Gothic Romantic Poetry

Charles Baudelaire
April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867

Baudelaire is considered one of the great 19th century poets. He  believed that every kind of experience could be the subject for artistic inquiry. He also believed  that evil and vice had been overlooked as an expression of  beauty and order. These original  ideas  would later influence modernist writers.


by: Charles Baudelaire

      SOFTLY as brown-eyed Angels rove
      I will return to thy alcove,
      And glide upon the night to thee,
      Treading the shadows silently.
      And I will give to thee, my own,
      Kisses as icy as the moon,
      And the caresses of a snake
      Cold gliding in the thorny brake.
      And when returns the livid morn
      Thou shalt find all my place forlorn
      And chilly, till the falling night.
      Others would rule by tenderness
      Over thy life and youthfulness,
      But I would conquer thee by fright!

John Keats

31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821
John Keats was one of England’s greatest poets and one of the last Romantics. His poetry is notable for his evident  love of and sensuous descriptions of the beauty of nature.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
"I love thee true."

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh'd fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four. And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream'd - Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill's side.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - "La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.


Percy Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822
was a seventeenth generation descendant of Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel and was considered one of the greatest English Romantic poets. He was also famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron and his marriage to novelist Mary Shelley the author of Frankenstein. Shelley eloped to Scotland when he was aged 19 with Harriet Westbrook, a sixteen year old daughter of a coffee-house keeper. Later Shelley returned to England where he became involved in radical politics. He met William Godwin the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of Vindication of the Rights of Women and the father of Mary Shelley. Shelley then abandoned his pregnant wife and child and ran away with Mary, then 16.
On 8 July 1822, less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm while in his schooner, Don Juan. Shelley claimed to have met his Doppelgänger, foreboding his own death.


      WAY! the moor is dark beneath the moon,
      Rapid clouds have drunk the last pale beam of even:
      Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon,
      And profoundest midnight shroud the serene lights of heaven.
      Pause not! the time is past! Every voice cries 'Away!'
      Tempt not with one last tear thy friend's ungentle mood:
      Thy lover's eye, so glazed and cold, dares not entreat thy stay:
      Duty and dereliction guide thee back to solitude.
      Away, away! to thy sad and silent home;
      Pour bitter tears on its desolated hearth;
      Watch the dim shades as like ghosts they go and come,
      And complicate strange webs of melancholy mirth.
      The leaves of wasted autumn woods shall float around thine head,
      The blooms of dewy Spring shall gleam beneath thy feet:
      But thy soul or this world must fade in the frost that binds the dead,
      Ere midnight's frown and morning's smile, ere thou and peace, may meet.
      The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose,
      For the weary winds are silent, or the moon is in the deep;
      Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows;
      Whatever moves or toils or grieves hath its appointed sleep.
      Thou in the grave shall rest:--yet, till the phantoms flee,
      Which that house and heath and garden made dear to thee erewhile,
      Thy remembrance and repentance and deep musings are not free
      From the music of two voices, and the light of one sweet smile.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 –1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher. He was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. Throughout his adult life, Coleridge suffered from crippling bouts of anxiety and depression which he chose to treat these episodes with opium, becoming an addict in the process.Although Coleridge was primarily a Romantic poet some of his poetry had Gothic overtones , such as Christabel which has a damsel in distress and a dark and brooding atmosphere
Read more Here

The Gothic influence in Coleridge Here

Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

Conrad Aiken came from a  wealthy, and well known family who were from New England but moved to Savannah, Georgia. His father was a respected physician and surgeon however for no apparent reason Conrad's father suddenly  seemed to change his temperament and became difficult to get on with and violent. Then early in the morning of February 27, 1901, he murdered his wife and shot himself. Conrad (who was eleven years old) heard the gunshots and discovered the bodies. After this tragedy he was raised by his great-great-aunt in Massachusetts.
To read more about the life of Conrad Aiken read his autobiographical novel Ushant (1952), one of his major works which is an excellent source of information. In this book he speaks candidly about his various affairs and marriages, his attempted suicide and fear of insanity


by: Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

      N the pale mauve twilight, streaked with orange,
      Exquisitely sweet,--
      She leaned upon her balcony and looked across the street;
      And across the huddled roofs of the misty city,
      Across the hills of tenements, so gray,
      She looked into the west with a young and infinite pity,
      With a young and wistful pity, as if to say
      The dark was coming, and irresistible night,
      Which man would attempt to meet
      With here and there a little flickering light. . . .
      The orange faded, the housetops all were black,
      And a strange and beautiful quiet
      Came unexpected, came exquisitely sweet,
      On market-place and street;
      And where were lately crowds and sounds and riot
      Was a gentle blowing of wind, a murmur of leaves,
      A single step, or voice, and under the eaves
      The scrambling of sparrows; and then the hush swept back.
      She leaned upon her balcony, in the darkness,
      Folding her hands beneath her chin;
      And watched the lamps begin
      Here and there to pierce like eyes the darkness,--
      From windows, luminous rooms,
      And from the damp dark street
      Between the moving branches, and the leaves with rain still sweet.
      It was strange: the leaves thus seen,
      With the lamplight's cold bright glare thrown up among them,--
      The restless maple leaves,
      Twinkling their myriad shadows beneath the eaves,--
      Were lovelier, almost, than with sunlight on them,
      So bright they were with young translucent green;
      Were lovelier, almost, than with moonlight on them. . . .
      And looking so wistfully across the city,
      With such a young, and wise, and infinite pity
      For the girl who had no lover
      To walk with her along a street like this,
      With slow steps in the rain, both aching for a kiss,--
      It seemed as if all evenings were the same,
      As if all evenings came
      With just such tragic peacefulness as this;
      With just such hint of loneliness or pain,
      The quiet after rain.
      Would her lover, then, grow old sooner than she,
      And find a night like this too damp to walk?
      Would he prefer to stay indoors and talk,
      Or read the evening paper, while she sewed, or darned a sock,
      And listened to the ticking of the clock:
      Would he prefer it to lamplight on a tree?
      Would he be old and tired,
      And, having all the comforts he desired,
      Take no interest in the twilight coming down
      So beautifully and quietly on the town?
      Would her lover, then, grow old sooner than she?
      A neighbour started singing, singing a child to sleep.
      It was strange: a song thus heard,--
      In the misty evening, after an afternoon of rain,--
      Seemed more beautiful than happiness, more beautiful than pain,
      Seemed to escape the music and the word,
      Only, somehow, to keep
      A warmth that was lovelier than the song of any bird.
      Was it because it came up through this tree,
      Through the lucent leaves that twinkled on this tree,
      With the bright lamp there beneath them in the street?
      It was exquisitely sweet:
      So unaffected, so unconscious that it was heard.
      Or was it because she looked across the city,
      Across the hills of tenements, so black,
      And thought of all the mothers with a young and infinite pity? . . .
      The child had fallen asleep, the hush swept back,
      The leaves hung lifeless on the tree.
      It was too bad the sky was dark.
      A cat came slinking close along the wall.
      For the moon was full just now, and in the park,
      If the sky were clear at all,
      The lovers upon the moonlight grass would sprawl,
      And whisper in the shadows, and laugh, and there
      She would be going, maybe, with a white rose in her hair . . .
      But would youth at last grow weary of these things,
      Of the ribbons and the laces,
      And the latest way of putting up one's hair?
      Would she no longer care,
      In that undiscovered future of recurring springs,
      If, growing old and plain, she no longer turned the faces
      And saw the people stare?
      Would she hear music and not yearn
      To take her lover's arm for one more turn? . . .
      The leaves hung breathless on the dripping maple tree,
      The man across the street was going out.
      It was the evening made her think such things, no doubt.
      But would her lover grow old sooner than she? . . .
      Only the evening made her think such things, no doubt. . . .
      And yet, and yet,--
      Seeing the tired city, and the trees so still and wet,--
      It seemed as if all evenings were the same;
      As if all evenings came,
      Despite her smile at thinking of a kiss,
      With just such tragic peacefulness as this;
      With just such hint of loneliness or pain;
      The perfect quiet that comes after rain.

 Kenneth Slessor (1901 – 1971)

Kenneth Slessor was an Australian poet and journalist who was born in Orange in N.S.W, Australia to a father of German, Jewish descent and a mother from the outer Hebrides (Scotland). His first poem was published when he was only 16 years of age. His poem "Five Bells" which is concerned with Sydney Harbour, time, the past, memory, and the death of Joe Lynch an artist, friend and colleague,is probably his best known poem.
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Five Bells

Time that is moved by little fidget wheels
Is not my time, the flood that does not flow.
Between the double and the single bell
Of a ship's hour, between a round of bells
From the dark warship riding there below,
I have lived many lives, and this one life
Of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells.

Deep and dissolving verticals of light
Ferry the falls of moonshine down. Five bells
Coldly rung out in a machine's voice. Night and water
Pour to one rip of darkness, the Harbour floats
In the air, the Cross hangs upside-down in water.

Why do I think of you, dead man, why thieve
These profitless lodgings from the flukes of thought
Anchored in Time? You have gone from earth,
Gone even from the meaning of a name;
Yet something's there, yet something forms its lips
And hits and cries against the ports of space,
Beating their sides to make its fury heard.

Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face
In agonies of speech on speechless panes?
Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name!

But I hear nothing, nothing...only bells,
Five bells, the bumpkin calculus of Time.
Your echoes die, your voice is dowsed by Life,
There's not a mouth can fly the pygmy strait -
Nothing except the memory of some bones
Long shoved away, and sucked away, in mud;
And unimportant things you might have done,
Or once I thought you did; but you forgot,
And all have now forgotten - looks and words
And slops of beer; your coat with buttons off,
Your gaunt chin and pricked eye, and raging tales
Of Irish kings and English perfidy,
And dirtier perfidy of publicans
Groaning to God from Darlinghurst.
Five bells.

Then I saw the road, I heard the thunder
Tumble, and felt the talons of the rain
The night we came to Moorebank in slab-dark,
So dark you bore no body, had no face,
But a sheer voice that rattled out of air
(As now you'd cry if I could break the glass),
A voice that spoke beside me in the bush,
Loud for a breath or bitten off by wind,
Of Milton, melons, and the Rights of Man,
And blowing flutes, and how Tahitian girls
Are brown and angry-tongued, and Sydney girls
Are white and angry-tongued, or so you'd found.
But all I heard was words that didn't join
So Milton became melons, melons girls,
And fifty mouths, it seemed, were out that night,
And in each tree an Ear was bending down,
Or something that had just run, gone behind the grass,
When blank and bone-white, like a maniac's thought,
The naphtha-flash of lightning slit the sky,
Knifing the dark with deathly photographs.
There's not so many with so poor a purse
Or fierce a need, must fare by night like that,
Five miles in darkness on a country track,
But when you do, that's what you think.
Five bells.

In Melbourne, your appetite had gone,
Your angers too; they had been leeched away
By the soft archery of summer rains
And the sponge-paws of wetness, the slow damp
That stuck the leaves of living, snailed the mind,
And showed your bones, that had been sharp with rage,
The sodden ectasies of rectitude.
I thought of what you'd written in faint ink,
Your journal with the sawn-off lock, that stayed behind
With other things you left, all without use,
All without meaning now, except a sign
That someone had been living who now was dead:
"At Labassa. Room 6 x 8
On top of the tower; because of this, very dark
And cold in winter. Everything has been stowed
Into this room - 500 books all shapes
And colours, dealt across the floor
And over sills and on the laps of chairs;
Guns, photoes of many differant things
And differant curioes that I obtained..."

In Sydney, by the spent aquarium-flare
Of penny gaslight on pink wallpaper,
We argued about blowing up the world,
But you were living backward, so each night
You crept a moment closer to the breast,
And they were living, all of them, those frames
And shapes of flesh that had perplexed your youth,
And most your father, the old man gone blind,
With fingers always round a fiddle's neck,
That graveyard mason whose fair monuments
And tablets cut with dreams of piety
Rest on the bosoms of a thousand men
Staked bone by bone, in quiet astonishment
At cargoes they had never thought to bear,
These funeral-cakes of sweet and sculptured stone.

Where have you gone? The tide is over you,
The turn of midnight water's over you,
As Time is over you, and mystery,
And memory, the flood that does not flow.
You have no suburb, like those easier dead
In private berths of dissolution laid -
The tide goes over, the waves ride over you
And let their shadows down like shining hair,
But they are Water; and the sea-pinks bend
Like lilies in your teeth, but they are Weed;
And you are only part of an Idea.
I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in,
The night you died, I felt your eardrums crack,
And the short agony, the longer dream,
The Nothing that was neither long nor short;
But I was bound, and could not go that way,
But I was blind, and could not feel your hand.
If I could find an answer, could only find
Your meaning, or could say why you were here
Who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath
Or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?

I looked out my window in the dark
At waves with diamond quills and combs of light
That arched their mackerel-backs and smacked the sand
In the moon's drench, that straight enormous glaze,
And ships far off asleep, and Harbour-buoys
Tossing their fireballs wearily each to each,
And tried to hear your voice, but all I heard
Was a boat's whistle, and the scraping squeal
Of seabirds' voices far away, and bells,
Five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out.
Five bells.


Selected Poems by Charles Baudelaire


by: Charles Baudelaire

      THOU, O my Grief, be wise and tranquil still,
      The eve is thine which even now drops down,
      To carry peace or care to human will,
      And in a misty veil enfolds the town.
      While the vile mortals of the multitude,
      By pleasure, cruel tormentor, goaded on,
      Gather remorseful blossoms in light mood--
      Grief, place thy hand in mine, let us be gone
      Far from them. Lo, see how the vanished years,
      In robes outworn lean over heaven's rim;
      And from the water, smiling through her tears,
      Remorse arises, and the sun grows dim;
      And in the east, her long shroud trailing light,
      List, O my grief, the gentle steps of Night.


by: Charles Baudelaire

      THE Demon, in my chamber high,
      This morning came to visit me,
      And, thinking he would find some fault,
      He whispered: "I would know of thee
      Among the many lovely things
      That make the magic of her face,
      Among the beauties, black and rose,
      That make her body's charm and grace,
      Which is most fair?" Thou didst reply
      To the Abhorred, O soul of mine:
      "No single beauty is the best
      When she is all one flower divine.
      When all things charm me I ignore
      Which one alone brings most delight;
      She shines before me like the dawn,
      And she consoles me like the night.
      The harmony is far too great,
      That governs all her body fair,
      For impotence to analyse
      And say which note is sweetest there.
      O mystic metamorphosis!
      My senses into one sense flow--
      Her voice makes perfume when she speaks,
      Her breath is music faint and low!"

Selected Poetry by John Keats

When I have Fears

WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love! - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Ode on Melancholy

No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolfs-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung. 


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      ND, like a dying lady lean and pale,
      Who totters forth, wrapp'd in a gauzy veil,
      Out of her chamber, led by the insane
      And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
      The moon arose up in the murky east
      A white and shapeless mass.
      Art thou pale for weariness
      Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
      Wandering companionless
      Among the stars that have a different birth,
      And ever changing, like a joyless eye
      That finds no object worth its constancy?


      WORLD! O life! O time!
      On whose last steps I climb,
      Trembling at that where I had stood before;
      When will return the glory of your prime?
      No more -- oh, never more!
      Out of the day and night
      A joy has taken flight;
      Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,
      Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
      No more -- oh, never more!


by: Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

      N the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive,
      The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves,
      In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices,
      I suddenly face you,
      Your dark eyes return for a space from her who is with you,
      They shine into mine with a sunlit desire,
      They say an 'I love you, what star do you live on?'
      They smile and then darken,
      And silent, I answer 'You too--I have known you,--I love you!--'
      And the shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves
      Interlace with low voices and footsteps and sunlight
      To divide us forever.


by: Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

      ED is the color of blood, and I will seek it:
      I have sought it in the grass.
      It is the color of steep sun seen through eyelids.
      It is hidden under the suave flesh of women--
      Flows there, quietly flows.
      It mounts from the heart to the temples, the singing mouth--
      As cold sap climbs to the rose.
      I am confused in webs and knots of scarlet
      Spun from the darkness;
      Or shuttled from the mouths of thirsty spiders.
      Madness for red! I devour the leaves of autumn.
      I tire of the green of the world.
      I am myself a mouth for blood ...
      Here, in the golden haze of the late slant sun,
      Let us walk, with the light in our eyes,
      To a single bench from the outset predetermined.
      Look: there are seagulls in these city skies,
      Kindled against the blue.
      But I do not think of the seagulls, I think of you.
      Your eyes, with the late sun in them,
      Are like blue pools dazzled with yellow petals.
      This pale green suits them well.
      Here is your finger, with an emerald on it:
      The one I gave you. I say these things politely--
      But what I think beneath them, who can tell?
      For I think of you, crumpled against a whiteness;
      Flayed and torn, with a dulled face.
      I think of you, writing, a thing of scarlet,
      And myself, rising red from that embrace.
      November sun is sunlight poured through honey:
      Old things, in such a light, grow subtle and fine.
      Bare oaks are like still fire.
      Talk to me: now we drink the evening's wine.
      Look, how our shadows creep along the grave!--
      And this way, how the gravel begins to shine!
      This is the time of day for recollections,
      For sentimental regrets, oblique allusions,
      Rose-leaves, shrivelled in a musty jar.
      Scatter them to the wind! There are tempests coming.
      It is dark, with a windy star.
      If human mouths were really roses, my dear,--
      (Why must we link things so?--)
      I would tear yours petal by petal with slow murder.
      I would pluck the stamens, the pistils,
      The gold and the green,--
      Spreading the subtle sweetness that was your breath
      On a cold wave of death....
      Now let us walk back, slowly, as we came.
      We will light the room with candles; they may shine
      Like rows of yellow eyes.
      Your hair is like spun fire, by candle-flame.
      You smile at me--say nothing. You are wise.
      For I think of you, flung down brutal darkness;
      Crushed and red, with pale face.
      I think of you, with your hair disordered and dripping.
      And myself, rising red from that embrace.

Beach Burial

  Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.

Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin -

'Unknown seaman' - the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men's lips,

Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

City Nightfall

  SMOKE upon smoke; over the stone lips
Of chimneys bleeding, a darker fume descends.
Night, the old nun, in voiceless pity bends
To kiss corruption, so fabulous her pity.
All drowns in night. Even the lazar drowns
In earth at last, and rises up afresh,
Married to dust with an Infanta's flesh—
So night, like earth, receives this poisoned city,
Charging its air with beauty, coasting its lanterns
With mains of darkness, till the leprous clay
Dissolves, and pavements drift away,
And there is only the quiet noise of planets feeding.
And those who chafe here, limed on the iron twigs,
No greater seem than sparrows, all their cries,
Their clockwork and their merchandise,
Frolic of painted dolls. I pass unheeding.

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