From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-legged beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
(Traditional Scottish prayer)
It’s Hallowe’en, and, at this time of year, my thoughts turn to an American classic, Edgar Allan Poe. I grew up with the old Hammer films, and loved Vincent Price in The Mask of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia, and others. (I remember looking into and under the car in which I was travelling after seeing Ligeia at the theater!) However, no movie ever had the ability to create an atmosphere of sheer skin-crawling creepiness the way Poe’s writing did. In Poe’s classic stories and many of his poems, the line between this world and the next was very thin, and both sides were inhabited by beings human and… something else. Horror and romance, love and hate, were all combined into a misty other-world. Poe was a master of creating things that went bump in the night!
The poem The Conqueror Worm starts with a gala night, and proceeds to madness, horror, and an unexpected end. The last verse illustrates the atmosphere Poe created:
“Out – out are the lights – out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling affirm,
That the play is the tragedy, ‘Man,’
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.”
Of course, any celebration of Hallowe’en brings forth The Raven with all its moody repetition…
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary….”
Then, there are the short stories. Once read, who can forget Berenice? “…But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born. Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are have their origin in the ecstasies which might have been.” This musing leads to a conclusion. “Yet its memory was replete with horror – horror more horrible from being vague, and terror more terrible from ambiguity.” (I won’t tell you what it was…) I don’t read Edgar Allan Poe’s work as often as I once did. However, when I do, it’s still important to have a good light, a cozy blanket and a locked door. It also doesn’t hurt to say an old Scottish prayer just before turning out the light to go to sleep!
Good Lord, deliver us!
Sleep tight (don’t forget the night-light)!
COMPLETE STORIES AND POEMS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. Doubleday & Co. Inc., Garden City, NY, 1966.
Scottish Prayer, Traditional. Things That Go Bump in the Night. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/bump.html
Image: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Gustave_Dore_Raven3.jpg