As Halloween approaches, there’s no better time to delve into the hauntingly beautiful world of Gothic poetry. These verses transport readers to shadowy realms filled with ghosts, crypts, and the unexplained. Here are some of the best Gothic poems to read this Halloween season:
Best Gothic Poems for Halloween
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is a poem that tells the story of a man who is visited by a raven late at night. The poem is known for its dark and eerie tone, which makes it a popular choice for Halloween readings. However, there is no direct mention of Halloween in the poem. Instead, the poem’s themes of death, loss, and the supernatural make it a fitting choice for the holiday.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
I died for Beauty – but was scarce by Emily Dickinson
I died for Beauty – but was scarce” by Emily Dickinson is a haunting exploration of beauty, truth, and martyrdom. The poem unfolds within a tomb where the speaker, having sacrificed for beauty, briefly encounters another who gave their life for truth. These two martyrs form a fleeting friendship, yet their discourse ultimately fades into obscurity, along with their voices and identities.
While this poem may not be conventionally associated with Halloween, its themes of mortality and the hereafter render it a befitting choice for the season. The poem’s eerie ambiance and enigmatic voice from beyond the grave are certain to evoke spine-tingling sensations.
I died for Beauty – but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room –
He questioned softly “Why I failed”?
“For Beauty”, I replied –
“And I – for Truth – Themself are One –
We Brethren are”, He said –
And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night —
We talked between the Rooms –
Until the Moss had reached our lips –
And covered up – Our names –
“Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Christabel” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a Gothic ballad that tells the story of a young woman named Christabel who encounters a mysterious stranger named Geraldine in the woods at night. The poem is known for its eerie and supernatural elements, which make it a fitting choice for Halloween readings. The poem’s themes of darkness, mystery, and the supernatural create a sense of unease and suspense that is perfect for the holiday. Additionally, the poem’s Gothic elements, such as the medieval castle setting and the supernatural occurrences, make it a classic example of Gothic literature.
‘Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,
And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;
And hark, again! the crowing cock,
How drowsily it crew.
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
From her kennel beneath the rock
She maketh answer to the clock,
Four for the quarters, and twelve for the hour;
Ever and aye, by shine and shower,
Sixteen short howls, not over loud;
Some say, she sees my lady’s shroud.
“The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe is a poem that describes the physical effects of depression on the human mind through the metaphor of a palace. The poem’s eerie and supernatural elements, such as the palace’s degradation and the appearance of evil forces, make it a fitting choice for Halloween readings. Additionally, the poem’s Gothic elements, such as the medieval castle setting and the supernatural occurrences, make it a classic example of Gothic literature.
In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion,
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A wingèd odor went away.
“La Belle Dame sans Merci” by John Keats
“La Belle Dame sans Merci” by John Keats is a haunting ballad recounting the encounter of a knight with an enigmatic woman in a wooded realm. Renowned for its eerie and otherworldly aspects, it emerges as an apt selection for Halloween readings. The poem’s exploration of themes like mortality, love, and the supernatural evokes an unsettling and suspenseful atmosphere, ideal for the occasion. Furthermore, with its Gothic elements, including the medieval castle backdrop and mysterious happenings, it stands as an exemplary piece of Gothic literature.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.
“The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Conqueror Worm,” authored by Edgar Allan Poe, narrates a tale of a theatrical performance wherein humanity assumes the roles of mere puppets ensnared within an eternal loop of torment and dread. The poem’s unsettling and supernatural facets, including the emergence of a blood-red entity that contorts from the desolate stage, render it a suitable option for Halloween readings.
Lo! ’t is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
“The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole
“The Castle of Otranto,” penned by Horace Walpole, is recognized as the inaugural Gothic novel in the English language. This novel unfolds within the confines of a medieval castle, weaving a narrative replete with supernatural phenomena, including specters and enigmatic apparitions. The eerie and otherworldly aspects of the novel render it a suitable and atmospheric selection for Halloween readings.
The gentle maid, whose hapless tale
These melancholy pages speak;
Say, gracious lady, shall she fail
To draw the tear adown thy cheek?
No; never was thy pitying breast
Insensible to human woes;
Tender, tho’ firm, it melts distrest
For weaknesses it never knows.
Oh! guard the marvels I relate
Of fell ambition scourg’d by fate,
From reason’s peevish blame.
Blest with thy smile, my dauntless sail
I dare expand to Fancy’s gale,
For sure thy smiles are Fame.
“The Eve of St. Agnes” by John Keats
“The Eve of St. Agnes,” a ballad crafted by John Keats, narrates the tale of Madeline, a young woman eagerly anticipating the midnight hour on St. Agnes’ Eve. According to the counsel of “old dames,” this auspicious moment promises a mystical dream in which she will behold her beloved. The poem’s eerie and otherworldly facets, including the arrival of a mysterious stranger and the infusion of supernatural imagery, position it as a compelling option for Halloween readings.
St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.
Song of the Witches from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
“Song of the Witches” is a poem extracted from William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth,” frequently linked to Halloween. This incantation is uttered by three witches as they concoct a potion within a cauldron. The witches’ chant is steeped in ominous and otherworldly imagery, invoking ingredients like “eye of newt,” “toe of frog,” and “wool of bat.” The poem’s eerie resonance and grisly thematic elements render it an ideal match for Halloween festivities.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
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 howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
“The Vampyre” by John William Polidori
“The Vampyre,” a short story penned by John William Polidori during the early 19th century, stands as one of the earliest instances of vampire fiction in English literature. This narrative centers on Lord Ruthven, a charismatic nobleman concealing a sinister truth. The tale’s unsettling and supernatural components, including Ruthven’s enigmatic presence and his vampiric essence, position it as an apt selection for Halloween readings.
The sky is changed!—and such a change; Oh, night!
And storm and darkness, ye are wond’rous strong,
Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light
Of a dark eye in woman! Far along
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the lire thunder! Not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue,
And Jura answers thro’ her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud!
And this is in the night:—Most glorious night!
Thou wer’t not sent for slumber! let me be
A sharer in thy far and fierce delight,—
A portion of the tempest and of me!
How the lit lake shines a phosphoric sea,
And the big rain comet dancing to the earth!
And now again ’tis black,—and now the glee
Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain mirth,
As if they did rejoice o’er a young; earthquake’s birth,
Now where the swift Rhine cleaves his way between
Heights which appear, as lovers who have parted
In haste, whose mining depths so intervene,
That they can meet no more, tho’ broken hearted;
Tho’ in their souls which thus each other thwarted,
Love was the very root of the fond rage
Which blighted their life’s bloom, and then departed—
Itself expired, but leaving; them an age
Of years all winter—war within themselves to wage.
“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” unfolds the narrative of a man’s visit to his friend Roderick Usher within the confines of a deteriorating mansion. This tale’s disquieting and supernatural facets, including the emergence of a blood-red entity that writhes within the desolate surroundings, render it an appropriate selection for Halloween readings. Furthermore, the story’s incorporation of Gothic elements, such as the medieval castle backdrop and uncanny happenings, solidify its status as a quintessential exemplar of Gothic literature.
“Ulalume” by Edgar Allan Poe
“Ulalume” by Edgar Allan Poe is well-suited for a Halloween theme due to its eerie and mysterious atmosphere. The poem is a hauntingly beautiful exploration of grief, loss, and the supernatural. Set in a dark and desolate landscape, it follows the narrator as they journey through a haunted forest on a moonlit night. The imagery of the barren trees, the ghostly moon, and the foreboding atmosphere all contribute to a sense of unease and anticipation—perfect for creating a spooky ambiance during Halloween readings. Additionally, the poem’s themes of death and the unknown align with the mysteries and macabre themes often associated with the Halloween season, making “Ulalume” a compelling choice for those seeking a hauntingly atmospheric poem.
The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispéd and sere—
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these Gothic poems and found some inspiration for your Halloween celebrations. From Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting “The Raven” to William Shakespeare’s eerie “Witches’ Song” from Macbeth, these poems are perfect for setting the mood for a spooky Halloween night. Other notable works include Emily Dickinson’s “I died for Beauty – but was scarce,” which explores the themes of beauty, truth, and martyrdom, and John Polidori’s “The Vampyre,” which is credited with popularizing the vampire genre in literature. Whether you’re a fan of classic horror or modern Gothic literature, these poems are sure to satisfy your craving for all things macabre.
I hope you have a great Halloween!