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The Haunted House
by [?]


[Note: From the opening number of Hood’s Magazine, January 1844. Written to accompany an engraving from a painting by Thomas Creswick, bearing the same title.]

A ROMANCE.

“A jolly place, said he, in days of old,
But something ails it now: the spot is curst.”
WORDSWORTH.

PART I.

Some dreams we have are nothing else but dreams,
Unnatural, and full of contradictions;
Yet others of our most romantic schemes
Are something more than fictions.

It might be only on enchanted ground;
It might be merely by a thought’s expansion;
But, in the spirit or the flesh, I found
An old deserted Mansion.

A residence for woman, child, and man,
A dwelling place,–and yet no habitation;
A House,–but under some prodigious ban
Of excommunication.

Unhinged the iron gates half open hung,
Jarr’d by the gusty gales of many winters,
That from its crumbled pedestal had flung
One marble globe in splinters.

No dog was at the threshold, great or small;
No pigeon on the roof–no household creature–
No cat demurely dozing on the wall–
Not one domestic feature.

No human figure stirr’d, to go or come,
No face look’d forth from shut or open casement;
No chimney smoked–there was no sign of Home
From parapet to basement.

With shatter’d panes the grassy court was starr’d;
The time-worn coping-stone had tumbled after;
And thro’ the ragged roof the sky shone, barr’d
With naked beam and rafter.

O’er all there hung a shadow and a fear;
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is Haunted!

The flow’r grew wild and rankly as the weed,
Roses with thistles struggled for espial,
And vagrant plants of parasitic breed
Had overgrown the Dial.

But gay or gloomy, steadfast or infirm,
No heart was there to heed the hour’s duration;
All times and tides were lost in one long term
Of stagnant desolation.

The wren had built within the Porch, she found
Its quiet loneliness so sure and thorough;
And on the lawn,–within its turfy mound,–
The rabbit made his burrow.

The rabbit wild and gray, that flitted thro’
The shrubby clumps, and frisk’d, and sat, and vanish’d,
But leisurely and bold, as if he knew
His enemy was banish’d.

The wary crow,–the pheasant from the woods–
Lull’d by the still and everlasting sameness,
Close to the mansion, like domestic broods,
Fed with a “shocking tameness.”

The coot was swimming in the reedy pond,
Beside the water-hen, so soon affrighted;
And in the weedy moat the heron, fond
Of solitude, alighted.

The moping heron, motionless and stiff,
That on a stone, as silently and stilly,
Stood, an apparent sentinel, as if
To guard the water-lily.

No sound was heard except, from far away,
The ringing of the witwall’s shrilly laughter,
Or, now and then, the chatter of the jay,
That Echo murmur’d after.

But Echo never mock’d the human tongue;
Some weighty crime, that Heaven could not pardon,
A secret curse on that old Building hung,
And its deserted Garden.

The beds were all untouch’d by hand or tool;
No footstep marked the damp and mossy gravel,
Each walk as green as is the mantled pool,
For want of human travel.

The vine unpruned, and the neglected peach,
Droop’d from the wall with which they used to grapple;
And on the canker’d tree, in easy reach,
Rotted the golden apple.

But awfully the truant shunn’d the ground,
The vagrant kept aloof, and daring Poacher;
In spite of gaps that thro’ the fences round
Invited the encroacher.

For over all there hung a cloud of fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is Haunted!