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Other Tales and Sketches

Graves And Goblins
Now talk we of graves and goblins! Fit themes,--start not! gentle reader,--fit for a ghost
like me. Yes; though an earth-clogged fancy is laboring with these conceptions, and an
earthly hand will write them down, for mortal eyes to read, still their essence flows from
as airy a ghost as ever basked in the pale starlight, at twelve o'clock. Judge them not by
the gross and heavy form in which they now appear. They may be gross, indeed, with the
earthly pollution contracted from the brain, through which they pass; and heavy with the
burden of mortal language, that crushes all the finer intelligences of the soul. This is no
fault of mine. But should aught of ethereal spirit be perceptible, yet scarcely so,
glimmering along the dull train of words,--should a faint perfume breathe from the mass
of clay,--then, gentle reader, thank the ghost, who thus embodies himself for your sake!
Will you believe me, if I say that all true and noble thoughts, and elevated imaginations,
are but partly the offspring of the intellect which seems to produce them? Sprites, that
were poets once, and are now all poetry, hover round the dreaming bard, and become his
inspiration; buried statesmen lend their wisdom, gathered on earth and mellowed in the
grave, to the historian; and when the preacher rises nearest to the level of his mighty
subject, it is because the prophets of old days have communed with him. Who has not
been conscious of mysteries within his mind, mysteries of truth and reality, which will
not wear the chains of language? Mortal, then the dead were with you! And thus shall the
earth-dulled soul, whom I inspire, be conscious of a misty brightness among his thoughts,
and strive to make it gleam upon the page,--but all in vain. Poor author! How will he
despise what he can grasp, for the sake of the dim glory that eludes him!
So talk we of graves and goblins. But, what have ghosts to do with graves? Mortal man,
wearing the dust which shall require a sepulchre, might deem it more a home and resting-
place than a spirit can, whose earthly clod has returned to earth. Thus philosophers have
reasoned. Yet wiser they who adhere to the ancient sentiment, that a phantom haunts and
hallows the marble tomb or grassy hillock where its material form was laid. Till purified
from each stain of clay; till the passions of the living world are all forgotten; till it have
less brotherhood with the wayfarers of earth, than with spirits that never wore mortality,--
the ghost must linger round the grave. O, it is a long and dreary watch to some of us!
Even in early childhood, I had selected a sweet spot, of shade and glimmering sunshine,
for my grave. It was no burial-ground, but a secluded nook of virgin earth, where I used
to sit, whole summer afternoons, dreaming about life and death. My fancy ripened
prematurely, and taught me secrets which I could not otherwise have known. I pictured
the coming years,--they never came to me, indeed; but I pictured them like life, and made
this spot the scene of all that should be brightest, in youth, manhood, and old age. There,
in a little while, it would be time for me to breathe the bashful and burning vows of first-
love; thither, after gathering fame abroad, I would return to enjoy the loud plaudit of the
world, a vast but unobtrusive sound, like the booming of a distant sea; and thither, at the
far-off close of life, an aged man would come, to dream, as the boy was dreaming, and be
as happy in the past as lie was in futurity. Finally, when all should be finished, in that