The first book of poetry I ever owned was an anthology of Christina Rossetti poems, and I’ve always been struck by her very distinctive style. Though her writing is gorgeous, it’s characterised by an intensely Victorian morbidity which makes it perfect for Halloween!
On a related note, try these spooky books for Halloween too!
Remember me when I am gone away,
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
#2. When I am Dead, my Dearest
When I am dead, my dearest,
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
#3. After Death
The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say,
‘Poor child, poor child’: and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
#4. A Dirge
Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo’s calling,
Or when grapes are green in the cluster,
Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Oh roses for the flush of youth,
And laurel for the perfect prime;
But pluck an ivy branch for me°
Grown old before my time.
#6. A Chilly Night
I rose at the dead of night,
And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother’s ghost
Where the ghostly moonlight shone.
#7. Life Hidden
Roses and lilies grow above the place
Where she sleeps the long sleep that doth not dream.
If we could look upon her hidden face
Nor shadow would be there nor garish gleam
Of light: her life is lapsing like a stream
That makes no noise but floweth on apace
Seawards; while many a shade and shady beam
Vary the ripples in their gliding chase.
#8. One Sea-Side Grave
Unmindful of the roses,
Unmindful of the thorn,
A reaper tired reposes
Among his gathered corn:
So might I, till the morn!
#9. The Bourne
Underneath the growing grass,
Underneath the living flowers,
Deeper than the sound of showers:
There we shall not count the hours
By the shadows as they pass.
#10. Sister Maude
Who told my mother of my shame,
Who told my father of my dear?
Oh who but Maude, my sister Maude,
Who lurked to spy and peer.
#11. ‘SO I grew Half Delirious and Quite Sick’
So I grew half delirious and quite sick,
And thro’ the darkness saw strange faces grin
Of Monsters at me. One put forth a fin,
And touched me clammily: I could not pick
A quarrel with it: it began to lick
My hand, making meanwhile a piteous din
The hope I dreamed of was a dream,
Was but a dream; and now I wake
Exceeding comfortless, and worn, and old,
For a dream’s sake.
#13. Amor Mundi
‘Oh, where are you going with your love-locks flowing
On the west wind blowing along this valley track?’
‘The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.’