halloween poem book

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Hallowe'en Poems

Poems gathered to help you get in the Halloween Spirit!

 

Before I started collecting old postcards, I was collecting old Halloween books. The older and more unusual the better. Some of the old ink drawings and etchings are really fantastic and are often accompanied by wonderful Halloween poems. The poems were skillfully written to create a moving atmospheric experience in the lucky reader. Over time I was able to gather quite a few old poems to hand out to friends at Halloween. I was even inspired to write my own "old style" Halloween poems and have modestly included one of those here.
----Enjoy!


The Hell Bound TrainMaking Jack O' Lanterns Litany for Halloween
The Ghost of a FlowerOnce Upon a TimeThe Ghost of Goshen
HalloweenGhosts Hallowe'en
Hallowe'en


THE HELL BOUND TRAIN

A Texas cowboy lay down on a barroom floor,
 Having drunk so much he could drink no more;
 So he fell asleep with a troubled brain
 To dream that he rode on a hell-bound train.

The engine with murderous blood was damp
 And was brilliantly lit with a brimstone lamp;
 An imp, for fuel, was shoveling bones,
 While the furnace rang with a thousand groans.

The boiler was filled with lager beer
 And the devil himself was the engineer;
 The passengers were a most motley crew-
 Church member, atheist, Gentile, and Jew,

Rich men in broad cloth, beggars in rags,
 Handsome young ladies, and withered old hags,
 Yellow and black men, red, brown, and white,
 All chained together-O God, what a sight!

While the train rushed on at an awful pace-
 The sulphurous fumes scorched their hands and face;
 Wider and wider the country grew,
 As faster and faster the engine flew.
 Louder and louder the thunder crashed
 And brighter and brighter the lightning flashed;
Hotter and hotter the air became
 Till the clothes were burned from each quivering frame.

 And out of the distance there arose a yell,
 "Ha, ha," said the devil, "we're nearing hell"
Then oh, how the passengers all shrieked with pain
 And begged the devil to stop the train.
 But he capered about and danced for glee,
 And laughed and joked at their misery.
 "My faithful friends, you have done the work
 And the devil never can a payday shirk.

 "You've bullied the weak, you've robbed the poor,
 The starving brother you've turned from the door;
 You've laid up gold where the canker rust,
 And have given free vent to your beastly lust.
 "You've justice scorned, and corruption sown,
 And trampled the laws of nature down.
 You have drunk, rioted, cheated, plundered, and lied,
And mocked at God in your hell-born pride.

 "You have paid full fare, so I'll carry you through,
 For it's only right you should have your due.
 Why, the laborer always expects his hire,
So I'll land you safe in the lake of fire,

"Where your flesh will waste in the flames that roar,
 And my imps torment you forevermore."
 Then the cowboy awoke with an anguished cry,
 His clothes wet with sweat and his hair standing high.

 Then he prayed as he never had prayed till that hour
 To be saved from his sin and the demon's power;
 And his prayers and his vows were not in vain,
For he never rode the hell-bound train.

-Anonymous

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MAKING JACK O' LANTERNS

Just take a golden pumpkin
 Of quite the largest size,
Cut all 'round the stem, just so, 
 Scrape out the inside below,
And cut two holes for eyes.
 And now fix a nose beneath,
 And such a great big mouth with teeth,
 And you've a jack-o'-lantern!

Then fix a tallow candle,
Just big enough to light,
 And when it flickers, see him blink,
 And when it flares up, see him wink
 And smile so broad and bright.
 This is the jolliest sort of a fellow,
With cheery face so round and yellow,
 This funny jack-o'-lantern.

-Anonymous

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LITANY FOR HALLOWEEN
 

From ghoulies and ghosties,
Long-leggety beasties,
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us.

-Anonymous

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THE GHOST OF A FLOWER

"You're what?" asked the common or garden spook
Of a stranger at midnight's hour.
 And the shade replied with a graceful glide,
 "Why, I'm the ghost of a flower."

"The ghost of a flower?" said the old-time spook;
"That's a brand-new one on me;
I never supposed a flower had a ghost,
Though I've seen the shade of a tree."

-Anonymous

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ONCE UPON A TIME

ONCE upon a time rare flowers grew
 On every shrub and bush we used to see;
The skies above our heads were always blue,
The woods held secrets deep for you and me;
 The hillsides had their caves where tales were told
 Of swart-cheeked pirates from a far-off clime,
When cutlases were fierce and rovers bold -
Don't you remember? - Once upon a time.

Once upon a time from sun to sun
The hours were full of joy - there was no care,
And webs of gaudy dreams in air were spun
 Of deeds heroic and of fortunes fair;
The jangling schoolhouse bell was all the woe
Our spirits knew, and in its tuneless chime.
Was all the sorrow of the long ago-
 Don't you remember? - Once upon a time.

Once upon a time the witches rode
 In sinister and ominous parade
Upon their sticks at night, and queer lights glowed
With eerie noises by the goblins made;
And many things mysterious there were .
For boyish cheeks to pale at through the grime
 That held them brown; and shadows queer would stir-
Don't you remember? - Once upon a time.

Once upon a time our faith was vast
 To compass all the things on sea and land
That boys have trembled o'er for ages past,
Nor ever could explain or understand,
And in that faith found happiness too deep
 For all the gifted tongues of prose or rime,
And joys ineffable we could not keep -
 Don't you remember? - Once upon a time.

James W. Foley 1905,  from Boys and Girls

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THE GHOST OF GOSHEN

Through Goshen Hollow, where hemlocks grow,
Where rushing rills, with flash and flow,
Are over the rough rocks falling;
 Where fox, where bear, and catamount hide,
In holes and dens In the mountain side,
A Circuit-preacher once used to ride,
And his name was Rufus Rawling.

He was set in his ways and what was strange,
If you argued with him he would not change,
One could get nothing through him.
Solemn and slow In style was he,
 Slender and slim as a tamarack tree,
And always ready to disagree
With every one that knew him.

One night he saddled his sorrel mare,
And started over to Ripton, where
 He had promised to do some preaching.
 Away he cantered over the hill,
Past the schoolhouse at Capen's mill;
The moon was down and the place was still,
 Save the sound of a night-hawk screeching.

At last he came to a deep ravine,
He felt a kind of queer, and mean
Sensation stealing o'er him.
 Old Sorrel began to travel slow,
Then gave a snort and refused to go;
 The parson chucked, and he holloa'd "whoa,"
And wondered what was before him.

Then suddenly he seemed to hear
A gurgling groan so very near,
It scattered his senses nearly.
"Go 'ome, go'ome," It loudly cried,
"Go 'ome," re-echoed the mountain side,
 "Go 'ome," away In the distance died-
 He wished he was home sincerely.

And then before his startled sight,
A light flashed out upon the night
 That seemed to "beat all creation."
 Then through the bushes a figure stole,
 With eyes of fire and lips of coal,
That froze his blood and shook his soul
With horror and consternation.

He lost his sermon, he dropped his book,
 His hair stood up, and his saddle shook
Like a sawmill under motion
.No cry he uttered, no word he said,
 But, suddenly turning Sorrel's head,
Away and out of the woods he fled
As fast as he could for Goshen.

The ghost he saw and the rattling bones
Were a pumpkin, a gourd, and some gravel stones,
That gave him all that glory;
But ne'er again up that mountain side,
In the light would Rufus Rawling ride,
And many a time I've laughed till I cried
To hear him tell the story.

-Anonymous

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HALLOWEEN

A gentle breeze rustling the dry cornstalks.
A sound is heard, a goblin walks.
A harvest moon suffers a black cat's cry.
Oh' do the witches fly!
Bonfire catches a pumpkins gleem.
Rejoice, it's Halloween!

-Richard Anderson (me) Copyright 1998

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GHOSTS

I am almost afraid of the wind out there.
The dead leaves skip on the porches bare,
 The windows clatter and whine.
 I sit here in the quiet house. low-lit.
With the clock that ticks and the books that stand.
Wise and silent, on every hand.

 I am almost afraid; though I know the night
Lets no ghosts walk in the warm lamplight.
 Yet ghosts there are; and they blow, they blow,
 Out in the wind and the scattering snow.-
When I open the windows and go to bed,
Will the ghosts come In and stand at my head?

Last night I dreamed they came back again.
I heard them talking; I saw them plain.
 They hugged me and held me and loved me; spoke
 Of happy doings and friendly folk.
They seemed to have journeyed a week away,
but now they were ready and glad to stay.

But, oh, if they came on the wind to-night
Could I bear their faces, their garments white
 Blown in the dark around my lonely bed?
 Oh, could I forgive them for being dead?
 I am almost afraid of the wind. My shame!
That I would not be glad if my dear ones came!

-Fannie Stearns Davis

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HALLOWE'EN

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-stomps-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 moon-beams 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, coofllke pranks recall?

Eery shadows were they then-
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen,
Precious would be Halloween.

-Joel Benton

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HALLOWE'EN

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,
And 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!

-John Kendrick Bangs


halloween poem book
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