From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend ye
And the spirits that stand
By the naked man
In the Book of Moons, defend ye!

That of your five sound sense
You never be forsaken
Nor wander from
Yourself with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon

The moon’s my constant mistress
And the lonely owl my marrow
The flaming drake
And the night-crow make
Me music to my sorrow

I know more than Apollo
For oft, when he lies sleeping
I see the stars
At mortal wars
And the rounded welkin weeping

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander
With a burning spear
And a horse of air
To the wilderness I wander

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond
The wide world’s end
Methinks it is no journey

(Not specifically a Halloween poem, but it certainly sets the mood, doesn’t it? This is Tom O’Bedlam’s Song, dating from sometime around 1600. There are lots more verses, and many different versions.)

7 thoughts on “Halloween”

  1. For to see Mad Tom of Bedlam
    Ten thousand miles I traveled
    Mad Maudlin goes on dirty toes
    For to save her shoes from gravel.

    No gypsy, slut or doxy
    Shall win my mad Tom from me
    I’ll weep all night, with stars I’ll fight
    The fray shall well become me

    -Mad Maudlin’s Search; some time after the first poem

  2. And as long as we’re doing Halloween, spare a thought for Tam Lin:

    The Queen o’ Elfinland passed by
    Took me wi’ her to dwell,
    E’en whaur there is a pleasant place
    For them that in it dwell,
    Though at the end o’ seiven year
    They pay their soul to Hell.

    The nicht it is auld Hallow E’en
    When elfin folk do ride,
    And them that would their true-loves win
    At Miles Cross they maun bide.

  3. I also like this Halloweenish poem, from Thomas Pynchon:

    Dream tonight of peacock tails
    Diamond fields and spouter whales
    Ills are many, blessings few
    But dreams tonight will shelter you.

    Let the vampire’s creaking wing
    Hide the stars while banshees sing
    Let the ghouls gorge all night long
    Dreams will keep you safe and strong

    Skeletons with poison teeth
    Risen from the world beneath
    Ogre, troll, and loup-garou
    Bloody wraith who looks like you

    Shadow on the window shade
    Harpies in a midnight raid
    Goblins seeking tender prey
    Dreams will chase them all away

    Dreams are like a magic cloak
    Woven by the fairy folk
    Covering from top to toe
    Keeping you from winds and woe

    And should the Angel come this night
    To fetch your soul away from light
    Cross yourself, and face the wall
    Dreams will help you not at all

  4. Poul Anderson used lines from Tom O’Bedlam’s Song as titles for several of his books, most notably, A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows.

  5. I’ve only heard the Steeleye Span version, with verses like
    This staff has murdered giants, and me bag a long knife carries
    for to cut mince pies from children’t thighs
    with which I feed the faries

    and the chorus
    still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys
    bdlam boys are bonnie
    for they all go bare and they live by the air
    and they want no drink nor money

    I’ve always liked the song, and found it very informative. Before I heard it, I didn’t
    even know the man in the moon had a dog.

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