Gothic Poets: Gothic literature Poets is typically characterized by dark and murky set-ups, telling tales of fear and mystery. The gothic poems’ themes mostly induce suspense, a sense of awe and the unknown in the audiences’ minds. Gothic literature is primarily characterized by the geographical presence of massive and gigantic forts and mansions.
Often, the plot dictates grave secrets associated with these mansions that unfold as the narration proceeds gradually. Embedded in this essence of mystery and darkness, gothic literature also offers romance elements between its characters, adventure, and supernaturalism elements.
If we try to travel the inception and evolution of Gothic literature, the first mention will be of – “The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story”. This story with a supernatural and gothic undertone was absolutely out of the box for society and set the European literature trend.
Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.
On the other hand, Gothic literature percolated through the layers of American literature through Edgar Allen Poe’s works. In his works, he has incorporated the issues of immediate human problems, psychological raves and several other dark realities of human life and the flesh’s ills.
Apart from these standard features, there have been various kinds of treatment of gothic literature in the history of literature and continues to be so. Here are the ten best gothic poems from the history of literature. List of Famous Gothic Poets is as follows.
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti
This poem was a composition of the time when Rosetti worked as an ‘Associate sister’ for the ‘fallen women. The poem delivered themes of debauchery, seduction and sisterly redemption – this reverberated with the familiar cry of the revolution let by the ‘fallen women.
Although this poem was commonly broadcasted as a fairytale bearing didactic messages for the children, critics declared that it had dominant adult themes and issues to discuss. One common theme of this poem is that of temptation.
“How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes,”
Over here, we see how the little sisters are enchanted and allured by the delicacies of the land of the goblins. Although they are conscious about the fact that they must not be drawn towards the goblins, they fall prey to the temptation.
The poem talks about desperation, as we fine Laura, one of the sisters, selling off her tress in order to taste the fruits of the goblins. The subsequent events show how dangerous blind ambition and passion can be, as Laura, having aged prematurely, was inching closer to her death, all because she did something impulsive, being tempted by the sly and violent goblins, contracted a curse upon herself.
The Cold Earth Slept Below by Percy Bysshe Shelley
This poem illustrates a bleak picture of nature before us that is very murky and dark and is made to look lifeless—the poet associates the image of nature with two things, death and his beloved.
“The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon”
Here, the poet mentions that the air of that night, underneath the drooping moon, carried the beath of death along with its flow.
The thorn was bare, the green from the grass was not visible, ‘The wintry hedge was black’, and everything seemed to be dark in the earth that was asleep and looked dead.
“And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair,
That shook in the wind of night.
The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
The wind made thy bosom chill;”
The poet illustrates how the beauty and presence of his beloved are affected by the dim night, how his beloved’s beauty and radiance is dulled by the oppressive night.
This poem is love poetry rendered in an absolutely different way, obscured by the traits of gothic poetry. This poem is a fine example of gothic poetry.
The Sick Rose by William Blake
The Sick Rose is a part of the songs of experience by William Blake. The ‘rose’ in this poem is symbolic of the love that is parched and ill. The rose is also personified by the poet to heighten the essence of a lover whose love is diseased. This poem talks about the union in love – both sexual and emotional.
The worm that flies in to satisfy its secret love is indicative of the male partner who has come to fulfil his sexual desires and will eventually penetrate the ‘bed’ of the rose to quench his needs.
This ‘worm’ is destructive for the rose, as he had made her sick and has destroyed her life eventually – this fate of the rose had had a premonition from the night when the worm arrived that had ‘the howling storm’ unleashed.
This poem, although being intense love poetry, is delivered in a very murky and perilous way. The concepts of love have been shaded with dark shades, and thereby, we can conjecture that this poem fits the parameters of a gothic love poem, where the ravages, pitfalls and horrors of love are highlighted over the flowery sides of the same.
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The poem Kubla Khan is primarily a celebration of natural beauty. However, the poem is intervened by some dark voices at several instances in the narration,
“A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman was wailing for her demon-lover.”
The poet mentions how the place was as holy as the land flooded by the light of a waning moon and as enchanted as a woman by her demon-lover, who, although dangerous for her, reigns over her heart soul and compels her to yearn and cry to his return.
“And ‘id this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying death”
The palpable presence of reality that severs Kubla Khan from experiencing nature at his heart’s content is found in this line because being a ruler at power, and he always has to be alert about the possibilities of war. The synthesis of creation and of destruction is highlighted in the poem through the character of Kubla Khan.
The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
This poem can be typically called a gothic poem. Poe has incorporated every conventional feature of gothic literature in the narration of this poem. This poem’s central object is a gothic mansion that has been elaborately described by the poet, with keen attention to the detailing, accentuating its beauty.
Poe has advanced further and described it as a haunted mansion with ghosts looming around inside it. This poem is one of those sorts of gothic poems that move along a gradient, ascending from good to bad.
“Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically
To lute’s well-tuned law,
Roundabout a thrne where, sitting,
In-state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen”
In this excerpt from the beginning of the poem, the poet describes the mirth, liveliness and buoyancy in the castle’s milieu.
“And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten window see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh-but smile no more”
Contrary to the previous section, this one displays a sense of aftermath, or ravage suffered from destruction. The narrative droops to a bleak and sulking tone at this point of the poem, and as the poem points out by himself that “smiles no more”
This sudden change in the tone of the narrative is characteristic of this poem, alongside the poet’s traditional features of gothic literature.
Lady Lazurus by Sylvia Plath
The poem lady Lazarus was written in 1962 when Plath was at her creative prime during a phase before committing suicide in 1963. This poem might not have dark and black words, particularly; however, the sentences implied are rather gory.
This poem is conjectured to be about suicide. It is a feminist narration, highlighting the syndicate of patriarchy wearing the form of gothic poetry.
The poem talks about a woman who has committed suicide multiple time in order to be free from the oppressive domination of men in society and to breathe free without the stifling and suffocating hands of patriarchy around her neck.
However, every time, she has been rescued by the same men who are the driving forces behind her state and thrown back into the arena of a daily battle. The poem is a very depressing and gory account of this woman.
“The nose the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like a cat I have nine times to die.”
This excerpt from the poem encapsulates the whole of it, ore or more minor. The sombre verses delivered by Lady Lazurus says that once she is dead, she will soon acclimatize with the grave and will finally become a ‘smiling woman’.
This entire concept where a person’s happiness relies upon death and the yearning and craving for attaining life after death is what makes the gothic theme of this poem. This is why it fits perfectly according to the dimensions of gothic literature.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.”
This poem is often called autobiographical because this was closely followed by the incident of the poet herself committing suicide.
The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson
The story is sourced or inspired by ‘Elaine, the fair maid of Astolat’. It was published in 1833 as a part of an anthology of poems – ‘poems chiefly lyrical’. The poem origins from the ‘Arthurian’ legends of ‘King Arthur and the knight of the round table’.
The setup is of medieval times, and the narrative exudes an old-world charm. The poem is about the Lady of Shalott, who lives in a secluded mansion in the secluded land of Shalott. She is restrained within that castle by a curse that is imposed upon her – she cannot lay her eyes on any human.
If the terms of the curse are breached, she will die immediately. However, she fantasizes about a knight, Lancelot, who she sees passing by, through a mirror in her castle, as she can’t look at the town directly – “I am half sick of shadows.
It is because of this Lancelot, whose charms she could not resist finally, and broke the curse, resulting in her death. This poem can be called the perfect Gothic literature prototype because of the ingredients that make it up.
The poem features a woman stranded in a desolate castle in a castaway land, bound by a deadly curse. The story also involves a romantic subplot – of the lady of Shalott towards Lancelot, the Knight. All the events and constituents of the poem suit the frame of a typical gothic poem.
“No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves always.
A curse is on her if she stays
Her weaving, either night or day,
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
The lady of Shalott”
Over here, we get an account of the state of the Lady of Shalott in the castle. Finally, when she defies the terms of her curse and looks out at Camelot,
“The mirror crack’d from side to side;
The curse is come upon me,’ cried
The lady of Shalott”
Here, another concept typically of the gothic poems is highlighted – ‘the knight in shining armour’ saving his ‘damsel in distress.
La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats
This poem depicts the atmosphere of the classical periods and the medieval periods. It is one of the most extraordinary pieces by Keats and one of the masterpieces in romantic art. This is another non-conventional take on love poetry, dressed in the apparel of gothic literature.
The poem’s choric theme is about a mysterious and beautiful woman, or a ‘femme fatal’ or an enchantress. The tale is about a knight who is smitten by the love of a woman he met, her beauty hypnotizes him, and her thoughts and charm wholly occupy his mind.
However, that woman has abandoned him after enticing and seducing him, and the Knight, mad in love with her, is featured roaming about all hapless and resembling a lunatic. These women, commonly known as femme fatalities, were common in medieval gothic literature.
This poem is written in a bleak manner, portraying dark instances.
“I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried- ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall”
Here, ‘The beautiful woman without mercy, or ‘La Belle dame sans merci’ is referred to as Jessie Cameron by Cristina Rosetti.
The poem’s crux talks about the proposal of love to a lover by another lover by the waves. However, in this narration, the former’s love is rejected, unlike the quintessential love poems where the love gets reciprocated.
The narration is closely followed by an unpleasant incident where the waves lash upon the two lovers and carry them along with them. Here is where we find the gothic elements surfacing. This poem is a very unnatural way of narrating a poem themed around love.
Rejection of love proposed alongside the lovers’ suggested death in an accident suits the gothic frame of literature.
“Alas for Jessie Cameron! –
The sea crept moaning,
She should have hastened to
This excerpt highlights a very dark side of narration through the poem.
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:
Published in Edgar Allen Poe’s compilation, called The Raven and other poems in the year 1845, this poem is typically a gothic piece.
Its centric theme is about unrequited love and love that is not reciprocated, where a mere Raven is used as the agent delivering the news of ‘nevermore ‘.
“To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into
My bosom’s core;”
The ‘nevermore’ coming from the Raven incited a sense of retrospection in the narrator’s mind.
The association of a Raven with the pure and white concept of love is another take of Poe in Gothic literature. He challenges the monotonous treatment of specific issues in society and implements the ways of gothic literature in them.
Here is an overview of the multiple themes that have been dealt with in the history of gothic literature.