Friday, August 31, 2018

The Messenger - Stagg


John Stagg

"Rise from your couch, fair Lady Jane,
And drive the slumbers from your ee',
Rise from your couch, fair Lady Jane,
For I have tidings brought for thee."

But seldom slumbers Lady Jane,
But seldom visits sleep her ee';
O'er-wakeful render'd by her woe,
Yet, say, what tidings bring'st thou me?

Loud blust'ring howls the wint'ry gale,
Hark! how the neighb'ring torrents pour!
I fear 'tis but some wanton night,
That mocks me at this midnight hour.

"Shake off thy slumbers, Lady Jane,
Rise from thy couch, and come away;
Shake off thy slumbers, Lady Jane,
For I'm in haste, and must not stay."

"Say, stranger, what can be thy haste,
Or what may this thine errand be?
From whom, and wherefore art thou sent;
Or say, what tidings bring'st thou me?

"Lord Walter, he my wedded Lord,
Now wins on fair Hesperia's plains,
Where proud Britannia's banners fly,
Where death and devastation reigns!

"Three months are scarcely pass'd and gone,
Tho' three long tedious months to me,
Since brave Lord Walter left these arms,
And with his squadrons put to sea.

"Tho' long and tedious seems the time,
Yet well I ween too short by far,
To think of news from him my Lord,
Or tidings from the woeful war."

"Rise from thy couch, fair Lady Jane,
Rise from thy couch, and follow me;
'Tis from Lord Walter's self I come,
I am his messenger to thee."

"Bleak o'er the heath the whirlwind blows,
Fast falls the rain, as fast can be;
Yet, since thou bear'st my Lord's behest,
I'll leave my couch, and come to thee.

"But tell me, stranger, tell me where
Lord Walter wins, and how he fares;
For tho' from him I fain would hear,
My bosom labours with its cares.

"Would it become Lord Walter's wife,
Would it become his Lady Jane,
At midnight hour to leave her couch,
And with a stranger walk the plain?"

"Rise from thy couch, thou Lady Jane,
Arise, and make no more delay;
The night's far spent, and I'm in haste,
And here I must no longer stay.

"Near where the foaming Derwent rolls,
Its currents westward to the sea,
There on the beach, by Solway's side,
Lord Walter anxious waits for thee."

Swift to her well-known master's call,
Up from the brake the falcon springs,
And to the whistling summons hies,
In eager speed, on outstretch'd wings.

So from her couch sprang Lady Jane;
In sooth, she was not slack or slow,
Nor fear'd she once the drenching rain,
Nor car'd she how the winds might blow.

And she's put on her kertle green,
Her scarf and mantle made of blue;
And donn'd her up wi mickle haste,
Her midnight journey to pursue.

And she's unbarr'd the outer door,
And ventur'd 'midst the wind and rain,
And with the urgent stranger sped,
All storm-struck o'er the dreary plain.

O'er hill and dale, thro' bog and burn,
And many a glen they swiftly hied;
Nor spoke they once, nor stopp'd, not stay'd,
Until they reach'd the Solway side.

The night was dark, the boist'rous main
Impetuous dash'd against the shore;
And oft the water sprite was heard
To shriek with loud terrific roar!

"Where is my love? (said Lady Jane,)
O bring Lord Walter quick to me;
I see the sea, I see the shore,
But no Lord Walter can I see."

"O Lady Jane, (the stranger cried,)
Fair Lady, ever kind and true;
Why shrink you thus with foolish fear?
Lord Walter's spirit speaks to you!

"In Biscay's well-known stormy bay,
Our vessel sank, no more to rise;
There, buried in a wat'ry grave,
All cold, thy long-lov'd husband lies.

"Constant and kind to me in life,
Thou held'st dominion o'er my heart;
Our love was mutual; then, shall death,
Our love, so well establish'd, part?"

Cold horror seiz'd fair Lady Jane,
Her frame with deadly terror shook;
An icy coldness chill'd her blood,
And motion ev'ry pulse forsook.

With silent and insensate stare,
She view'd the spectre o'er and o'er,
But such and awful hideous sight
Her eyes had never seen before.

All deadly meagre gloom'd his face,
Of flesh by mideous monsters stripp'd;
Sea-bubbles fill'd his vacant eyes,
And from his clothes the waters dripp'd.

His temples, once so comely fair,
Were now with sea-weed compass'd round;
And filthy coils of tangle foul
The parts of his fair body bound.

When thus, with hollow voice, once more,
The phantom said--"Howe'er it be,
You must to-night, fair Lady Jane,
Expect to sleep in death with me!"

She shriek'd, and lifeless on the shore
She fell; when swift a swelling wave
Roll'd over her, and, with its recoil,
Entomb'd her in a wat'ry grave!

No more was heard of Lady Jane;
Lord Walter he was seen no more,
Save that the neighbours sometimes see
Their spirits wander by the shore;

And oft amidst the whirlwind's blast
Is heard full many a hideous scream,
And two strange figures often glide
Along the side of Derwent stream!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Danse Macabre - Price

Danse Macabre
by Cale Young Price (1872-1943)

I heard a great rattle of bones in the night,
And saw the dead rise from the earth—a sight!
They carried them lanterns of will-o’-the-wisps,
And their speech cackled and broke with lisps.

They flung shrouds off and got in a ring,
And knuckle to knuckle I saw them spring.
Their hair blew off, and skull to skull
The gabbled and danced, interminable.

And thigh-bone rattled with bone of thigh,
As tooth and tongue were spat at the sky.
And they chaunted a chilly, gibbering chaunt
Of how the dead have never a want.

“For what want we of the Universe,
We who have six full feet of clay
To be for our cuddling bones a nurse,”
They clacked in a rasping roundelay.

“What want we of the Universe?
We lie in the dust there snug and still;
And the quick may have their better or worse:
We have what’s best—we have our will.”

So with cackle, gabble and dance,
With rattle of joints and jig and scream,
Then back to their graves with skitter and glance
They dropt. Zounds! what an idiot dream!

From Wraiths and Realities, 1918

Is it haunted?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Witch and Hare

Witch and Hare

An old witch, in days of yore, lived in this neighbourhood; and whenever she wanted money she would assume the shape of a hare, and would send out her grandson to tell a certain huntsman who lived hard by that he had seen a hare sitting at such a particular spot, for which he always received the reward of sixpence. After this deception had many times been practised, the dogs turned out, the hare pursued, often seen but never caught, a sportsman of the party began to suspect, in the language of the tradition, "that the devil was in the dance," and there would be no end to it.

The matter was discussed, a justice consulted, and a clergyman to boot; and it was thought that, however clever the devil might be, law and church combined would be more than a match for him. It was therefore agreed that, as the boy was singularly regular in the hour at which he came to announce the sight of the hare, all should be in readiness for a start the instant such information was given: and a neighbour of the witch, nothing friendly to her, promised to let the parties know directly the old woman and her grandson left the cottage and went off together; the one to be hunted, and the other to set on the hunt.

The news came, the hounds were unkennelled, and huntsmen and sportsmen set off with surprising speed. The witch, now a hare, and her little colleague in iniquity, did not expect so very speedy a turn out; so that the game was pursued at a desperate rate, and the boy, forgetting himself in a moment of alarm, was heard to exclaim: "Run, Granny, run; run for your life!" At last the pursuers lost the hare, and she once more got safe into the cottage by a little hole in the door; not large enough to admit a hound in chase.

The huntsman and all the squires with their train lent a hand to break open the door, yet could not do it till the parson and the justice came up; but as law and church were certainly designed to break through iniquity, even so did they now succeed in bursting the magic bonds that opposed them. Upstairs they all went. There they found the old hag bleeding, and covered with wounds, and still out of breath. She denied she was a hare, and railed at the whole party. "Call up the hounds," said the huntsman, "and let us see what they take her to be; maybe we may yet have another hunt."

On hearing this the old woman cried quarter. The boy dropped on his knees, and begged hard for mercy, which was granted on condition of its being received together with a good whipping; and the huntsman, having long practised amongst the hounds, now tried his hand on other game. Thus the old woman escaped a worse fate for the time present; but on being afterwards put on her trial for bewitching a young woman and making her spit pins, the tale just told was given as evidence against her, before a particularly learned judge, and a remarkably sagacious jury, and the old woman finished her days, like a martyr, at the stake.

Mrs. Bray, The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy
Sacred Texts

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Requiem - Evans


By Ann C Bryn-Evans

That which belongs to Air
has returned to the East.
The Wheel turns
and Spring is over.

That which belongs to Fire
has returned to the South.
The wheel turns
and Summer has flown.

That which belongs to Water
has returned to the West.
The wheel turns
and Autumn passes.

That which belongs to Earth
has returned to the North,
The wheel turns
the Winter has ended.

That which belongs to Spirit
has returned to the old Ones.
The wheel turns
the Cauldron awaits.

That which belongs to fellowship and love --
that which belongs to Circle --
remains with us.
Nothing is final,
no farewell is the last.

The wheel turns,
and we, who tread the dance which never ends,
will share the gifts of food and wine again.

© Ann C Bryn-Evans

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Haunted House - Kemp

The Haunted House
By Harry Kemp (1883-1960)

It is vacant in the daylight,
There is nothing living there.
But at night the foot of Something
Goes up and down the stair.

There’s a fence of rusted pickets;
In the yard the tangled grass
Clutches at the feet in warning:
Every pane’s a shattered glass;

On a plot where burst a fountain
Prone a marble naiad lies
Staring up in sun or starshine
With unseeing, soulless eyes;

Ancient weeds have choked the flowers
That in patterned order stood;
Step by step wit sure encroachment,
Marches in the gloomy wood….

It is vacant in the daylight,
There is nothing living there;
For at night the foot of SOMETHING
Goes up and down the stair.

From Chanteys and Ballads, 1920

Vintage Postcard 1912

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Origin of the Jack-O'-Lantern - Claytor

Origin of the Jack-O'-Lantern
by Graham Claytor (1800s)
(A Ballad)

The night is dark, the rain it pours,
Come in and shut the door,
And listen, children, while I tell
This tale I heard of yore:

A village smith there once did live—
A man so very queer—
Who worked but little at his trade,
And frolicked half the year.

At early dawn on Monday morn
He got upon his spree,
And all the week he danced and pranced
Like on in merriest glee;

Nor did he stop next Monday morn,
But started out as bad,
And all the week he drank and drank,
Until the man was mad.

And by and by, one day when he
Had cursed and spreed around,
He heard a curious, rustling noise,
And then a stranger sound.

With maddened strength he dashed the cup
In pieces on the floor,
And wildly staggered ‘cross the room,
And opened wide the door.

There stood old Nick, with fiery eyes,
Fresh from that dreadful place
Where man, though dying, never dies,
And torments never cease.

“My ever faithful friend,” quoth Nick.
“On earth thou’st served me well,
But now they service here must end,
I’ve need of thee in hell.”

In pitying tones poor smithy begged
Old Nick would spare him here,
To serve him with his might and main
Just for another year.

Then said Old Nick, “I’ll grant thy boon
If thou wilt now agree
That when the coming year shalt end
To pledge thy soul to me.”

* * * *

And then he charmed the smithy’s chair,
That who’er took a seat
Was subject to the smithy’s will,
And in his power complete.

And o’er his great sledge hammer, too,
He tried his potent skill;
Who took it up ne’er let it down
But by the master’s will.

He flung the smith a bag of coin,
And said, “Go fill the bowl;
Have all the fun thou canst this year,
And next, I’ll have thy soul.”

The blacksmith now, with might and main,
Set in to have his fun;
He had so much he e’en forgot
The year its course had run,

‘Till by and by, one day he heard
A rustling at his door,
And now he knew his time was out—
Old Nick had come once more.

And in he walked without a word,
But smithy hammered long,
And made the sparks fly right and left,
And sang his merriest song.

Up spoke Old Nick; quoth he, “My friend,
I cannot tarry here;
So come with me, I’ve use for thee
Within some other sphere.”

“One moment, sir,” the smith replied,
“But pray you take a seat;
And, when I’ve done this little job,
I’ll follow at they feet.”

Into the chair—the conjured chair!
Old Nick sat down at last;
But when tried to rise again,
The chair it held him fast!

Now smithy cracked his heels and laughed,
And rubbed his horny palm,
And asked Old Nick, in jest, if he
Would join him in a dram.

“Thou canst not move one peg,” quoth the smith,
“I have thee safely here,
Nor will I let thee up, unless
Thou’lt grant me one more year.”

“I’ll grant thee, then, another year,”
Old Nick did make reply,
When up he rose from out the chair
And bade the smithy good-bye.

And swiftly passed that year around
In drunkenness and sin,
And when the appointed time was come
Old Nick walked boldly in.

“I’ll soon be ready,” quoth the smith,
“First, let me mend this wedge;
And would Old Nick be kind enough
To help him with the sledge?”

“O, yes,” cried Nick, “I’ll try my hand,
And strike a lick or so;”
With this he grasped the conjured sledge!
Nor could he let it go!

Again the blacksmith clapped his hands,
O’erjoyed at his own skill;
Once more he had Old Nick all fast
And subject to his will.

“Thou canst not let that hammer go,”
Quoth he, in merriest glee;
“But if thou’lt grant me one more year,
Again thou shalt be free.”

“Then take,” quoth Nick, “another year,
But this shalt be thy last,
For when this year shall run its course
I’ll surely hold thee fast.”

With this he loosed his iron grasp,
And bade the smith farewell,
And walked in sullen silence back
Toward the gates of hell.

Now smithy made the welkin ring
With frolic and with fun,
And month on month he drank his fill
Until the year was done.

Then came Old Nick, all in hot haste,
And eager for his man;
Poor smithy now had no excuse,
So up he jumped and ran.

And as he ran he scramed and howled
And begged most piteously
For one more year, or month, or day,
Of life and liberty.

But Nick soon seized him by the neck,
Then threw him on his back,
And rolled his body in a heap
And stuffed it in his sack.

He tied it up, the thought, secure,
Then took the heavy load,
Across his shoulders flung it’s weight,
And sauntered down the road.

* * * *

Now all this happened, you must know,
Upon a muster day,
When all the neighboring folk turn out
In all their bright array.

Old Nick joined with the gathering throng,
With halt and blind and lame,
On mischief bent—with foul intent
To bag some other game;

And when he reached the muster ground,
He placed his loaded sack
Beneath the table, then sat down
To eat his frugal snack.

And now the smith creeped slyly out
And filled the sack anew;
Then hied he to the forest deep
“Till safe from Devil’s view.

And when Old Nick did eat his fill
He gathered up his load,
And bade the people all good-day
And sauntered down the road.

And when at last he reached his home
His children gathered round;
He ope’d the sack—when lo! Out jumped
A fierce and furious hound.

And grappling with the imps of hell,
He shook them all about,
Until Old Nick ope’d wide the door
And turned the rascal out.

* * * *

Now time rolled on, poor smithy died,
And straight to Heaven’s gate
His spirit fled for entrance there;
The angel cried, “Too late!”

And the adown it winged its way
And tried the gates of hell;
But when Old Nick peeped thro’ the bars,
He knew the blacksmith well.

He shook his head, “O no,” quoth Nick,
“I know thee, sir, of yore;
Go somewhere else to play thy pranks;”
With this he slammed the door.

Shut out from Heaven’s golden streets,
And spurned away from hell,
Poor smithy’s spirit wanders forth
O’er bog and fen and dell.

And when the night is dark and damp
His lantern shoots its ray
From out the bog and fen and dell
To lure us from our way;
And Jack-o’-Lantern it is called
Unto this very day.

Among the Hills, 1886

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Witches' Frolic - Barham

The Witches' Frolic

by Richard Harris Barham (1788-1845)
from the Ingoldsby Legends, 1898
or Mirths and Marvels
by Thomas Ingoldsby, Esquire

[Scene, the 'Snuggery' at Tappington.-- Grandpapa in a high-backed cane-bottomed elbow-chair of carved walnut-tree, dozing; his nose at an angle of forty-five degrees,--his thumbs slowly perform the rotatory motion described by lexicographers as 'twiddling.'--The 'Hope of the family' astride on a walking-stick, with burnt-cork mustachios, and a pheasant's tail pinned in his cap, solaceth himself with martial music.-- Roused by a strain of surpassing dissonance, Grandpapa Loquitur.]

Come hither, come hither, my little boy Ned!
Come hither unto my knee--
I cannot away with that horrible din,
That sixpenny drum, and that trumpet of tin.
Oh, better to wander frank and free
Through the Fair of good Saint Bartlemy,
Than list to such awful minstrelsie.
Now lay, little Ned, those nuisances by,
And I'll rede ye a lay of Grammarye.

[Grandpapa riseth, yawneth like the crater of an extinct volcano, proceedeth slowly to the window, and apostrophizeth the Abbey in the distance.]

I love thy tower, Grey Ruin,
I joy thy form to see,
Though reft of all,
Cell, cloister, and hall,
Nothing is left save a tottering wall,
That, awfully grand and darkly dull,
Threaten'd to fall and demolish my skull,
As, ages ago, I wander'd along
Careless thy grass-grown courts among,
In sky-blue jacket and trowsers laced,
The latter uncommonly short in the waist.
Thou art dearer to me, thou Ruin grey,
Than the Squire's verandah over the way;
And fairer, I ween,
The ivy sheen
That thy mouldering turret binds,
Than the Alderman's house about half a mile off,
With the green Venetian blinds.

Full many a tale would my Grandam tell,
In many a bygone day,
Of darksome deeds, which of old befell
In thee, thou Ruin grey!
And I the readiest ear would lend,
And stare like frighten'd pig;
While my Grandfather's hair would have stood up an end,
Had he not worn a wig.

One tale I remember of mickle dread--
Now lithe and listen, my little boy Ned!

Thou mayest have read, my little boy Ned,
Though thy mother thine idlesse blames,
In Doctor Goldsmith's history book,
Of a gentleman called King James,
In quilted doublet, and great trunk breeches,
Who held in abhorrence tobacco and witches.

Well,-- in King James's golden days,--
For the days were golden then,--
They could not be less, for good Queen Bess
Had died aged threescore and ten,
And her days, we know,
Were all of them so;
While the Court poets sung, and the Court gallants swore
That the days were as golden still as before.

Some people, 'tis true, a troublesome few,
Who historical points would unsettle,
Have lately thrown out a sort of a doubt
Of the genuine ring of the metal;
But who can believe to a monarch so wise
People would dare tell a parcel of lies?

-- Well, then, in good King James's days,--
Golden or not does not matter a jot,--
Yon ruin a sort of a roof had got;
For though, repairs lacking, its walls had been cracking
Since Harry the Eighth sent its friars a-packing,
Though joists, and floors,
And windows, and doors
Had all disappear'd, yet pillars by scores
Remain'd, and still propp'd up a ceiling or two,
While the belfry was almost as good as new;
You are not to suppose matters look'd just so
In the Ruin some two hundred years ago.

Just in that farthermost angle, where
You see the remains of a winding-stair,
One turret especially high in air
Uprear'd its tall gaunt form;
As if defying the power of Fate, or
The hand of 'Time the Innovator;'
And though to the pitiless storm
Its weaker brethren all around
Bowing, in ruin had strew'd the ground,
Alone it stood, while its fellows lay strew'd,
Like a four-bottle man in a company 'screw'd,'
Not firm on his legs, but by no means subdued.

One night --' twas in Sixteen hundred and six --
I like when I can, Ned, the date to fix,--
The month was May,
Though I can't well say
At this distance of time the particular day --
But oh! that night, that horrible night!
Folks ever afterwards said with affright
That they never had seen such a terrible sight.

The Sun had gone down fiery red;
And if that evening he laid his head
In Thetis's lap beneath the seas,
He must have scalded the goddess's knees.
He left behind him a lurid track
Of blood-red light upon clouds so black,
That Warren and Hunt, with the whole of their crew,
Could scarcely have given them a darker hue.

There came a shrill and a whistling sound,
Above, beneath, beside, and around,
Yet leaf ne'er moved on tree!
So that some people thought old Beelzebub must
Have been lock'd out of doors, and was blowing the dust
From the pipe of his street-door key.

And then a hollow moaning blast
Came, sounding more dismally still than the last,
And the lightning flash'd, and the thunder growl'd,
And louder and louder the tempest howl'd,
And the rain came down in such sheets as would stagger a
Bard for a simile short of Niagara.

Rob Gilpin 'was a citizen;'
But, though of some 'renown,'
Of no great 'credit' in his own,
Or any other town.

He was a wild and roving lad,
For ever in the alehouse boozing;
Or romping,-- which is quite as bad,--
With female friends of his own choosing.

And Rob this very day had made,
Not dreaming such a storm was brewing,
An assignation with Miss Slade,--
Their trysting-place this same grey Ruin.

But Gertrude Slade became afraid,
And to keep her appointment unwilling,
When she spied the rain on her window-pane
In drops as big as a shilling;
She put off her hat and her mantle again,--
'He'll never expect me in all this rain!'

But little he recks of the fears of the sex,
Or that maiden false to her tryst could be,
He had stood there a good half hour
Ere yet commenced that perilous shower,
Alone by the trysting-tree!

Robin looks east, Robin looks west,
But he sees not her whom he loves the best;
Robin looks up, and Robin looks down,
But no one comes from the neighbouring town.

The storm came at last, loud roar'd the blast,
And the shades of evening fell thick and fast;
The tempest grew; and the straggling yew,
His leafy umbrella, was wet through and through;
Rob was half dead with cold and with fright,
When he spies in the ruins a twinkling light --
A hop, two skips, and a jump, and straight
Rob stands within that postern gate.

And there were gossips sitting there,
By one, by two, by three:
Two were an old ill-favour'd pair;
But the third was young, and passing fair,
With laughing eyes and with coal-black hair;
A daintie quean was she!
Rob would have given his ears to sip
But a single salute from her cherry lip.

As they sat in that old and haunted room,
In each one's hand was a huge birch broom,
On each one's head was a steeple-crown'd hat,
On each one's knee was a coal-black cat;
Each had a kirtle of Lincoln green --
It was, I trow, a fearsome scene.

'Now riddle me, riddle me right, Madge Gray,
What foot unhallow'd wends this way?
Goody Price, Goody Price, now areed me aright,
Who roams the old ruins this drearysome night?'

Then up and spake that sonsie quean,
And she spake both loud and clear:
'Oh, be it for weal, or be it for woe,
Enter friend, or enter foe,
Rob Gilpin is welcome here!--

'Now tread we a measure! a hall! a hall!
Now tread we a measure,' quoth she --
The heart of Robin
Beat thick and throbbing --
'Roving Rob, tread a measure with me!'--
'Ay, lassie!' quoth Rob, as her hand he gripes,
'Though Satan himself were blowing the pipes!'

Now around they go, and around, and around,
With hop-skip-and-jump, and frolicsome bound,
Such sailing and gilding,
Such sinking and sliding,
Such lofty curvetting,
And grand pirouetting;
Ned, you would swear that Monsieur Gilbert
And Miss Taglioni were capering there!

And oh! such awful music!-- ne'er
Fell sounds so uncanny on mortal ear,
There were the tones of a dying man's groans
Mix'd with the rattling of dead men's bones:
Had you heard the shrieks, and the squeals, and the squeaks,
You'd not have forgotten the sound for weeks.

And around, and around, and around they go,
Heel to heel, and toe to toe,
Prance and caper, curvet and wheel,
Toe to toe, and heel to heel.
''Tis merry, 'tis merry, Cummers, I trow,
To dance thus beneath the nightshade bough!'--

'Goody Price, Goody Price, now riddle me right,
Where may we sup this frolicsome night?'--
'Mine Host of the Dragon hath mutton and veal!
The Squire hath partridge, and widgeon, and teal;
But old Sir Thopas hath daintier cheer,
A pasty made of the good red deer,
A huge grouse pie, and a fine Florentine,
A fat roast goose, and a turkey and chine.'--
--'Madge Gray, Madge Gray,
Now tell me, I pray,
Where's the best wassail bowl to our roundelay?'

'-- There is ale in the cellars of Tappington Hall,
But the Squire is a churl, and his drink is small;
Mine host of the Dragon
Hath many a flaggon
Of double ale, lamb's-wool, and eau de vie,
But Sir Thopas, the Vicar,
Hath costlier liquor,--
A butt of the choicest Malvoisie.
He doth not lack
Canary or Sack;
And a good pint stoup of Clary wine
Smacks merrily off with a Turkey and Chine!'

'Now away! and away! without delay,
Hey Cockalorum! my Broomstick gay,
We must be back ere the dawn of the day:
Hey up the chimney! away! away!'--
Old Goody Price
Mounts in a trice,
In showing her legs she is not over nice;
Old Goody Jones,
All skin and bones,
Follows 'like winking.' Away go the crones,
Knees and nose in a line with the toes,
Sitting their brooms like so many Ducrows;
Latest and last
The damsel pass'd,
One glance of her coal-black eye she cast;
She laugh'd with glee loud laughters three,
'Dost fear, Rob Gilpin, to ride with me!'--
Oh, never might man unscath'd espy
One single glance from that coal-black eye.
-- Away she flew!--
Without more ado
Rob seizes and mounts on a broomstick too,
'Hey! up the chimney, lass! Hey after you!'

It's a very fine thing on a fine day in June
To ride through the air in a Nassau Balloon;
But you'll find very soon, if you aim at the Moon
In a carriage like that you're a bit of a 'Spoon,'
For the largest can't fly
Above twenty miles high,
And you're not half way then on your journey, nor nigh;
While no man alive
Could ever contrive,
Mr. Green has declared, to get higher than five.
And the soundest Philosophers hold that, perhaps,
If you reach'd twenty miles your balloon would collapse,
Or pass by such action
The sphere of attraction,
Getting into the track of some comet -- Good-lack!
'Tis a thousand to one that you'd never come back;
And the boldest of mortals a danger like that must fear,
And be cautious of getting beyond our own atmosphere.
No, no; when I try
A trip to the sky,
I shan't go in that thing of yours, Mr. Gye,
Though Messieurs Monk Mason, and Spencer, and Beazly,
All join in saying it travels so easily.
No; there's nothing so good
As a pony of wood --
Not like that which, of late, they stuck up on the gate
At the end of the Park, which caused so much debate,
And gave so much trouble to make it stand straight,--
But a regular Broomstick -- you'll find that the favourite,--
Above all, when, like Robin, you haven't to pay for it.
-- Stay -- really I dread
I am losing the thread
Of my tale; and it's time you should be in your bed,
So lithe now, and listen, my little boy Ned!

The Vicarage walls are lofty and thick,
And the copings are stone, and the sides are brick,
The casements are narrow, and bolted and barr'd,
And the stout oak door is heavy and hard;
Moreover, by way of additional guard,
A great big dog runs loose in the yard,
And a horse-shoe is nail'd on the threshold sill,--
To keep out aught that savours of ill,--
But, alack! the chimney-pot's open still!
-- That great big dog begins to quail,
Between his hind-legs he drops his tail,
Crouch'd on the ground, the terrified hound
Gives vent to a very odd sort of a sound;
It is not a bark, loud, open, and free,
As an honest old watch-dog's bark should be;
It is not a yelp, it is not a growl,
But a something between a whine and a howl;
And, hark!--a sound from the window high
Responds to the watch-dog's pitiful cry:
It is not a moan,
It is not a groan;
It comes from a nose,-- but is not what a nose
Produces in healthy and sound repose.
Yet Sir Thopas the Vicar is fast asleep,
And his respirations are heavy and deep!

He snores, 'tis true, but he snores no more
As he's aye been accustom'd to snore before,
And as men of his kidney are wont to snore;--
(Sir Thopas's weight is sixteen stone four;)
He draws his breath like a man distress'd
By pain or grief, or like one oppress'd
By some ugly old Incubus perch'd on his breast.
A something seems
To disturb his dreams,
And thrice on his ear, distinct and clear,
Falls a voice as of somebody whispering near
In still small accents, faint and few,
'Hey down the chimney-pot!--Hey after you!'

Throughout the Vicarage, near and far,
There is no lack of bolt or of bar,
Plenty of locks
To closet and box,
Yet the pantry wicket is standing ajar!
And the little low door, through which you must go,
Down some half-dozen steps, to the cellar below,
Is also unfasten'd, though no one may know,
By so much as a guess, how it comes to be so;
For wicket and door,
The evening before,
Were both of them lock'd, and the key safely placed
On the bunch that hangs down from the Housekeeper's waist.

Oh! 'twas a jovial sight to view
In that snug little cellar that frolicsome crew!--
Old Goody Price
Had got something nice,
A turkey-poult larded with bacon and spice;--
Old Goody Jones
Would touch nought that had bones,--
She might just as well mumble a parcel of stones.
Goody Jones, in sooth, had got never a tooth,
And a New-College pudding of marrow and plums
Is the dish of all others that suiteth her gums.

Madge Gray was picking
The breast of a chicken,
Her coal-black eye, with its glance so sly,
Was fixed on Rob Gilpin himself, sitting by
With his heart full of love, and his mouth full of pie;
Grouse pie, with hare
In the middle, is fare
Which, duly concocted with science and care,
Doctor Kitchener says, is beyond all compare;
And a tenderer leveret
Robin had never ate;
So, in after times, oft he was wont to asseverate.
Now pledge we the wine-cup!--a health! a health!
Sweet are the pleasures obtain'd by stealth!
Fill up! fill up!-- the brim of the cup
Is the part that aye holdeth the toothsomest sup!
Here's to thee, Goody Price! Goody Jones, to thee!
To thee, Roving Rob! and again to me!
Many a sip, never a slip
Come to us four 'twixt the cup and the lip!'

The cups pass quick,
The toasts fly thick,
Rob tries in vain out their meaning to pick,
But hears the words 'Scratch,' and 'Old Bogey,' and 'Nick.'
More familiar grown,
Now he stands up alone,
Volunteering to give them a toast of his own.
'A bumper of wine!
Fill thine! Fill mine!
Here's a health to old Noah who planted the Vine!'
Oh then what sneezing,
What coughing and wheezing,
Ensued in a way that was not over pleasing!
Goody Price, Goody Jones, and the pretty Madge Gray,
All seem'd as their liquor had gone the wrong way.

But the best of the joke was, the moment he spoke
Those words which the party seem'd almost to choke,
As by mentioning Noah some spell had been broke,
Every soul in the house at that instant awoke!
And, hearing the din from barrel and bin,
Drew at once the conclusion that thieves had got in.
Up jump'd the Cook and caught hold of her spit;
Up jump'd the Groom and took bridle and bit;
Up jump'd the Gardener and shoulder'd his spade;
Up jump'd the Scullion,-- the Footman,-- the Maid;
(The two last, by the way, occasion'd some scandal,
By appearing together with only one candle,
Which gave for unpleasant surmises some handle;)
Up jump'd the Swineherd,-- and up jump'd the big boy,
A nondescript under him, acting as pig boy;
Butler, Housekeeper, Coachman -- from bottom to top
Everybody jump'd up without parley or stop,
With the weapon which first in their way chanced to drop,--
Whip, warming-pan, wig-block, mug, musket and mop.

Last of all doth appear,
With some symptoms of fear,
Sir Thopas in person to bring up the rear,
In a mix'd kind of costume, half Pontificalibus,
Half what scholars denominate Pure Naturalibus;
Nay, the truth to express,
As you'll easily guess,
They have none of them time to attend much to dress;
But He or She,
As the case may be,
He or She seizes what He or She pleases,
Trunk-hosen or kirtles, and shirts or chemises.
And thus one and all, great and small, short and tall,
Muster at once in the Vicarage-hall,
With upstanding locks, starting eyes, shorten'd breath,
Like the folks in the Gallery Scene in Macbeth,
When Macduff is announcing their Sovereign's death.

And hark! what accents clear and strong,
To the listening throng come floating along!
'Tis Robin encoring himself in a song--
'Very good song! very well sung!
Jolly companions every one!'--

On, on to the cellar! away! away!
On, on, to the cellar without more delay!
The whole posse rush onwards in battle array.
Conceive the dismay of the party so gay,
Old Goody Jones, Goody Price, and Madge Gray,
When the door bursting wide, they descried the allied
Troops, prepared for the onslaught, roll in like a tide,
And the spits, and the tongs, and the pokers beside!--
'Boot and saddle's the word! mount, Cummers, and ride!'--
Alarm was ne'er caused more strong and indigenous
By cats among rats, or a hawk in a pigeon-house;
Quick from the view
Away they all flew,
With a yell, and a screech, and a halliballoo,
'Hey up the chimney! Hey after you!'
The Volscians themselves made an exit less speedy
From Corioli, 'flutter'd like doves' by Macready.

They are gone, save one,
Robin alone!
Robin, whose high state of civilization
Precludes all idea of aërostation,
And who now has no notion
Of more locomotion
Than suffices to kick, with much zeal and devotion,
Right and left at the party, who pounced on their victim,
And maul'd him, and kick'd him, and lick'd him, and prick'd him,
As they bore him away scarce aware what was done,
And believing it all but a part of the fun,
Hic -- hiccoughing out the same strain he'd begun,
'Jol -- jolly companions every one!'

Morning grey
Scarce bursts into day
Ere at Tappington Hall there's the deuce to pay;
The tables and chairs are all placed in array
In the old oak-parlour, and in and out
Domestics and neighbours, a motley rout,
Are walking, and whispering, and standing about;
And the Squire is there
In his large arm-chair,
Leaning back with a grave magisterial air;
In the front of his seat a
Huge volume, called Fleta,
And Bracton, both tomes of an old-fashion'd look,
And Coke upon Lyttleton, then a new book;
And he moistens his lips
With occasional sips
From a luscious sack-posset that smiles in a tankard
Close by on a side-table -- not that he drank hard,
But because at that day,
I hardly need say,
The Hong Merchants had not yet invented How Qua,
Nor as yet would you see Souchong or Bohea
At the tables of persons of any degree:
How our ancestors managed to do without tea
I must fairly confess is a mystery to me;
Yet your Lydgates and Chaucers
Had no cups and saucers;
Their breakfast, in fact, and the best they could get,
Was a sort of a déjeûner à la fourchette;
Instead of our slops
They had cutlets and chops,
And sack-possets, and ale in stoups, tankards, and pots;
And they wound up the meal with rumpsteaks and 'schalots.

Now the Squire lifts his hand
With an air of command,
And gives them a sign, which they all understand,
To bring in the culprit; and straightway the carter
And huntsman drag in that unfortunate martyr,
Still kicking, and crying, 'Come,-- what are you arter?'
The charge is prepared, and the evidence clear,
'He was caught in the cellar a-drinking the beer!
And came there, there's very great reason to fear,
With companions,-- to say but the least of them,-- queer;
Such as Witches, and creatures
With horrible features,
And horrible grins,
And hook'd noses and chins,
Who'd been playing the deuce with his Reverence's binns.'

The face of his worship grows graver and graver,
As the parties detail Robin's shameful behaviour;
Mister Buzzard, the clerk, while the tale is reciting,
Sits down to reduce the affair into writing,
With all proper diction,
And due 'legal fiction;'
Viz: 'That he, the said prisoner, as clearly was shown,
Conspiring with folks to deponents unknown,
With divers, that is to say, two thousand, people,
In two thousand hats, each hat peak'd like a steeple,
With force and with arms,
And with sorcery and charms,
Upon two thousand brooms
Enter'd four thousand rooms;
To wit, two thousand pantries, and two thousand cellars,
Put in bodily fear twenty-thousand in-dwellers,
And with sundry,-- that is to say, two thousand,-- forks,
Drew divers,-- that is to say, ten thousand,-- corks,
And, with malice prepense, down their two thousand throttles,
Emptied various,--that is to say, ten thousand,-- bottles;
All in breach of the peace, moved by Satan's malignity,
And in spite of King James, and his Crown, and his Dignity.'

At words so profound
Rob gazes around,
But no glance sympathetic to cheer him is found.
-- No glance, did I say?
Yes, one!-- Madge Gray!--
She is there in the midst of the crowd standing by,
And she gives him one glance from her coal-black eye,
One touch to his hand, and one word to his ear,--
(That's a line which I've stolen from Sir Walter, I fear,)--
While nobody near
Seems to see her or hear;
As his worship takes up, and surveys with a strict eye
The broom now produced as the corpus delicti,
Ere his fingers can clasp,
It is snatch'd from his grasp,
The end poked in his chest with a force makes him gasp,
And, despite the decorum so due to the Quorum,
His worship's upset, and so too is his jorum;
And Madge is astride on the broomstick before'em.
'Hocus Pocus! Quick, Presto! and Hey Cockalorum!
Mount, mount for your life, Rob!-- Sir Justice, adieu!--
-- Hey up the chimney-pot! hey after you!'

Through the mystified group,
With a halloo and whoop,
Madge on the pommel, and Robin en croupe,
The pair through the air ride as if in a chair,
While the party below stand mouth open and stare!
'Clean bumbaized' and amazed, and fix'd, all the room stick,
'Oh! what's gone with Robin,-- and Madge,-- and the broomstick?'
Ay, 'what's gone' indeed, Ned?-- of what befell
Madge Gray, and the broomstick I never heard tell;
But Robin was found, that morn, on the ground,
In yon old grey Ruin again, safe and sound,
Except that at first he complain'd much of thirst,
And a shocking bad headach, of all ills the worst,
And close by his knee
A flask you might see,
But an empty one, smelling of eau de vie.

Rob from this hour is an alter'd man;
He runs home to his lodgings as fast as he can,
Sticks to his trade,
Marries Miss Slade,
Becomes a Te-totaller -- that is the same
As Te-totallers now, one in all but the name;
Grows fond of Small-beer, which is always a steady sign,
Never drinks spirits except as a medicine;
Learns to despise
Coal-black eyes,
Minds pretty girls no more than so many Guys;
Has a family, lives to be sixty, and dies!

Now my little boy Ned,
Brush off to your bed,
Tie your night-cap on safe, or a napkin instead,
Or these terrible nights you'll catch cold in your head;
And remember my tale, and the moral it teaches,
Which you'll find much the same as what Solomon preaches.
Don't flirt with young ladies! don't practise soft speeches;
Avoid waltzes, quadrilles, pumps, silk hose, and kneebreeches;--
Frequent not grey ruins,--shun riot and revelry,
Hocus Pocus, and Conjuring, and all sorts of devilry;--
Don't meddle with broomsticks,--they're Beelzebub's switches;
Of cellars keep clear,--they're the devil's own ditches;
And beware of balls, banquettings, brandy, and -- witches!
Above all! don't run after black eyes,-- if you do,--
Depend on't you'll find what I say will come true,--
Old Nick, some fine morning, will 'hey after you!'

The first appearance in collected form of The Ingoldsby legends; or Mirth and Marvels, by Thomas Ingoldsby, Esquire, was in three separate series, the first in 1840, the second in 1842, and the third, posthumously, in 1847; and it was in his son's preface to the third series that the name of the Rev. Richard Harris Barham was first attached to the book, although it had long been pretty generally known that he was the author. -- from the Introduction by F.J. Simmons, 1915 edition.

Friday, August 24, 2018

All Hallows Eve - Alexander

All Hallows Eve
by Hartley Burr Alexander (1873–1939)

All Hallows eve is a hoyden eve—
Winds of November whistling,—
Some ghosts be honest, some must thieve:
None saith, ‘An it please,’ or ‘By your leave,’
All Hallows eve.

Shrewd stars peer out until the skies
Are like a sieve that’s pricked with eyes—
Winds of November whistling,—
Some folk be bold, some keep their beds,
Taut coverlets about their heads:
Sooty the night and flecked and flawed
With bottle-greens and smouldering reds—
Winds of November whistling,—
Some folk, be brave and some be awed
When all the Hallows are abroad.

Dry gusts amid the crusty sheaves,
Topsy-turve of crinkling leaves—
Winds of November whistling,—
When husky voices are o’erheard
Twisting thoughts in ghostly eddy,
Hist eagerly each whispered word—
Winds of November whistling,—
Some souls be weak and some be steady;
Autumn liquor’s strong and heady,—
‘Tis the dead that are most ready.

All Hallows eve is a hoyden eve—
Winds of November whistling,—
Some ghosts be merry, some must grieve;
For him that’s sinned there’s no reprieve
All Hallows eve.

The Midlands, 1916

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Is it haunted?

Eerie Time - Newcomer

Eerie Time
by Alphonso G. Newcomer (1864-1913)

When the clock strikes ten and the lights go out
And the folks come up to bed,
And Uncle John quits shuffling about
In the attic overhead;
And the dogs begin to bark at the posts,
And the night-owls call to the elves,
Then back in the walls I know the ghosts
Are ready to stir themselves.

They peep to see if the coast is clear,
And then step cautiously out,
And nod and whisper so I can’t hear,
But I know what they’re about.
They are going to play their games again
Of Catch-me-if-you-Can,
And Tag-across-the-Counterpane,
And Hide-and-Find-your-Man.

They never stop to open doors
For fear a hinge might creak,
But glide right through the walls and floors—
What funny Hide-and-Seek!
And they never laugh or speak out loud,
But when the hall-stairs crack
I know some ghost has tripped on his shroud
And fallen and hurt his back.

Then I snuggle closer down in bed
So I can’t hear the wail
Of the little squeak-mouse overhead
When a ghost steps on his tail;
While out of dreamland the fairy hosts
Come trooping, till papa calls
“Up Rob!” and I jump, and behold, the ghosts
Are all gone back in the walls.

circa 1903

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Hallowe'en - Hopper

By Nora Hopper (1871-1906)

Awake, arise, you dead men all—dead women waken you,
The hunter’s moon is in the sky—her cruse of frosty dew
Earth empties; throw your covers off, of grave grass, rank and green;
This is the dead men’s holiday, ‘tis Hallows e’en.

The mother with her buried child falls into tender play,
The baby at her shrouded breast sucks soft and sleeps away,
The lover dead twelve years ago, seeks out his buried dear
That put her broke heart to sleep but yesteryear.

“Behold, my love, my hair is black, your bonny hair is white.
How come my darling’s eyes so dim?” “With weeping many a night,
With sewing many a weary day through years that knew not you.
But I have done with rosemary and bitter rue.

“My garland of dry rosemary hangs where I used to pray,
My garden with its tansy flowers runs wild for many a day;
The box plants that I tended well the passing children pull—
The green leaves strew the way they go, slow foot to school.

“And I have done with lessons now, have said my task all through,
And I may rest at last, sweetheart, as once I played with you.”
He kisses her, he blesses her, he strokes her faded hair—
She never was so dear to him when she was fair.

Brother and sister parted long by bitter words and blind
Forget the years of severed ways with old love in their minds.
The beggar that of hunger died, the girl that died of shame,
Are playing with dead children now some childish game.

Husband and wife forget the wrong that kept their souls apart—
Hand lies in hand as tenderly as heart beats upon heart.
This is the day for buried love to see as it is seen,
This is the dead man’s holiday—All Hallows e’en.

From Days and Deeds, 1906

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Haunted Palace - Poe


By Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace —
Snow-white palace — reared its head.
In the monarch thought's dominion —
It stood there!
Never Seraph spread his pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow —
This — all this — was in the olden
Time long ago —
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the rampart plumed and pallid,
A winged odour went away.

All wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute's well tuned law,
Round about a throne where sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The sovereign of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door;
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate!
Ah, let us mourn — for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!
And round about his home the glory,
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door;
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh — but smile no more.

April 1839 - Nathan Brooks' American Museum Magazine

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Broomstick Train - Holmes

The Broomstick Train

circa 1858
By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
Illustrations by Howard Pyle (1853-1911)

LOOK out! Look out, boys! Clear the track!
The witches are here! They’ve all come back!
They hanged them high,—No use! No use!
What cares a witch for a hangman’s noose?
They buried them deep, but they wouldn’t lie still,
For cats and witches are hard to kill;

They swore they shouldn’t and wouldn’t die,—
Books said they did, but they lie! they lie!
—A couple of hundred years, or so,
They had knocked about in the world below,
When an Essex Deacon dropped in to call,
And a homesick feeling seized them all;
For he came from a place they knew full well,
And many a tale he had to tell.

They long to visit the haunts of men,
To see the old dwellings they knew again,
And ride on their broomsticks all around
Their wide domain of unhallowed ground.
In Essex county there’s many a roof
Well known to him of the cloven hoof;
The small square windows are full in view
Which the midnight hags went sailing through,

On their well-trained broomsticks mounted high,
Seen like shadows against the sky;
Crossing the track of owls and bats,
Hugging before them their coal-black cats.
Well did they know, those gray old wives,
The sights we see in our daily drives:
Shimmer of lake and shine of sea,
Brown’s bare hill with its lonely tree,
(It wasn’t then as we see it now,
With one scant scalp-lock to shade its brow;)
Dusky nooks in the Essex woods,
Dark, dim, Dante-like solitudes,
Where the tree-toad watches the sinuous snake
Glide through his forests of fern and brake;

Ipswich River; its old stone bridge;
Far off Andover’s Indian Ridge,
And many a scene where history tells
Some shadow of bygone terror dwells,—
Of “Norman’s Woe” with its tale of dread,

Of the Screeching Woman of Marblehead,
(The fearful story that turns men pale:
Don’t bid me tell it,—my speech would fail.)
Who would not, will not, if he can,
Bathe in the breezes of fair Cape Ann,—
Rest in the bowers her bays enfold,
Loved by the sachems and squaws of old?
Home where the white magnolias bloom,

Sweet with the bayberry’s chaste perfume,
Hugged by the woods and kissed by the sea!
Where is the Eden like to thee?
For that “couple of hundred years, or so,”
There had been no peace in the world below;
The witches still grumbling, “It isn’t fair;
Come, give us a taste of the upper air!
We’ve had enough of your sulphur springs,
And the evil odor that round them clings;
We long for a drink that is cool and nice,—
Great buckets of water with Wenham ice;

We’ve served you well up-stairs, you know;
You’re a good old—fellow—come, let us go!”
I don’t feel sure of his being good,
But he happened to be in a pleasant mood,—
As fiends with their skins full sometimes are,—
(He’d been drinking with “roughs” at a Boston bar.)
So what does he do but up and shout
To a graybeard turnkey, “Let ’em out!”
To mind his orders was all he knew;
The gates swung open, and out they flew
“Where are our broomsticks?” the beldams cried.

“Here are your broomsticks,” an imp replied.
“They’ve been in—the place you know—so long
They smell of brimstone uncommon strong;
But they’ve gained by being left alone,—
Just look, and you’ll see how tall they’ve grown.”

—“And where is my cat?” a vixen squalled.
“Yes, where are our cats?” the witches bawled,
And began to call them all by name:
As fast as they called the cats, they came:
There was bob-tailed Tommy and long-tailed Tim,
And wall-eyed Jacky and green-eyed Jim,
And splay-foot Benny and slim-legged Beau,
And Skinny and Squally, and Jerry and Joe,

And many another that came at call,—
It would take too long to count them all.
All black,—one could hardly tell which was which,
But every cat knew his own old witch;
And she knew hers as hers knew her,—
Ah, didn’t they curl their tails and purr!
No sooner the withered hags were free
Than out they swarmed for a midnight spree;
I couldn’t tell all they did in rhymes,
But the Essex people had dreadful times.

The Swampscott fishermen still relate
How a strange sea-monster stole their bait;
How their nets were tangled in loops and knots,
And they found dead crabs in their lobster-pots.
Poor Danvers grieved for her blasted crops,
And Wilmington mourned over mildewed hops.
A blight played havoc with Beverly beans,—
It was all the work of those hateful queans!
A dreadful panic began at “Pride’s,”
Where the witches stopped in their midnight rides,
And there rose strange rumors and vague alarms
’Mid the peaceful dwellers at Beverly Farms.

Now when the Boss of the Beldams found
That without his leave they were ramping round,
He called,—they could hear him twenty miles,
From Chelsea beach to the Misery Isles;
The deafest old granny knew his tone
Without the trick of the telephone.

“Come here, you witches! Come here!” says he,—
“At your games of old, without asking me!
I’ll give you a little job to do
That will keep you stirring, you godless crew!”
They came, of course, at their master’s call,
The witches, the broomsticks, the cats, and all;

He led the hags to a railway train
The horses were trying to drag in vain.
“Now, then,” says he, “you’ve had your fun,
And here are the cars you’ve got to run.
The driver may just unhitch his team,
We don’t want horses, we don’t want steam
You may keep your old black cats to hug,
But the loaded train you’ve got to lug.”
Since then on many a car you’ll see
A broomstick plain as plain can be;
On every stick there’s a witch astride,—
The string you see to her leg is tied.
She will do a mischief if she can,
But the string is held by a careful man,
And whenever the evil-minded witch
Would cut some caper, he gives a twitch.

As for the hag, you can’t see her,
But hark! you can hear her black cat’s purr,
And now and then, as a car goes by,
You may catch a gleam from her wicked eye.
Often you’ve looked on a rushing train,
But just what moved it was not so plain.
It couldn’t be those wires above,
For they could neither pull nor shove;
Where was the motor that made it go
You couldn’t guess, but now you know.

Remember my rhymes when you ride again
On the rattling rail by the broomstick train!

Many Thanks to Project Gutenberg

Vintage Postcard of the week...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Haunted Houses - Longfellow

Haunted Houses
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table, than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star,
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,--

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Birds of Passage, 1858

Saturday, August 18, 2018

From the Faerie Queen - Spenser

From The Faerie Queene (1590)

By Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

There, in a gloomy hollow glen, she found
A little cottage built of sticks and weeds,
In homely wise, and walled with sods around,
In which a witch did dwell in loathly weeds
And willfull want, all careless of her needs;
So choosing solitary to abide,
Far from all neighbors, that her devilish deeds
And hellish arts from people she might hide,
And hurt, far off, unknown, whomever she envied.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Witch's Garden - Moore


circa 1975
By Lilian Moore (1909-2004)

In the Witch's
the gate is open

"Come inside,"
says the Witch.
come inside."

No flowers
in My garden,
nothing mint-y,
nothing chive-y.

Come inside,
come inside,
See my lovely
poison ivy."

© Lilian Moore
From: See My Lovely Poison Ivy, and Other Verses about Witches, Ghosts, and Things, illustrated by Diane Dawson, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1975

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Witch - Coleridge

The Witch
Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907)

I have walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart’s desire.
She came—she came—and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.

Gathered Leaves, 1894

Is it haunted?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Grimelda - Soule


circa 1977
By Jean Conder Soule (1919-2008)

Of all the witches in the Wicked Wood
The one who looked like a real witch should
Was Grimelda Snaggletooth Cobweb Claw,
The witchiest witch you ever saw.

Though all of her neighbors for many a mile
Lived in apartments of modern style
Grimelda preferred her old hollow tree
Declaring her house the best place to be.

Now Grimelda's house was filled with things
Like spiders and mice and bats with wings.
They slept in her hat and her rocking chair
And dust and clutter was everywhere.

But Grimelda Snaggletooth Cobweb Claw
Didn't care a bit. She said, "Oh pshaw!
A witch's home is supposed to look
Like a haunted house in a storybook."

She hung out her wash on Hangman's Tree
Where all of the modern witches could see
her patchy aprons and holey socks,
And often, her funny old-fashioned frocks.

"It's quite a disgrace to our neighborhood."
Scoffed Wilma Witch. "I think we should
Get up a petition around the town.
Grimelda's tree should be taken down!"

"Agreed," said the other witches. "You're right.
Grimelda's house is a terrible sight.
She'll give us all a very bad name.
People will think we're all the same."

"I'll write a petition," said Cindera Smogg.
"Do you know she keeps a toad and a frog
And sixteen bats in her living room?
And she hasn't an automatic broom!"

"I'll be the first to sign. You can count me in,"
Squeaked Sarah Screetch. "It's really a sin
The way she brews those wicked brews.
Have you ever smelled her bubbly stews?"

"If we make her stop, we'll have the solution
To half the county's air pollution,"
Said all the witches short and tall.
then they signed their names, both large and small.

Mag the Hag took charge of the crowd.
She screeched in a voice that was clear and loud,
"We'll give Grimelda one week from today;
By then she must pack and move away."

Later that day the witches began
To form their "Out With Grimelda" plan.
They'd march to the tree on Witchcraft Row
And their signs would say: "GRIMELDA MUST GO!"

Now while the witches were planning their march
Grimelda was busily making starch
To stiffen the brim of her funny old hat.
She shooed out a mouse and a sleeping bat

Who were sound asleep in her old stew pot.
(for her starch was made in her old brew pot.)
After she'd finished that household chore
She took out a patchy old dress she wore

When she rode her broom last Halloween.
"That's quite the frumpiest one I've seen,"
Muttered Grimelda. "It's far from new;
But pooh! Who cares? It will have to do."

As she swished the starch with a vulture's feather
She happened to look outside at the weather.
"My!" she exclaimed. "The sky looks black."
Then she raised her rattly window a crack.

There from her house on Witchcraft Row
She saw puffs of smoke in the valley below.
Cried the startled witch, "I do declare!
The apartment house is on fire down there!"

"Girls! Your houses are all aflame!"
Grimelda shrieked as the witches came
Marching up to her house in line,
Each one holding a printed sign.

"Hurry! We've got to do something quick!
Now let me see -- there's a magic trick
For putting out fires. I'm sure I knew it;
But I'm so excited I couldn't do it!"

"Help!" screamed Wilma. "My beautiful rooms!
My closets of clothes! My electric brooms!
They'll all burn up. Oh hurry, please do!
Call the Fire Department --Six--Seven--Five--Two!"

Grimelda hurriedly grabbed her switch
And off she flew like a jet-propelled witch.
The fire Department had reached the spot
When Grimelda arrived, but the old witch got

The fancy clothes. the electric brooms
And the potions and pots from the burning rooms.
She made dozens of trips from the valley below
To her hollow tree on Witchcraft Row.

"Hooray for Grimelda!" the witches cried.
"We're glad to have her on our side.
She saved our treasures. She saved the day!
Grimelda, my dear, you are here to stay!"

Grimelda cackled and then she said,
As she took off the dented hat on her head,
"Now come inside and I'll brew some tea --
If you don't mind the clutter and dust, you see."

And not one witch either large or small
Uttered a single word at all
About patchy aprons or holey socks
Or Grimelda's funny old-fashioned frocks.

And Mag the Hag made a special sign
Printed in letters of fancy design --

© Jean Conder Soule, Witching Time

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Listeners - de La Mare

The Listeners
By Walter de La Mare (1873-1956)

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

The Listeners and Other Poems, 1916

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Loom of Years - Noyes

Witch at Loom

A Loom of Years

circa 1917
By Alfred Noyes

In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea,
In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree,
Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears,
I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

The leaves of the winter wither and sink in the forest mould
To colour the flowers of April with purple and white and gold:
Light and scent and music die and are born again
In the heart of a grey-haired woman who wakes in a world of pain.

The hound, the fawn, and the hawk, and the doves that croon and coo,
We are all one woof of the weaving and the one warp threads us through,
One flying cloud on the shuttle that carries our hopes and fears
As it goes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

The green uncrumpling fern and the rustling dewdrenched rose
Pass with our hearts to the Silence where the wings of music close,
Pass and pass to the Timeless that never a moment mars,
Pass and pass to the Darkness that made the suns and stars.

Has the soul gone out in the Darkness? Is the dust sealed from sight?
Ah, hush, for the woof of the ages returns thro' the warp of the night!
Never that shuttle loses one thread of our hopes and fears,
As it comes thro' the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

O, woven in one wide Loom thro' the throbbing weft of the whole,
One in spirit and flesh, one in body and soul,
Tho' the leaf were alone in its falling, the bird in its hour to die,
The heart in its muffled anguish, the sea in its mournful cry,

One with the flower of a day, one with the withered moon
One with the granite mountains that melt into the noon
One with the dream that triumphs beyond the light of the spheres,
We come from the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years.

© Alfred Noyes

Vintage Postcard of the week...

Sunday, August 12, 2018

St Swithin's Chair - Scott

St Swithin's Chair
by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

On Hallow-Mass Eve, ere you boune ye to rest,
Ever beware that your couch be blessed;
Sign it with cross, and sain it with bead,
Sing the Ave, and say the Creed.

For on Hallow-Mass Eve the Night-Hag will ride,
And all her ninefold sweeping on by her side,
Whether the wind sing lowly or loud,
Sailing through moonshine or swathed in cloud.

The Lady she sate in St. Swithin’s Chair,
The dew of the night has damped her hair:
Her cheek was pale—but resolved and high
Was the word of her lip and the glance of her eye.

She muttered the spell of Swithin bold,
When his naked foot traced the midnight wold,
When he stopped the Hag as she rode the night,
And bade her descend, and her promise plight.

He that dare sit on St. Swithin’s Chair,
When the Night-Hag wings the troubled air,
Questions three, when he speaks the spell,
He may ask, and she must tell.

The Baron has been with King Robert his liege,
These three years in battle and siege;
News are there none of his weal or his woe
And fain the Lady his fate would know.

She shudders and stops as the charm she speaks;—
Is it the moody owl that shrieks?
Or is that sound, betwixt laughter and scream,
The voice of the demon who haunts the stream?

The moan of the wind sunk silent and low,
And the roaring torrent had ceased to flow;
The calm was more dreadful than raging storm,
When the cold grey mist brought the ghastly form!

The Poetry of the Author of Waverly, 1822

Saturday, August 11, 2018

All-Hallow Eve - Sir Morgan

All-Hallow Eve
A Song by Sir Morgan O’D

For a portrait of this one, a portrait of that,
Looking down, looking up, or most vulgarly fat;
For such pictures I care not on brass penny-piece—
Give me beauty and fun, as combined by MacClise.
Where the grace and the good-humoured spirit,
That in the Green Isle they inherit,
Are depicted with vigorous merit,
Assembled on All-Hallow-eve.

Of all days in the year, none’s like All-Hallow-eve
For poteen and sweethearts—and if they deceive,
Why, sorrow go with them!—we’ll trust that next year
Will bring us more luck, if it brings not more cheer.
With the snap-apple merrily turning,
With the boarded nut pleasantly burning,
While the feet on the floor all go churning,
To celebrate All-Hallow-e’en.

There Norah, like Eve, while the apple she eyed,
Saw temptation in Tim, serpent-like at her side;
“The red rover,” Mick mouthed, as it came from the lass;
And the candle Con caught, while the pippin did pass.
Then such laughing, and quaffing, and squalling,
Such romping, and ranting, and mauling,
With whistling, and singing, and bawling,
To celebrate All-Hallow-Eve.

There stood Nancy and Willy the sailor together,
Burning nuts in a nook, safe from wind and from weather;
And if fairly they burn, it will certainly prove
That their hearts, like the kernels, were glowing—with love.
“That is my nut,” cried Willy, so uprightly;
“See, ‘tis burning quite purely and brightly—
It says I love daily and nightly,
This truth-telling All-Hallow-eve.”

Old Mauriah now drew her seeshteen to the fi-er,
And Patrick and Sheelah their places took by her;
The cards are displayed, and the cut is well made—
Diamonds, hearts, kings and queens, but no ill-omened spade.
“My diamond, my sweetheart, my queen!
Love and riches such auguries mean—
Believe it, the truth will be seen
This fortunate All-Hallow-eve.”

Next was melted the lead, and young Kate did essay
In the water to pour it, through the bow of a key;
But falsely it fell, as sly Kathleen could tell—
Though it lay just like truth in the depth of a well.
For it gave her a hump-backed shoemaker,
One eye, and half swaddler, half quaker.
So she vowed that wild Barney should take her
Ere the melting on next Hallow-eve.

That old subject of discord, an apple, being thrown
In a tub full of water, ‘twixt Nelly and Joan,
To catch it they dip over face, neck, and ears;
And they laugh, though like Niobe covered with tears.
Then the boys, with mouths and necks straining,
While hair, nose, and eye-lash, are raining,
Snap and dive, without ever complaining,
For apples on All-Hallow eve.

Then Dermod, the fighter, smart Mary led out,
And neatly she trips, as he foots it about;
And smack go his fingers, and smack go his lips,
As she covers the buckle, with hands on her hips.
Now up to each other advancing,
Now figuring, capering, prancing—
Sure never was seen such dancing;
O glory to All-Hallow-eve!

This was all very well, till the piper, in fun,
Said his elbow and bellows both fairly were done;
His windpipe, his drone, and his chanter were dry,
His heart in aflame, and his throat in a fry.
Then they drank, and they still called for “more, boys!”
And whisky came pouring galore, boys;
While they shouted with all their hearts’ core, boys,
A welcome to All-Hallow-eve.

Nooks and corners, though shady, still seved for to shew
Each lad had his lass, and each belle had her beau.
For warm looks and warm heart, hot love and hot hands,
Hot speeches, hot heads—Ireland’s land of all lands!
Some pressing the girls—to drinking;
Some kissing-some only a-winking;
Some laughing—but all on love thinking,
On October’s last day, Hallow-eve.

Fraser’s Magazine For Town And Country, May 1833