The Bedtime Tale, a poem by Ken Gosse at
Robert Graves after Robert William Buss (The Ghost Story)

The Bedtime Tale

The Bedtime Tale

written by: Ken Gosse


Young girls in 1874 with access to new tales of lore of horror (which made their debut about a hundred years before) who didn’t know what lay in store found fears are strongest when they’re new. Some authors, Shelley, Dickens, Poe, and others whom we might not know, along with Bronte, Hoffman, too, wrote frightening plots. A sample few:

An old nurse has a tale to tell,
events which didn’t turn out well;
seductive vampires who ensnare
all living flesh by fiendish stare;
an organ plays within a tomb
where ancestors all met their doom;
a monk seduced by potion’s drink
indulged in thoughts we dare not think;
a spirit whose appearance lends
its presence as men near their ends;
the Yorkshire moor knocks at the door
of lonely haunts in days of yore;
a monster, stitched from parts of men
once buried, made to rise again;
and nights spent in a haunted mansion
greatly foster fears’ expansion.

Perils of a library
within a home where girls are free
to read at night by candlelight—
with dusk o’ertaken by moonlight—
in darkened rooms where shadow looms,
a bat beyond closed curtains zooms,
the scratch of mice, the tats of rats,
outdoors, the screams of feral cats
all fill the air with dark despair
while nearer still, the creaking chair
sends chills through bones while thick, dank air
weaves tangles through their well-coifed hair;
damp spirits slip through window slats
as if the lights are welcome mats
and wander through their lonely tomb
to deepen every shadow’s gloom
while now and then the strongest fight
to turn the page before her sight
whence books will moan by stealth’s decree,
“Return me to the library!”

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