“The Haunted House”, by George MacDonald

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I recently discovered this creepy old George MacDonald poem and the painting that inspired it. It may take reading it a few times aloud to get what he’s saying (it did for me, anyway), which I recommend doing with all poetry. So you don’t think it’s all gloom, here’s a snippet from stanza eleven:

God is in heaven–yes, everywhere;
And Love, the all-shining, will kill Despair.”

Enjoy the poem (if you dare).

haunted_house_thomas_moranTHE HAUNTED HOUSE
by George MacDonald

from The Threefold Cord: Poems by Three Friends: edited by George MacDonald (1883)

Suggested by a drawing of Thomas Moran, the American painter.

I. THIS must be the very night!
The moon knows it!–and the trees–
They stand straight upright,
Each a sentinel drawn up,
As if they dared not know
Which way the wind might blow!
The very pool, with dead gray eye,
Dully expectant, feels it nigh,
And begins to curdle and freeze!
And the dark night,
With its fringe of light,
Holds the secret in its cup!

II.

What can it be, to make
The poplars cease to shiver and shake,
And up in the dismal air
Stand straight and stiff as the human hair
When the human soul is dizzy with dread–
All but those two that strain
Aside in a frenzy of speechless pain,
Though never a wind sends out a breath
To tunnel the foggy rheum of death?
What can it be has power to scare
The full-grown moon to the idiot stare
Of a blasted eye in the midnight air?
Something has gone wrong;
A scream will come tearing out ere long!

III.

Still as death,
Although I listen with bated breath!
Yet something is coming, I know–is coming;
With an inward soundless humming,
Somewhere in me or in the air–
I cannot tell–but its foot is there!
Marching on to an unheard drumming,
Something is coming–coming–
Growing and coming;
And the moon is aware–
Aghast in the air
At the thing that is only coming
With an inward soundless humming,
And an unheard spectral drumming!

IV. Nothing to see and nothing to hear!
Only across the inner sky
The wing of a shadowy thought flits by,
Vague and featureless, faceless, drear–
Only a thinness to catch the eye:
Is it a dim foreboding unborn,
Or a buried memory, wasted and worn
As the fading frost of a wintry sigh?
Anon I shall have it!–anon!–it draws nigh!
A night when–a something it was took place
That drove the blood from that scared moon-face!
Hark! was that the cry of a goat,
Or the gurgle of water in a throat?
Hush! there is nothing to see or hear,
Only a silent something is near;
No knock, no footsteps three or four,
Only a presence outside the door!
See! the moon is remembering–what?
The wail of a mother-left, lie-alone brat?
Or a raven sharpening its beak to peck?
Or a cold blue knife and a warm white neck?
Or only a heart that burst and ceased
For a man that went away released?
I know not–know not, but something is coming
Somehow back with an inward humming.

V. Ha! Look there! Look at that house–
Forsaken of all things–beetle and mouse!
Mark how it looks! It must have a soul!
It looks, it looks, though it cannot stir;
See the ribs of it–how they stare!
Its blind eyes yet have a seeing air!
It knows it has a soul!
Haggard it hangs o’er the slimy pool,
And gapes wide open as corpses gape:
It is the very murderer!
The ghost has modelled himself to the shape
Of this drear house all sodden with woe,
Where the deed was done, long, long ago,
And filled with himself his new body full–
To haunt for ever his ghastly crime,
And see it come and go–
Brooding around it like motionless time,
With a mouth that gapes, and eyes that yawn
Blear and blintering and full of the moon,
Like one aghast at a hellish dawn.
–It is coming, coming soon!

VI. For, ever and always, when round the tune
Grinds on the barrel of organ-Time,
The deed is done;–and it comes anon–
True to the roll of the clock-faced moon,
True to the ring of the spheric chime,
True to the cosmic rhythm and rime;
Every point, as it first went on,
Will come and go till all is gone;
And palsied with horror from garret to core,
The house cannot shut its gaping door;
Its burst eye stares as if trying to see,
And it leans as if settling heavily,
Settling heavy with sickness dull:
It also is hearing the soundless humming
Of the wheel that is turning–the thing that is coming.
On the naked rafters of its brain,
Gaunt and wintred, see the train
Of gossiping, scandal-mongering crows,
That watch, all silent, with necks a-strain,
Wickedly knowing, with heads awry,
And the sharpened gleam of a cunning eye–