Showing posts with label poem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poem. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Memory Ghosts

People often experience what some call Memory Ghosts. These ghosts are not ghosts in the true sense of the word rather they are imprints on the environment.

While a person is living, places and objects that hold meaning for them can absorb their energy. After they pass this energy can linger.

A good example of this happened to a friend of mine years ago. Her grandmother died and she inherited the family home. Once she moved in she became convinced her grandmother haunted the house.

She often would catch a glimpse of her grandmother in the kitchen standing at the stove or she would see her sitting in her favorite rocker in the living room.

After doing some research she decided she needed to help her grandmother move on.

She made several attempts to talk to her deceased relative but she never got a response or sign that her grandmother heard her. She finally gave up.

Several years passed and she realized she no longer saw her grandmother. Years later, while reading a book about energy imprints she realized this is what might have happened in her home.

Was what she experienced just some of her grandmother’s lingering energy?

Could the home have picked up and stored some of her grandmother’s emotional residue?

Her grandmother loved to cook for the family. This was how she expressed her love. So a great deal of her energy was invested in the kitchen especially around the stove.

The rocking chair in the living room was her grandmother’s favorite spot to rest and think. So this spot as well could have picked up some of her relatives energy.

So do we leave echoes of ourselves in places and on objects that we have strong emotional ties to? Many believe this is true.

The following poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 1800s reflects this concept of memory ghosts.

Haunted Houses

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through 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 visible and clear.

We have no title deed to house or lands . . .


Monday, January 18, 2016

A Deadly Game of Hide and Seek

This classic ghost story has been immortalized in film, short stories, and in a famous song and poem.

It is known under various names. The Lost Bride, Bride and Go Seek and in England as The Mistletoe Bough or The Mistletoe Bride.

This story was first published in 1809 in Germany in an article entitled The Melancholy Occurrence, which tells the tale of a bride who goes missing on her wedding day.

Samuel Rogers’ poem entitled Ginevra, published in 1823, also tells the moving story of how a bride disappears on her wedding day only to be found years later.

“Full fifty years were past, and all was forgot . . .
The mouldering chest was noticed . . .
‘Why not remove it from its lurking place . . .’
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton . . .”

The full text of this poem can be found here.

Roger’s poem inspired Thomas Bayly to write the lyrics for a ballad song entitled, The Mistletoe Bough, music composed by Sir Henry Bishop, in the 1830s. Here is a part of this song.

“They sought her that night, and they sought her next day,
And they sought her in vain while a week passed away . . .
At length, an old chest, that had long lain hid,
Was found in the castle—
They raised the lid,
And a skeleton form lay mouldering there
In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!”

The entire song lyrics can be read here. A popular version of this ballad is shared below.

By 1859, this song in England was so beloved it was shared in most households at Christmastime. Many knew the heart-wrenching lyrics “by heart.”

This story was retold in two short stories: The Old Oak Chest by Susan E. Wallace in 1887 and The Romance of Certain Old Clothes by Henry James in 1868.

The story was also made into a silent film in 1904 by Percy Stow; this short film has since been restored and is below. Two other movies based upon this story were made in 1923 and 1926.

Percy Stow film
This story has been told for over 2 centuries now. Various versions of this myth have circulated in America. A simplified version was retold in the early 1970s.

Alfred Hitchcock produced his own version of this story in 1948 in his film entitled Rope. In his film the main character, Brandon Shaw hides the body of a murdered son in a chest.

However, most versions of this story are similar so here is the English version -- The Mistletoe Bough.

A young bride was married to Lord Lovell at Christmastime. After the ceremony, she suggested they play a game of Hide and Seek, which the younger members of the wedding party could enjoy as well.

The young bride was picked as the first person to hide. No one suspected as she went off this would be the last they would see of her.

Her husband, father and the wedding guests searched and searched, but she was not found. The wedding guests eventually had to leave, many assured the family as they parted that surely the bride must have just fallen asleep in her hiding place.

The groom, father and the servants continued to search late into the night and the next day but their efforts were unrewarded for the young bride was not found.

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months then years, but the bride’s disappearance remained a mystery. Lord Lovell grew old, and the story was now legendary.

The family home was eventually sold, and several years later the home’s attic was emptied. Amongst the old paintings and furniture, there was an old oak chest that appeared to be locked.

The lid was pried open and inside was a skeleton dressed in a wedding gown-- it was holding a withered wedding bouquet. At last, the bride was found.

Chest opened.

Bramshill House
Many stately homes * in England over the years have claimed to be the location for this chest. They include: Bramshill House and Marwell House both in Hampshire. Castle Horneck in Cornwall, Basildon Grotto in Berskhire, Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, Exton Hall in Rutland, Brockdish Hall in Norfolk and Bawdrip Rectory in Somerset.

* Some of these homes lay in ruins today.

A number of these homes also lay claim to the ghost of the unfortunate bride that is said to haunt their grounds. She is seen wearing her wedding gown.

Here is a recording of the song, The Mistletoe Bough.


The following is the restored silent version of the 1904 film version of this story. It is short.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Telling the Bees

An odd death superstition involves bees. It originated in Europe and then was brought to America.

In the 19th century, this custom spread from New England to the edge of the Appalachia. It involved people “telling the bees” when their beekeeper died. This superstition even included telling the bees when one of the keeper’s family members died.

It was believed if the bees were not told they would die or leave their hives in search of a new home.

This was an economic loss that family’s who kept bees were not willing to risk for honey was a valuable commodity.


So these families went out of their way to protect their hives--which included the following customs.

When someone died a person was sent to inform the bees of this death. They would then drape the hive in black crepe. In some instances, funeral cake or wine was left out for the bees to enjoy.

Many families even pinned an “invitation” to the funeral on the hive.

This last custom came about because bees were known to invade funeral services if
Danville Bee
June 4, 1956
they were not told. These incidents are well documented. Here are just a few.

In 1894, during a funeral being held in a church, the mourners noticed swarming bees. A pallbearer was stung on the neck and the Undertaker was attacked viciously.

When the procession headed for the graveyard the bees followed. Many of the mourners left afraid they would also be stung.

Minneapolis Journal
July 6,1901
In 1901, a graveside service for a deceased Indiana child turned into a scene of panic when the mourners were attacked by thousands of bees as the coffin was lowered into the ground.

The grave could not be covered until that night when it was safer.

Margaret Culp’s funeral in 1916 was delayed when farmers scheduled to dig her grave where “stung severely” by bees.

The Washington Herald
August 9,1916
Honey-bee swarm.

At the turn of the century, during a funeral for Josh Simms in Kentucky flowers were placed on his grave as it was being covered. Mourners then watched as a huge swarm of bees landed on the gravesite.

They then stung many mourners who had remained behind.

All these funerals have something in common—the deceased was either a beekeeper or was a relative of one. The bees had not been told there was a death in the family—and when the hives were checked afterward they were abandoned.

In 1858, the American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about this belief

John Greenleaf Whittier entitled, Telling the Bees. Here is just the last part of this poem.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.”

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat, and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:--
“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”


Here is a link to the entire poem.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Legend of the Qu’Appelle Valley


“I started up and bending o’ver my dead,
Asked when did her sweet lips in silence close.
“She called thy name—then passed away,” they said,
“Just at an hour when the moon arose.”

                                    --E. Pauline Johnson

In Canada there is a beautiful valley that stretches east to west across one third of the Sashatchewan province.

This valley called Qu’Appelle was in ancient times a glacial spillway but today is a popular spot for tourists who love the outdoors.

Qu'Appelle Valley

The first white settlers to this area in 1804 where fur traders and the North West Company.

One of these metis trappers was David Harmon who passed on a legend that the First Nation Crees told him in the 19th century of how the valley got its name.

The Cree call the valley “Katepwet” which was later translated into French “Qu'Appelle” which was the language the trappers spoke.

In English Qu’Appelle means, “Who calls?”

This name comes from the legend the Cree First Nation people recounted to Harmon.

This legend was then immortalized in a poem written by E. Pauline Johnson entitled, The Legend of the Qu’Appelle Valley.

The First Nation Indians whom believe in spirits believe this story is true.

Qu'Appelle River
This legend tells of a young Cree Indian brave who canoeing home from a hunt hears a voice call his name just as the moon rises in the east.

“Who calls?” he asks. He hears his name called once more but receives no response except the echo of his own voice—“Who calls?”

The next day he reaches his home only to find the beautiful young maiden he was to marry had died the evening before.

He was told with her dying breath she had called his name twice. He asked when and was told she called his name just as the moon arose.

So it was her voice he had heard.

The First Nation Indians who lived in the region told David Harmon they heard a voice as they traveled through the valley, they then would respond, “Who calls?”

Even today many claim to have heard as the moonrises the dying young woman’s call on the wind.

Johnson's Mohawk name
was Tekahionwake.
1861-1913

Here is the first stanza of Johnson’s poem.

“I am the one who loved her as my life,
Had watched her grow to sweet young womanhood;
Won the dear privilege to call her wife,
And found the world, because of her, was good.
I am the one who heard the spirit voice,
Of which the paleface settlers love to tell;
From whose strange story they have made their choice
Of naming this fair valley the “Qu’Appelle.”

The entire poem can be read here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Death Poetry: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


An English poet, Samuel Coleridge wrote a poem in 1798 entitled, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Experts have picked apart and overanalyzed this poem for two centuries. 

Christians state this poem is one of redemption where through prayer man becomes closer to God. 

Scientists state this poem reflects the higher power of the physical or natural world, which dominants man. 

Others state it is a tale of crime and punishment. 

Coleridge’s poem does reflect the elements above but from a spiritual perspective, this poem has two realms, one being reason and the other imagination.

Coleridge’s assigns his main character the “Ancient Mariner” the role of storyteller. This mariner is doomed to share his tale with those who will listen. He imparts or teaches a moral lesson that cannot be ignored--describing his own terrible misdeed-- he warns that man must not forsake the spiritual or natural world for the pursuit of pleasure. His tale is poignant for his mistake caused the agonizing deaths of 200 souls. In retribution, he wanders the earth telling his tale of woe as a warning.

Side by side with this theme is a very compelling story that entertains and draws the reader in. Coleridge uses old-fashioned spelling, the ancient belief that “gods” have the power to meddle in men's lives and the sense that this tale was passed down through the generations. He used these devices to ingeniously give the reader the flavor of bygone days. 

But it is the supernatural elements in his poem that attract many readers. For the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a tale of superstitions, curses, ghosts, and a ghost ship.

The poem begins with the Ancient Mariner telling his story to a “wedding guest” he detains. He captures this man’s attention by describing a storm that drove his ship off course into dangerous waters. Then an albatross--a sea bird-- saves his ship. It leads his ship away from the icy waters of the Antarctic. But even as his crew praises this bird, the Mariner shoots and kills it without regret:

“With my cross-bow
I I shot the Albatross.”

This angers the crew for they believed this albatross had bought the south wind that led them out of danger. But they soon forget their ire as the weather warms.

Unbeknownst to the crew, the killing of the albatross has caused the wrath of the gods who send spirits to chase the ship. The south wind calms, and the vessel and crew are stranded:

“Water, water, everywhere, 

And all the boards did shrink;
 
Water, water, everywhere,
 
Nor any drop to drink.”

The crew, tormented by thirst is again angry with the Mariner, so they place the dead Albatross around his neck. * Their ship now encounters the spirits on the ghostly ship that followed them--on board is a skeleton- who is “Death” and a deathly pale woman:

“The Night-Mare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man's blood with cold.”

These two spirits roll the dice for the souls of the crew. Death wins. Life-in-Death wins the soul of the Mariner--a prize she considers more valuable. The Mariner will now face a fate worse than death for he is cursed--he is made to watch each crew member die one by one:

“Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,

And cursed me with his eye.”

The Mariner finds himself stranded and alone:

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide, wide sea!”

“The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I.”

This curse is temporarily lifted and the Mariner who once saw all sea creatures as “slimy things” now can see their beauty:

“O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.”

As he blesses them, the albatross falls from his neck:

“The self-same moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off and sank

Like lead into the sea”.

The Mariner is partially redeemed:

“The man hath penance done,

And penance more will do.”

The bodies of the dead crewmembers rise and steer the Mariner’s ship back home--where it then sinks in a whirlpool. The Mariner has survived, but he knows he must do penance for shooting the albatross:

“I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach.”

He wanders the earth, driven by guilt, knowing he has to tell what he has learned. The “Wedding Guest” listens as he states:

“He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.”

“He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

In the end, the “Wedding Guest” wiser for the telling finds himself sad and pondering his own life.

Here is a link to the poem.


Since the poem is long, here is an excellent audio version --told by Orson Welles:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

* One standard idea or saying taken from this poem is to have an “albatross around your neck.” This means you have a constant reminder of a mistake you made.

Samuel Coleridge’s poem was not well received in the late 1700s. But today, parts of this poem are found in every form of popular culture. Books, games, comics, music, film, television and even the military all reference "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

The recent film, Life of Pi uses many elements from this poem in its storyline.

One good example of this is the British band, Iron Maiden. Steve Harris, the band’s bass player, wrote his own version of Coleridge’s poem. It became a thirteen and a half minute song on their “Powerslave” album in 1984. Here is the song…