https://youtu.be/oeLczupjZqA NEAR THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, Irish poet William Butler Yeats became actively involved in magical circles, joining The Golden Dawn, one of the legendary occult societies of the time. Yeats would say that it was a "chief influence upon his thought." Yeats believed in fairies, not in the abstract, but as real creatures, according to at least one of his … [Read more...] about The Fairy Pedant by W.B. Yeats, 1895
Phantasmagoria: On Witches, Fairies, Ghouls and Goblins
ON JUNE 16th, 1816, LORD BYRON OPENED A BOOK he'd picked up in Britain, Phantasmagoriana, (or as translated to English, Tales of the Dead), and he and his house guests took turns reading the short stories within. His house guests were Percy and Mary Shelley, her half sister Claire Clairmont, and Dr. John Polidori. It was an ill summer, Byron and Shelley were in exile, Byron staying at the Villa Diodati in Cologny, Switzerland - the year without a summer.
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This led famously to a writing competition to see who could write the best horror story. From that night came Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Polidori's The Vampyre, considered the first English vampire novel, and the precursor to Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Drawing from that idea, herein lies poems from Shakespeare, Yeats, Spenser, Kipling, Ben Johnson and others, set to music. Musical influences range from British folk and Irish traditional, to Black Sabbath, King Crimson and Jethro Tull.
If it seems a bit theatrical at times, we beg your forgiveness, especially as it might seem more like a high school musical production than Broadway. But much like Byron's party, this party took place at home.
The imagination is a wonderful place, but at times frightening and mysterious. The quickening of the pulse, shallowness of breath, that wide eyed stare all tell you the fear is upon you, that enchantment is draping itself around you like a mantle of black cashmere.
From denizens of the underbrush, the fairies who ride wild in the moonlight, to the danse macabre - the dance of death unites us all - it's a look back at a time when people weren't so certain, weren't so brave as to believe that what we see with our eyes is all there is.
The Poems: Click the poem below for the song, video and notes.
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https://youtu.be/-MpMZvLHnio Excerpt from from the book "The Story and Song of Black Roderick" AND I BID THEE REMEMBER how the little pale bride was wont to sit upon the mountain and watch the far lights in her father's home quench themselves one by one. So now of how she died shall I tell thee, and of what came to her in her passing, lest thou thinkest so innocent a child had laid … [Read more...] about Watcher In The Woods by Dora Sigerson Shorter, 1906
https://youtu.be/iZdinztu7aY Ingram wasn't a poet by nature perhaps, but he made a great song lyricist. Colorful, but simple and short, unlike most of the poets of the age. He chose the moment before the Bell Witch first made her appearance to Betsy, when life was sane and magical, in a good sort of way. The truth of the story we'll never known. We'll never know whether the horrors inflicted … [Read more...] about Queen of the Haunted Dell, by M.V. Ingram, Authenticated history of the Bell Witch, 1894.
https://youtu.be/hqp_g1-zkQA Edmund Spenser wrote Epithalamion for Elizabeth Boyle, his bride to be as wedding gift. It's an account of their wedding day, from before dawn till late in the night, following the consummation of the marriage. Consisting of 24 stanzas, corresponding to the 24 hours of Midsummer Day, it also contains 364 lines, matching the days in a year. It follows the cycle of … [Read more...] about Poem 19 (from Epithalamion) by Edmund Spenser, 1594
https://youtu.be/oDjS9PhFuwg The Sands of Dee is a poem within a novel, Alton Locke, written by Charles Kingsley in 1849. Like most great rock and roll, he pens the lines to impress a girl, to give words to an air she's played on the piano. An air without words. What is an air? To the Irish, an air is a song played on an instrument, wordlessly. As opposed to a tune, which is a melody never … [Read more...] about The Sands of Dee (from Alton Locke) By Charles Kingsley, 1849
https://youtu.be/Aw8SQU7ljBg Kipling included this little poem in his book Traffics & Discoveries in 1904. Some say it's a children't poem, an allegory. The Kipling society folks seem to think it's about naval warfare. A political tale. I love the imagery, the tone. In a few short lines, Kipling creates an impossible world, where witches and egg shells can speak to one another, albeit in … [Read more...] about The Eggshell by Rudyard Kipling, 1904
Visitor to a Moonlit Churchyard by Philip James De Loutherbourg, 1790 https://youtu.be/tvPQxGYiskQ Something is happening in The Listeners, but we never know what. We know it's about keeping promises, keeping your word, even if there's nobody there, nobody living at least to know that you did. Are the listeners the living or the dead? Is the traveller in fact the dead one, returning … [Read more...] about The Listeners by Walter de la Mare, 1912
https://youtu.be/XNEQTOgKYE8 MOSTLY FORGOTTEN TODAY, James Russell Lowell lived and breathed New England. Much as Mark Twain became the voice and accent of the midwest - the frontier at the time, Lowell became the archetype of the Yankee dialect. And in the process, helped define the mindset of the region. Born and living mainly his whole life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was … [Read more...] about Midnight by James Russell Lowell, 1842
https://youtu.be/O59iDcicIs0 IN THE EARLY SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, renowned dramatist, poet and favorite of the royal court composed a series of masques for the court's entertainment. A masque consisted of music, dance and acting, performed in a private setting featuring elaborate costumes, professional actors and elaborate stage design. The stage and costumes were often designed by … [Read more...] about The Witches’ Song, from Ben Johnson’s Masque of Queens, 1609
ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS to come to mind when you think of Shakespeare's Macbeth is the witches. "Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble" is quite cliche, isn't it? But it's also one of the archetypes for witches in the modern era. Shakespeare's play is full of the supernatural, from the witches and their prophecies to ghosts and of course, murder in a variety of forms, as well as revenge and … [Read more...] about Act IV Scene I (The Witches Song) from the Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 1606
https://youtu.be/rPD2vdtzZ3Y Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream is likely the most influential fairy tale of all time, albeit geared towards adults. It also gave us three of the most famous of all ... Oberon, Titania and of course, Puck. Oberon has an odd provenance, starting with ties to the Merovingian dynasty, who are rumored by some to be descendants of the blood line of Jesus … [Read more...] about Excerpts from William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” 1595-96