Halloween, traditionally originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, is celebrated each year on October 31. Pope Gregory III of the eighteenth century designated November 1 as ‘All Saints Day’, a time to honor all saints. Soon, people started incorporating some of the traditions of Samhain, and the evening before, came to be known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes, and eating treats.
Literature is no exception to this influence of Halloween. Evidently, we have a number of poems written about the day and day’s activities. In this section, read about spooky, spine chilling, and fun poems, to give an exciting choice to read on Halloween’s day and about it.
Best Halloween Poems
- 1 Halloween by Robert Burns
- 2 Halloween by John Mayne
- 3 Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015 by Craig Santos Perez
- 4 All Hallows by Louise Glück
- 5 Halloween Party by Kenn Nesbitt
- 6 Theme In Yellow by Carl Sandburg
- 7 Macklin’s Jack O’Lantern by David McCord
- 8 Halloween by Arthur Peterson
- 9 A Rhyme For Halloween by Maurice Kilwein Guevara
- 10 The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt
Halloween by Robert Burns
‘Halloween’ by Rober burns written in 1785 and First published in 1786, is included in the Kilmarnock Edition. Though. it is not of his best-known poems, it is one of his longest. It is also one of the earliest poems written in English on the subject of Halloween. The poem focuses on the traditions and activities associated with Halloween in 18th century Scotland. The 252 lines of the poem, distributed into twenty-eight stanzas employ a mixture of Scots dialect and English. The 20 narrative characters, present in the poem provide a detailed perspective into this season of pleasure and community.
Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Set a’ their gabs a-steerin’;
Syne, wi’ a social glass o’ strunt,
They parted aff careerin’
Fu’ blythe that night.
Halloween by John Mayne
John Mayne’s poem ‘Halloween’ written in 1780 explores the use of pranks at Halloween, reminding us that ‘trick or treat’. In the modern Halloween celebration, it is one of the most liked parts of Halloween, especially in America. The poem consists of twelve stanzas, appeared in Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine. It makes note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the spooky aspect associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts). Mayne’s composition has apparently made an influence on Robert Burn, for he appears to communicate with Mayne’s work in his poem published with the same title. Evidently, he also echoes some of Mayne’s imagery.
OF a’ the festivals we hear,
Frae Handsel-Monday till New Year,
There’s few in Scotland held mair dear
Till death in everlasting bliss
Shall steek their e’en,
Will ever be the constant wish of
‘Halloween in the Anthropocene, 2015’ the speaker addresses the “Anthropocene”. It is Halloween, specifically as the title suggests, in 2015. The poet suggests a moody setting as she speaks of “a dark day and the moon shines bright against the oil-black sky”. This poem ironically depicts the life of the privileged and the underprivileged. He compares the children dressed up for the day with the Black boys and girls toiling under the sun. It is an anguished voice out of the anguished hearts of those unaddressed souls on earth.
Darkness spills across the sky like an oil plume.
The moon reflects bleached coral. Tonight, let us
praise the sacrificed. Praise the souls of black
mothers of lost habitats, mothers of fallout, mothers
of extinction — pray for us — because even tomorrow
will be haunted — leave them, leave us, leave —
“All Hallows’ Eve” shortened in the title as ‘All Hallows’, the evening before all saints day. The day is celebrated to mark the end of the harvest. It is late October and the earth is “going to sleep” in a way because it is not going to grow for a while. The poet writes about the end of the harvest, the fields are bare and the animals are in the barn. This sense of death is brought upon the reader when the wife in the poem holds out her hand for the spirit. It seems as if she is feeding the spirit the seeds for it to grow. She is calling upon the spirit to come alive now that the earth is done harvesting.
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
And the soul creeps out of the tree.
‘Halloween Party’ written by a great American children poet, Kenn Nesbitt, illustrates the childhood memories, fun, and regret of the speaker. Being one of the most famous poems on childhood marries, it details the child’s preparation for the Halloween party. The poem throws light upon the joy and excitement of the child. At the end of the poem, the author also recollects and shares his silly mistake.
We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.
In ‘Theme in Yellow’ the Halloween night is seen through the perspective of the pumpkin. The speaker (Pumpkin) tells us the steady growth of him from the yellow balls to the matured orange/tawny into its Jack-o-lantern role during Halloween. When Halloween comes around, the children join hands and sing ghost songs around the pumpkin. In contrast to the usual spooky idea behind Halloween and Jack-o-lantern the poem present a much lighter sense about the day.
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
And the children know
I am fooling.
‘Mr. Macklin’s Jack O’Lantern’ By David McCord is a poetical description of Mr. Macklin carving the pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern. Once finished he “lights the candle in Jack’s skull.” Once lighted, it gives a kind of a creepy feeling. At the same time, it wards off the darkness as the concluding line suggests; “O Mr. Macklin! where’s the door?”.
Mr. Macklin takes his knife
And carves the yellow pumpkin face:
With Jack’s face dancing on the wall.
O Mr. Macklin! where’s the door?
Halloween by Arthur Peterson
Halloween by Arthur Peterson is yet another popular poem of Halloween night. The poem is the speaker’s experience of an unforgettable Halloween evening. He explains what he learned about the secret of those fairies and spirits that come out on Hallows ‘Eve. The poem written in eleven octaves, with a lot of imagery and reference, explores the poet’s experience of Halloween.
Out I went into the meadow,
Where the moon was shining brightly,
And the oak-tree’s lengthening shadows
To behold the elves and pixies,
To behold the merry spirits,
Who come forth on Halloween.
A Rhyme For Halloween by Maurice Kilwein Guevara
Maurice Kilwein Guevara’s poem ‘A Rhyme For Halloween’ details what happens on the eve of Halloween. It is a modern poem on Halloween with vivid imagery and rhymes. Halloween marks the ending of autumn and the arrival of winter. It is described in the poem: “The apples are thumping, winter is coming.” On the whole, the poem depicts a positive note that while a season ends, another begins.
Tonight I light the candles of my eyes in the lee
And swing down this branch full of red leaves.
By the caw of the crow on the first of the year,
Something will die, something appear.
Mary Howitt’s ‘The Spider and the Fly’ though not exactly a Halloween poem, is closely associated with its theme to the concept of Halloween. It was published in 1829. The poem is considered as one of the popular poems of Halloween, as it is often recited during Hallows’ Eve. The poem warns the young children to be aware of those who use flattery to seduce, through the tale of the spider and the fly.
“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.