"The Fall of the House of Usher" begins with one of Poe's most famous descriptions: "During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year . . . " The Narrator is describing his arrival on horseback at Roderick Usher's isolated abode one dreary evening. Immediately he feels an irrational fear upon viewing the huge, decrepit house. Among the mansion's singular features are windows which resemble eyes and a fissure in the stone zig-zagging its way through the facade.
As he does with so many of his short stories, Poe prefaces "The Fall of the House of Usher" with a relevant quoted passage: "Son coeur est un luth suspendu; Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne." From a poem by French lyric poet Pierre Jean de Beranger, the verse translates roughly as: "His heart is a hanging lute [an ancient stringed instrument]; Whenever one touches it, it resounds." Aside from the importance of stringed instruments in the tale--Roderick Usher can stand the sound of no other noises--the passage touches on one of the story's most important themes, mortality.