I have never read of Theodora Goss’s fantasy novels, but I frequently peruse a site she has compiled for poetry lovers of a peculiar sort. Poems of the Fantastic and Macabre may not be populated with poetry acceptable to major critics, but its mix of Medieval, Romantic, and Victorian verse pulls my aesthetic strings in just the right way, especially with the approach of Halloween and All Soul’s Day. Speaking of which, here is a selection from Edith Wharton’s “All Souls”:
A thin moon faints in the sky o’erhead,
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
But forth of the gate and down the road,
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.
Fear not that sound like wind in the trees:
It is only their call that comes on the breeze;
Fear not the shudder that seems to pass:
It is only the tread of their feet on the grass;
Fear not the drip of the bough as you stoop:
It is only the touch of their hands that grope —
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite.
One does not need an excess of visceral gore and blood in order to feel the wonderful catharsis of terror. Oftentimes, the catching a glimpse of a specter within the fog is enough, in the hands of an able writer. (Indeed, I sometimes think that the problem with most “horror” storytelling is that it has no place for catharsis, but that is a discussion for another time.)
But it is not all terror and horrors. Many of the poems are simply embodiments of a picturesque melancholy, such as with Thomas Gray, for whom the plowman “leaves the world to darkness and to me.” Many others are whimsical trysts with the phantasmagorical, such as the lines of John Keats, “I met a lady in the meads, / Full beautiful — a faery’s child; / Her hair was long, her foot was light, / And her eyes were wild.” Others are more esoteric than affective, Blake and Shelley foremost among them. All in all, the site is a good poetry reader for those who enjoy rhyme, meter, and strong imagery.
Come not in terrors clad, to claim
An unresisting prey:
Come like an evening shadow, Death!
So stealthily, so silently!
And shut mine eyes, and steal my breath;
Then willingly, O willingly,
With thee I’ll go away!
(Pictured above: Death and the Maiden, by Marianne Stokes)