The Haunted House
Oh, very gloomy is the house of woe, Where tears are falling while the bell is knelling, With all the dark solemnities that show That Death is in the dwelling! Oh, very, very dreary is the room Where Love, domestic Love, no longer nestles, But smitten by the common stroke of doom, The corpse lies on the trestles! But house of woe, and hearse, and sable pall, The narrow home of the departed mortal, Ne’er looked so gloomy as that Ghostly Hall, With its deserted portal! The centipede along the threshold crept, The cobweb hung across in mazy tangle, And in its winding sheet the maggot slept At every nook and angle. The keyhole lodged the earwig and her brood, The emmets of the steps has old possession, And marched in search of their diurnal food In undisturbed procession. As undisturbed as the prehensile cell Of moth or maggot, or the spider’s tissue, For never foot upon that threshold fell, To enter or to issue. O’er all there hung the shadow of a fear, A sense of mystery the spirit daunted, And said, as plain as whisper in the ear, The place is haunted. Howbeit, the door I pushed—or so I dreamed-- Which slowly, slowly gaped, the hinges creaking With such a rusty eloquence, it seemed That Time himself was speaking. But Time was dumb within that mansion old, Or left his tale to the heraldic banners That hung from the corroded walls, and told Of former men and manners. Those tattered flags, that with the opened door, Seemed the old wave of battle to remember, While fallen fragments danced upon the floor Like dead leaves in December. The startled bats flew out, bird after bird, The screech-owl overhead began to flutter, And seemed to mock the cry that she had heard Some dying victim utter! A shriek that echoed from the joisted roof, And up the stair, and further still and further, Till in some ringing chamber far aloof In ceased its tale of murther! Meanwhile the rusty armor rattled round, The banner shuddered, and the ragged streamer; All things the horrid tenor of the sound Acknowledged with a tremor. The antlers where the helmet hung, and belt, Stirred as the tempest stirs the forest branches, Or as the stag had trembled when he felt The bloodhound at his haunches. The window jingled in its crumbled frame, And through its many gaps of destitution Dolorous moans and hollow sighings came, Like those of dissolution. The wood-louse dropped, and rolled into a ball, Touched by some impulse occult or mechanic; And nameless beetles ran along the wall In universal panic. The subtle spider, that, from overhead, Hung like a spy on human guilt and error, Suddenly turned, and up its slender thread Ran with a nimble terror. The very stains and fractures on the wall, Assuming features solemn and terrific, Hinted some tragedy of that old hall, Locked up in hieroglyphic. Some tale that might, perchance, have solved the doubt, Wherefore, among those flags so dull and livid, The banner of the bloody hand shone out So ominously vivid. Some key to that inscrutable appeal Which made the very frame of Nature quiver, And every thrilling nerve and fiber feel So ague-like a shiver. 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! Prophetic hints that filled the soul with dread, But through one gloomy entrance pointing mostly, The while some secret inspiration said, “That chamber is the ghostly!” Across the door no gossamer festoon Swung pendulous, --no web, no dusty fringes, No silky chrysalis or white cocoon, About its nooks and hinges. The spider shunned the interdicted room, The moth, the beetle, and the fly were banished, And when the sunbeam fell athwart the gloom, The very midge had vanished. One lonely ray that glanced upon a bed, As if with awful aim direct and certain, To show the Bloody Hand, in burning red, Embroidered on the curtain.
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