What does Poe mean by "his heart is a suspended lute; which resonates as soon as touched" from "Fall of the House of Usher"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote is actually a translation of the French poem that appears as an epigraph at the beginning of Poe's story.  As the narrator approaches the Usher house, a dark and eerie pall surrounds it; so while the poem could certainly apply to Roderick Usher's strange malady of being overly sensitive to the slightest sensory stimulation, it most likely refers to the house itself.  The house already possesses a fissure literally and figuratively and is ready to fall at any time.  The phrase "resonates as soon as touched" implies that the most minuscule disturbance will topple the house and line of the Usher family. 

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The Fall of the House of Usher

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