October 30, 2012

A sense of something moving to and fro....

Have you ever been sitting at home, when all of a sudden the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise and you have the uncomfortable sensation that you are not  alone?  That creepy, crawly sensation of being watched—the tingling fear that if you turn around you will see someone who doesn’t belong in your house, or even in this century?  It’s especially easy to feel this way if you are reading a scary book (think Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving, Mary Shelly, Shirley Jackson, and Stephen King), or perhaps dabbling in the darker verses of a poet.  While Longfellow is usually remembered for his well-known poems like The Children’s Hour, The Song of Hiawatha, Psalm of Life and Paul Revere’s Ride, he also wrote darker poems like the one below.  He never fully recovered from the death of his beloved wife, Fanny Appleton, and perhaps she was the 'harmless phantom' that glided through his halls.
To add to the ‘spirit’ of the day (pun definitely intended!) here is a great photo from artist Mikel Robinson…I don’t think I would want to walk down this hallway and around the corner of this room, would you?
Pinned Image
photo by Mikel Robinson

          Haunted Houses
         Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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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 door-way, 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 vapours 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.


Longfellow's writing desk...is there a stranger at his fireside?

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