This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
  • LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

"All Souls" by Edith Wharton

The Weird Tradition

Join LibraryThing to post.

Oct 18, 2016, 12:25pm Top

Just in time for Halloween, I recently ran across the lovely Weird poem "All Souls" by Edith Wharton. I really like its incantatory nature, not to mention the imagery.


Edited: Sep 16, 2018, 9:09am Top

A very nice surprise. I've enjoyed her ghost stories and several of her novels, almost on par with Dickens. She does for her northeastern USA region what he did for England. Both are unfamiliar to me, so each author transports me to their area of expertise in turn. As I've mentioned in many other posts elsewhere on LT, place is my primary preference, over people or plot. The setting must grab me before I care about any of the characters or what they're trying to say or convey.

Her poetry is new territory for me. A timely find. All Saint's Day is Nov.1st, All Soul's Day is Nov.2nd (the celebration of the non-beatified), then Nov.3rd it's back to business! Her focus on 'couples' is an interesting revelation of the obvious in a cemetery ... born into life, you are with your family (who observe this feast day with memories of you, thus warming the corpse, reversing the aging process for a brief time), but in death, the coffin is placed next to the spouse, thus they are side by side but out of reach. The reassurance to remain unafraid. This longing between deceased lovers is acute, when compared to living lovers who go once a year-ish to honour their dead family members, but spend the majority of their time in petty conflict, absorbed in things that don't matter, losing the time they have to love each other physically, thus one more kiss, one more ...

And where should a man hold his mate and say:
“One more, one more, ere we go their way”?
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the living can learn by the churchyard light.

And how forget, who have seen how soon
They lie thus chambered and cold to the moon?
How scorn, how hate, how strive, we too,
Who must do so soon as those others do?

Mend your ways, mortals! It would not be unusual for a young man who'd lost both parents, to visit their graves on this day, taking with him the one he loves most in this world. Things have changed quite a bit now, with ashes being scattered wherever the mood strikes (or being blown out of a cannon in the case of Hunter S. Thompson), but cemeteries were a sacred ritual, an observance, and to honour the dead was an 'indulgence' (a Roman Catholic term for a means of service) when my grandparents were born (1901/02). This love resurrects the past, the present is united, but the future (death) is far too close at hand. Love the use of sensory language; hear, see, burn, kiss, shudder, drip, grope, thirst. Visceral and vivid. I can even smell the wilting roses.

Group: The Weird Tradition

470 members

15,136 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,821,090 books! | Top bar: Always visible