Classic Halloween

Spooky themes abound in literature. This page will share excerpts from classic literature. 

Snow White's wicked witch
The Hag
Robert Herrick (1648)


The hag is astride
This night for to ride;
The Devill and she together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne'r so foule be the weather.

A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Bryars,
O're Ditches, and Mires,
She followes the Spirit that guides now.

No Beast, for his food,
Dares  now range the wood;
But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On land and on Seas,
At noone of Night are working.

The  storme will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Cal'd out by the clap of the Thunder.

 

The Witches' Spell

Act IV, Scene 1 from Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare


A dark Cave.  In the middle, a Caldron boiling.  Thunder.  Enter the three Witches.

1 Witch: Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

2 Witch: Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin'd.

3 Witch: Harpier cries:--'tis time! 'tis time!

1 Witch: Round about the caldron go;

In the poison'd entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone,

Days and nights has thirty-one;

Swelter'd venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!

All: Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

2 Witch: Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,

Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,

Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,

For a charm  of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

All: Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

3 Witch: Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;

Witches mummy; maw and gulf 

Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark;

Root of hemlock digg'd i the dark;

Liver of blaspheming Jew;

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Slivere'd in the moon's eclipse;

Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,

Make the gruel thicj and slab:

Add thereto a tiger's chaudron.

All: Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

2 Witch: Cool it with a baboon's blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.


drawing of three witches around a cauldron
dilapidated house

Haunted Houses

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1858)


All houses wherein men have lived and died

Are haunted houses.  Through the open doors

Theharmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.


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.


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.


The stranger at my fireside cannot see

The forms I see, not hear the sounds I hear;

He but perceives what is; while unto me

All that has been is visible and clear.


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 vapours dense

A vital breath of more ethereal 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.


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.


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,


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.