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A Poet's Dark Craft: Haunted Houses
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With his famous line within the dark crafted poem, "All houses are haunted houses", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was aware of the nostalgia, history and memory that lived in every home. It wasn't just that there were ghosts present but that one could use imaginative powers to see beyond the moment. 


Credit: National Park Service; Here is Longfellow House Washington's Headquarters (Cambridge, MA)

Haunted Houses
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless 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, nor 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.


Credit: Teachers Pay Teachers

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.


About the Poet


Credit: Teachers Pay Teachers 
Born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow became a Harvard scholar versed in several European languages. He was heavily influenced by Romanticism and made a name as a poet and novelist with works like Hyperion,Evangeline, Poems on Slavery and The Song of Hiawatha. He was also known for his translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Longfellow died on March 24, 1882, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

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