I can pass an abandoned building anywhere and Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow plays in my mind.
Is it haunted?
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.
Who had lived here? What did they do? Where did they go? Did anyone care about them? Miss them? Think about them?
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.
Was it their presence I felt on the breeze that caused gooseflesh to raise on my arms? Did they see me peering in the windows?
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.
Are there silent celebrations happening that I can neither see or hear?
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.
What would it have been like when people lived here? Did they feel the presence of those who owned it before them?
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.
Why does this house stand empty? Does no one see the potential?
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.
Or does the presence of something hang on the 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.
Are the forces inside out of balance? Omnipresent? Wanting to be elsewhere? Disturbed by my interruptions?
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.
Does my presence make them uneasy? Can they sense my increased heartbeat?
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,—
Do they long for moonlit skies, filled with twinkling stars? Do they delight in the shadows they create?
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.
I don’t recall how old I was the first time I read this poem, but I think I might have been in 7th or 8th grade. This poem caused me to think about things that went bump in the night. Walking to the bus stop in the morning in the dark and hearing a strange whistling in the wind was suddenly more than a little scary and being alone in a house after dark made me hyper alert to all the house sounds that suddenly were no longer normal.
Curious how a poem, a vivid imagination, and the mystery of an abandoned building can make Halloween come to life!
As always, Carole and I would love to have you join us on our Thursday writing journey! You can sign up here – and we promise it won’t be scary!
That is a stunning poem and equally stunning image! My daily walk takes me through a cemetery and I often feel the same way that Longfellow has described so well. I’ll be thinking about this poem (and trying to use mortmain and equipoise in my conversations) today – Thanks!
Great Longfellow poem!!
I have never read the poem but it is fascinating and you made it all the more so with your commentary. BTW, mortmain is a very appropriate word for SLC.
Thanks for upping my intellectual game today! And that photo on top…wow!
Great interpretation of this week’s theme!
It’s so interesting to read everyone’s interpretations this week; they’re so different! I love the poem – think this is my first time reading it.
Great poem! I, too, remember reading it somewhere along the way in middle school. I was always intrigued by the “spooky” — but not enough to seek it out in any way. (Can you say … chicken???)
I grew up afraid of my own shadow! and to this day I avoid scary stuff. Loved the poem and the photo 🙂
Even here in our Nation’s capital we have empty, abandoned homes and one wonders why, especially since there are also homeless families.
I hadn’t read the poem in eons…you questions were perfect and evocative. And tripped a few memories for me too. Thanks and