Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hallowe'en by Joel Benton


Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite
All are on their rounds to-night,-
In the wan moon's silver ray
Thrives their helter-skelter play.

Fond of cellar, barn,or stack,
True unto the almanac,
They present to credulous eyes
Strange hobgoblin mysteries.

Cabbage-stomps-straws wet with dew-
Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,
And a mirror for some lass,
Show what wonders come to pass.

Doors they move, and gates they hide,
Mischiefs that on moon-beams ride
Are their deeds, and, by their spells,
Love records its oracles.

Don't we all, of long ago,
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, coofllke pranks recall?

Eery shadows were they then-
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen,
Precious would be Halloween.
-Joel Benton

There's a couple of reasons why I picked this poem today. The first is to remind you of "the reason for the season." Halloween is All Hallows Eve. November 1 is All Saint's Day when we theoretically honor all the saints for the good work they did in defeating the forces of evil. Therefore, the forces of evil are particularly weak on that day and a while after. Since they know it's their last chance to snare souls before they're severely weakened, all the Bad Things out there make a last ditch effort to get people.

In order to keep them at bay, Mummers and Morris Dancers used to go around putting on performances which theoretically scared the Bad Things away. Then people gave them food in payment for their services. If someone didn't pay, the performers would withdraw their protection, and Bad Things would happen on that person's property. As time went on, these customs gradually lost some of their original meanings, and through various stages came to be what we celebrate today.

This poem talks about some of the Bad Things and the mischief they'd cause, which relates back to my reason number one for posting it. The second reason appears in the last two lines of the poem: Were we once more but sixteen, Precious would be Halloween. I would personally put the ideal Halloween age a little younger, but I certainly agree that certain holidays are a lot more fun when you're a little kid.

I love Halloween. The activities around it like Hayrides and Apple Picking, and Walks through the autumn woods and fallen leaves at night till you come upon a hillside full of flickering Jack-O-Lanterns. I like how it's a little bit scary and mysterious and magical--but not too much. I like having an excuse to get more varieties of candy than I generally treat myself to. And I especially like having an excuse to dress up in costume.

This year though, the weather is in the 80's, there are no woods, fallen leaves, or hayrides. I might convince Peter to carve a Jack-O-Lantern tonight if I'm lucky. I got to dress up for one church party, but got there late and there were far too many kids there to get a good look at any of them. I really don't need any more candy, and the whole thing is generally disappointing. Ah well...maybe in a few years when I have kids of my own it'll be fun again.


  1. My take on the poem is that it is the sixteen year olds who are out there DOING the pranks, removing doors, and losing gates. The fear then is the fear of being caught, a wonderful, pit of the stomach fear.

  2. Yeah...That's what I was trying to hint at with the whole "withdrawing their protection" and Bad Things ambiguous statements. It's kind of like the Mafia that way.