4 Classic Halloween-Inspired Poems To Get You in The Spooky Spirit
There’s something especially haunting about classic Halloween poems. The style, the distinct voice and tone of each writer, and the timeless relevance of its themes make these works stand the test of time. Exploring topics such as pain, loss, nostalgia, death, and the past, these classic pieces are sure to get you in a Halloween mindset.
1. Ghost Music – Robert Graves
Gloomy and bare the organ-loft,
Bent-backed and blind the organist.
From rafters looming shadowy,
From the pipes’ tuneful company,
Drifted together drowsily,
Innumerable, formless, dim,
The ghosts of long-dead melodies,
Of anthems, stately, thunderous,
Of Kyries shrill and tremulous:
In melancholy drowsy-sweet
They huddled there in harmony.
Like bats at noontide rafter-hung
Graves marries the concepts of monotony and melancholy in this piece, filling the reader with a sense of dread and discontent. The imagery of “bats at noontide” and “long-dead melodies” impress upon the reader that the scene does not belong in the present but is a lingering reminder of a past the author would rather forget.
2. An excerpt from The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
Poe’s The Raven utilizes trochaic octameter, which further emphasizes the overall tone and rhyme structure of this dramatic Halloween favorite. The poem builds in both dread and suspense as the tragic tale of the author and his lost lover comes to light in the dark encounter with the raven.
3. An excerpt from Haunted Houses – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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 vapoursdense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
Longfellow’s poem is not your typical ghost story. Instead of fear and foreboding, this poem brings about feelings of comfort and closure. Longfellow tells a tale that welcomes departed spirits back into their earthly homes as they walk alongside the living. The poem opens with the line, “all houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses.” He emphasizes that every being is “haunted” by a past, but that doesn’t mean they will use it to haunt those around them. Longfellow paints a rather different picture of a world where the living and the dead coexist peacefully and unremarkably.
4. Theme in Yellow – Carl Sandburg
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.
Sandburg’s poem does a beautiful job of capturing the nostalgic innocence of a Halloween night through the perspective of a pumpkin. As the pumpkin grows and changes, it transforms into the very essence of October 31st: a jack-o-lantern. The imagery of children laughing and singing creates an eerie excitement for the holiday, guaranteeing delight for Halloween lovers of all ages.
For more festive poetry to get you in the Halloween spirit, check out this roundup of spooky poems.