Monday, October 30, 2017

All Saints Eve - Reese

ALL-SAINTS’ EVE
by Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935)

Oh, when the ghosts go by,
Under the empty trees,
Here in my house I sit and cry,
My head upon my knees!

Innumerable, white,
Like mist they fill the square;
The bolt is drawn, the latch made tight,
The shutter barréd there.

There walks one small and glad,
New to the churchyard clod;
My little lad, my little lad,
A single year with God!

I sit and hide my head
Until they all are past,
Under the empty trees the dead
That go full soft and fast.

Up to my chamber dim,
Back to my bed I plod;
Oh, would I were a ghost with him,
And faring back to God!

From The Haunted Hour, 1920

Ballad: The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin - Gilbert

Ballad: The Ghost, the Gallant, the Gael, and the Goblin


circa 1860s
By W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)


O'er unreclaimed suburban clays
Some years ago were hobblin'
An elderly ghost of easy ways,
And an influential goblin.
The ghost was a sombre spectral shape,
A fine old five-act fogy,
The goblin imp, a lithe young ape,
A fine low-comedy bogy.
And as they exercised their joints,
Promoting quick digestion,
They talked on several curious points,
And raised this delicate question:
"Which of us two is Number One -
The ghostie, or the goblin?"
And o'er the point they raised in fun
They fairly fell a-squabblin'.
They'd barely speak, and each, in fine,
Grew more and more reflective:
Each thought his own particular line
By chalks the more effective.
At length they settled some one should
By each of them be haunted,
And so arrange that either could
Exert his prowess vaunted.
"The Quaint against the Statuesque" -
By competition lawful -
The goblin backed the Quaint Grotesque,
The ghost the Grandly Awful.
"Now," said the goblin, "here's my plan -
In attitude commanding,
I see a stalwart Englishman
By yonder tailor's standing.
"The very fittest man on earth
My influence to try on -
Of gentle, p'r'aps of noble birth,
And dauntless as a lion!
Now wrap yourself within your shroud -
Remain in easy hearing -
Observe - you'll hear him scream aloud
When I begin appearing!
The imp with yell unearthly - wild -
Threw off his dark enclosure:
His dauntless victim looked and smiled
With singular composure.
For hours he tried to daunt the youth,
For days, indeed, but vainly -
The stripling smiled! - to tell the truth,
The stripling smiled inanely.
For weeks the goblin weird and wild,
That noble stripling haunted;
For weeks the stripling stood and smiled,
Unmoved and all undaunted.
The sombre ghost exclaimed, "Your plan
Has failed you, goblin, plainly:
Now watch yon hardy Hieland man,
So stalwart and ungainly.
"These are the men who chase the roe,
Whose footsteps never falter,
Who bring with them, where'er they go,
A smack of old SIR WALTER.
Of such as he, the men sublime
Who lead their troops victorious,
Whose deeds go down to after-time,
Enshrined in annals glorious!
"Of such as he the bard has said
'Hech thrawfu' raltie rorkie!
Wi' thecht ta' croonie clapperhead
And fash' wi' unco pawkie!'
He'll faint away when I appear,
Upon his native heather;
Or p'r'aps he'll only scream with fear,
Or p'r'aps the two together."
The spectre showed himself, alone,
To do his ghostly battling,
With curdling groan and dismal moan,
And lots of chains a-rattling!
But no - the chiel's stout Gaelic stuff
Withstood all ghostly harrying;
His fingers closed upon the snuff
Which upwards he was carrying.
For days that ghost declined to stir,
A foggy shapeless giant -
For weeks that splendid officer
Stared back again defiant.
Just as the Englishman returned
The goblin's vulgar staring,
Just so the Scotchman boldly spurned
The ghost's unmannered scaring.
For several years the ghostly twain
These Britons bold have haunted,
But all their efforts are in vain -
Their victims stand undaunted.
This very day the imp, and ghost,
Whose powers the imp derided,
Stand each at his allotted post -
The bet is undecided.

Vintage Postcard of the week...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trick or Treat

from The Witches' Charms - Johnson

from THE WITCHES' CHARMS


By Ben Johnson (1572-1637)


1 Charm.
Dame, dame! the watch is set:
Quickly come, we are all met.
From the lakes and from the fens,
From the rocks and from the dens,
From the woods and from the caves,
From the churchyards, from the graves,
From the dungeon, from the tree
That they die on, here are we!

Comes she not yet?

Strike another heat!

2 charm.
The weather is fair, the wind is good:
Up, dame, o' your horse of wood!
Or else tuck up your gray frock,
And saddle your goat or your green cock,
And make this bridle a bottom of thrid (ball of thread)
To roll up how many miles you have rid.
Quickly come away,
For we all stay.

Nor yet? nay then

We'll try her again.

3 charm.
The owl is abroad, the bat and the toad,
And so is the cat-a-mountain (wild cat);
The ant and the mole sit both in a hole,
And frog peeps out of the fountain.
The dogs they do bay, and the timbrels play,
the spindle is now a-turning;
The moon is red, and the stars are fled,
but all the sky is a-burning.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Wood Witch - Cawein

The Wood Witch


circa 1900s
By Madison J Cawein (1865-1914)


THERE is a woodland witch who lies
With bloom-bright limbs and beam-bright eyes,
Among the water-flags that rank
The slow brook's heron-haunted bank.
The dragon-flies, brass-bright and blue,
Are signs she works her sorcery through;
Weird, wizard characters she weaves
Her spells by under forest leaves,—
These wait her word, like imps, upon
The gray flag-pods; their wings, of lawn
And gauze; their bodies, gleaming green.
While o'er the wet sand,—left between
The running water and the still,—
In pansy hues and daffodil,
The fancies that she doth devise
Take on the forms of butterflies,
Rich-coloured.—And 'tis she you hear,
Whose sleepy rune, hummed in the ear
Of silence, bees and beetles purr,
And the dry-droning locusts whirr;
Till, where the wood is very lone,
Vague monotone meets monotone,
And slumber is begot and born,
A faery child beneath the thorn.
There is no mortal who may scorn
The witchery she spreads around
Her din demesne, wherein is bound
The beauty of abandoned time,
As some sweet thought 'twixt rhyme and rhyme.
And through her spells you shall behold
The blue turn gray, the gray turn gold
Of hollow heaven; and the brown
Of twilight vistas twinkled down
With fireflies; and in the gloom
Feel the cool vowels of perfume
Slow-syllabled of weed and bloom.
But, in the night, at languid rest,—
When like a spirit's naked breast
The moon slips from a silver mist,—
With star-bound brow, and star-wreathed wrist,
If you should see her rise and wave
You welcome—ah! what thing could save
You then? for evermore her slave!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Something wicked this way comes - Shakespeare

From the Witches Chant
Macbeth Act IV, Scene 1
Shakespeare (1564-1616)
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Merry Hallowe'en

Beware - Blair

BEWARE!


circa 1970
By Lee Blair


Beware the witch's magic glance!
One look into her eye
Will turn you to a broomstick,
To ride the midnight sky.

Beware the witch's magic brew,
For but a taste of that
Will turn you quite immediately
Into a big, black cat.

Beware the witch's magic power,
Beware the witch's spell,
Lest when you'll be yourself again,
Who can ever tell?

© Lee Blair
Witching Time, 1977

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Witch in the Wintry Wood - Fisher

The Witch in the Wintry Wood


circa 1949
By Aileen Fisher (1906-2002)

This is the story of timid Tim
who thought that witches were after him
when the night was dark and the moon was dim.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

This is the tale of how Tim one night
didn't start home until candlelight
when the sky was black and the snow was white.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

He walked through the woods like a frightened goat,
his muffler twisted around his throat,
expecting to jump at a witch's note:
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Out of the night came a sheep dog's yowl,
which Tim was sure was a Witch's howl,
a terrible witch on a wintry prowl.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Tim the timid, began to race,
certain he sighted a witch's face
back of each shadowy hiding place.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

He ran through the woods on his lonely trek
till horrors! a hand went round his neck,
holding his headlong flight in check.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Around his throat went a witch's hand
that jerked poor Tim to a sudden stand.
His heart was water, his legs were sand!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Nobody knows how long he stood
with that hand on his throat in the silent wood
until he could find some hardihood...
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

Then he looked around like a shaky calf,
thinking of words for his epitaph,
and "Oh, ho, ho!" he began to laugh...
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

For what he saw was a funny sight- -
it wasn't a Witch at his throat by night,
but a pine branch pulling his muffler tight!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

The more Tim chuckled, the more he thought
how most of his fears like mufflers caught
and stretched much tighter than mufflers ought.
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

And the end of this story of timid Tim
is nevermore, when the night was dim;
did he fear that witches were after him!
Woo-HOO, woo-HOO, woo-HOO.

© Aileen Fisher

Is it haunted?

Goblin's Lullaby - Prelutsky

MOTHER GOBLIN'S LULLABY


By Jack Prelutsky (1940-)

Go to sleep, my baby goblin,
hushaby, my dear of dears,
if you disobey your mother,
she will twist your pointed ears.

Little goblin, stop complaining,
time for all your eyes to close,
if you make your mother angry,
she will bite your tiny nose.

Slumber sweetly till tomorrow,
do not worry, Mother's near,
dream of demons weirdly screaming,
hushaby, my goblin dear.
© Jack Prelutsky

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hallowe'en Night

Hallowe'en Night


Hallowe'en night
on hallows eve
when the moon is out
when the sky is pitch black
and the Goblins come out

when ghosts are set free
to taunt all the children
when the witches fly high
into the sky
to get to their cauldron

when vampires seek out
for someone to bite
when trick-or-treaters
are in a big fright
but it's all just a myth
right?

Author unknown

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday the 13th - So What!

IT'S FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!
SO WHAT?


By Octoberwych

Paraskevidekatriaphobia - fear of Friday the Thirteenth

Paraskevidekatriaphobics - those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the Thirteenth

Paraskevi is the Greek word for Friday - dekatria is the Greek word for thirteen

Paraskevidekatriaphobia is a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the Thirteenth. The term was coined by therapist Dr. Donald Dossey, whose specialty is treating people with irrational fears. He claims that when you can pronounce the word you are cured. Dr. Dossy is the author of the book, Holiday Folklore, Phobia and Fun , Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments and Superstitious Cures (circa 1992). How many people at the turn of the millennium still suffer from this phobia? According to Dr. Donald Dossey, as many as 21 million do in the United States alone. That amounts to something like eight percent of the population.

Why then, is there such suspicion surrounding Friday and the numeral thirteen?

About Friday - Did you know?

In the USA and the British Isles Friday was known as Hangman's Day or Hanging Day as this was the day that most executions were performed.

In the UK folklore says that if it rains on a Friday the forecast for Sunday is bright.

Friday is Frigga's Day. Frigga (Frigg) was an ancient Celtic (Norse) fertility and love goddess, equivalent to the Roman Venus who had been worshipped on the sixth day of the week. The Celts (Norse) worshipped Frigga (Frigg) on Friday.

September 24, 1869 is labeled as Black Friday in the USA - the day the government flooded the market with gold to bring down prices ruined many speculators.

Christians called Frigga a Witch and Friday the Witches Sabbath.

Norse men considered Friday, named after the Norse deity, Freya, as the luckiest day of the week.

The Romans worshipped Venus, the goddess of love on the sixth day of the week, Friday.

Within the Roman Catholic Faith, Friday is the traditionally a day of abstinence.

In Hungarian folklore it was considered bad luck to be born on a Friday but misfortune could be averted by placing some blood of the misfortunate on some old clothing and burning it.

Both Buddhists and Brahmins consider Friday to be a day of misfortune. According to Christians, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. It is said that Adam was created on a Friday and it was allegedly a Friday when Adam and Eve tasted of the forbidden fruit and a Friday when they died. The murder of Abel, the stoning of Stephen, the massacre of the innocents by Herod, the flight of the children of Israel through the Red Sea (the Deluge) and the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel are all said to have happened on a Friday,

Even the tale of William Tell and the apple was said to have happened on a Friday.

Friday is traditionally considered to be the sixth day of the week. Six is the number that is biblically associated with man. Three is the number of the Holy Trinity. The trinity (God of Man, Satan) of six associated with man 666 = the number of the Beast.

For followers of Mohammed, Friday after sunset is also the Sabbath.

Scandinavians, Hindus and Scots consider Friday a good to wed.

Fishermen say, Friday's sail, always fail.

In 1492 it is said that Columbus set sail on a Friday and eventually sighted land on a Friday.

An English proverb says, A Friday moon brings foul weather.

A children's poem says 'Friday's child is lucky and giving'.

He who laughs on Friday will weep on Sunday. -- Les Plaideurs, Racine

Whoever be born on a Friday, or it's night

He shall be accursed of men.

About Thirteen - Did you know?

Most Americans carry a symbol of the mystery of the number thirteen in their pocket in the form of an American dollar -- at least since 1935. The design on the back of this bill bridges ancient Egyptian allegorical motifs to our own times, as symbolic uses of the number thirteen have been arranged around each of the two sides of the Great Seal of the United States. Among them, for example, is an incomplete or truncated pyramid of thirteen steps. There are thirteen leaves and berries on an olive branch, and in the left talon of the American bald eagle are thirteen arrows. As all American know (or should know) the design refers to the thirteen original colonies.

Most Hotels in the states do not have a thirteenth floor (at least a floor that designated by the number thirteen). Most hotels, motels and even hospitals do not have a room designated by thirteen. Some cities do not have streets designated as thirteenth avenue, thirteenth street and so on. The belief is that it is not the room or the floor or the street that bears misfortune - but the number itself.

In Italy, however, thirteen is not considered unlucky. Italian infants are given a gold charm of the number to insure good luck and prosperity in the future.

The state lotteries of France, Italy, and elsewhere never sell tickets with the number thirteen.

The thirteenth moon in a lunar calendar is labeled a blue moon.

The number thirteen according to Hindus who assign gender to numbers is feminine.

The number thirteen according to the Chinese and Egyptians who also assign gender to numbers is masculine.

In Belgium the numeral thirteen is worn as a good luck charm.

Romans considered that fatality followed the number whenever and for whatever purpose thirteen people gathered together.

Thirteen was considered a lucky number in ancient Egypt and China.

The ancient Egyptians considered the thirteenth stage of life to be death, i.e., the afterlife, which they thought was a good thing.

The Death card in a Tarot deck is numbered thirteen and represents transformation.

All over the world there are houses numbered 12 ½ rather than thirteen.

Thirteen is known as THE DEVIL'S DOZEN in Scotland.

Thirteen donuts, cookies, etc is known as a Baker's Dozen.

The compound Three-Ten for thirteen is commonly used.

Most teachers stop at Twelve Times Twelve with multiplication tables

Thirteen is believed to be an unlucky number for dinner parties. The old belief is that the first person to rise from the table will meet misfortune, possibly even die within a year. Slight protection against this fate is supposed by some to be afforded if all the company rise together.

It is said that Judas was the first to arise from thirteen who attended the Last Supper and the first to die.

Christians believe there were thirteen guests at the Last Supper which allegedly occurred on a Friday. The quandary develops when one tries to determine who exactly was the thirteenth guest. Unfortunately, many use the artist rendering of the Last Supper to determine that either Christ at one end of the table or Judas at the other end of the table was the thirteenth guest. Let's keep in mind folks that da Vinci was not present at the Last Supper - the painting is his glorious interpretation of the biblical scene.

Is there a thirteenth tribe of Israel? The bible proclaims only twelve. Both Christians and Jews deny that a thirteenth tribe ever existed. A few acknowledge that there may have been a group who falsely identified themselves as the thirteenth tribe. These unfortunate folk were likely labeled as Witches and sorcerers, or worse - heretics - and probably met a very bad end.

Any month with a Friday the thirteenth must begin with a Sunday the first.

In Norse mythology Loki. God of Deceit intrudes upon a banquet of twelve guests becoming the thirteenth. Balder, God of light and beauty, son of Odin, is killed by Loki at the feast.

A Wiccan/Pagan Coven requires thirteen members to cast the Circle. The number thirteen in this respect represents the number of lunar months in a year. thirteen Full Moons. Those cultures with lunar calendars and thirteen months don't associate thirteen with anything sinister.

We are told that the registration of Princess Margaret's birth was delayed so that she would not be entered as number thirteen.

Thirteenpence-halfpenny is called a hangman. So called because thirteen pence-halfpenny was at one time his [the hangman] wages for hanging a man.

The names of some murderers bear a chilling relationship to the number thirteen:

Jack the Ripper- 13 letters
John Wayne Gacy- 13 letters
Charles Manson- 13 letters
Jeffrey Dahmer- 13 letters
Theodore ( Ted ) Bundy- 13 letters
In the fall of 1307, the King of France, Philip de Bel, known as the Beautiful executed a horrific crime against the Knight's Templar. It seems he and Pope Boniface VIII were at odds over how the Beautiful financed his kingdom. The Beautiful stole property from his people, arrested Jews, devalued his currency and tried to tax the Church. Then, the King applied for membership to the Knights Templar and was rejected. He tripled the price of everything in France overnight. When rebellion broke out the King realized his life was in peril. He had to beg the Knights Templar for protection. Humiliated, on September 14 he mass-mailed a set of sealed orders to every bailiff, seneschal, deputy and officer in his kingdom. The functionaries were forbidden under penalty of death to open the papers before Thursday night, October 12. The following Friday (the thirteenth) morning, alert to their secret instructions, armies of officials slipped out of their barracks. By sundown nearly all the Knights Templar throughout France were in jails. One estimate puts the arrests at two thousand, another as high as five thousand. What followed was so foul, according to folklore, only twenty escaped, that Templar sympathizers cursed the day itself, condemning the day as evil.

So is Friday the thirteenth really evil? Unlucky? Or are both the day and the numeral merely the victim of coincidence and contrivance, manipulated by politicians and clergy to serve their own purposes? Thirteen, it seems is not really an unlucky number, but a fateful one -- a number destined to always be full of vague and unimaginable possibilities...
© All Rights Reserved

Sources:
1) http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/weekly/aa101100a.htm?once=true&
2) http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/4885/fri13.html
3) Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route Into Spain by Jack Hitt (copyright 1994, published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-671-75818-7)
4) Narrow Houses Copyright:1994 Douglas E. Winter.
5) Magic and Superstition copyright 1968 Douglas Hill by the Hamlyn Publishing Group
6) Every Man's Book of Superstitions by Christine Chaundler 1970 Philosophical Library
7) Popular Superstitions Copyright: Charles Platt Book Tower, Detroit, 1973
8) http://skepdic.com/paraskevidekatriaphobia.html
9) http://www.mystical-www.co.uk/time/days.html
10) A Treasury of Superstitions by Claudia DeLys Gramercy Books NY 1996
11) Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable Centenary Edition, Revised Harper & Row 1981

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Upon Each Samhain - Norris

Upon Each Samhain


By David O. Norris

I miss you most upon each Samhain
When the boundary turns to sheer
I wait until the veil is parted
At the ending of the year.
Sweet spirit, as you walk among us
At the tolling of this eve
I see your face beyond the sunset
And hear your voice upon the breeze.

In the glowing of the candle,
From the shadow on the wall
I watch for you in every movement
And hear your footsteps in the hall.
Can you sit and spend the evening
As the portal opens wide?
Ancestral dead, I bid you welcome,
Most recent dead, I pray, abide.

When you come I sense your presence
I put my hand out in the air
A moment, then, we stand united
Palm to palm while waiting there.
I miss you most upon each Samhain
When the boundary turns to sheer
We share these hours until the dawning
Then bid farewell until next year.

© David O Norris (1988)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Old Huntsman - Doyle

The Old Huntsman


By Arthur Conan Doyle
1859-1930

There's a keen and grim old huntsman
On a horse as white as snow;
Sometimes he is very swift
And sometimes he is slow.
But he never is at fault,
For he always hunts at view
And he rides without a halt
After you.

The huntsman's name is Death,
His horse's name is Time;
He is coming, he is coming
As I sit and write this rhyme;
He is coming, he is coming,
As you read the rhyme I write;
You can hear the hoofs' low drumming
Day and night.

You can hear the distant drumming
As the clock goes tick-a-tack,
And the chiming of the hours
Is the music of his pack.
You may hardly note their growling
Underneath the noonday sun,
But at night you hear them howling
As they run.

And they never check or falter
For they never miss their kill;
Seasons change and systems alter,
But the hunt is running still.
Hark! the evening chime is playing,
O'er the long grey town it peals;
Don't you hear the death-hound baying
At your heels?

Where is there an earth or burrow?
Where a cover left for you?
A year, a week, perhaps to-morrow
Brings the Huntsman's death halloo!
Day by day he gains upon us,
And the most that we can claim
Is that when the hounds are on us
We die game.

And somewhere dwells the Master,
By whom it was decreed;
He sent the savage huntsman,
He bred the snow-white steed.
These hounds which run for ever,
He set them on your track;
He hears you scream, but never
Calls them back.

He does not heed our suing,
We never see his face;
He hunts to our undoing,
We thank him for the chase.
We thank him and we flatter,
We hope – because we must –
But have we cause? No matter!

Songs of Action. A. Conan Doyle. London: John Murray, 1916

Monday, October 9, 2017

Vintage Postcard of the week...

Halloween Blessing - Dearborn

HALLOWEEN BLESSING


By Sabrina Dearborn


At this time of dark and night,
spirits often give a fright.
We call upon the ancient dead,
circling now around our head.
Bring the blessings from before,
while we stand with open door.
Ancient spirits hear us now,
peace and love do we avow.

© Sabrina Dearborn, Barefoot Book pf Blessings, 2007

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Raven - Poe

The Raven


By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;- vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow- sorrow for the lost Lenore-
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door-
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;-
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door;-
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"-
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore-
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;-
'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door-
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door-
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore-
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door-
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered-
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before-
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore-
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!- prophet still, if bird or devil!-
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted-
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore-
Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore-
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting-
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore!

First published New York Evening Mirror (January 1845)

Hear it read by:
The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe - performed by Vincent Price

The Raven - Edgar Allna Poe - performed by Christopher Walken

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hallowe'en - Cawein

HALLOWE'EN


By Madison J Cawein, 1908

It was down in the woodland on last Hallowe'en,
Where silence and darkness had built them a lair,
That I felt the dim presence of her, the unseen,
And heard her step on the hush-haunted air.

It was last Hallowe'en in the glimmer and swoon
Of mist and of moonlight, where once we had sinned.
That I saw the gray gleam of her eyes in the moon,
And hair, like a raven, blown wild on the wind.


It was last Hallowe'en where starlight and dew
Made mystical marriage on flower and leaf,
That she led me with looks of a love, that I knew
Was dead, and the voice of a passion too brief.

It was last Hallowe'en in the forest of dreams,
Where trees are eidolons and flowers have eyes,
That I saw her pale face like the foam of far streams,
And heard, like the night-wind, her tears and her sighs.

It was last Hallowe'en, the haunted, the dread,
In the wind-tattered wood, by the storm-twisted pine,
That I, who am living, kept tryst with the dead,
And clasped her a moment who once had been mine.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Witch of Atlas - Shelley

The Witch of Atlas


By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1822-1822)

To Mary (On Her Objecting to the Following Poem,
Upon the Score of its Containing No Human Interest)

I.
How, my dear Mary, -- are you critic-bitten
(For vipers kill, though dead) by some review,
That you condemn these verses I have written,
Because they tell no story, false or true?
What, though no mice are caught by a young kitten,
May it not leap and play as grown cats do,
Till its claws come? Prithee, for this one time,
Content thee with a visionary rhyme.

II.
What hand would crush the silken-wingèd fly,
The youngest of inconstant April's minions,
Because it cannot climb the purest sky,
Where the swan sings, amid the sun's dominions?
Not thine. Thou knowest 'tis its doom to die,
When Day shall hide within her twilight pinions
The lucent eyes, and the eternal smile,
Serene as thine, which lent it life awhile.

III.
To thy fair feet a wingèd Vision came,
Whose date should have been longer than a day,
And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,
And in thy sight its fading plumes display;
The watery bow burned in the evening flame,
But the shower fell, the swift Sun went his way --
And that is dead. -- O, let me not believe
That anything of mine is fit to live!

IV.
Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years
Considering and retouching Peter Bell;
Watering his laurels with the killing tears
Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to Hell
Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the spheres
Of Heaven, with dewy leaves and flowers; this well
May be, for Heaven and Earth conspire to foil
The over-busy gardener's blundering toil.

V.
My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature
As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise
Clothes for our grandsons -- but she matches Peter,
Though he took nineteen years, and she three days
In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre
She wears; he, proud as dandy with his stays,
Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress
Like King Lear's "looped and windowed raggedness."

VI.
If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow
Scorched by Hell's hyperequatorial climate
Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow:
A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at;
In shape a Scaramouch, in hue Othello.
If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate
Can shrive you of that sin, -- if sin there be
In love, when it becomes idolatry.

The Witch of Atlas
I.
BEFORE those cruel Twins, whom at one birth
Incestuous Change bore to her father Time,
Error and Truth, had hunted from the Earth
All those bright natures which adorned its prime,
And left us nothing to believe in, worth
The pains of putting into learnèd rhyme,
A lady-witch there lived on Atlas' mountain
Within a cavern, by a secret fountain.

II.
Her mother was one of the Atlantides:
The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden
In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas
So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden
In the warm shadow of her loveliness; --
He kissed her with his beams, and made all golden
The chamber of gray rock in which she lay --
She, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.

III.
'Tis said, she first was changed into a vapour,
And then into a cloud, such clouds as flit,
Like splendour-wingèd moths about a taper,
Round the red west when the sun dies in it:
And then into a meteor, such as caper
On hill-tops when the moon is in a fit:
Then, into one of those mysterious stars
Which hide themselves between the Earth and Mars.

IV.
Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent
Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden
With that bright sign the billows to indent
The sea-deserted sand -- like children chidden,
At her command they ever came and went --
Since in that cave a dewy splendour hidden
Took shape and motion: with the living form
Of this embodied Power, the cave grew warm.

V.
A lovely lady garmented in light
From her own beauty -- deep her eyes, as are
Two openings of unfathomable night
Seen through a Temple's cloven roof -- her hair
Dark -- the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight,
Picturing her form; her soft smiles shone afar,
And her low voice was heard like love, and drew
All living things towards this wonder new.

VI.
And first the spotted cameleopard came,
And then the wise and fearless elephant;
Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame
Of his own volumes intervolved; -- all gaunt
And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made tame.
They drank before her at her sacred fount;
And every beast of beating heart grew bold,
Such gentleness and power even to behold.

VII.
The brinded lioness led forth her young,
That she might teach them how they should forego
Their inborn thirst of death; the pard unstrung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know
With looks whose motions spoke without a tongue
How he might be as gentle as the doe.
The magic circle of her voice and eyes
All savage natures did imparadise.

VIII.
And old Silenus, shaking a green stick
Of lilies, and the wood-gods in a crew
Came, blithe, as in the olive copses thick
Cicadae are, drunk with the noonday dew:
And Dryope and Faunus followed quick,
Teasing the God to sing them something new;
Till in this cave they found the lady lone,
Sitting upon a seat of emerald stone.

IX.
And universal Pan, 'tis said, was there,
And though none saw him, -- through the adamant
Of the deep mountains, through the trackless air,
And through those living spirits, like a want,
He passed out of his everlasting lair
Where the quick heart of the great world doth pant,
And felt that wondrous lady all alone, --
And she felt him, upon her emerald throne.

X.
And every nymph of stream and spreading tree,
And every shepherdess of Ocean's flocks,
Who drives her white waves over the green sea,
And Ocean with the brine on his gray locks,
And quaint Priapus with his company,
All came, much wondering how the enwombèd rocks
Could have brought forth so beautiful a birth; --
Her love subdued their wonder and their mirth.

XI.
The herdsmen and the mountain maidens came,
And the rude kings of pastoral Garamant --
Their spirits shook within them, as a flame
Stirred by the air under a cavern gaunt:
Pigmies, and Polyphemes, by many a name,
Centaurs, and Satyrs, and such shapes as haunt
Wet clefts, -- and lumps neither alive nor dead,
Dog-headed, bosom-eyed, and bird-footed.

XII.
For she was beautiful -- her beauty made
The bright world dim, and everything beside
Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade:
No thought of living spirit could abide,
Which to her looks had ever been betrayed,
On any object in the world so wide,
On any hope within the circling skies,
But on her form, and in her inmost eyes.

XIII.
Which when the lady knew, she took her spindle
And twined three threads of fleecy mist, and three
Long lines of light, such as the dawn may kindle
The clouds and waves and mountains with; and she
As many star-beams, ere their lamps could dwindle
In the belated moon, wound skilfully;
And with these threads a subtle veil she wove --
A shadow for the splendour of her love.

XIV.
The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling
Were stored with magic treasures -- sounds of air,
Which had the power all spirits of compelling,
Folded in cells of crystal silence there;
Such as we hear in youth, and think the feeling
Will never die -- yet ere we are aware,
The feeling and the sound are fled and gone,
And the regret they leave remains alone.

XV.
And there lay Visions swift, and sweet, and quaint,
Each in its thin sheath, like a chrysalis,
Some eager to burst forth, some weak and faint
With the soft burthen of intensest bliss
It was its work to bear to many a saint
Whose heart adores the shrine which holiest is,
Even Love's: -- and others white, green, gray, and black,
And of all shapes -- and each was at her beck.

XVI.
And odours in a kind of aviary
Of ever-blooming Eden-trees she kept,
Clipped in a floating net, a love-sick Fairy
Had woven from dew-beams while the moon yet slept;
As bats at the wired window of a dairy.
They beat their vans; and each was an adept,
When loosed and missioned, making wings of winds,
To stir sweet thoughts or sad, in destined minds.

XVII.
And liquors clear and sweet, whose healthful might
Could medicine the sick soul to happy sleep,
And change eternal death into a night
Of glorious dreams -- or if eyes needs must weep,
Could make their tears all wonder and delight,
She in her crystal vials did closely keep:
If men could drink of those clear vials, 'tis said
The living were not envied of the dead.

XVIII.
Her cave was stored with scrolls of strange device,
The works of some Saturnian Archimage,
Which taught the expiations at whose price
Men from the Gods might win that happy age
Too lightly lost, redeeming native vice;
And which might quench the Earth-consuming rage
Of gold and blood -- till men should live and move
Harmonious as the sacred stars above;

XIX.
And how all things that seem untameable,
Not to be checked and not to be confined,
Obey the spells of Wisdom's wizard skill;
Time, earth, and fire -- the ocean and the wind,
And all their shapes -- and man's imperial will;
And other scrolls whose writings did unbind
The inmost lore of Love -- let the profane
Tremble to ask what secrets they contain.

XX.
And wondrous works of substances unknown,
To which the enchantment of her father's power
Had changed those ragged blocks of savage stone,
Were heaped in the recesses of her bower;
Carved lamps and chalices, and vials which shone
In their own golden beams -- each like a flower,
Out of whose depth a fire-fly shakes his light
Under a cypress in a starless night.

XXI.
At first she lived alone in this wild home,
And her own thoughts were each a minister,
Clothing themselves, or with the ocean foam,
Or with the wind, or with the speed of fire,
To work whatever purposes might come
Into her mind; such power her mighty Sire
Had girt them with, whether to fly or run,
Through all the regions which he shines upon.

XXII.
The Ocean-nymphs and Hamadryades,
Oreads and Naiads, with long weedy locks,
Offered to do her bidding through the seas,
Under the earth, and in the hollow rocks,
And far beneath the matted roots of trees,
And in the gnarlèd heart of stubborn oaks,
So they might live for ever in the light
Of her sweet presence -- each a satellite.

XXIII.
"This may not be," the wizard maid replied;
"The fountains where the Naiades bedew
Their shining hair, at length are drained and dried;
The solid oaks forget their strength, and strew

Their latest leaf upon the mountains wide;
The boundless ocean like a drop of dew
Will be consumed -- the stubborn centre must
Be scattered, like a cloud of summer dust.

XXIV.
"And ye with them will perish, one by one; --
If I must sigh to think that this shall be,
If I must weep when the surviving Sun
Shall smile on your decay -- oh, ask not me
To love you till your little race is run;
I cannot die as ye must -- over me
Your leaves shall glance -- the streams in which ye dwell
Shall be my paths henceforth, and so -- farewell!" --

XXV.
She spoke and wept: -- the dark and azure well
Sparkled beneath the shower of her bright tears,
And every little circlet where they fell
Flung to the cavern-roof inconstant spheres
And intertangled lines of light: -- a knell
Of sobbing voices came upon her ears
From those departing Forms, o'er the serene
Of the white streams and of the forest green.

XXVI.
All day the wizard lady sate aloof,
Spelling out scrolls of dread antiquity,
Under the cavern's fountain-lighted roof;
Or broidering the pictured poesy
Of some high tale upon her growing woof,
Which the sweet splendour of her smiles could dye
In hues outshining heaven -- and ever she
Added some grace to the wrought poesy.

XXVII.
While on her hearth lay blazing many a piece
Of sandal wood, rare gums, and cinnamon;
Men scarcely know how beautiful fire is --
Each flame of it is as a precious stone
Dissolved in ever-moving light, and this
Belongs to each and all who gaze upon.
The Witch beheld it not, for in her hand
She held a woof that dimmed the burning brand.

XXVIII.
This lady never slept, but lay in trance
All night within the fountain -- as in sleep.
Its emerald crags glowed in her beauty's glance;
Through the green splendour of the water deep
She saw the constellations reel and dance
Like fire-flies -- and withal did ever keep
The tenour of her contemplations calm,
With open eyes, closed feet, and folded palm.

XXIX.
And when the whirlwinds and the clouds descended
From the white pinnacles of that cold hill,
She passed at dewfall to a space extended,
Where in a lawn of flowering asphodel
Amid a wood of pines and cedars blended,
There yawned an inextinguishable well
Of crimson fire -- full even to the brim,
And overflowing all the margin trim.

XXX.
Within the which she lay when the fierce war
Of wintry winds shook that innocuous liquor
In many a mimic moon and bearded star
O'er woods and lawns; -- the serpent heard it flicker
In sleep, and dreaming still, he crept afar --
And when the windless snow descended thicker
Than autumn leaves, she watched it as it came
Melt on the surface of the level flame.

XXXI.
She had a boat, which some say Vulcan wrought
For Venus, as the chariot of her star;
But it was found too feeble to be fraught
With all the ardours in that sphere which are,
And so she sold it, and Apollo bought
And gave it to this daughter: from a car
Changed to the fairest and the lightest boat
Which ever upon mortal stream did float.

XXXII.
And others say, that, when but three hours old,
The first-born Love out of his cradle lept,
And clove dun Chaos with his wings of gold,
And like an horticultural adept,
Stole a strange seed, and wrapped it up in mould,
And sowed it in his mother's star, and kept
Watering it all the summer with sweet dew,
And with his wings fanning it as it grew.

XXXIII.
The plant grew strong and green, the snowy flower
Fell, and the long and gourd-like fruit began
To turn the light and dew by inward power
To its own substance; woven tracery ran
Of light firm texture, ribbed and branching, o'er
The solid rind, like a leaf's veinèd fan --
Of which Love scooped this boat -- and with soft motion
Piloted it round the circumfluous ocean.

XXXIV.
This boat she moored upon her fount, and lit
A living spirit within all its frame,
Breathing the soul of swiftness into it.
Couched on the fountain like a panther tame,
One of the twain at Evan's feet that sit --
Or as on Vesta's sceptre a swift flame --
Or on blind Homer's heart a wingèd thought, --
In joyous expectation lay the boat.

XXXV.
Then by strange art she kneaded fire and snow
Together, tempering the repugnant mass
With liquid love -- all things together grow
Through which the harmony of love can pass;
And a fair Shape out of her hands did flow --
A living Image, which did far surpass
In beauty that bright shape of vital stone
Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.

XXXVI.
A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect
Of either sex, yet all the grace of both, --
In gentleness and strength its limbs were decked;
The bosom swelled lightly with its full youth,
The countenance was such as might select
Some artist that his skill should never die,
Imaging forth such perfect purity.

XXXVII.
From its smooth shoulders hung two rapid wings,
Fit to have borne it to the seventh sphere,
Tipped with the speed of liquid lightenings,
Dyed in the ardours of the atmosphere:
She led her creature to the boiling springs
Where the light boat was moored, and said: "Sit here!"
And pointed to the prow, and took her seat
Beside the rudder, with opposing feet.

XXXVIII.
And down the streams which clove those mountains vast,
Around their inland islets, and amid
The panther-peopled forests, whose shade cast
Darkness and odours, and a pleasure hid
In melancholy gloom, the pinnace passed;
By many a star-surrounded pyramid
Of icy crag cleaving the purple sky,
And caverns yawning round unfathomably.

XXXIX.
The silver noon into that winding dell,
With slanted gleam athwart the forest tops,
Tempered like golden evening, feebly fell;
A green and glowing light, like that which drops
From folded lilies in which glow-worms dwell,
When Earth over her face Night's mantle wraps;
Between the severed mountains lay on high,
Over the stream, a narrow rift of sky.

XL.
And ever as she went, the Image lay
With folded wings and unawakened eyes;
And o'er its gentle countenance did play
The busy dreams, as thick as summer flies,
Chasing the rapid smiles that would not stay,
And drinking the warm tears, and the sweet sighs
Inhaling, which, with busy murmur vain,
They had aroused from that full heart and brain.

XLI.
And ever down the prone vale, like a cloud
Upon a stream of wind, the pinnace went:
Now lingering on the pools, in which abode
The calm and darkness of the deep content
In which they paused; now o'er the shallow road
Of white and dancing waters, all besprent
With sand and polished pebbles: -- mortal boat
In such a shallow rapid could not float.

XLII.
And down the earthquaking cataracts which shiver
Their snow-like waters into golden air,
Or under chasms unfathomable ever
Sepulchre them, till in their rage they tear
A subterranean portal for the river,
It fled -- the circling sunbows did upbear
Its fall down the hoar precipice of spray,
Lighting it far upon its lampless way.

XLIII.
And when the wizard lady would ascend
The labyrinths of some many-winding vale,
Which to the inmost mountain upward tend --
She called "Hermaphroditus!" -- and the pale
And heavy hue which slumber could extend
Over its lips and eyes, as on the gale
A rapid shadow from a slope of grass,
Into the darkness of the stream did pass.

XLIV.
And it unfurled its heaven-coloured pinions,
With stars of fire spotting the stream below;
And from above into the Sun's dominions
Flinging a glory, like the golden glow
In which Spring clothes her emerald-wingèd minions,
All interwoven with fine feathery snow
And moonlight splendour of intensest rime,
With which frost paints the pines in winter time.

XLV.
And then it winnowed the Elysian air
Which ever hung about that lady bright,
With its aetherial vans -- and speeding there,
Like a star up the torrent of the night,
Or a swift eagle in the morning glare
Breasting the whirlwind with impetuous flight,
The pinnace, oared by those enchanted wings,
Clove the fierce streams towards their upper springs.

XLVI.
The water flashed, like sunlight by the prow
Of a noon-wandering meteor flung to Heaven;
The still air seemed as if its waves did flow
In tempest down the mountains; loosely driven
The lady's radiant hair streamed to and fro:
Beneath, the billows having vainly striven
Indignant and impetuous, roared to feel
The swift and steady motion of the keel.

XLVII.
Or, when the weary moon was in the wane,
Or in the noon of interlunar night,
The lady-witch in visions could not chain
Her spirit; but sailed forth under the light
Of shooting stars, and bade extend amain
Its storm-outspeeding wings, the Hermaphrodite;
She to the Austral waters took her way,
Beyond the fabulous Thamondocana, --

XLVIII.
Where, like a meadow which no scythe has shaven,
Which rain could never bend, or whirl-blast shake,
With the Antarctic constellations paven,
Canopus and his crew, lay the Austral lake --
There she would build herself a windless haven
Out of the clouds whose moving turrets make
The bastions of the storm, when through the sky
The spirits of the tempest thundered by:

XLIX.
A haven beneath whose translucent floor
The tremulous stars sparkled unfathomably,
And around which the solid vapours hoar,
Based on the level waters, to the sky
Lifted their dreadful crags, and like a shore
Of wintry mountains, inaccessibly
Hemmed in with rifts and precipices gray,
And hanging crags, many a cove and bay.

L.
And whilst the outer lake beneath the lash
Of the wind's scourge, foamed like a wounded thing,
And the incessant hail with stony clash
Ploughed up the waters, and the flagging wing
Of the roused cormorant in the lightning flash
Looked like the wreck of some wind-wandering
Fragment of inky thunder-smoke -- this haven
Was as a gem to copy Heaven engraven, --

LI.
On which that lady played her many pranks,
Circling the image of a shooting star,
Even as a tiger on Hydaspes' banks
Outspeeds the antelopes which speediest are,
In her light boat; and many quips and cranks
She played upon the water, till the car
Of the late moon, like a sick matron wan,
To journey from the misty east began.

LII.
And then she called out of the hollow turrets
Of those high clouds, white, golden and vermilion,
The armies of her ministering spirits --
In mighty legions, million after million,
They came, each troop emblazoning its merits
On meteor flags; and many a proud pavilion
Of the intertexture of the atmosphere
They pitched upon the plain of the calm mere.

LIII.
They framed the imperial tent of their great Queen
Of woven exhalations, underlaid
With lambent lightning-fire, as may be seen
A dome of thin and open ivory inlaid
With crimson silk -- cressets from the serene
Hung there, and on the water for her tread
A tapestry of fleece-like mist was strewn,
Dyed in the beams of the ascending moon.

LIV.
And on a throne o'erlaid with starlight, caught
Upon those wandering isles of aëry dew,
Which highest shoals of mountain shipwreck not,
She sate, and heard all that had happened new
Between the earth and moon, since they had brought
The last intelligence -- and now she grew
Pale as that moon, lost in the watery night --
And now she wept, and now she laughed outright.

LV.
These were tame pleasures; she would often climb
The steepest ladder of the crudded rack
Up to some beakèd cape of cloud sublime,
And like Arion on the dolphin's back
Ride singing through the shoreless air; -- oft-time
Following the serpent lightning's winding track,
She ran upon the platforms of the wind,
And laughed to hear the fire-balls roar behind.

LVI.
And sometimes to those streams of upper air
Which whirl the earth in its diurnal round,
She would ascend, and win the spirits there
To let her join their chorus. Mortals found
That on those days the sky was calm and fair,
And mystic snatches of harmonious sound
Wandered upon the earth where'er she passed,
And happy thoughts of hope, too sweet to last.

LVII.
But her choice sport was, in the hours of sleep,
To glide adown old Nilus, where he threads
Egypt and AEthiopia, from the steep
Of utmost Axumè, until he spreads,
Like a calm flock of silver-fleecèd sheep,
His waters on the plain: and crested heads
Of cities and proud temples gleam amid,
And many a vapour-belted pyramid.

LVIII.
By Moeris and the Mareotid lakes,
Strewn with faint blooms like bridal chamber floors,
Where naked boys bridling tame water-snakes,
Or charioteering ghastly alligators,
Had left on the sweet waters mighty wakes
Of those huge forms -- within the brazen doors
Of the great Labyrinth slept both boy and beast,
Tired with the pomp of their Osirian feast.

LIX.
And where within the surface of the river
The shadows of the massy temples lie,
And never are erased -- but tremble ever
Like things which every cloud can doom to die,
Through lotus-paven canals, and wheresoever
The works of man pierced that serenest sky
With tombs, and towers, and fanes, 'twas her delight
To wander in the shadow of the night.

LX.
With motion like the spirit of that wind
Whose soft step deepens slumber, her light feet
Passed through the peopled haunts of humankind,
Scattering sweet visions from her presence sweet,
Through fane, and palace-court, and labyrinth mined
With many a dark and subterranean street
Under the Nile, through chambers high and deep
She passed, observing mortals in their sleep.

LXI.
A pleasure sweet doubtless it was to see
Mortals subdued in all the shapes of sleep.
Here lay two sister twins in infancy;
There, a lone youth who in his dreams did weep;
Within, two lovers linkèd innocently
In their loose locks which over both did creep
Like ivy from one stem; -- and there lay calm
Old age with snow-bright hair and folded palm.

LXII.
But other troubled forms of sleep she saw,
Not to be mirrored in a holy song --
Distortions foul of supernatural awe,
And pale imaginings of visioned wrong;
And all the code of Custom's lawless law
Written upon the brows of old and young:
"This," said the wizard maiden, "is the strife
Which stirs the liquid surface of man's life."

LXIII.
And little did the sight disturb her soul. --
We, the weak mariners of that wide lake
Where'er its shores extend or billows roll,
Our course unpiloted and starless make
O'er its wild surface to an unknown goal: --
But she in the calm depths her way could take,
Where in bright bowers immortal forms abide
Beneath the weltering of the restless tide.

LXIV.
And she saw princes couched under the glow
Of sunlike gems; and round each temple-court
In dormitories ranged, row after row,
She saw the priests asleep -- all of one sort --
For all were educated to be so. --
The peasants in their huts, and in the port
The sailors she saw cradled on the waves,
And the dead lulled within their dreamless graves.

LXV.
And all the forms in which those spirits lay
Were to her sight like the diaphanous
Veils, in which those sweet ladies oft array
Their delicate limbs, who would conceal from us
Only their scorn of all concealment: they
Move in the light of their own beauty thus.
But these and all now lay with sleep upon them,
And little thought a Witch was looking on them.

LXVI.
She, all those human figures breathing there,
Beheld as living spirits -- to her eyes
The naked beauty of the soul lay bare,
And often through a rude and worn disguise
She saw the inner form most bright and fair --
And then she had a charm of strange device,
Which, murmured on mute lips with tender tone,
Could make that spirit mingle with her own.

LXVII.
Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given
For such a charm when Tithon became gray?
Or how much, Venus, of thy silver heaven
Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proserpina
Had half (oh! why not all?) the debt forgiven
Which dear Adonis had been doomed to pay,
To any witch who would have taught you it?
The Heliad doth not know its value yet.

LXVIII.
'Tis said in after times her spirit free
Knew what love was, and felt itself alone --
But holy Dian could not chaster be
Before she stooped to kiss Endymion,
Than now this lady -- like a sexless bee
Tasting all blossoms, and confined to none,
Among those mortal forms, the wizard-maiden
Passed with an eye serene and heart unladen.

LXIX.
To those she saw most beautiful, she gave
Strange panacea in a crystal bowl: --
They drank in their deep sleep of that sweet wave,
And lived thenceforward as if some control,
Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave
Of such, when death oppressed the weary soul,
Was as a green and overarching bower
Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.

LXX.
For on the night when they were buried, she
Restored the embalmers' ruining, and shook
The light out of the funeral lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathly nook;
And she unwound the woven imagery
Of second childhood's swaddling bands, and took
The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,
And threw it with contempt into a ditch.

LXXI.
And there the body lay, age after age,
Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying,
Like one asleep in a green hermitage,
With gentle smiles about its eyelids playing,
And living in its dreams beyond the rage
Of death or life; while they were still arraying
In liveries ever new, the rapid, blind
And fleeting generations of mankind.

LXXII.
And she would write strange dreams upon the brain
Of those who were less beautiful, and make
All harsh and crooked purposes more vain
Than in the desert is the serpent's wake
Which the sand covers -- all his evil gain
The miser in such dreams would rise and shake
Into a beggar's lap; -- the lying scribe
Would his own lies betray without a bribe.

LXXIII.
The priests would write an explanation full,
Translating hieroglyphics into Greek,
How the God Apis really was a bull,
And nothing more; and bid the herald stick
The same against the temple doors, and pull
The old cant down; they licensed all to speak
What'er they thought of hawks, and cats, and geese,
By pastoral letters to each diocese.

LXXIV.
The king would dress an ape up in his crown
And robes, and seat him on his glorious seat,
And on the right hand of the sunlike throne
Would place a gaudy mock-bird to repeat
The chatterings of the monkey. -- Every one
Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet
Of their great Emperor, when the morning came,
And kissed -- alas, how many kiss the same!

LXXV.
The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and
Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;
Round the red anvils you might see them stand
Like Cyclopses in Vulcan's sooty abysm,
Beating their swords to ploughshares; -- in a band
The jailors sent those of the liberal schism
Free through the streets of Memphis, much, I wis,
To the annoyance of king Amasis.

LXXVI.
And timid lovers who had been so coy,
They hardly knew whether they loved or not,
Would rise out of their rest, and take sweet joy,
To the fulfillment of their inmost thought;
And when next day the maiden and the boy
Met one another, both, like sinners caught,
Blushed at the thing which each believed was done
Only in fancy -- till the tenth moon shone;

LXXVII.
And then the Witch would let them take no ill:
Of many thousand schemes which lovers find,
The Witch found one, -- and so they took their fill
Of happiness in marriage warm and kind.
Friends who, by practice of some envious skill,
Were torn apart -- a wide wound, mind from mind! --
She did unite again with visions clear
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.

LXXVIII.
These were the pranks she played among the cities
Of mortal men, and what she did to Sprites
And Gods, entangling them in her sweet ditties
To do her will, and show their subtle sleights,
I will declare another time; for it is
A tale more fit for the weird winter nights
Than for these garish summer days, when we
Scarcely believe much more than we can see.

1824, published posthumously

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Ghosts' High Noon - Gilbert

The Ghosts' High Noon


By W.S. Gilbert
1836-1911

When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls,
and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds,
sail over the midnight skies -
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail,
and black dogs bay the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday -
then is the ghosts' high noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees,
and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tombstones are gathered the bones
that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow,
to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday -
the dead of the night's high noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast
to their churchyard beds take flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps,
and a grisly grim "good night";
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell
rings forth its jolliest tune,
And ushers our next high holiday -
the dead of the night's high noon!

From The Witch's Curse. W.S. Gilbert. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1912

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Ghost - Barham

The Ghost


by Richard Harris Barham
aka Thomas Ingoldsby
1788-1845

There stands a City,-- neither large nor small,
Its air and situation sweet and pretty;
It matters very little -- if at all --
Whether its denizens are dull or witty,
Whether the ladies there are short or tall,
Brunettes or blondes, only, there stands a city!--
Perhaps 'tis also requisite to minute
That there's a Castle and a Cobbler in it.

A fair Cathedral, too, the story goes,
And kings and heroes lie entomb'd within her;
There pious Saints, in marble pomp repose,
Whose shrines are worn by knees of many a Sinner;
There, too, full many an Aldermanic nose
Roll'd its loud diapason after dinner;
And there stood high the holy sconce of Becket,
-- Till four assassins came from France to crack it.

The Castle was a huge and antique mound,
Proof against all th' artillery of the quiver,
Ere those abominable guns were found
To send cold lead through gallant warrior's liver.
It stands upon a gently rising ground,
Sloping down gradually to the river,
Resembling (to compare great things with smaller),
A well-scooped, mouldy Stilton cheese,-- but taller.

The Keep, I find, 's been sadly alter'd lately,
And, 'stead of mail-clad knights, of honour jealous,
In martial panoply so grand and stately,
Its walls are fill'd with money-making fellows,
And stuff'd, unless I'm misinformed greatly,
With leaden pipes, and coke, and coals, and bellows;
In short, so great a change has come to pass,
'Tis now a manufactory of Gas.

But to my tale.-- Before this profanation,
And ere its ancient glories were cut short all,
A poor hard-working Cobbler took his station
In a small house, just opposite the portal;
His birth, his parentage, and education,
I know but little of -- a strange, odd mortal;
His aspect, air, and gait, were all ridiculous;
His name was Mason -- he'd been christen'd Nicholas.

Nick had a wife possessed of many a charm,
And of the Lady Huntingdon persuasion;
But, spite of all her piety, her arm
She'd sometimes exercise when in a passion;
And, being of a temper somewhat warm,
Would now and then seize, upon small occasion,
A stick, or stool, or anything that round did lie,
And baste her lord and master most confoundedly.

No matter!--'tis a thing that's not uncommon,
'Tis what we have all heard, and most have read of,--
I mean, a bruizing, pugilistic woman,
Such as I own I entertain a dread of,
-- And so did Nick, whom sometimes there would come on
A sort of fear his spouse might knock his head off,
Demolish half his teeth, or drive a rib in,
She shone so much in 'facers' and in 'fibbing.'

'There's time and place for all things,' said a sage,
(King Solomon, I think,) and this I can say,
Within a well-roped ring, or on a stage,
Boxing may be a very pretty Fancy,
When Messrs. Burke or Bendigo engage;
--' Tis not so well in Susan, Jane, or Nancy;--
To get well mill'd by any one's an evil,
But by a lady --' tis the very Devil.

And so thought Nicholas, whose only trouble
(At least his worst) was this his rib's propensity,
For sometimes from the alehouse he would hobble,
His senses lost in a sublime immensity
Of cogitation -- then he couldn't cobble --
And then his wife would often try the density
Of his poor skull, and strike with all her might,
As fast as kitchen wenches strike a light.

Mason, meek soul, who ever hated strife,
Of this same striking had the utmost dread,
He hated it like poison -- or his wife --
A vast antipathy!-- but so he said --
And very often for a quiet life
On these occasions he'd sneak up to bed,
Grope darkling in, and, soon as at the door
He heard his lady -- he'd pretend to snore.

One night, then, ever partial to society,
Nick, with a friend (another jovial fellow),
Went to a Club -- I should have said Society --
At the 'City Arms,' once called the Porto Bello;
A Spouting party, which, though some decry it, I
Consider no bad lounge when one is mellow;
There they discuss the tax on salt, and leather,
And change of ministers, and change of weather.

In short, it was a kind of British Forum,
Like John Gale Jones's, erst in Piccadilly,
Only they managed things with more decorum,
And the Orations were not quite so silly;
Far different questions, too, would come before 'em,
Not always Politics, which, will ye nill ye,
Their London prototypes were always willing,
To give one quantum suff. of -- for a shilling.

It more resembled one of later date,
And tenfold talent, as I'm told, in Bow Street,
Where kindlier natured souls do congregate,
And, though there are who deem that same a low street,
Yet, I'm assured, for frolicsome debate
And genuine humour it's surpaass'd by no street,
When the 'Chief Baron' enters, and assumes
To 'rule' o'er mimic 'Thesigers' and 'Broughams.'

Here they would oft forget their Rulers' faults,
And waste in ancient lore the midnight taper,
Inquire if Orpheus first produced the Waltz,
How Gas-lights differ from the Delphic Vapour,
Whether Hippocrates gave Glauber's Salts,
And what the Romans wrote on ere they'd paper;
This night the subject of their disquisitions
Was Ghosts, Hobgoblins, Sprites, and Apparitions.

One learned gentleman, 'a sage grave man,'
Talk'd of the Ghost in Hamlet, 'sheath'd in steel;'--
His well-read friend, who next to speak began,
Said, 'That was Poetry, and nothing real;'
A third, of more extensive learning, ran
To Sir George Villiers' Ghost, and Mrs. Veal;
Of sheeted Spectres spoke with shorten'd breath,
And thrice he quoted 'Drelincourt on Death.'

Nick smoked, and smoked, and trembled as he heard
The point discuss'd, and all they said upon it,
How, frequently, some murder'd man appear'd,
To tell his wife and children who had done it;
Or how a Miser's ghost, with grisly beard,
And pale lean visage, in an old Scotch bonnet,
Wander'd about, to watch his buried money!
When all at once Nick heard the clock strike one,-- he

Sprang from his seat, not doubting but a lecture
Impended from his fond and faithful she;
Nor could he well to pardon him expect her,
For he had promised to 'be home to tea;'
But having luckily the key o' the back door,
He fondly hoped that, unperceived, he
Might creep up stairs again, pretend to doze,
And hoax his spouse with music from his nose.

Vain, fruitless hope!-- The weary sentinel
At eve may overlook the crouching foe,
Till, ere his hand can sound the alarum-bell,
He sinks beneath the unexpected blow;
Before the whiskers of Grimalkin fell,
When slumb'ring on her post, the mouse may go;--
But woman, wakeful woman, 's never weary,
-- Above all, when she waits to thump her deary.

Soon Mrs. Mason heard the well known tread,
She heard the key slow creaking in the door,
Spied, through the gloom obscure, towards the bed
Nick creeping soft, as oft he had crept before;
When bang, she threw a something at his head,
And Nick at once lay prostrate on the floor;
While she exclaim'd, with her indignant face on,--
'How dare you use your wife so, Mr. Mason?'

Spare we to tell how fiercely she debated,
Especially the length of her oration,--
Spare we to tell how Nick expostulated,
Roused by the bump into a good set passion,
So great, that more than once he execrated,
Ere he crawl'd into bed in his usual fashion;
The Muses hate brawls; suffice it then to say,
He duck'd below the clothes -- and there he lay!

'Twas now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards groan, and graves give up their dead,
And many a mischievous enfranchised Sprite
Had long since burst his bonds of stone or lead,
And hurried off, with schoolboy-like delight,
To play his pranks near some poor wretch's bed,
Sleeping perhaps serenely as a porpoise,
Nor dreaming of this fiendish Habeas Corpus.

Not so our Nicholas, his meditations
Still to the same tremendous theme recurr'd,
The same dread subject of the dark narrations,
Which, back'd with such authority, he'd heard;
Lost in his own horrific contemplations,
He ponder'd o'er each well-remember'd word;
When at the bed's foot, close beside the post,
He verily believed he saw -- a Ghost!

Plain, and more plain, the unsubstantial Sprite
To his astonish'd gaze each moment grew;
Ghastly and gaunt, it rear'd its shadowy height,
Of more than mortal seeming to the view,
And round its long, thin, bony fingers drew
A tatter'd winding-sheet, of course all white;
The moon that moment peeping through a cloud,
Nick very plainly saw it through the shroud!

And now those matted locks, which never yet
Had yielded to the comb's unkind divorce,
Their long-contracted amity forget,
And spring asunder with elastic force;
Nay, e'en the very cap, of texture coarse,
Whose ruby cincture crown'd that brow of jet,
Uprose in agony -- the Gorgon's head
Was but a type of Nick's up-squatting in the bed.

From every pore distill'd a clammy dew,
Quaked every limb,-- the candle, too, no doubt,
En règle, would have burnt extremely blue,
But Nick unluckily had put it out;
And he, though naturally bold and stout,
In short, was in a most tremendous stew;--
The room was filled with a sulphureous smell,
But where that came from Mason could not tell.

All motionless the Spectre stood, and now
Its rev'rend form more clearly shone confest;
From the pale cheek a beard of purest snow
Descended o'er its venerable breast;
The thin grey hairs, that crown'd its furrow'd brow,
Told of years long gone by.-- An awful guest
It stood, and with an action of command,
Beckon'd the Cobbler with its wan right hand.

'Whence, and what art thou, Execrable Shape?'
Nick might have cried, could he have found a tongue,
But his distended jaws could only gape,
And not a sound upon the welkin rung;
His gooseberry orbs seem'd as they would have sprung
Forth from their sockets,-- like a frighten'd Ape,
He sat upon his haunches, bolt upright,
And shook, and grinn'd, and chatter'd with affright.

And still the shadowy finger, long and lean,
Now beckon'd Nick, now pointed to the door;
And many an ireful glance, and frown, between,
The angry visage of the Phantom wore,
As if quite vex'd that Nick would do no more
Than stare, without e'en asking, 'What d'ye mean?'
Because, as we are told,-- a sad old joke too,--
Ghosts, like the ladies, never speak till spoke to.

Cowards, 'tis said, in certain situations,
Derive a sort of courage from despair,
And then perform, from downright desperation,
Much more than many a bolder man would dare.
Nick saw the Ghost was getting in a passion,
And therefore, groping till he found the chair,
Seized on his awl, crept softly out of bed,
And follow'd quaking where the Spectre led.

And down the winding-stair, with noiseless tread,
The tenant of the tomb pass'd slowly on,
Each mazy turning of the humble shed
Seem'd to his step at once familiar grown,
So safe and sure the labyrinth did he tread
As though the domicile had been his own,
Though Nick himself, in passing through the shop,
Had almost broke his nose against the mop.

Despite its wooden bolt, with jarring sound,
The door upon its hinges open flew;
And forth the Spirit issued,-- yet around
It turn'd as if its follower's fears it knew,
And, once more beckoning, pointed to the mound,
The antique Keep, on which the bright moon threw
With such effulgence her mild silvery gleam,
The visionary form seem'd melting in her beam.

Beneath a pond'rous archway's sombre shade,
Where once the huge portcullis swung sublime,
Mid ivied battlements in ruin laid,
Sole, sad memorials of the olden time,
The Phantom held its way,-- and though afraid
Even of the owls that sung their vesper chime,
Pale Nicholas pursued, its steps attending,
And wondering what on earth it all would end in.

Within the mouldering fabric's deep recess
At length they reach a court obscure and lone;--
It seem'd a drear and desolate wilderness,
The blacken'd walls with ivy all o'ergrown;
The night-bird shriek'd her note of wild distress,
Disturb'd upon her solitary throne,
As though indignant mortal step should dare,
So led, at such an hour, to venture there!

-- The Apparition paused, and would have spoke,
Pointing to what Nick thought an iron ring,
But then a neighbouring chaunticleer awoke,
And loudly 'gan his early matins sing;
And then 'it started like a guilty thing,'
As his shrill clarion the silence broke.
-- We know how much dead gentlefolks eschew
The appalling sound of 'Cock-a-doodle-do!'

The Vision was no more -- and Nick alone --
'His streamers waving' in the midnight wind,
Which through the ruins ceased not to groan;
-- His garment, too, was somewhat short behind,--
And, worst of all, he knew not where to find
The ring, which made him most his fate bemoan.--
The iron ring,-- no doubt of some trap door,
'Neath which the old dead Miser kept his store.

'What's to be done?' he cried; ''Twere vain to stay
Here in the dark without a single clue --
Oh for a candle now, or moonlight ray!
'Fore George, I'm vastly puzzled what to do.'
(Then clapp'd his hand behind) --' 'Tis chilly too --
I'll mark the spot, and come again by day.
What can I mark it by?-- Oh, here's the wall --
The mortar's yielding -- here I'll stick my awl!'

Then rose from earth to sky a withering shriek,
A loud, a long-protracted note of woe,
Such as when tempests roar, and timbers creak,
And o'er the side the masts in thunder go;
While on the deck resistless billows break,
And drag their victims to the gulfs below;--
Such was the scream when, for the want of candle,
Nick Mason drove his awl in up to the handle.

Scared by his Lady's heart-appalling cry,
Vanish'd at once poor Mason's golden dream --
For dream it was;-- and all his visions high,
Of wealth and grandeur, fled before that scream --
And still he listens with averted eye,
When gibing neighbours make 'the Ghost' their theme;
While ever from that hour they all declare
That Mrs. Mason used a cushion in her chair!