The Little Ghost, A poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high — higher than most —
And the green gate was locked.
And yet I did not think of that
Till after she was gone —
I knew her by the broad white hat,
All ruffled, she had on.
By the dear ruffles round her feet,
By her small hands that hung
In their lace mitts, austere and sweet,
Her gown’s white folds among.
I watched to see if she would stay,
What she would do — and oh!
She looked as if she liked the way
I let my garden grow!
She bent above my favourite mint
With conscious garden grace,
She smiled and smiled — there was no hint
Of sadness in her face.
Like angels with wild beast’s eyes
I shall return to your bedroom
And silently glide toward you
With the shadows of the night;
And, dark beauty, I shall give you
Kisses cold as the moon
And the caresses of a snake
That crawls around a grave.
When the livid morning comes,
You’ll find my place empty,
And it will be cold there till night.
I wish to hold sway over
Your life and youth by fear,
As others do by tenderness.
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Evening ghosts along the river
I could tell you how the river looks
sketched in evening light;
I know the smell of mist so fresh over the river,
and night air that parts like tired curtains,
with wet heat that sighs
and slaps the grass when you move on;
I’ve felt what a violin says
to the heart of the river ghosts
over waters edge,
and how an old man’s voice sounds best after smoking,
but a woman’s is best talking.
There are ghosts on these paths,
but they don’t hunger anymore;
hunger is for the living
with morning light.
Robert Frost (1915)
I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.
O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.
I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;
The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.
It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me—
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.
They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.