GOTHIC POETRY


William Wordsworth in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800), which was a kind of manifesto for Romantic poetry, complained that "The invaluable works of our elder writers, I had almost said the works of Shakespeare and Milton, are driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. – When I think upon this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation, I am almost ashamed to have spoken of the feeble endeavour made in these volumes to counteract it". Wordsworth’s desire for plain language and his contempt for the Gothic, however, were contradicted by his colleague Coleridge’s focus upon the supernatural in poems such as "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Christabel" and "Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream". The major Romantic poets (even Wordsworth, in The Borderers) owed something to Ann Radcliffe, without whom we probably would not have Keats’s "Eve of St Agnes" and "Isabella" or Byron’s Manfred and other poems in which he creates the brooding "Byronic hero" – or indeed Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven".
          Such works are important specimens of the Gothic poetic tradition, but are too well known to need inclusion here. I have selected two almost unknown early works by the major poets: Coleridge’s "The Mad Monk", which when it was first published was described (presumably by an editor) as being written "in Mrs. Ratcliffe’s manner"; and Shelley’s "Song" and "Ballad", which were written a year or two before his Gothic novel St Irvyne (1808–9). According to his boyhood friend Medwin, "Such was the sort of poetry Shelley wrote at this period – and it is valuable, inasmuch as it served to shew the disposition and bent of his mind in 1808 and 1809, which ran on bandits, castles, ruined towers, wild mountains, storms and apparitions – the Terrific, which according to Burke is the great machinery of the Sublime."
          Two lines from Charlotte Smith’s The Emigrants (a political poem about the persecution following the French Revolution that forced the French clergy to flee to England) – "by the blunted light / That the dim moon thro’ painted casements lends" – were quoted by Ann Radcliffe in The Mysteries of Udolpho, and are believed to have suggested to Keats the "Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn" which are used to symbolize the romantic imagination in his "Ode to a Nightingale". Keats pretended that any similarity of his work to Gothic literature was superficial: "In my next Packet as this is one by the way, I shall send you the Pot of Basil, St Agnes eve, and if I should have finished it a little thing call’d the 'eve of St Mark' you see what fine mother Radcliff names I have" (letter, 14 February 1819). But Coleridge, Byron and Shelley literally plagiarized passages from Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho.
          What we today refer to as the Romantics were known in their own time as the Lake School (referring to England’s Lake District where Wordsworth lived), though we have forgotten their minor members such as Lloyd, Lovell, and Allan Cunningham, and teachers tend to downplay how very many of their poems are concerned with ghosts, witches and fairies. For David Macbeth Moir, delivering lectures at the Edinburgh Philosophical Association in 1850/51, there were two main streams of poetry: the "Darwinian School" of artificial verse by Erasmus Darwin, Anna Seward, Hayley and the insipid Della Cruscans – versus the "Lewis School", i.e. the Romantics, "of which Matthew Gregory Lewis ought to be set down as the leader, and John Leyden, Walter Scott, Coleridge, Southey, James Hogg, Mrs Radcliffe, Anna Maria Porter, and Anne Bannerman, as the chief disciples." Perhaps it is just as well that today we have largely forgotten once-popular works such as James Montgomery’s "The Vigil of St. Mark" (1806) and Anne Bannerman’s "The Perjured Nun" (1802), but the poetry in this section, however "Gothic" and "minor", would have been seen as characteristic of the Romantic school by its contemporary readers.

(Copyright 2000, 2014 Rictor Norton)


THE MINSTREL; OR,THE PROGRESS OF GENIUS (1771)

JAMES BEATTIE 1735–1803)

XIX.

         Lo! where the stripling, wrapt in wonder, roves
         Beneath the precipice o’erhung with pine;
         And sees, on high, amidst th’ encircling groves,
         From cliff to cliff the foaming torrents shine:
         While waters, woods, and winds, in concert join,
         And Echo swells the chorus to the skies.
         Would Edwin this majestic scene resign
         For aught the huntsman’s puny craft supplies?
Ah! no: he better knows great Nature’s charms to prize.

XX.

         And oft he traced the uplands, to survey,
         When o’er the sky advanced the kindling dawn,
         The crimson cloud, blue main, and mountain grey,
         And lake, dim-gleaming on the smoky lawn;
                   Far to the west the long long vale withdrawn,
         Where twilight loves to linger for a while;
         And now he faintly kens the bounding fawn,
         And villager abroad at early toil. –
But, lo! the sun appears! and heaven, earth, ocean, smile.

XXI.

         And oft the craggy cliff he loved to climb,
         When all in mist the world below was lost.
         What dreadful pleasure! there to stand sublime,
         Like shipwreck’d mariner on desert coast,
         And view th’ enormous waste of vapour, tost
         In billows, lengthening to th’ horizon round,
         Now scoop’d in gulfs, with mountains now emboss’d!
         And hear the voice of mirth and song rebound,
Flocks, herds, and waterfalls, along the hoar profound!

XXII.

         In truth he was a strange and wayward wight,
         Fond of each gentle, and each dreadful scene.
         In darkness, and in storm, he found delight:
         Nor less, than when on ocean-wave serene
         The southern sun diffused his dazzling shene.
         E’en sad vicissitude amused his soul:
         And if a sigh would sometimes intervene,
         And down his cheek a tear of pity roll,
A sign, a tear, so sweet, he wish’d not to control.

. . .

XXX.

         See, in the rear of the warm sunny shower,
         The visionary boy from shelter fly!
         For now the storm of summer-rain is o’er,
         And cool, and fresh, and fragrant, is the sky.
         And, lo! in the dark east, expanded high,
         The rainbow brightens to the setting sun!
         Fond fool, that deem’st the streaming glory nigh,
         How vain the chace thine ardour has begun!
’Tis fled afar, ere half thy purposed race be run.

XXXI.

         Yet couldst thou learn, that thus it fares with age,
         When pleasure, wealth, or power, the bosom warm,
         This baffled hope might tame thy manhood’s rage,
         And Disappointment of her sting disarm. –
         But why should foresight thy fond heart alarm?
         Perish the lore that deadens young desire!
         Pursue, poor imp, th’ imaginary charm,
         Indulge gay Hope, and Fancy’s pleasing fire:
Fancy and Hope too soon shall of themselves expire.

XXXII.

         When the long-sounding curfew from afar
         Loaded with loud lament the lonely gale,
         Young Edwin, lighted by the evening star,
         Lingering and listening, wander’d down the vale.
         There would he dream of graves, and corses pale;
         And ghosts, that to the charnel-dungeon throng,
         And drag a length of clanking chain, and wail,
         Till silenced by the owl’s terrific song,
Or blast that shrieks by fits the shuddering isles along.

XXXIII.

         Or, when the setting moon, in crimson dyed,
         Hung o’er the dark and melancholy deep,
         To haunted stream, remote from man, he hied,
         Where Fays of yore their revels wont to keep;
         And there let Fancy roam at large, till sleep
         A vision brought to his intranced sight.
         And first, a wildly-murmuring wind ‘gan creep
         Shrill to his ringing ear; then tapers bright,
With instantaneous gleam, illumed the vault of Night.

[SOURCE: James Beattie, The Minstrel; or, The Progress of Genius, 5th edn (London: Edward and Charles Dilly; Edinburgh: William Creech, 1775), pp. 10–12, 16–17]


WRITTEN ON THE SEA SHORE (1784)

CHARLOTTE SMITH (1749–1806)

Sonnet xii. Written on the Sea Shore. – October, 1784

On some rude fragment of the rocky shore
         Where on the fractur’d cliff, the billows break,
         Musing, my solitary seat I take,
And listen to the deep and solemn roar.

O’er the dark waves the winds tempestuous howl;
         The screaming sea-bird quits the troubled sea:
         But the wild gloomy scene has charms for me,
And suits the mournful temper of my soul.

Already shipwreck’d by the storms of Fate,
         Like the poor mariner methinks I stand,
         Cast on a rock; who sees the distant land
From whence no succour comes – or comes too late.
Faint and more faint are heard his feeble cries,
’Till in the rising tide, the exhausted sufferer dies.

[SOURCE: Charlotte Smith, Elegiac Sonnets, 6th edn (London: T. Cadell, 1792)]


THE EMIGRANTS (1793)

CHARLOTTE SMITH (1794–1806)

         Oft have I heard the melancholy tale,
Which, all their native gaiety forgot,
These Exiles tell – How Hope impell’d them on,
Reckless of tempest, hunger, or the sword,
Till order’d to retreat, they knew not why,
From all their flattering prospects, they became
The prey of dark suspicion and regret:
Then, in despondence, sunk the unnerv’d arm
Of gallant Loyalty – At every turn
Shame and disgrace appear’d, and seem’d to mock
Their scatter’d squadrons; which the warlike youth,
Unable to endure, often implor’d,
As the last act of friendship, from the hand
Of some brave comrade, to receive the blow
That freed the indignant spirit from its pain.
To a wild mountain, whose bare summit hides
Its broken eminence in clouds; whose steeps
Are dark with woods; where the receding rocks
Are worn by torrents of dissolving snow,
A wretched Woman, pale and breathless, flies!
And, gazing round her, listens to the sound
Of hostile footsteps – No! it dies away:
No noise remains, but of the cataract,
Or surly breeze of night, that mutters low
Among the thickets, where she trembling seeks
A temporary shelter – clasping close
To her hard-heaving heart her sleeping child,
All she could rescue of the innocent groupe [sic]
That yesterday surrounded her – Escap’d
Almost by miracle! Fear, frantic Fear,
Wing’d her weak feet: yet, half repentant now
Her headlong haste, she wishes she had staid
To die with those affrighted Fancy paints
The lawless soldier’s victims – Hark! again
The driving tempest bears the cry of Death,
And, with deep sudden thunder, the dread sound
Of cannon vibrates on the tremulous earth;
While, bursting in the air, the murderous bomb
Glares o’er her mansion. Where the splinters fall,
Like scatter’d comets, its destructive path
Is mark’d by wreaths of flame! – Then, overwhelm’d
Beneath accumulated horror, sinks
The desolate mourner; yet, in Death itself,
True to maternal tenderness, she tries
To save the unconscious infant from the storm
In which she perishes; and to protect
This last dear object of her ruin’d hopes
From prowling monsters, that from other hills,
More inaccessible, and wilder wastes,
Lur’d by the scent of slaughter, follow fierce
Contending hosts, and to polluted fields
Add dire increase of horrors – But alas!
The Mother and the Infant perish both! –

         The feudal Chief, whose Gothic battlements
Frown on the plain beneath, returning home
From distant lands, alone and in disguise,
Gains at the fall of night his Castle walls,
But, at the vacant gate, no Porter sits
To wait his Lord’s admittance! – In the courts
All is drear silence! – Guessing but too well
The fatal truth, he shudders as he goes
Thro’ the mute hall; where, by the blunted light
That the dim moon thro’ painted casements lends,
He sees that devastation has been there:
Then, while each hideous image to his mind
Rises terrific, o’er a bleeding corse
Stumbling he falls; another interrupts
His staggering feet – all, all who us’d to rush
With joy to meet him – all his family
Lie murder’d in his way! – And the day dawns
On a wild raving Maniac, whom a fate
So sudden and calamitous has robb’d
Of reason; and who round his vacant walls
Screams unregarded, and reproaches Heaven! –
Such are thy dreadful trophies, savage War!
And evils such as these, or yet more dire,
Which the pain’d mind recoils from, all are thine –
The purple Pestilence, that to the grave
Sends whom the sword has spar’d, is thine; and thine
The Widow’s anguish and the Orphan’s tears! –
Woes such as these does Man inflict on Man;
And by the closet murderers, whom we style
Wise Politicians, are the schemes prepar’d,
Which, to keep Europe’s wavering balance even,
Depopulate her kingdoms, and consign
To tears and anguish half a bleeding world! –

[SOURCE: Charlotte Smith, The Emigrants, a Poem (London: T. Cadell, 1793), pp. 54–9]


INVOCATION TO HORROR (1787)

HANNAH COWLEY (‘ANNA MATILDA’ )1743–1809)

          FAR be remov’d each painted scene!
What is to me the sapphire sky?
What is to me the earth’s soft dye?
          Or fragrant vales which sink between
Those velvet hills? yes, there I see –
(Why do those beauties burst on me?)
Pearl-dropping groves bow to the sun;
Seizing his beams, bright rivers run
          That dart redoubled day:
Hope ye vain scenes, to catch the mind
To torpid sorrow all resign’d,
          Or bid my heart be gay?
False are those hopes! – I turn – I fly,
Where no enchantment meets the eye,
          Or soft ideas stray.

HORROR! I call thee from the mould’ring tower,
The murky church-yard, and forsaken bower,
          Where ’midst unwholesome damps
          The vap’ry gleamy lamps
Of ignes fatui, shew the thick-wove night,
          Where morbid MELANCHOLY sits,
          And weeps, and sings, and raves by fits,
And to her bosom strains the fancied sprite.

          Or, if amidst the arctic gloom
          Thou toilest at thy sable loom,
Forming the hideous phantoms of Despair –
          Instant thy grisly labours leave,
          With raven wing the concave cleave,
Where floats, self-borne, the dense nocturnal air.

          Oh! bear me to th’impending cliff,
          Under whose brow the dashing skiff
Behold Thee seated on thy rocky throne;
          There, ’midst the shrieking wild wind’s roar,
          Thy influence, HORROR, I’ll adore,
And at thy magic touch congeal to stone.

          Oh! hide the Moon’s obtrusive orb,
          The gleams of ev’ry star absorb,
And let CREATION be a moment thine!
          Bid billows dash; let whirlwinds roar,
          And the stern, rocky-pointed shore,
The stranded bark, back to the waves resign!
          Then, whilst from yonder turbid cloud,
          Thou roll’st thy thunders long, and loud,
And light’nings flash upon the deep below,
          Let the expiring Seaman’s cry,
          The Pilot’s agonizing sigh
Mingle, and in the dreadful chorus flow!

          HORROR! far back thou dat’st thy reign;
          Ere KINGS th’ historic page could stain
With records black, or deeds of lawless power:
          Ere empires Alexanders curst,
          Or Faction, madd’ning Cæsars nurst,
The frighted World receiv’d thy awful dower!

          Whose pen JEHOVAH’s self inspir’d;
          He, who in eloquence attir’d,
          Led Israel’s squadrons o’er the earth,
          Grandly terrific, paints thy birth.
Th’ ALMIGHTY, ’midst his fulgent seat on high,
Where glowing Seraphs round his footstool fly,
Beheld the wanton cities of the plain,
With acts of deadly name his laws disdain;
          He gave th’ irrevocable sign,
          Which mark’d to man the hate divine;
          And sudden from the starting sky
          The Angels of his wrath bid fly!
Then, HORROR! thou presided’st o’er the whole,
          And fill’d, and rapt, each self-accusing soul!
          Thou did’st ascend to guide the burning shower –
On THEE th’ Omnipotent bestow’d the hour!

          ’Twas thine to scourge the sinful land,
          ’Twas thine to toss the fiery brand;
          Beneath thy glance the temples fell,
          And mountains crumbled at thy yell.
ONCE MORE thou’lt triumph in fiery storm;
ONCE MORE the Earth behold thy direful form;
Then shalt thou seek, as holy prophets tell,
Thy native throne, amidst th’ eternal shades of HELL!

[SOURCE: The British Album, 4th edn, 2 vols (London: John Bell, 1792), vol. 1, pp. 39–42]


SUPERSTITION. AN ODE (1790)

ANN RADCLIFFE 1764–1823)

High mid Alverna’s awful steeps,
          Eternal shades, and glooms and silence dwell,
Save, when the lonely gale resounding sweeps,
          Sad, solemn strains are faintly heard to swell:

Enthron’d amid the wild impending rocks,
          Involv’d in clouds, and brooding future woe,
The demon Superstition Nature shocks,
          And waves her Sceptre o’er the world below.

Around her throne, amid the mingling glooms,
          Wild – hideous forms are slowly seen to glide;
She bids them fly to shade earth’s brightest blooms,
          And spread the blast of Desolation wide.

See! in the darkened air their fiery course!
          The sweeping ruin settles o’er the land,
Terror leads on their steps with madd’ning force,
          And Death and Vengeance close the ghastly band!

                    Mark the purple streams that flow!
                    Mark the deep empassioned woe!
                    Frantic Fury’s dying groan!
                    Virtue’s sigh, and Sorrow’s moan!

Wide – wide the phantoms swell the loaded air
With shrieks of anguish – madness and despair!
          Cease your ruin! spectres dire!
                    Cease your wild terrific sway!
          Turn your steps – and check your ire,
                    Yield to peace and mourning day!

[SOURCE: Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance, 2 vols (London: T. Hookham, 1790), vol. 2, pp. 30–1.]


TO THE VISIONS OF FANCY (1791)

ANN RADCLIFFE (1764–1823)

Dear, wild illusions of creative mind!
         Whose varying hues arise to Fancy’s art,
And by her magic force are swift combin’d
          In forms that please, and scenes that touch the heart:
Oh! whether at her voice ye soft assume
          The pensive grace of sorrow drooping low;
Or rise sublime on terror’s lofty plume,
          And shake the soul with wildly thrilling woe;
Or, sweetly bright, your gayer tints ye spread,
          Bid scenes of pleasure steal upon my view,
Love wave his purple pinions o’er my head,
          And wake the tender thought to passion true;
O! still – ye shadowy forms! attend my lonely hours,
Still chase my real cares with your illusive powers!

[SOURCE: Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest, 3 vols (London: T. Hookham and J. Carpenter, 1791), vol. 1, pp. 86–7.]


NIGHT (1791)

ANN RADCLIFFE (1764–1823)

Now Ev’ning fades! her pensive step retires,
          And Night leads on the dews, and shadowy hours:
Her awful pomp of planetary fires,
         And all her train of visionary pow’rs.

These paint with fleeting shapes the dream of sleep,
         These swell the waking soul with pleasing dread;
These through the glooms in forms terrific sweep,
         And rouse the thrilling horrors of the dead!

Queen of the solemn thought – mysterious Night!
         Whose step is darkness, and whose voice is fear!
Thy shades I welcome with severe delight,
         And hail thy hollow gales, that sigh so drear!

When, wrapt in clouds, and riding in the blast,
         Thou roll’st the storm along the sounding shore,
I love to watch the whelming billows, cast
         On rocks below, and listen to the roar.

Thy milder terrors, Night, I frequent woo,
         Thy silent lightnings, and thy meteor’s glare,
Thy northern fires, bright with ensanguine hue,
         That light in heaven’s high vault the fervid air.

But chief I love thee, when thy lucid car
         Sheds through the fleecy clouds a trembling gleam,
And shews the misty mountain from afar,
         The nearer forest, and the valley’s stream:

And nameless objects in the vale below,
         That floating dimly to the musing eye,
Assume, at Fancy’s touch, fantastic shew,
         And raise her sweet romantic visions high.

Then let me stand amidst thy glooms profound
         On some wild woody steep, and hear the breeze
That swells in mournful melody around,
         And faintly dies upon the distant trees.

What melancholy charm steals o’er the mind!
         What hallow’d tears the rising rapture greet!
While many a viewless spirit in the wind
         Sighs to the lonely hour in accents sweet!

Ah! who the dear illusions pleas’d would yield,
         Which Fancy wakes from silence and from shades,
For all the sober forms of Truth reveal’d,
         For all the scenes that Day’s bright eye pervades!

[SOURCE: Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest, 3 vols (London: T. Hookham and J. Carpenter, 1791), vol. 1, pp. 207–9.]


TO THE RIVER DOVE (c. 1798/1800)

ANN RADCLIFFE 1764–1823)

         Oh! stream beloved by those,
         With Fancy who repose,
And court her dreams ’mid scenes sublimely wild,
         Lulled by the summer-breeze,
         Among the drowsy trees
Of thy high steeps, and by thy murmurs mild,

         My lonely footsteps guide,
         Where thy blue waters glide,
Fringed with the Alpine shrub and willow light;
         ’Mid rocks and mountains rude,
         Here hung with shaggy wood,
And there upreared in points of frantic height.

         Beneath their awful gloom,
         Oh! blue-eyed Nymph, resume
The mystic spell, that wakes the poet’s soul!
         While all thy caves around
         In lonely murmur sound,
And feeble thunders o’er these summits roll.

         O shift the wizard scene
         To banks of pastoral green
When mellow sun-set lights up all thy vales;
         And shows each turf-born flower,
         That, sparkling from the shower,
Its recent fragrance on the air exhales.

         When Evening’s distant hues
         Their silent grace diffuse
In sleepy azure o’er the mountain’s head;
         Or dawn in purple faint,
         As nearer cliffs they paint,
Then lead me ’mid thy slopes and woodland shade.

         Nor would I wander far,
         When Twilight lends her star,
And o’er thy scenes her doubtful shades repose;
         Nor when the Moon’s first light
         Steals on each bowery height,
Like the winged music o’er the folded rose.

         Then, on thy winding shore,
         The fays and elves, once more,
Trip in gay ringlets to the reed’s light note;
         Some launch the acorn’s ring,
         Their sail &150; Papilio’s wing,
Thus shipped, in chace of moon-beams, gay they float.

         But, at the midnight hour,
         I woo thy thrilling power,
While silent moves the glow-worm’s light along,
         And o’er the dim hill-tops
         The gloomy red moon drops,
And in the grave of darkness leaves thee long.

         Even then thy waves I hear,
         And own a nameless fear,
As, ’mid the stillness, the hight winds do swell,
         Or (faint from distance) hark
         To the lone watch-dog’s bark!
Answering a melancholy far sheep bell.

         O! Nymph fain would I trace
         Thy sweet awakening grace,
When summer dawn first breaks upon thy stream;
         And see thee braid thy hair;
         And keep thee ever there,
Like thought recovered from an antique dream!

[Ann Radcliffe, Posthumous Works, in Gaston de Blondeville (London: Henry Colburn, 1826), vol. 4, pp. 236–8]


ODE TO SUPERSTITION (1793)

NATHAN DRAKE (1766–1836)

The prolific essayist and critic Nathan Drake called Ann Radcliffe ‘the Shakespeare of Romance Writers’, for he felt that she ably carried on the native British ‘Celtic/Gothic’ tradition since the time of ‘Ossian’ and Shakespeare. Her novels inspired him to write several ‘Gothic tales’, such as ‘The Abbey of Clunedale’, ‘Montmorenci’, ‘Henry FitzOwen’, ‘Sir Egbert’ and ‘The Spectre’. His poem the ‘Ode to Superstition’, first published in July 1793 and subsequently revised, was designed to contain examples of ‘the two species of Gothic superstition, the terrible and the sportive’. His collected literary essays contain detailed criticism of the Gothic writings by Walpole, John Aikin and Mrs Barbauld, Reeve, Charlotte Smith, Radcliffe, Lewis, Beckford, and others now forgotten.


Saw ye that dreadful shape? heard ye the scream
                   That shook my trembling soul?
E’en now, e’en now, where yon red lightnings gleam
                   Wan forms of terror scowl –
I know thee, Superstition! fiend, whose breath
                   Poisons the passing hours,
Pales the young cheek, and o’er the bed of death
                   The gloom of horror pours!
Of ghastly Fear, and darkest Midnight born,
                   Far in a blasted dale,
Mid Lapland’s woods, and noisome wastes forlorn,
                   Where lurid hags the moon’s pale orbit hail:
There, in some vast, some wild and cavern’d cell,
                   Where flits the dim blue flame,
They drink warm blood, and act the deed of hell,
                   The ‘deed without a name.’
         With hollow shriek and boding cry,
         Round the wither’d witches hie,
         On their uncouth features dire,
         Gleams the pale and livid fire;
         The charm begins, and now arise
         Shadows foul, and piercing cries,
         Storm and tempest loud assail,
         Beating wind and rattling hail;
         Thus, within th’ infernal wood,
         Dance they round the bubbling blood,
         Till sudden from the wond’ring eye,
         Upborne on harpy wing they fly,
Where, on the rude inhospitable wild,
         Fir’d by the lightning’s arrowy stroke,
Oft at the balmy close of evening mild,
         They’re seen to hurry round the blasted oak:
Then rise strange spectres to the pilgrim’s view,
                   With horrid lifeless stare,
And gliding float upon the noxious dew,
                             And howling rend the air.
Oft near yon leaf-clad solitary fane,
                   While morn yet clasps the night,
Some ghost is heard to sound his clanking chain,
Beheld mid moon-beam pale and dead to sight;
Nor less unfrequent the lone trav’ller hears
                   The sullen-sounding bell,
And the dim-lighted tow’r awakes to fears
Of haunted mansion, brake, or darkling dell,
                   Haste thee, Superstition! fly,
                                       Perish this thy sorcery!
         Why in these gorgon terrors clad,
         But to affright, afflict the bad,
         ’Tis thee, O Goddess! thee I hail,
         Of Hesper born, and Cynthia pale,
         That wont the same rude name to bear,
         Yet gentle all, and void of fear;
         O, come, in Fancy’s garb array’d,
         In all her lovely forms display’d,
         And o’er the poet’s melting soul,
         Bid the warm tide of rapture roll,
         To dying music, warbling gales,
         ‘Mid moon-light scenes, and woody vales,
         Where Elves, and Fays, and Sprites disport,
         And nightly keep their festive court;
         There, ‘mid the pearly flood of light,
         In tincts cerulean richly dight,
         Light-sporting o’er the trembling green,
         Glance they quick thro’ the magic scene,
         And from the sparkling moss receive,
         Shed by the fragrant hand of Eve,
         The silver dew, of matchless pow’r,
         To guard from harm, at midnight hour,
         The lonely wight, who lost, from far,
         Views not one friendly guiding star,
         Or one kind lowly cottage door,
         To point his track across the moor;
         Whilst the storm howling, prompts his mind
         Dark Demons ride the northern wind,
         And, plaining, mourn their cruel doom,
         On tempest hurl’d, and wint’ry gloom:
         Oft too, along the vales at eve,
         Shall Sprites the songs of gladness weave,
         With many a sweet and varied flight,
         Soft warbling hymn the setting light,
         Heard far th’ echoing hills among,
         Whilst chanting wild their heav’nly song,
         Till lost in ether dies away,
         The last, long, faint and murm’ring lay;
         These on the lonely Bard attend,
         With him the mountain’s side ascend,
         Or in the valley’s lowly plain,
         To Rapture breathe the melting strain;
         These lift his soul beyond her clime,
         To daring flights of thought sublime,
         Where, warm’d by Fancy’s brightest fire,
         He boldly sweeps the sounding lyre:
         Come then, with wild flow’rs, come array’d,
         O Superstition, magic maid!
         And welcome then, suggesting pow’r!
         At evening close, or midnight hour.

[SOURCE: Nathan Drake, Literary Hours: or Sketches Critical, Narrative, and Poetical, 3 vols, 3rd edn (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1804), vol. 1, pp. 150–4 (originally published in the British Critic, 1793)]


ALONZO THE BRAVE AND FAIR IMOGINE (1796)

MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS (1775–1818)

A WARRIOR so bold, and a virgin so bright
         Conversed, as they sat on the green;
They gazed on each other with tender delight;
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the knight,
         The maid’s was the Fair Imogine.

‘And, oh!’ said the youth, ‘since to-morrow I go
         To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow,
Some other will court you, and you will bestow
         On a wealthier suitor your hand.’

‘Oh! hush these suspicions,’ Fair Imogine said,
         ‘Offensive to love and to me!
For, if you be living, or if you be dead,
I swear by the Virgin, that none in your stead
         Shall husband of Imogine be.

‘If e’er I, by lust or by wealth led aside,
         Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant, that to punish my falsehood and pride
Your ghost at the marriage may sit by my side,
May tax me with perjury, claim me as bride,
         And bear me away to the grave!’

To Palestine hastened the hero so bold;
         His love, she lamented him sore:
But scarce had a twelvemonth elapsed, when behold,
A Baron all covered with jewels and gold
         Arrived at Fair Imogine’s door.

His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain
         Soon made her untrue to her vows:
He dazzled her eyes; he bewildered her brain;
He caught her affections so light and so vain,
         And carried her home as his spouse.

And now had the marriage been blest by the priest;
         The revelry now was begun:
The tables they groaned with the weight of the feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
         When the bell at the castle told – ‘one!’

Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found
         That a stranger was placed by her side:
His air was terrific; he uttered no sound;
He spoke not, he moved not, he looked not around,
         But earnestly gazed on the bride.

His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height;
         His armour was sable to view:
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The dogs as they eyed him drew back in affright;
         The lights in the chamber burned blue!

His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay;
         The guests sat in silence and fear.
At length spoke the bride, while she trembled; ‘I pray,
Sir Knight, that your helmet aside you would lay,
         And deign to partake of our chear.’

The lady is silent: the stranger complies.
         His vizor he slowly unclosed:
Oh! God! what a sight met Fair Imogine’s eyes!
What words can express her dismay and surprise,
         When a skeleton’s head was exposed!

All present then uttered a terrified shout;
         All turned with disgust from the scene.
The worms they crept in, and the worms they crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
         While the spectre addressed Imogine.

‘Behold me, thou false one! behold me!’ he cried;
         ‘Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grants, that to punish thy falsehood and pride
My ghost at thy marriage should sit by thy side,
Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as bride,
         And bear thee away to the grave!’

Thus saying, his arms round the lady he wound,
         While loudly she shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground:
Nor ever again was Fair Imogine found,
         Or the spectre who bore her away.

Not long lived the Baron; and none since that time
         To inhabit the castle presume;
For chronicles tell that, by order sublime,
There Imogine suffers the pain of her crime,
         And mourns her deplorable doom.

At midnight four times in each year does her spright,
         When mortals in slumber are bound,
Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the hall with the Skeleton-Knight,
         And shriek as he whirls her around.

While they drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave,
         Dancing round them the spectres are seen:
Their liquor is blood, and this horrible stave
They howl: – ‘To the health of Alonzo the Brave,
         And his consort, the False Imogine!’

[SOURCE: M. G. Lewis, The Monk, 3 vols (London: J. Bell, 1796), vol. 3, pp. 63–6]


THE VOICE FROM THE SIDE OF ETNA
OR, THE MAD MONK (1800)

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772–1834)

AN ODE, in Mrs. RATCLIFF’s manner.

I heard a voice from Etna’s side,
         Where o’er a Cavern’s mouth,
         That fronted to the South,
A chesnut spread its umbrage wide.
A Hermit, or a Monk, the man might be,
But him I could not see:
And thus the music flow’d along,
In melody most like an old Sicilian song.

There was a time when earth, and sea, and skies,
         The bright green vale and forest’s dark recess,
When all things lay before my eyes
         In steady loveliness.
But now I feel on earth’s uneasy scene
         Such motions as will never cease!
         I only ask for peace –
Then wherefore must I know, that such a time has been?

         A silence then ensu’d.
                  Till from the cavern came
                  A voice. It was the same:
And thus that mournful voice its dreary plaint renew’d.
Last night, as o’er the sloping turf I trod,
         The smooth green turf to me a vision gave:
                  Beneath my eyes I saw the sod,
                  The roof of ROSA’s grave.

My heart has need with dreams like these to strive,
For when I wak’d, beneath my eyes I found
                  That plot of mossy ground,
On which so oft we sate when ROSA was alive.
Why must the rock, and margin of the flood,
         Why must the hills so many flow’rets bear,
Whose colours to a wounded woman’s blood
         Such sad resemblance wear?

I struck the wound – this hand of mine!
         For, oh! thou Maid divine,
                  I loved to agony!
         The youth, whom thou call’dst thine,
                  Did never love like me.

         It is the stormy clouds above,
                  That flash so red a gleam
                  On yonder downward trickling stream;
         ’Tis not the blood of her I love.
The sun torments me from his western bed!
         O let him cease for ever to diffuse
         Those crimson spectre hues!
O let me lie in peace, and be for ever dead!

Here ceas’d the voice! In deep dismay,
Down thro’ the forest I pursu’d my way.
The twilight fays came forth in dewy shoon,
         Ere I within the cabin had withdrawn,
         The goat-herd’s tent upon the open lawn.
That night there was no moon!!
                                       CASSIANI, jun.

[SOURCE: Morning Post and Gazetteer, 13 October 1800, p. 3]


TALES OF TERROR (1801)

MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS (attrib.) (1775–1818)

A major feature of both Gothic and Romantic poetry was the use of ‘German’ and ‘Old English’ folk tales and the recreation of the ancient ballad tradition. Tales of Terror and Tales of Wonder, to which Sir Walter Scott and well as Lewis contributed, were extremely popular. The Tales of Terror consist mostly of Spanish, Scottish, Swedish and Welsh ballads, many imitating and dedicated to M.G. Lewis, some attributed to him. It is worth listing the titles to illustrate the taste of the times: The Stranger; Hrim Thor, or the Winter-King; The Wolf-King, or Little Red-riding-hood; The Wanderer of the Wold; Gonzalvo; Albert of Werdendorff, or the Midnight Embrace; The Maid of Donalblayne; The Pilgrim of Valencia; The Grey Friar of Winton, or the Death of King Rufus; Grim, King of the Ghosts, or the Dance of Death; Osric and Ella; Martel, or the Conqueror’s Return; Ellen of Eglantine; The Black Canon of Elmham, or Saint Edmond’s Eve; The Scullion-Sprite, or the Garret-Goblin; The Troubadour, or Lady Alice’s Bower; The Sprite of the Glen; The House upon the Heath; The Mud-King, or Smedley’s Ghost; The Abbot of Leiston. Rather than include them here – like all folk songs, they are interminable – I have selected the prefatory remarks, in which Lewis defends the genre.

Introductory Dialogue

FRIEND
WHAT, scribble tales? Oh! cease to play the fool!
Christmas is past, and children gone to school;
E’en active Harlequin abash’d retired,
Neglected witches quench the cauldron’s fires,
Whilst fairy phantoms vanish swift away,
And sense and nature reassume their sway.

         What gain, what pleasure, can your labours crown?
A nurs’ry’s praise shall be your best renown;
Each feeble tale ingloriously expire,
A gossip’s story at a winter’s fire!

AUTHOR
         Oh! cease this rage, this misapplied abuse,
Satire gives weapons for a nobler use;
Why draw your sword against my harmless quill,
And strive in vain a ghostly muse to kill?
That task is ours: if I can augur well,
Each day grows weaker her unheeded spell,
Her eager votaries shall fix her doom,
And lay her spirit in Oblivion’s tomb.

FRIEND
         Yes! thus I oft my drooping hopes revive,
Prepost’rous births are seldom known to thrive;
These scribblers soon shall mourn their useless pains,
And weep the short-lived product of their brains,
These active panders to perverted taste
Shall mar their purpose by too anxious haste.

         As earthquakes nature’s harmony restore,
And air grows purer in the tempest’s roar,
So the strange workings of a monstrous mind
Will quickly fade, and leave no trace behind;
Like brilliant bubbles, glitter for a day,
Till, swoll’n too big, they burst, and pass away.
We need not call ethereal spirits down
To rouse the torpid feelings of the town;
Or bid the dead their ghastly forms uprear,
To freeze some silly female breast with fear;
No &150; I have hopes you’ll find this rage decreas’d,
And send a dish too much to Terror’s feast;
The vicious taste, with such a rich supply
Quite surfeited, ‘will sicken, and so die.’

AUTHOR
         My friend, believe me, with indifferent view
I mark opinion’s ever-varying hue,
Let tasteless fashion guide the public heart,
And, without feeling, scan the poet’s art.
Fashion! dread name in criticism’s field,
Before whose sway both sense and judgement yield,
Whether she loves to hear, ‘midst deserts bleak,
The untaught savage moral axioms speak;
O’er modern, six weeks, epic strains to dose,
To sigh in sonnets, or give wings to prose;
Or bids the bard, by leaden rules confined,
To freeze the bosom, and confuse the mind,
While feeling stagnates in the drawler’s veins,
And Fancy’s fetter’d in didactic chains; –
Or rouses the dull German’s gloomy soul,
And Pity leaves for Horror’s wild controul,
Pouring warm tears for visionary crimes,
And softening sins to mend these moral times;
It boots not memy taste is still my own,
Nor heeds the gale by wavering fashion blown.
My mind unalter’d views, with fix’d delight,
The wreck of learning snatch’d from Gothic night;
Chang’d by no time, unsettled by no place,
It feels the Grecian fire, the Roman grace;
Exulting marks the flame of ancient days,
In Britain with triumphant brightness blaze!

         Yet still the soul for various pleasure form’d,
By Pity melted, and by Terror storm’d,
Loves to roam largely through each distant clime,
And ‘leap the flaming bounds of space and time!’
The mental eye, by constant lustre tires,
Forsakes, fatigued, the object it admires,
And, as it scans each various nation’s doom,
From classic brightness turns to Gothic gloom.

         Oh! it breathes awe and rapture o’er the soul
To mark the surge in wild confusion roll,
And when the forest groans, and tempest lours,
To wake Imagination’s darkest powers!
How throbs the breast with terror and delight,
Fill’d with rude scenes of Europe’s barbarous night!
When restless war with papal craft combined,
To shut each softening ray from lost mankind;
When nought by Error’s fatal light was shown,
And taste and science were alike unknown;
To mark the soul, benumb’d its active powers,
Chain’d at the foot of superstition’s towers;
To view the pale-eyed maid in penance pine,
To watch the votary at the sainted shrine;
And, while o’er blasted heaths the night-storm raves,
To hear the wizzard wake the slumb’ring graves;
To view war’s glitt’ring front, the trophied field,
The hallow’d banner, and the red-cross shield;
The tourney’s knights, the tyrant baron’s crimes,
‘Pomp, pride, and circumstance,’ of feudal times!

         Th’ enraptured mind with fancy loves to toil
O’er rugged Scandinavia’s martial soil;
With eager joy the ‘venturous spirit goes
O’er Morven’s mountains, and through Lapland’s snows;
Sees barbarous chiefs in fierce contention fall,
And views the blood-stain’d feasts of Odin’s hall;
Hears Ossian’s harp resound the deeds of war,
While each grey soldier glories in his scar;
Now marks the wand’ring ghost, at night’s dull noon,
Howl out its woes beneath the silent moon;
Sees Danish pirates plough th’ insulted main,
Whilst Rapin’s outcry shakes the sacred fane;
Observes the Saxon baron’s sullen state,
Where rival pride enkindles savage hate;
Each sound, each sight, the spell-bound sense appalls
Amid some lonely abbey’s ivied walls!
The night-shriek loud, wan ghost, and dungeon damp,
The midnight cloister, and the glimm’ring lamp,
The pale procession fading on the sight,
The flaming tapers, and the chaunted rite,
Rouse, in the trembling breast, delightful dreams,
And steep each feeling in romance’s streams!
Streams which afar in restless grandeur roll,
And burst tremendous on the wond’ring soul!
Now gliding smooth, now lash’d by magic storms,
Lifting to light a thousand shapeless forms;
A vapourous glory floats each wave around,
The dashing waters breathe a mournful sound,
Pale Terror trembling guards the fountain’s head,
And rouses Fancy on her wakeful bed;
‘From realms of viewless spirits tears the veil,
‘And half reveals the unutterable tale!’
                              March 1, 1801.

[SOURCE: Tales of Terror with An Introductory Dialogue, 2nd edn (London: Printed for L. Bell by Bulmer & Co., 1808), pp. 1–7]


REVIEW OF LEWIS’S TALES OF WONDER (1801)

Tales of Wonder: Written and collected by M. G. Lewis, Esq. M.P. Author of the Monk, Castle Spectre, Love of Gain, &c. 2 Vols. large 8vo. Pp. 480. 2l. 2s.

FRONTISPIECE TO TALES OF TERROR

Far from being inclined to join in the censure which has been directed against Mr. Lewis for compiling the present volumes, we think he is much better employed than in most of his former productions, at least, with reference to his well-known romance, entitled The Monk, a work that has tended more to vitiate juvenile minds, and poison the fountains of morality than any thing of the kind that has fallen within our notice for a long period. Indeed we hardly know of any work of so licentious a complexion, and of so mischievous a tendency, except the political crudities of the detestable Citizen PAINE. From all that we have read or heard of Mr. Lewis and his works, he seems to us to possess a singular turn of mind. His fancy appears to be chiefly attracted by, and absorbed in, the terrible, the horrible, the hideous, and the impossible; nor can we conceive what has been his bent of education that has led him into so uncommon a track of study. He certainly does not want abilities, or knowledge, but his talents are strangely perverted, and he sometimes seems even to be employed in throwing a ridicule upon himself. But to the present work. It consists of as many tales as the author could collect in order to scare the minds of children, and impress a terror upon the imagination through life. Some indeed of the compositions, to be found in these volumes, are of a pathetic, interesting, and moral cast; but they bear a small proportion to the works of the other tendency. Several pieces were written by Mr. Lewis himself, and others are well known. We shall extract an imitation from the German, by WALTER SCOTT, as a specimen of the works which these volumes contain, as he seems to be the best of the new species of horror-breeding Bards.

[SOURCE: Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine, 8 (March 1801), pp. 322–3]


SONG (c. 1807)

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792–1822)

’Twas dead of the night, when I sat in my dwelling
         One glimmering lamp was expiring and low,
Around, the dark tide of the tempest was swelling,
         Along the wild mountains night-ravens were yelling,
They bodingly presaged destruction and woe:

’Twas then that I started! the wild storm was howling,
         Nought was seen save the lightning which danced in the sky.
Above me, the crash of the thunder was rolling,
         And low chilling murmurs the blast wasted by.

My heart sunk within me, unheeded the war
         Of the battling clouds on the mountain tops broke,
Unheeded the thunder peal crashed in mine ear,
This heart, hard as iron, is stranger to fear;
         But conscience in low, noiseless whispering spoke.

’Twas then that her form, in the whirlwind unfolding,
         The ghost of the murdered Victoria strode,
In her right hand a shadowy shroud she was holding
         She swiftly advanced to my lonely abode.
I wildly then called on the tempest to bear me. –


BALLAD (c. 1807)

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792–1822)

The death-bell beats,
The mountain repeats
The echoing sound of the knell;
And the dark monk now
Wraps the cowl round his brow,
As he sits in his lonely cell.

And the cold hand of death
Chills his shuddering breath,
As he lists to the fearful lay,
Which the ghosts of the sky,
As they sweep wildly by,
Sing to departed day.
And they sing of the hour
When the stern Fates had power
To resolve Rosa’s form to its clay.

But that hour is past,
And that hour was the last,
Of peace to the dark monk’s brain;
Bitter tears from his eyes gush’d silent and fast,
And he strove to suppress them in vain.
Then his fair cross of gold he dashed on the floor,
When the death-knell struck on his ear –
‘Delight is in store for her evermore,
But for me is fate, horror, and fear.’

Then his eyes wildly rolled,
When the death-bell tolled,
And he raged in terrific woe;
And he stamped on the ground,
But when ceased the sound,
Tears again begun to flow.

And the ice of despair
Chilled the wild throb of care,
And he sate in mute agony still:
Till the night-stars shone thro’ the cloudless air,
And the pale moonbeam slept on the [hill.]

Then he knelt in his cell,
And the horrors of hell
Were delights to his agonised pain,
And he prayed to God to dissolve the spell,
Which else must ever remain.

And in fervent prayer he knelt to the ground,
Till the abbey bell struck one;
His feverish blood ran chill at the sound,
And a voice hollow, horrible, murmured around,
‘The term of thy penance is done.’

Grew dark the night;
The moonbeam bright
Waxed faint on the mountain high;
And from the black hill
Went a voice cold and shrill –
‘Monk! thou art free to die.’

Then he rose on his feet,
And his heart loud did beat,
And his limbs they were palsied with dread;
Whilst the grave’s clammy dew
O’er his pale forehead grew;
And he shuddered to sleep with the dead.

And the wild midnight storm
Raved around his tall form,
As he sought the chapel’s gloom;
And the sunk grass did sigh
To the wind, bleak and high,
As he search’d for the new-made tomb.

And forms dark and high
Seem’d around him to fly,
And mingle their yells with the blast;
And on the dark wall
Half-seen shadows did fall,
And enhorror’d he onward pass’d.

And the storm fiends wild rave
O’er the new made grave,
And dread shadows linger around,
The monk call’d on God his soul to save,
And in horror sank on the ground.

Then despair nerved his arm,
To dispel the charm,
And he burst Rosa’s coffin asunder.
And the fierce storm did swell
More terrific and fell,
And louder peal’d the thunder.

And laugh’d in joy the fiendish throng,
Mix’d with ghosts of the mouldering dead;
And their grisly wings, as they floated along,
Whistled in murmurs dread.

And her skeleton form the dead nun rear’d,
Which dripp’d with the chill dew of hell.
In her half-eaten eye-balls two pale flames appear’d,
But triumphant their gleam on the dark monk glar’d,
As he stood within the cell.

And her long hand lay on his shuddering brain,
But each power was nerv’d by fear. –
‘I never, henceforth, may breathe again;
Death now ends mine anguish’d pain;
The grave yawns – we meet there.’

And her skeleton lungs did utter the sound,
So deadly, so lone, and so fell,
That in long vibrations shudder’d the ground,
And as the stern notes floated around,
A deep groan was answer’d from Hell!

[SOURCE: Thomas Medwin, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2 vols (London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847), vol. 1, pp. 75, 79–83]


THE VAMPYRE (1810)

JOHN STAGG (1770–1823)

In his Prefatory Apology, Stagg observes that ‘the present perversion of taste, and the romance mania so prevalent now-a-days, almost demonstrates to me, that Essays of a more serious and regular nature would not be universally received with such a degree of encouragement. The avidity with which the works of Lewis, Wordsworth, Southey, and Scott, are at present perused, determined me to attempt this species of composition; and as there are a great many historical and romantic legends existing in Cumberland; with a number of other Gothic stories prevalent in the North, the scenes and subjects of which were unfixed and unconnected with any particular spot, I felt myself convinced, that a versification of these stories, which in some manner were topographical, and to localize others, would not prove ungratifying to a great number of readers, especially the admirers of Gothic and romantic literature. How far I have been successfrul, the world will soon inform me; and on its candour and clemency are founded all my expectations.’

‘Why looks my lord so deadly pale?
         Why fades the crimson from his cheek?
What can my dearest husband ail?
         Thy heartfelt cares, O Herman, speak!

‘Why, at the silent hour of rest,
         Dost thou in sleep so sadly mourn?
Has tho’ with heaviest grief oppress’d,
         Griefs too distressful to be borne.

‘Why heaves thy breast? – why throbs thy heart?
         O speak! and if there be relief,
Thy Gertrude solace shall impart,
         If not, at least shall share thy grief.

‘Wan is that cheek, which once the bloom
         Of manly beauty sparkling shew’d;
Dim are those eyes, in pensive gloom,
         That late with keenest lustre glow’d.

‘Say why, too, at the midnight hour,
         You sadly pant and tug for breath,
As if some supernat’ral pow’r
         Were pulling you away to death?

‘Restless, tho’ sleeping, still you groan,
         And with convulsive horror start;
O Herman! to thy wife make known
         That grief which preys upon thy heart.’

‘O Gertrude! how shall I relate
         Th’ uncommon anguish that I feel;
Strange as severe is this my fate, –
         A fate I cannot long conceal.

‘In spite of all my wonted strength,
         Stern destiny has seal’d my doom;
The dreadful malady at length
         Will drag me to the silent tomb!’

‘But say, my Herman, what’s the cause
         Of this distress, and all thy care,
That, vulture like, thy vitals gnaws,
         And galls thy bosom with despair?

‘Sure this can be no common grief,
         Sure this can be no common pain?
Speak, if this world contain relief,
         That soon thy Gertrude shall obtain.’

‘O Gertrude, ’tis a horrid cause,
         O Gertrude, ’tis unusual care,
That, vulture like, my vitals gnaws,
         And galls my bosom with despair.

‘Young Sigismund, my once dear friend,
         But lately he resign’d his breath;
With others I did him attend
         Unto the silent house of death.

‘For him I wept, for him I mourn’d,
         Paid all to friendship that was due;
But sadly friendship is return’d,
         Thy Herman he must follow too!

‘Must follow to the gloomy grave,
         In spite of human art or skill;
No pow’r on earth my life can save,
         ’Tis fate’s unalterable will!

‘Young Sigismund, my once dear friend,
         But now my persecutor foul,
Doth his malevolence extend
         E’en to the torture of my soul.

‘By night, when, wrapt in soundest sleep,
         All mortals share a soft repose,
My soul doth dreadful vigils keep,
         More keen than which hell scarely knows.

‘From the drear mansion of the tomb,
         From the low regions of the dead,
The ghost of Sigismund doth roam,
         And dreadful haunts me in my bed!

‘There, vested in infernal guise,
         (By means to me not understood,)
Close to my side the goblin lies,
         And drinks away my vital blood!

‘Sucks from my veins the streaming life,
         And drains the fountain of my heart!
O Gertrude, Gertrude! dearest wife!
         Unutterable is my smart.

‘When surfeited, the goblin dire,
         With banqueting by suckled gore,
Will to his sepulchre retire,
         Till night invites him forth once more.

‘Then will he dreadfully return,
         And from my veins life’s juices drain;
Whilst, slumb’ring, I with anguish mourn,
         And toss with agonizing pain!

‘Already I’m exhausted, spent;
         His carnival is nearly o’er,
My soul with agony is rent,
         To morrow I shall be no more!

‘But, O my Gertrude! dearest wife!
         The keenest pangs hath last remain’d –
When dead, I too shall seek thy life,
         Thy blood by Herman shall be drain’d!

‘But to avoid this horrid fate,
         Soon as I’m dead and laid in earth,
Drive thro’ my corpse a jav’lin straight; –
         This shall prevent my coming forth.

‘O watch with me, this last sad night,
         Watch in your chamber here alone,
But carefully conceal the light
         Until you hear my parting groan.

‘Then at what time the vesper bell
         Of yonder convent shall be toll’d,
That peal shall ring my passing knell,
         And Herman’s body shall be cold!

‘Then, and just then, thy lamp make bare,
         The starting ray, the bursting light,
Shall from my side the goblin scare,
         And shew him visible to sight!’

The live long night poor Gertrude sate,
         Watch’d by her sleeping, dying lord;
The live long night she mourn’d his fate,
         The object whom her soul ador’d.

Then at what time the vesper bell
         Of yonder convent sadly toll’d,
Then, then was peal’d his passing knell,
         The hapless Herman he was cold!

Just at that moment Gertrude drew
         From ’neath her cloak the hidden light;
When, dreadful! she beheld in view
         The shade of Sigismund! – sad sight!

Indignant roll’d his ireful eyes,
         That gleam’d with wild horrific stare;
And fix’d a moment with surprise,
         Beheld aghast th’ enlight’ning glare.

His jaws cadaverous were besmear’d
         With clott’d carnage o’er and o’er,
And all his horrid whole appear’d
         Distent, and fill’d with human gore!

With hideous scowl the spectre fled;
         She shriek’d aloud; – then swoon’d away!
The hapless Herman in his bed,
         All pale, a lifeless body lay!

Next day in council ’twas decreed,
         (Urg’d at the instance of the state,)
That shudd’ring nature should be freed
         From pests like these ere ‘twas too late.

The choir then burst the fun’ral dome
         Where Sigismund was lately laid,
And found him, tho’ within the tomb,
         Still warm as life, and undecay’d.

With blood his visage was distain’d,
         Ensanguin’d were his frightful eyes,
Each sign of former life remain’d,
         Save that all motionless he lies.

The corpse of Herman they contrive
         To the same sepulchre to take,
And thro’ both carcases they drive,
         Deep in the earth, a sharpen’d stake!

By this was finish’d their career,
         Thro’ this no longer they can roam;
From them their friends have nought to fear,
         Both quiet keep the slumb’ring tomb.

[SOURCE: John Stagg, The Minstrel of the North; or, Cumbrian Legends. Being a Poetical Miscellany of Legendary, Gothic, and Romantic, Tales (London: Printed by Hamblin and Seyfang, for the Author, 1810), pp. 262–8]


ANNABEL LEE (1849)

EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809–49)

It was many and many a year ago,
         In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
         By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
         Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
         In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love –
         I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
         Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
         In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
         My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
         And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
         In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
         Went envying her and me –
Yes! – that was the reason (as all men know,
         In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
         Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
         Of those who were older than we –
         Of many far wiser than we;
And neither the angels in heaven above,
         Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
         Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
         Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
         Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,
         In the sepulchre there by the sea,
         In her tomb by the sounding sea.

[SOURCE: The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe (London: Addey, 1853), pp. 43–4.]


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