Hallowe’en

by Sheri-Ann O’Shea

Oh! Hallowe’en is not about the grave
__Or ghosts or horrors fit to make men rave
It’s not about black witches and black cats
__Or goats or toads or spider webs or bats
There’s nought in it of skeletons in chains
__Or blood or leering heads protruding brains
Or grinning pumpkins lighted from within
__Or sound recordings making dreadful din
The moans and groans, the creaking door, the screams
__The notion that your nightmares aren’t mere dreams
What sickness is it in us that craves fear?
__And what perverse delight holds evil dear?
What view of education and of care
__Sends children trick-or-treating every year?

All Hallow’s Eve anticipates a Feast
__The godly from the bonds of earth released
The glory of the saints in heav’n above
__Their joyful ecstasy of endless love
Whose brightness fills our eyes and draws us on
__To go where faithful souls alone have gone
If they, like us, were weak and sinful men
__They give us hope that we may rise again
And tread the path of Calvary to the Cross
__Nor turn aside nor dread no earthly loss
They all behold us with the eyes of friends
__Each one to some lost lamb his arm extends
Oh no! there’s really nothing fearful here
__Just members of a family most dear
And over all there reigns the goodliest King –
__They see and love and are possessed by Him.

Sheri-Ann O’Shea is a South African-born teacher, now living in Brisbane, Australia with her
husband and three lively boys.

 

All Hallows’ Eve

by Adam J. Sedia

The moon is full,
The trees are bare,
Dead leaves glide through
The cool, dry air.
The night is silent as a grave,
Or some deep, dark, unfathomed cave
Beneath the stars’ cold stare.

The silence breaks
With hollow moans
And beastly snarls
And clacking bones:
The God-forsaken, restless dead
Awaken from their earthen bed
Beneath cold, carven stones.

Their din grows loud
And twice more dread
Than piercing screams
Or blood fresh-shed.
Out from the very depths of Hell
They slink, too terrible to tell:
The cursed and restless dead.

Their summoners
Shriek shrill with joy
As they behold
That grim convoy.
By potions, charms, and arcane verse
They placed this night beneath a curse
And bade the dead deploy.

Assembled now,
That fiendish crowd
Swarms dizzily
And hails aloud
The thousand execrable names
Of him who reigns in acrid flames,
In doom’s eternal shroud.

The chaos of
The hellish throng
Soon dies away,
But not for long:
More fearsome than the din before,
Their voices join as one and roar
A wild, infernal song:

“Praise the one
Once bright as sun,
Who dared defy
The Three-in-One.

“And so he fell
Too far to tell,
To reign as king,
Our king, in Hell.

“He dared to bring
Death’s dreadful sting
To Earth, to gain
His following.

“He first laid eye
On man, and by
His sweetened tongue
He made man die!

“Alas! Our wrong
Prevailed not long,
Soon overcome
By One more strong.

“Still, bubbling from
Hell’s fires, we come
Up to this sphere
In massive sum.

“Behold our sheer,
Brute strength and hear
Our battle-cry
And quake with fear!

“We venture out
To thrash about
This world of men
And win our rout,

“For thus we can
Complete the plan
Our master spun
When time began.

“Now, to our feet –
To prowl the street
And visit doom
On all we greet!”

Then off they fly
With roars and shrieks,
A putrid mass
Of loathsome freaks.
In frenzied swarms, they pierce and tear
Throughout the land; they fill the air
And choke it with their reeks.

No soul is safe,
No home secure,
No heart so strong
It could endure
That mob, accursed from Above,
Bereft of life, devoid of love,
Whose doom is swift and sure!

With sharpened claws
And bloodstained sneer,
They plunge the world
In abject fear,
Let loose for what they most enjoy:
To slay, burn, terrorize, destroy,
And raise Hell’s horrors here.

Their rampage, though,
Must cease at last,
For in the east
The day comes fast.
Though theirs was cold and shadowed night,
They now must yield to breaking light
That fells them with a blast.

With that first ray,
A piercing cry
From all the ghouls
Cuts through the sky.
Dawn breaks! At last the Day of Saints,
Expels them back to their restraints
In flames that never die.

Great Michael leads
A countless host
For Father, Son,
And Holy Ghost.
With eagle wings and flaming swords
They charge and rout the demon hordes
And squelch their one night’s boast.

Then through the clouds
Pure music flies.
A radiant choir
Circles the skies:
The saints who fasted, prayed, and bled,
Whose faith has conquered death and dread,
Have come, all come to grace the earth
As testament to second birth
In Light that never dies.

 

 

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13 Responses

  1. Monty

    Phew! I dunno yet what to say about these; I’ll have to think about it for a bit . .

    Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Concerning the first poem (“Hallowe’en”), I am reminded of what my good friend the late poet Henry George Fischer used to say about near-rhymes and slant-rhymes and off-rhymes. They were acceptable tools of the trade, said Henry, as long as they DID NOT SERVE AS CLOSURE for an otherwise rhyming poem.

    Ending the poem with the non-rhyme of “King” and “Him” spoils everything else.

    Reply
    • Cadwel E. Bruise

      I wonder what Mr. Fischer would have said about the following lyric by Emily Dickinson?

      A Bird came down the Walk—
      He did not know I saw—
      He bit an Angleworm in halves
      And ate the Fellow, raw,

      And then he drank a Dew
      From a convenient Grass—
      And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
      To let a Beetle pass—

      He glanced with rapid eyes
      That hurried all abroad—
      They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
      He stirred his Velvet Head—

      Like one in danger, Cautious,
      I offered him a Crumb,
      And he unrolled his feathers
      And rowed him softer Home—

      Than Oars divide the Ocean,
      Too silver for a seam—
      Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
      Leap, plashless as they swim.

      Reply
  3. James A. Tweedie

    Sheri-Ann, A small bump at the end but otherwise I give your double sonnet the grade of Wow+! I am, of course, somewhat biased towards the subject, but even so, you carried the theme through to a triumphant conclusion. There are many good phrases here but I particularly liked “They all behold us with the eyes of friends.” That is one of the best descriptions of the “cloud of witnesses” that I have heard for a long time! Well done, and thank you.

    Adam, a very different poem in both tone and form, and yet you and Sheri-Ann reach the same conclusion! You chose a challenging poetic form and sustained it without a hitch. The contrasting interlude was innovative and set the stage for the dramatic return to the original structure and an All Hallow’s triumph. From beginning to end of your poem, in my mind I was hearing Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” playing along as background accompaniment. Your verse was as powerful as the music, which is high praise, indeed!

    Reply
  4. Monty

    I glanced over both poems earlier in the day before I had to leave the house; and realised immediately that they deserved far more time than I then had.

    Upon returning home just now, I’ve since dedicated many minutes to both poems . . and I feel that they’re both epic epics. Reading them was, for me, like listening to a Dylan song: where one becomes so wrapped-up in the story, one doesn’t know when it’s gonna end.. and five or six minutes seems like twenty. I can sometimes come away from a Dylan song feeling like I’ve just watched a 90-minute film . . and this was the feeling I got from the above poems.

    They’re both so cleverly and carefully worded; and they carry the reader along so fluently and fluidly . . allowing one to become totally enwrapped in the themes.

    Sheri-Ann . . I’m a bit old-fashioned, me: and I never condone the non-usage of full-stops and commas . . but in Hallowe’en, the omittance of such seems to enhance the flow. But I did find myself wondering why ya chose to use commas in lines 9 and 21 . . and nowhere else. In line 9, if ya felt the need to insert commas after ‘groans’ and ‘door’.. why not after ‘screams’, where it seems, to me, to be indispensable?

    Regarding the half-rhymes highlighted by Mr Salemi at the end of the 2nd verse (and the same at the end of the 1st verse: care/year): I can’t pretend that such imbalances don’t grate with me . . they always do. But in this instance, in the light of such a carefully-considered piece of work; I feel that I can get over it.

    Adam . . This is pure poetry of the highest order: so expertly crafted into an uncommon form. And such unwavering discipline in its metrical-equality and full-rhymes. And, my, doesn’t it flow along well, allowing the reader’s absorption to become effortless.

    On top of which, all of the above is contained within such an imaginative and relatable interpretation of Halloween . . which renders it, in my eyes, an absolute masterpiece.

    Reply
  5. David Watt

    Both poems are cleverly written and powerfully descriptive. “All Hallows Eve” struck me as truly epic, yet still engaging from beginning to end.

    Reply
  6. Wilbur Dee Case

    Ms. O’Shea’s “Hallowe’en” is a striking poem in many ways. First, her unpunctuated, heroic couplets carry remarkable substance. If not as refined as those of Pope or Wheatley, they nevertheless carry disciplined argument. They are the type of lines one misses in the New Millennium, logical and cogent.

    Notice the following couplet:

    Or grinning pumpkins lighted from within
    Or sound recordings making dreadful din.

    The first line encapsulates an idea clearly and succinctly; on that particular image, I think better than anyone in our language; and note the assonance and internal rhyme.

    Although Ms. O’Shea can take this remark with a grain of salt, as many do here @ SPC, and elsewhere: I really like the approximate rhyme right at the conclusion. Its slight discord is remarkable, on a level of that achieved, in my mind, only by Dickinson.

    Reply
    • S-A

      To be compared to Dickinson, and even NOT quite to Pope, is praise I know how to value. Thank you.

      Reply
  7. Waldeci Erebus

    Adam Sedia’s “All Hallow’s Eve” is a fine poem. I like the poem better than Dryden’s “Saint Celia’s Day”. It has the clarity of Coleridge in his “Rime”, and the varied strains of Poe in his “Bells”. It reminds me of the kind of poetry Mr. Gosselin and Mr. Krusch approach.

    Note the brilliance of the opening stanza:

    The moon is full,
    The trees are bare,
    Dead leaves glide through
    The cool, dry air.
    The night is silent, as a grave,
    or some deep, dark, unfathomed cave
    Beneath the stars cold stare.

    The simplicity of the diction, the dead-panned quality of the tone, and the remarkable iambic pacing all combine to set the scene, as carefully as Poe or Hawthorne in their short stories. Note, as well, the excellent use of a spondee at its conclusion.

    Though the poem lacks Shakespeare’s dramatic power and remarkable colouring, seen even in a smaller work, like “The Phoenix and the Turtle”, or Milton’s epic power, seen even in his shorter poems, like L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, and Lycidas, it refines echoes of their poetry, and Donne’s, I think. I hear them all in Sedia’s off-handed phrases, as, for example, in the middle section, which reminds me of a more refined cross between Hecate (Thomas Middleton’s? iambic tetrametres) and the Witches (Shakespeare’s trochaic tetrametres) in “Macbeth”.

    Mr. Med correctly notes the smoothness of the artistry, which I think marks this as a potentially anthologized piece for our era; and I also agree with Mr. Tweedie on its musicality, strains of Mussorgsky could serve as a background, or perhaps Berlioz, Gounod, or Mahler.

    Reply
    • Adam Sedia

      Thank you for the comments. It is humbling to have my work discussed in the same sentences as so many great names.

      Reply

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