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Archive for the ‘scary’ Category

Finally, Halloween is here! Thank you for journeying through a month of pumpkins and leaves and fall days and somber mornings and chill afternoons and eerie nights with me. What a wonderful month of macabre and celebratory poems to remind us of autumn and Halloween. Now, for our grand finale…Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”

The Raven

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 named 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 mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness 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 marvelled 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 blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
Bird or beast above 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 sad soul 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, 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 lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has 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 named Lenore –
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

`Be that word our sign of 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 lamp-light 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!

-Edgar Allan Poe

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The Inner Room

It is mine – the little chamber,
Mine alone.
I had it from my forbears
Years agone.
Yet within its walls I see
A most motley company,
And they one and all claim me
As their own.

There’s one who is a soldier
Bluff and keen;
Single-minded, heavy-fisted,
Rude of mien.
He would gain a purse or stake it,
He would win a heart or break it,
He would give a life or take it,
Conscience-clean.

And near him is a priest
Still schism-whole;
He loves the censer-reek
And organ-roll.
He has leanings to the mystic,
Sacramental, eucharistic;
And dim yearnings altruistic
Thrill his soul.

There’s another who with doubts
Is overcast;
I think him younger brother
To the last.
Walking wary stride by stride,
Peering forwards anxious-eyed,
Since he learned to doubt his guide
In the past.

And ‘mid them all, alert,
But somewhat cowed,
There sits a stark-faced fellow,
Beetle-browed,
Whose black soul shrinks away
From a lawyer-ridden day,
And has thoughts he dare not say
Half avowed.

There are others who are sitting,
Grim as doom,
In the dim ill-boding shadow
Of my room.
Darkling figures, stern or quaint,
Now a savage, now a saint,
Showing fitfully and faint
Through the gloom.

And those shadows are so dense,
There may be
Many – very many – more
Than I see.
They are sitting day and night
Soldier, rogue, and anchorite;
And they wrangle and they fight
Over me.

If the stark-faced fellow win,
All is o’er!
If the priest should gain his will,
I doubt no more!
But if each shall have his day,
I shall swing and I shall sway
In the same old weary way
As before.

THE OLD HUNTSMAN

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!
Let us trust!

-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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The Three Witches

All the moon-shed nights are over,
And the days of gray and dun;
There is neither may nor clover,
And the day and night are one.

Not an hamlet, not a city
Meets our strained and tearless eyes;
In the plain without a pity,
Where the wan grass droops and dies.

We shall wander through the meaning
Of a day and see no light,
For our lichened arms are leaning
On the ends of endless night.

We, the children of Astarte,
Dear abortions of the moon,
In a gay and silent party,
We are riding to you soon.

Burning ramparts, ever burning!
To the flame which never dies
We are yearning, yearning, yearning,
With our gay and tearless eyes.

In the plain without a pity,
(Not an hamlet, not a city)
Where the wan grass droops and dies.

-Ernest Dowson

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One Word Rime

My brother was a selfish thing,
from an accursed people.
I, an enemy, praised him.
As a joke, he answered.
My brother was, as he always was,
running out into the rime,
the ground, dim, like mustard
taken to powder and scattered.
He was a man, doubled-
was hale and healthy
but fell without warning
and alone, sank.
My father wallowed in golden
answers, always thought of God,
and fell faster that way-
with all heaven’s glory.
I dreamed he would conjure
beauty with this,
lead me from
the endless sight
of bodies falling,
or running through dark hills.
“Brother! The duke’s daughter?”
“She laughed again, did not keep her word…”
“Why didn’t she?” “She ridiculed
my pride, sister.”
“Brother, her dress!
How her coats flowered at her feet,
all that fur and satin
on her shoulders, breasts, and hips.
She was a bell inside velvet.
She was made of caramel,
but what she brought here
wasn’t sweet.
With each smile it ran,
anguished with many worries,
purple visits,
metered courage, many lies.
From her fur, his grasping
hand was ripped,
and only just before he’d fallen.
It takes a million years to fall down
because things slacken,
loosen, before they harden.
Sometimes I’ll push a stone
in night’s pull to the rime,
over that cliff, brother,
where the eagles come.
What is it like there,
in the ground, all alone?
Intending to trick me,
do you await me?
My brother wasted a grave
and knows little rest.
Hell is a tomb with a dark, nodding
brow…a final nod.
Freezing rain rusts the air
and I awake noiselessly
so as not to wake my father
who dreams about the same things
but he, all night, warbles
distantly through dark gardens
waiting for thought to return…
That Sunday was a sunken day
The rime hard under thick fog
like a bed for a man
dreaming of death.
Only she and I are aware
in some farther way
which of us he ran from
and, not seeing through the night, fell.
My brother was a selfish thing,
from an accursed people.
I, an enemy, praised him
as a joke, he answered.

-Nina Alvarez

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Phantasmagoria

Canto I: The Trysting

One winter night, at half-past nine,
Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,
I had come home, too late to dine,
And supper, with cigars and wine,
Was waiting in the study.

There was a strangeness in the room,
And Something white and wavy
Was standing near me in the gloom –
I took it for the carpet-broom
Left by that careless slavey.

But presently the Thing began
To shiver and to sneeze:
On which I said “Come, come, my man!
That’s a most inconsiderate plan.
Less noise there, if you please!”

“I’ve caught a cold,” the Thing replies,
“Out there upon the landing.”
I turned to look in some surprise,
And there, before my very eyes,
A little Ghost was standing!

He trembled when he caught my eye,
And got behind a chair.
“How came you here,” I said, “and why?
I never saw a thing so shy.
Come out! Don’t shiver there!”

He said “I ‘d gladly tell you how,
And also tell you why;
But” (here he gave a little bow)
“You’re in so bad a temper now,
You’d think it all a lie.

“And as to being in a fright,
Allow me to remark
That Ghosts have just as good a right,
In every way, to fear the light,
As Men to fear the dark.”

“No plea,” said I, “can well excuse
Such cowardice in you:
For Ghosts can visit when they choose,
Whereas we Humans can’t refuse
To grant the interview.”

He said “A flutter of alarm
Is not unnatural, is it?
I really feared you meant some harm:
But, now I see that you are calm,
Let me explain my visit.

“Houses are classed, I beg to state,
According to the number
Of Ghosts that they accommodate:
(The Tenant merely counts as weight,
With Coals and other lumber).

“This is a ‘one-ghost’ house, and you,
When you arrived last summer,
May have remarked a Spectre who
Was doing all that Ghosts can do
To welcome the new-comer.

“In Villas this is always done –
However cheaply rented:
For, though of course there’s less of fun
When there is only room for one,
Ghosts have to be contented.

“That Spectre left you on the Third –
Since then you’ve not been haunted:
For, as he never sent us word,
‘Twas quite by accident we heard
That any one was wanted.

“A Spectre has first choice, by right,
In filling up a vacancy;
Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite –
If all these fail them, they invite
The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

“The Spectres said the place was low,
And that you kept bad wine:
So, as a Phantom had to go,
And I was first, of course, you know,
I couldn’t well decline.”

“No doubt,” said I, “they settled who
Was fittest to be sent:
Yet still to choose a brat like you,
To haunt a man of forty-two,
Was no great compliment!”

“I’m not so young, Sir,” he replied,
“As you might think. The fact is,
In caverns by the water-side,
And other places that I’ve tried,
I’ve had a lot of practice:

“But I have never taken yet
A strict domestic part,
And in my flurry I forget
The Five Good Rules of Etiquette
We have to know by heart.”

My sympathies were warming fast
Towards the little fellow:
He was so utterly aghast
At having found a Man at last,
And looked so scared and yellow.

“At least,” I said, “I’m glad to find
A Ghost is not a dumb thing!
But pray sit down: you’ll feel inclined
(If, like myself, you have not dined)
To take a snack of something:

“Though, certainly, you don’t appear
A thing to offer food to!
And then I shall be glad to hear –
If you will say them loud and clear –
The Rules that you allude to.”

“Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.
This is a piece of luck!”
“What may I offer you?” said I.
“Well, since you are so kind, I’ll try
A little bit of duck.

“One slice! And may I ask you for
Another drop of gravy?”
I sat and looked at him in awe,
For certainly I never saw
A thing so white and wavy.

And still he seemed to grow more white,
More vapoury, and wavier –
Seen in the dim and flickering light,
As he proceeded to recite
His “Maxims of Behaviour.”

Canto II: His Fyve Rules

“My First – but don’t suppose,” he said,
“I’m setting you a riddle –
Is – if your Victim be in bed,
Don’t touch the curtains at his head,
But take them in the middle,

“And wave them slowly in and out,
While drawing them asunder;
And in a minute’s time, no doubt,
He’ll raise his head and look about
With eyes of wrath and wonder.

“And here you must on no pretence
Make the first observation.
Wait for the Victim to commence:
No Ghost of any common sense
Begins a conversation.

“If he should say ‘How came you here?’
(The way that you began, Sir,)
In such a case your course is clear –
‘On the bat’s back, my little dear!’
Is the appropriate answer.

“If after this he says no more,
You’d best perhaps curtail your
Exertions – go and shake the door,
And then, if he begins to snore,
You’ll know the thing’s a failure.

“By day, if he should be alone –
At home or on a walk –
You merely give a hollow groan,
To indicate the kind of tone
In which you mean to talk.

“But if you find him with his friends,
The thing is rather harder.
In such a case success depends
On picking up some candle-ends,
Or butter, in the larder.

“With this you make a kind of slide
(It answers best with suet),
On which you must contrive to glide,
And swing yourself from side to side –
One soon learns how to do it.

“The Second tells us what is right
In ceremonious calls: –
‘First burn a blue or crimson light’
(A thing I quite forgot to-night),
‘Then scratch the door or walls.'”

I said “You’ll visit here no more,
If you attempt the Guy.
I’ll have no bonfires on my floor –
And, as for scratching at the door,
I’d like to see you try!”

“The Third was written to protect
The interests of the Victim,
And tells us, as I recollect,
To treat him with a grave respect,
And not to contradict him.”

“That’s plain,” said I, “as Tare and Tret,
To any comprehension:
I only wish some Ghosts I’ve met
Would not so constantly forget
The maxim that you mention!”

“Perhaps,” he said, “you first transgressed
The laws of hospitality:
All Ghosts instinctively detest
The Man that fails to treat his guest
With proper cordiality.

“If you address a Ghost as ‘Thing!’
Or strike him with a hatchet,
He is permitted by the King
To drop all formal parleying –
And then you’re sure to catch it!

“The Fourth prohibits trespassing
Where other Ghosts are quartered:
And those convicted of the thing
(Unless when pardoned by the King)
Must instantly be slaughtered.

“That simply means ‘be cut up small’:
Ghosts soon unite anew:
The process scarcely hurts at all –
Not more than when you’re what you call
‘Cut up’ by a Review.

“The Fifth is one you may prefer
That I should quote entire: –
The King must be addressed as ‘Sir.’
This, from a simple courtier,
Is all the Laws require:

“But, should you wish to do the thing
With out-and-out politeness,
Accost him as ‘My Goblin King!’
And always use, in answering,
The phrase ‘Your Royal Whiteness!’

“I’m getting rather hoarse, I fear,
After so much reciting:
So, if you don’t object, my dear,
We’ll try a glass of bitter beer –
I think it looks inviting.”

Canto III: Scarmoges

“And did you really walk,” said I,
“On such a wretched night?
I always fancied Ghosts could fly –
If not exactly in the sky,
Yet at a fairish height.”

“It’s very well,” said he, “for Kings
To soar above the earth:
But Phantoms often find that wings –
Like many other pleasant things –
Cost more than they are worth.

“Spectres of course are rich, and so
Can buy them from the Elves:
But we prefer to keep below –
They’re stupid company, you know,
For any but themselves:

“For, though they claim to be exempt
From pride, they treat a Phantom
As something quite beneath contempt –
Just as no Turkey ever dreamt
Of noticing a Bantam.”

“They seem too proud,” said I, “to go
To houses such as mine.
Pray, how did they contrive to know
So quickly that ‘the place was low,’
And that I ‘kept bad wine’?”

“Inspector Kobold came to you –”
The little Ghost began.
Here I broke in – “Inspector who?
Inspecting Ghosts is something new!
Explain yourself, my man!”

“His name is Kobold,” said my guest:
“One of the Spectre order:
You’ll very often see him dressed
In a yellow gown, a crimson vest,
And a night-cap with a border.

“He tried the Brocken business first,
But caught a sort of chill;
So came to England to be nursed,
And here it took the form of thirst,
Which he complains of still.

“Port-wine, he says, when rich and sound,
Warms his old bones like nectar:
And as the inns, where it is found,
Are his especial hunting-ground,
We call him the Inn-Spectre.”

I bore it – bore it like a man –
This agonizing witticism!
And nothing could be sweeter than
My temper, till the Ghost began
Some most provoking criticism.

“Cooks need not be indulged in waste;
Yet still you’d better teach them
Dishes should have some sort of taste.
Pray, why are all the cruets placed
Where nobody can reach them?

“That man of yours will never earn
His living as a waiter!
Is that queer thing supposed to burn?
(It’s far too dismal a concern
To call a Moderator.)

“The duck was tender, but the peas
Were very much too old:
And just remember, if you please,
The next time you have toasted cheese,
Don’t let them send it cold.

“You’d find the bread improved, I think,
By getting better flour:
And have you anything to drink
That looks a little less like ink,
And isn’t quite so sour?”

Then, peering round with curious eyes,
He muttered “Goodness gracious!”
And so went on to criticize –
“Your room’s an inconvenient size:
It’s neither snug nor spacious.

“That narrow window, I expect,
Serves but to let the dusk in –”
“But please,” said I, “to recollect
‘Twas fashioned by an architect
Who pinned his faith on Ruskin!”

“I don’t care who he was, Sir, or
On whom he pinned his faith!
Constructed by whatever law,
So poor a job I never saw,
As I’m a living Wraith!

“What a re-markable cigar!
How much are they a dozen?”
I growled “No matter what they are!
You’re getting as familiar
As if you were my cousin!

“Now that’s a thing I will not stand,
And so I tell you flat.”
“Aha,” said he, “we’re getting grand!”
(Taking a bottle in his hand)
“I’ll soon arrange for that!”

And here he took a careful aim,
And gaily cried “Here goes!”
I tried to dodge it as it came,
But somehow caught it, all the same,
Exactly on my nose.

And I remember nothing more
That I can clearly fix,
Till I was sitting on the floor,
Repeating “Two and five are four,
But five and two are six.”

What really passed I never learned,
Nor guessed: I only know
That, when at last my sense returned,
The lamp, neglected, dimly burned –
The fire was getting low –

Through driving mists I seemed to see
A Thing that smirked and smiled:
And found that he was giving me
A lesson in Biography,
As if I were a child.

Canto IV: Hys Nouryture

“Oh, when I was a little Ghost,
A merry time had we!
Each seated on his favourite post,
We chumped and chawed the buttered toast
They gave us for our tea.”

“That story is in print!” I cried.
“Don’t say it’s not, because
It’s known as well as Bradshaw’s Guide!”
(The Ghost uneasily replied
He hardly thought it was.)

“It’s not in Nursery Rhymes? And yet
I almost think it is –
‘Three little Ghosteses’ were set
On posteses,’ you know, and ate
Their ‘buttered toasteses.’

“I have the book; so if you doubt it –”
I turned to search the shelf.
“Don’t stir!” he cried. “We’ll do without it:
I now remember all about it;
I wrote the thing myself.

“It came out in a ‘Monthly,’ or
At least my agent said it did:
Some literary swell, who saw
It, thought it seemed adapted for
The Magazine he edited.

“My father was a Brownie, Sir;
My mother was a Fairy.
The notion had occurred to her,
The children would be happier,
If they were taught to vary.

“The notion soon became a craze;
And, when it once began, she
Brought us all out in different ways –
One was a Pixy, two were Fays,
Another was a Banshee;

“The Fetch and Kelpie went to school
And gave a lot of trouble;
Next came a Poltergeist and Ghoul,
And then two Trolls (which broke the rule),
A Goblin, and a Double –

“(If that’s a snuff-box on the shelf,”
He added with a yawn,
“I’ll take a pinch) – next came an Elf,
And then a Phantom (that’s myself),
And last, a Leprechaun.

“One day, some Spectres chanced to call,
Dressed in the usual white:
I stood and watched them in the hall,
And couldn’t make them out at all,
They seemed so strange a sight.

“I wondered what on earth they were,
That looked all head and sack;
But Mother told me not to stare,
And then she twitched me by the hair,
And punched me in the back.

“Since then I’ve often wished that I
Had been a Spectre born.
But what’s the use?” (He heaved a sigh.)
“They are the ghost-nobility,
And look on us with scorn.

“My phantom-life was soon begun:
When I was barely six,
I went out with an older one –
And just at first I thought it fun,
And learned a lot of tricks.

“I’ve haunted dungeons, castles, towers –
Wherever I was sent:
I’ve often sat and howled for hours,
Drenched to the skin with driving showers,
Upon a battlement.

“It’s quite old-fashioned now to groan
When you begin to speak:
This is the newest thing in tone –”
And here (it chilled me to the bone)
He gave an awful squeak.

“Perhaps,” he added, “to your ear
That sounds an easy thing?
Try it yourself, my little dear!
It took me something like a year,
With constant practising.

“And when you’ve learned to squeak, my man,
And caught the double sob,
You’re pretty much where you began:
Just try and gibber if you can!
That’s something like a job!

“I’ve tried it, and can only say
I’m sure you couldn’t do it, e-
ven if you practised night and day,
Unless you have a turn that way,
And natural ingenuity.

“Shakspeare I think it is who treats
Of Ghosts, in days of old,
Who ‘gibbered in the Roman streets,’
Dressed, if you recollect, in sheets –
They must have found it cold.

“I’ve often spent ten pounds on stuff,
In dressing as a Double;
But, though it answers as a puff,
It never has effect enough
To make it worth the trouble.

“Long bills soon quenched the little thirst
I had for being funny.
The setting-up is always worst:
Such heaps of things you want at first,
One must be made of money!

“For instance, take a Haunted Tower,
With skull, cross-bones, and sheet;
Blue lights to burn (say) two an hour,
Condensing lens of extra power,
And set of chains complete:

“What with the things you have to hire –
The fitting on the robe –
And testing all the coloured fire –
The outfit of itself would tire
The patience of a Job!

“And then they’re so fastidious,
The Haunted-House Committee:
I’ve often known them make a fuss
Because a Ghost was French, or Russ,
Or even from the City!

“Some dialects are objected to –
For one, the Irish brogue is:
And then, for all you have to do,
One pound a week they offer you,
And find yourself in Bogies!”

Canto V: Byckerment

“Don’t they consult the ‘Victims,’ though?”
I said. “They should, by rights,
Give them a chance – because, you know,
The tastes of people differ so,
Especially in Sprites.”

The Phantom shook his head and smiled.
“Consult them? Not a bit!
‘Twould be a job to drive one wild,
To satisfy one single child –
There’d be no end to it!”

“Of course you can’t leave children free,”
Said I, “to pick and choose:
But, in the case of men like me,
I think ‘Mine Host’ might fairly be
Allowed to state his views.”

He said “It really wouldn’t pay –
Folk are so full of fancies.
We visit for a single day,
And whether then we go, or stay,
Depends on circumstances.

“And, though we don’t consult ‘Mine Host’
Before the thing’s arranged,
Still, if he often quits his post,
Or is not a well-mannered Ghost,
Then you can have him changed.

“But if the host’s a man like you –
I mean a man of sense;
And if the house is not too new –”
“Why, what has that,” said I, “to do
With Ghost’s convenience?”

“A new house does not suit, you know –
It’s such a job to trim it:
But, after twenty years or so,
The wainscotings begin to go,
So twenty is the limit.”

“To trim” was not a phrase I could
Remember having heard:
“Perhaps,” I said, “you’ll be so good
As tell me what is understood
Exactly by that word?”

“It means the loosening all the doors,”
The Ghost replied, and laughed:
“It means the drilling holes by scores
In all the skirting-boards and floors,
To make a thorough draught.

“You’ll sometimes find that one or two
Are all you really need
To let the wind come whistling through –
But here there’ll be a lot to do!”
I faintly gasped “Indeed!

“If I’d been rather later, I’ll
Be bound,” I added, trying
(Most unsuccessfully) to smile,
“You’d have been busy all this while,
Trimming and beautifying?”

“Why, no,” said he; “perhaps I should
Have stayed another minute –
But still no Ghost, that’s any good,
Without an introduction would
Have ventured to begin it.

“The proper thing, as you were late,
Was certainly to go:
But, with the roads in such a state,
I got the Knight-Mayor’s leave to wait
For half an hour or so.”

“Who’s the Knight-Mayor? ” I cried. Instead
Of answering my question,
“Well, if you don’t know that,” he said,
“Either you never go to bed,
Or you’ve a grand digestion!

“He goes about and sits on folk
That eat too much at night:
His duties are to pinch, and poke,
And squeeze them till they nearly choke.”
(I said “It serves them right!”)

“And folk who sup on things like these –”
He muttered, “eggs and bacon –
Lobster – and duck – and toasted cheese –
If they don’t get an awful squeeze,
I’m very much mistaken!

“He is immensely fat, and so
Well suits the occupation:
In point of fact, if you must know,
We used to call him years ago,
The Mayor and Corporation!

“The day he was elected Mayor
I know that every Sprite meant
To vote for me, but did not dare –
He was so frantic with despair
And furious with excitement.

“When it was over, for a whim,
He ran to tell the King;
And being the reverse of slim,
A two-mile trot was not for him
A very easy thing.

“So, to reward him for his run
(As it was baking hot,
And he was over twenty stone),
The King proceeded, half in fun,
To knight him on the spot.”

“‘Twas a great liberty to take!”
(I fired up like a rocket.)
“He did it just for punning’s sake:
‘The man,’ says Johnson, ‘that would make
A pun, would pick a pocket!'”

“A man,” said he, “is not a King.”
I argued for a while,
And did my best to prove the thing –
The Phantom merely listening
With a contemptuous smile.

At last, when, breath and patience spent,
I had recourse to smoking –
Your aim,” he said, “is excellent:
But – when you call it argument –
Of course you’re only joking?

Stung by his cold and snaky eye,
I roused myself at length
To say, “At least I do defy
The veriest sceptic to deny
That union is strength!”

“That’s true enough,” said he, “yet stay –”
I listened in all meekness –
“Union is strength, I’m bound to say;
In fact, the thing’s as clear as day;
But onions are a weakness.”

Canto VI: Dyscomfyture

As one who strives a hill to climb,
Who never climbed before:
Who finds it, in a little time,
Grow every moment less sublime,
And votes the thing a bore:

Yet, having once begun to try,
Dares not desert his quest,
But, climbing, ever keeps his eye
On one small hut against the sky
Wherein he hopes to rest:

Who climbs till nerve and force are spent,
With many a puff and pant:
Who still, as rises the ascent,
In language grows more violent,
Although in breath more scant:

Who, climbing, gains at length the place
That crowns the upward track:
And, entering with unsteady pace,
Receives a buffet in the face
That lands him on his back:

And feels himself, like one in sleep,
Glide swiftly down again,
A helpless weight, from steep to steep,
Till, with a headlong giddy sweep,
He drops upon the plain –

So I, that had resolved to bring
Conviction to a ghost,
And found it quite a different thing
From any human arguing,
Yet dared not quit my post.

But, keeping still the end in view
To which I hoped to come,
I strove to prove the matter true
By putting everything I knew
Into an axiom:

Commencing every single phrase
With “therefore” or “because,”
I blindly reeled, a hundred ways,
About the syllogistic maze,
Unconscious where I was.

Quoth he “That’s regular clap-trap:
Don’t bluster any more.
Now do be cool and take a nap!
Such a ridiculous old chap
Was never seen before!

“You’re like a man I used to meet,
Who got one day so furious
In arguing, the simple heat
Scorched both his slippers off his feet!”
I said “That’s very curious!”

“Well, it is curious, I agree,
And sounds perhaps like fibs:
But still it’s true as true can be –
As sure as your name’s Tibbs,” said he.
I said “My name’s not Tibbs.”

“Not Tibbs!” he cried – his tone became
A shade or two less hearty –
“Why, no,” said I. “My proper name
Is Tibbets –” “Tibbets?” “Aye, the same.”
“Why, then YOU’RE NOT THE PARTY!”

With that he struck the board a blow
That shivered half the glasses.
“Why couldn’t you have told me so
Three quarters of an hour ago,
You prince of all the asses?

“To walk four miles through mud and rain,
To spend the night in smoking,
And then to find that it’s in vain –
And I’ve to do it all again –
It’s really too provoking!

“Don’t talk!” he cried, as I began
To mutter some excuse.
“Who can have patience with a man
That’s got no more discretion than
An idiotic goose?

“To keep me waiting here, instead
Of telling me at once
That this was not the house!” he said.
“There, that’ll do – be off to bed!
Don’t gape like that, you dunce!”

“It’s very fine to throw the blame
On me in such a fashion!
Why didn’t you enquire my name
The very minute that you came?”
I answered in a passion.

“Of course it worries you a bit
To come so far on foot –
But how was I to blame for it?”
“Well, well!” said he. “I must admit
That isn’t badly put.

“And certainly you’ve given me
The best of wine and victual –
Excuse my violence,” said he,
“But accidents like this, you see,
They put one out a little.

“‘Twas my fault after all, I find –
Shake hands, old Turnip-top!”
The name was hardly to my mind,
But, as no doubt he meant it kind,
I let the matter drop.

“Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!
When I am gone, perhaps
They’ll send you some inferior Sprite,
Who’ll keep you in a constant fright
And spoil your soundest naps.

“Tell him you’ll stand no sort of trick;
Then, if he leers and chuckles,
You just be handy with a stick
(Mind that it’s pretty hard and thick)
And rap him on the knuckles!

“Then carelessly remark ‘Old coon!
Perhaps you’re not aware
That, if you don’t behave, you’ll soon
Be chuckling to another tune –
And so you’d best take care!’

“That’s the right way to cure a Sprite
Of such-like goings-on –
But gracious me! It’s getting light!
Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!”
A nod, and he was gone.

Canto VII: Sad Souvenaunce

“What’s this?” I pondered. “Have I slept?
Or can I have been drinking?”
But soon a gentler feeling crept
Upon me, and I sat and wept
An hour or so, like winking.

“No need for Bones to hurry so!”
I sobbed. “In fact, I doubt
If it was worth his while to go –
And who is Tibbs, I’d like to know,
To make such work about?

“If Tibbs is anything like me,
It’s possible,” I said,
“He won’t be over-pleased to be
Dropped in upon at half-past three,
After he’s snug in bed.

“And if Bones plagues him anyhow –
Squeaking and all the rest of it,
As he was doing here just now –
I prophesy there’ll be a row,
And Tibbs will have the best of it!”

Then, as my tears could never bring
The friendly Phantom back,
It seemed to me the proper thing
To mix another glass, and sing
The following Coronach.

And art thou gone, beloved Ghost?
Best of Familiars!
Nay then, farewell, my duckling roast,
Farewell, farewell, my tea and toast,
My meerschaum and cigars!

The hues of life are dull and gray,
The sweets of life insipid,
When thou, my charmer, art away –
Old Brick, or rather, let me say,
Old Parallelepiped!

Instead of singing Verse the Third,
I ceased – abruptly, rather:
But, after such a splendid word
I felt that it would be absurd
To try it any farther.

So with a yawn I went my way
To seek the welcome downy,
And slept, and dreamed till break of day
Of Poltergeist and Fetch and Fay
And Leprechaun and Brownie!

For years I’ve not been visited
By any kind of Sprite;
Yet still they echo in my head,
Those parting words, so kindly said,
“Old Turnip-top, good-night!”

-Lewis Carroll

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Ulalume

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crisped and sere –
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir –
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul –
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
These were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll –
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole –
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere –
Our memories were treacherous and sere, –
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year –
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber –
(Though once we had journey down here),
Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent,
And star-dials pointed to morn –
As the star-dials hinted of morn –
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn –
Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said – “She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs –
She revels in a region of sighs:
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies –
To the Lethean peace of the skies –
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes –
Come up through the lair of the Lion,
With love in her luminous eyes.”

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said – “Sadly this star I mistrust –
Her pallor I strangely mistrust: –
Oh, hasten! – oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly! – let us fly! – for we must.”
In terror she spoke, letting sink her
Wings until they trailed in the dust –
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust –
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied – “This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybilic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night! –
See! – it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright –
We safely may trust to a gleaming,
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom –
And conquered her scruples and gloom;
And we passed to the end of the vista,
But were stopped by the door of a tomb –
By the door of a legended tomb;
And I said – “What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?”
She replied – “Ulalume – Ulalume –
‘Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere –
As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried – “It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed – I journeyed down here –
That I brought a dread burden down here!
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber –
This misty mid region of Weir –
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber, –
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

-Edgar Allan Poe

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The Insect God

O what has become of Millicent Frastley?
Is there any hope that she’s still alive?
Why haven’t they found her? It’s rather ghastly
To think that the child was not yet five.

The dear little thing was last seen playing
Along by herself at the edge of the park;
There was no one with her to keep her from straying
Away in the shadows and oncoming dark.

Before she could do so, a silent and glittering
Black motor drew up where she sat nibbling grass;
From within came a nearly inaudible twittering,
A tiny green face peered out through the glass.

She was ready to flee, when the figure beckoned;
An arm with two elbows held out a tin
Full of cinnamon balls; she paused; a second
Reached out as she took one, and lifted her in.

The nurse was discovered collapsed in some shrubbery,
But her reappearance was not much use;
Her eyes were askew, he extremities rubbery,
Her clothing was stained with a brownish juice.

She was questioned in hopes of her answers revealing
What had happened; she merely repeatedly said
‘I hear them walking about on the ceiling’.
She had gone irretrievably out of her head.

O feelings of horror, resentment, and pity
For things, which so seldom turn out for the best;
The car, unobserved, sped away from the city
As the last of the light died out in the west.

The Frastleys grew sick with apprehension,
Which a heavy tea only served to increase;
Though they felt it was scarcely genteel to mention
The loss of their child, they called in the police.

Through unvisited hamlets the car went creeping,
With its head lamps unlit and its curtains drawn;
Those natives who happened not to be sleeping
Heard it pass, and lay awake until dawn.

The police with their torches and notebooks descended
On the haunts of the underworld, looking for clues;
In spite of their praiseworthy efforts, they ended
With nothing at all in the way of news.

The car, after hours and hours of travel,
Arrived at a gate in an endless wall;
It rolled up a drive and stopped on the gravel
At the foot of a vast and crumbling hall.

As the night wore away, hope started to languish
And soon was replaced by all manner of fears;
The family twisted their fingers in anguish,
Or got them all damp from the flow of their tears.

They removed the child to the ball-room, whose hangings
And mirrors were streaked with a luminous slime;
They leapt through the air with buzzings and twangings
To work themselves up to a ritual crime.

They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly
They stuffed her inside a kind of a pod;
And then it was that Millicent Frastley
Was sacrificed to The Insect God.

-Edward Gorey

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