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Halloween Poetry

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We've gleaned some old Halloween Poems from the archives of Harper's Weekly Magazine printed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Experience the flavor of speech from more than one hundred years ago as each poem pays tribute to the spookiest holiday of the year.





Bring forth the raisins and the nuts

To-night All-Hallows' Specter struts

Along the moonlit way.

No time is this for tear or sob,


But time for Pippin and for Bob,

And Jack-o'-lantern gay.


Come forth, ye lass and trousered kid,

From prisoned mischief raise the lid,

And lift it good and high.

Leave grave old Wisdom in the lurch,

Set Folly on a lofty perch,

Nor fear the awesome rod of birch

When dawn illumes the sky.

'Tis night for revel, set apart

To reillume the darkened heart,

And rout the hosts of Dole.

'Tis night when Goblin, Elf, and Fay,

Come dancing in their best array

To prank and roister on the way,

And ease the troubled soul.


The ghosts of all things, past parade,

Emerging from the mist and shade

That hid them from our gaze,

And full of song and ringing mirth,

In one glad moment of rebirth,

Again they walk the ways of earth,

As in the ancient days.


The beacon light shines on the hill,

The will-o'-wisps the forests fill

With flashes filched from noon;

And witches on their broomsticks spry

Speed here and yonder in the sky,

And lift their strident voices high

Unto the Hunter's moon.


The air resounds with tuneful notes

From myriads of straining throats,

All hailing Folly Queen;

So join the swelling choral throng,

Forget your sorrow and your wrong,

In one glad hour of joyous song

To honor Hallowe'en.


J. K. Bangs in Harper's Weekly, Nov. 5, 1910.






Who's dat peekin' in de do'?

Set mah heart a-beatin'!

Thought I see' a spook for sho

On mah way to meetin'.

Heerd a rustlin' all aroun',

Trees all sort o' jiggled;

An' along de frosty groun'

Funny shadders wriggled.


Who's dat by de winder-sill?

Gittin' sort o' skeery;

Feets is feelin' kind o' chill,

Eyes is sort o' teary.'

Most as nervous as a coon

When de dawgs is barkin',

Er a widder when some spoon

Comes along a-sparkin'.


Whass dat creepin' up de road,

Quiet like a ferret,

Hoppin' sof'ly as a toad?

Maybe hit's a sperrit!

Lordy! hope dey ain't no ghos'

Come to tell me howdy.

I ain't got no use for those

Fantoms damp an' cloudy.


Whass dat standin' by de fence

Wid its eyes a-yearnin',

Drivin' out mah common-sense

Wid its glances burnin'?

Don't dass skeercely go to bed

Wid dem spookses roun' me.

Ain't no res' fo' dis yere head

When dem folks surroun' me.


Whass dat groanin' soun' I hear

Off dar by de gyardin?

Lordy! Lordy! Lordy dear,

Grant dis sinner pardon!

I won't nebber--I declar'

Ef it ain't my Sammy!

Sambo, what yo' doin' dar?

Yo' can't skeer yo' mammy!


Carlyle Smith in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 29, 1910.






Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite

All are on their rounds to-night,

In the wan moon's silver ray

Thrives their helter-skelter play.


Fond of cellar, barn, or stack

True unto the almanac,

They present to credulous eyes

Strange hobgoblin mysteries.


Cabbage-stumps--straws wet with dew

Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,

And a mirror for some lass

Show what wonders come to pass.


Doors they move, and gates they hide

Mischiefs that on moonbeams ride

Are their deeds,--and, by their spells,

Love records its oracles.


Don't we all, of long ago

By the ruddy fireplace glow,

In the kitchen and the hall,

Those queer, coof-like pranks recall?


Eerie shadows were they then

But to-night they come again;

Were we once more but sixteen

Precious would be Hallowe'en.


Joel Benton in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 31, 1896.






A gypsy flame is on the hearth,

Sign of this carnival of mirth.

Through the dun fields and from the glade

Flash merry folk in masquerade

It is the witching Hallowe'en.


Pale tapers glimmer in the sky,

The dead and dying leaves go by;

Dimly across the faded green

Strange shadows, stranger shades, are seen

It is the mystic Hallowe'en.


Soft gusts of love and memory

Beat at the heart reproachfully;

The lights that burn for those who die

Were flickering low, let them flare high

It is the haunting Hallowe'en.


A. F. Murray in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 30, 1909.



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