with several


The hiding place is known to none but me,

And far the distance from each key to key.


But there are those who would these secrets find.

Why? In God’s name? I do not claim to know.

I only know they seek to learn my mind,

Discover lines that none should ever know.

And so, these words will be the last I write—

To keep the world from everlasting night.”