Halloween from Poets E. E. Cummings and Robert Frost

Chansons Innocentes II 

by E. E. Cummings

hist     whist
little ghostthings

little twitchy
witches and tingling
hob-a-nob     hob-a-nob

little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
little itchy mousies

with scuttling
eyes     rustle and run     and

whisk     look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she’ll do to yer
nobody knows

for she knows the devil     ooch
the devil     ouch
the devil
ach     the great



Note: The poem “celebrates country folk superstitions of All Hallow’s Eve or All Soul’s Day, when ‘witches and tingling / goblins,’ ‘little ghostthings,’ and other spirits of the dead make their appearance. The poem is written as a child feels in the midst of these ideas, stories, and legends of old age, death, and the supernatural; much of the diction is in child language. [. . .] [L]little creatures from another world are ‘scuttling,’ running, and hiding, creatures that are strange and fearful to a child, yet also described as childlike in character. [. . .]

Cummings never lets us feel too sad about death. The suggestion is that we should do as children do: feel old age and death in our midst for only a brief moment, and then go back to playing. Cummings reaffirms the joy of life that is always in process, and even imagines the spirits of the dead continuing this fun, the way a child might imagine it, for, after all, it is a green, innocent devil that is depicted dancing.”

Source:  R. A. Buck, professor of English at Eastern Illinois University published  in Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, no. 18 (October, 2011)

In a Disused Graveyard

by Robert Frost

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never any more the dead.

The verses in it say and say:
“The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”

So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?

It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

Note: Sandra L. Katz, professor emerita of English at the University of Hartford, writes, “The speaker decides to tell the stones that the reasons why the graveyard is ‘disused’ is that ‘Men hate to die / And have stopped dying now forever.’ The persona is playing a joke on the stone, but one that we—perhaps foolishly—wish were true.”

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