A poem for All Hallows' Eve:
(Poem #593) The Hag
The hag is astride This night for to ride, The devil and she together; Through thick and through thin, Now out and then in, Though ne'er so foul be the weather. A thorn or a burr She takes for a spur, With a lash of a bramble she rides now; Through brakes and through briars, O'er ditches and mires, She follows the spirit that guides now. No beast for his food Dare now range the wood, But hush'd in his lair he lies lurking; While mischiefs, by these, On land and on seas, At noon of night are a-working. The storm will arise And trouble the skies; This night, and more for the wonder, The ghost from the tomb Affrighted shall come, Call'd out by the clap of the thunder.
A wonderfully spooky poem, perfect for Halloween. I first read it at the age of seven(ish), in a children's anthology titled (rather immodestly) 'SuperBook'. More than the poem, though, I was captivated at the time by the accompanying illustration, by Victor Ambrus... come to think of it, that was probably the first Ambrus picture I'd ever seen. Now, though, he forms a cherished part of my bookshelf - King Arthur, Robin Hood, the Arabian Nights, all those gorgeous Hamlyn titles would be completely different without Ambrus' distinctive style to further their enchantment. Regarding the poem itself I have not much to say. Herrick's verse, as always, is possessed of a remarkable felicity of rhythm and rhyme; the scansion is effortless, the alliteration unobtrusive yet effective, and the words - rather, the _sounds_ of the words - remain clear in your mind long after the mere sense is forgotten... if, like me, you delight in technical mastery for its own sake, you'll love this poem. thomas. PS. Aren't you glad we've stopped running sonnets? I know I am <grin>. [Links] A biography, critical assessment, and links to several archives of Herrick poems can be found at poem #398 Here's an example of Victor Ambrus' magical art: http://www.adelaide.ic24.net/ambrus.htm [Halloween] - also called ALL HALLOWS' EVE or ALL HALLOWS' EVENING: a holy or hallowed evening observed on October 31, the eve of All Saints' Day. In modern times, it is the occasion for pranks and for children requesting treats or threatening tricks. In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Samhain eve was observed on October 31, at the end of summer. This date was also the eve of the new year in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times and was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits. The date was connected with the return of herds from pasture, and laws and land tenures were renewed. The souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. -- EB