We all know the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe, but it seems only apropos to highlight him and two of his lesser-known (and not-so-often-taught) “haunted’ poems the week before Halloween.
So for today’s #wcw, I thought we’d feature “Spirits of the Dead” and “The Haunted Palace.” These poems can be practice for annotation, finding literary devices, studying how writers create mood, rhyme scheme . . . or as mentor texts for a spooky poem of the students’ own.
Spirits of the Dead
Thy soul shall find itself alone’Mid dark thoughts of the gray tombstone—Not one, of all the crowd, to pryInto thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,Which is not loneliness—for thenThe spirits of the dead who stoodIn life before thee are againIn death around thee—and their willShall overshadow thee: be still.
The night, tho’ clear, shall frown—And the stars shall look not downFrom their high thrones in the heaven,With light like Hope to mortals given—But their red orbs, without beam,To thy weariness shall seemAs a burning and a feverWhich would cling to thee for ever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,Now are visions ne’er to vanish;From thy spirit shall they passNo more—like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze—the breath of God—is still—And the mist upon the hill,Shadowy—shadowy—yet unbroken,Is a symbol and a token—How it hangs upon the trees,A mystery of mysteries!
Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)
The Haunted Palace
In the greenest of our valleysBy good angels tenanted,Once a fair and stately palace—Radiant palace—reared its head.In the monarch Thought’s dominion,It stood there!Never seraph spread a pinionOver fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,On its roof did float and flow(This—all this—was in the oldenTime long ago)And every gentle air that dallied,In that sweet day,Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,A wingèd odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley,Through two luminous windows, sawSpirits moving musicallyTo a lute’s well-tunèd law,Round about a throne where, sitting,Porphyrogene!In state his glory well befitting,The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowingWas the fair palace door,Through which came flowing, flowing, flowingAnd sparkling evermore,A troop of Echoes, whose sweet dutyWas 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 morrowShall dawn upon him, desolate!)And round about his home the gloryThat blushed and bloomedIs but a dim-remembered storyOf the old time entombed.
And travellers, now, within that valley,Through the red-litten windows seeVast forms that move fantasticallyTo a discordant melody;While, like a ghastly rapid river,Through the pale doorA hideous throng rush out forever,And laugh—but smile no more.
Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)
Since many of us already know Poe’s basic biography, I thought I’d highlight the Edgar Allan Poe House that it just over the bridge in Philadelphia. The Edgar Allan Poe House is a National Historic Site located at 532 North 7th Street, just off of Spring Garden. This is just one of the homes in which Poe lived during his time in Philadelphia, which were some of his most prolific years. He wrote many of his well-known works in Philadelphia, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Murders of Rue Morgue.” It is free to visit and is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 am to 12 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm.
Here are a few pictures from the website: