Summary

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Last Reviewed on May 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675

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After being cast out of heaven, the Demon observes his earthly destination and contemplates the many unfulfilling years that await him. During his fall to earth, the Demon is filled with contempt at the sight of God’s beautiful creation.

Suddenly, the Demon glimpses Tamara, the beautiful young daughter of Prince Goudal, in one of the castles among the mountains. The castle is alive with the sounds of revelry because Tamara’s father is hosting a wedding feast for her. Tamara grabs a tambourine and dances gaily across the rooftop amid her guests, revealing her lively nature. The speaker remarks that no woman can compare with Tamara’s beauty, and that if the Demon noticed her, he had turned away.

However, in the next portion of the poem, the speaker says the Demon has, in fact, seen Tamara and become instantly smitten. Her beauty rouses a feeling of excitement and hope in his heart for the first time since he was expelled from paradise.

Meanwhile, Tamara’s betrothed rides with his caravan to Goudal’s castle. The Demon bewitches the handsome young prince with thoughts of consummating his impending marriage, which distract the man from asking for a saint’s protection during his journey. As a result, a lion attacks the group, killing all of the men and the prince. The prince’s horse wildly dashes forward to Goudal’s castle, with the lifeless body of the prince still sitting astride its back. Arriving at the castle gates, the steed collapses. Tamara is devastated at the sight of her dead husband-to-be, taking to her bedroom to weep. While in her chamber mourning, Tamara hears a whisper entreating her to cease crying. Unable to sleep, Tamara sees that the voice belongs to a mysterious spirit—and she cannot determine whether the spirit is good or evil.

Tamara is deeply disturbed after her betrothed’s death, and she vows that she will never love again. She says she is nightly tormented with the whispering of some strange force, unable even to pray. She begs to be sent to a convent and locked away from the world.

Tamara is sent to a convent as requested. However, Tamara is still haunted by the same spirit who beckons her to go with it. Nightly, Tamara lies beside a crucifix, yet she can not shake the “fire” inside of her that seems to be tempting her to sin.

One night, the Demon goes to the convent to find Tamara’s guardian angel watching over her. The Demon nearly leaves for good, pitying Tamara’s despairing state, but when he hears her singing, he sheds his first ever mortal tear. In that instant, the Demon banishes the guardian angel and claims Tamara for his own.

Afterward, the Demon reveals himself to Tamara, declaring his undying love for her. He reveals his identity as an evil spirit, but he vows to give up his ways if she will pledge herself to him. Confused, Tamara appeals to Jesus before asking why the Demon is so devoted to her.

To explain himself, the Demon recounts his boundless suffering as an immortal spirit tasked with destroying human souls. Although Tamara is horrified by his evil deeds, she is overcome with pity for the Demon’s sadness. He explains that if she chooses to love him, he will sacrifice his immortality and give her everything her heart desires. Tamara yields to the Demon, and they embrace and kiss. A night watchman making his rounds at the convent hears the sound of kissing and avoids Tamara’s chamber.

The next morning, Tamara is found dead. She is buried with great pomp and circumstance at her family’s plot, which is located on a mountaintop a three days’ journey from Goudal’s castle. At the burial site, both the guardian angel and the Demon appear.

The poem ends with a reflection on how the legend of Tamara and her demonic lover has been lost to history, yet pilgrims still travel to the mountaintop chapel where her bones are interred.

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