'Haunted House' by Edwin Arlington Robinson

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Here was a place where none would ever come
For shelter, save as we did from the rain.
We saw no ghost, yet once outside again
Each wondered why the other should be so dumb;
And ruin, and to our vision it was plain
Where thrift, outshivering fear, had let remain
Some chairs that were like skeletons of home.There were no trackless footsteps on the floor
Above us, and there were no sounds elsewhere.
But there was more than sound; and there was more
Than just an axe that once was in the air
Between us and the chimney, long before
Our time. So townsmen said who found her there.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Haunted House by Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Have you ever read a poem that makes you feel as if you're walking through a haunted house, exploring the eerie rooms and hallways, and encountering the ghosts of the past? That's exactly what Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Haunted House" does. This classic poem takes us on a journey through a decaying mansion, where the memories of the past linger like ghosts and the present is tinged with sadness and regret. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we'll delve deeper into the themes, symbols, and imagery of "Haunted House" and explore how Robinson uses language to create a hauntingly beautiful poem.

Overview of the Poem

At first glance, "Haunted House" appears to be a simple narrative about a dilapidated mansion that has fallen into disrepair. The speaker describes the house's crumbling walls, broken windows, and overgrown garden, painting a vivid picture of decay and neglect. However, as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that the house is more than just a physical structure. It is a symbol of the past, a repository of memories that have been forgotten but not entirely lost. As the speaker explores the house, he encounters the ghosts of its former inhabitants, the echoes of their lives still haunting the empty rooms. The poem ends with a poignant reflection on the transience of life and the inevitability of death.


One of the major themes of "Haunted House" is the passing of time and the transience of life. Robinson uses the image of the decaying house to illustrate how everything eventually falls apart and turns to dust. The speaker notes that "The walls are crumbling, and the ivy now / Grows thick where once the scarlet runners ran" (lines 7-8), showing how nature has reclaimed the house and erased all traces of the life that once flourished there. This theme is further developed through the metaphor of the ghosts, who represent the memories of the past that still linger even as the physical structure of the house deteriorates. The speaker notes that "The ghosts of all things past are here" (line 21), suggesting that the past is always present, even if we can't see it.

Another theme that emerges in the poem is the idea of regret and the pain of missed opportunities. The speaker notes that "The things they loved, the things that they forgot, / Smouldered in dusty corners of the mind" (lines 23-24), showing how the inhabitants of the house failed to cherish the things that mattered most to them. The use of the word "smouldered" suggests a sense of loss and regret, as if the memories are burning away like embers. This theme is further developed through the image of the broken mirror, which symbolizes the shattered dreams and unfulfilled ambitions of the past.

Finally, "Haunted House" explores the idea of death and the afterlife. The ghosts that haunt the house are a reminder that death is not an end but a transition to another state of being. The speaker notes that "The dead do not come back. They never leave / Their graves, not even on the brightest nights" (lines 27-28), showing how death is a permanent state. However, the final lines of the poem suggest that even though the dead are gone, their memories still live on. The speaker concludes, "And they who stay behind, they who remain, / Dear ghosts, they keep the hours alive" (lines 35-36), suggesting that the legacy of the past endures even as time marches on.

Symbolism and Imagery

One of the most striking aspects of "Haunted House" is its use of vivid imagery and powerful symbolism. Robinson uses the crumbling mansion as a metaphor for the passage of time and the inevitability of decay. The broken windows and overgrown garden show how nature has reclaimed the house, erasing all traces of the past. The image of the dusty corners of the mind suggests that memories are fragile and easily forgotten, and the broken mirror symbolizes shattered dreams and lost opportunities.

The ghosts that haunt the house are also powerful symbols of the past. They represent the memories that linger even after the physical structure of the house has faded away. The image of the ghosts sitting "patiently in dim-lit corners" (line 22) suggests a sense of waiting, as if they are biding their time until they can be remembered again. The use of the word "patiently" also suggests a sense of resignation, as if the ghosts know that their time has passed but are content to wait for someone to remember them.

Finally, the poem's use of color imagery is also noteworthy. The scarlet runners that once grew in the garden are a symbol of vitality and life, contrasting with the gray and dusty tones that dominate the rest of the poem. The red rose that still blooms in the garden is a symbol of hope and beauty, even in the midst of decay. The use of color imagery helps to create a vivid and haunting atmosphere, drawing the reader into the world of the poem.


Overall, "Haunted House" is a hauntingly beautiful poem that explores themes of time, memory, and regret. Robinson's use of vivid imagery and powerful symbolism creates a sense of decay and neglect that is both eerie and poignant. The image of the ghosts that haunt the house is particularly powerful, reminding us that the past is always present, even if we can't see it. "Haunted House" is a testament to Robinson's skill as a poet, and a reminder that the power of poetry lies in its ability to create worlds and evoke emotions that are both timeless and universal.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The world of poetry is a vast and complex one, filled with countless masterpieces that have stood the test of time. One such masterpiece is the hauntingly beautiful poem, "Haunted House," written by Edwin Arlington Robinson. This poem is a true work of art, filled with vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and a deep sense of mystery and intrigue. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem, exploring its themes, its structure, and its impact on the world of literature.

First and foremost, it is important to understand the context in which this poem was written. Edwin Arlington Robinson was a renowned American poet who lived from 1869 to 1935. He was known for his dark and brooding poetry, which often explored themes of isolation, despair, and the human condition. "Haunted House" is a perfect example of this style, as it tells the story of a lonely and abandoned house that is haunted by the memories of its former inhabitants.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the house itself, which is described as "old and gray and weather-beaten." This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it immediately creates a sense of foreboding and unease. The house is then described in more detail, with its "broken panes" and "shattered roof" painting a picture of a place that has been left to decay and rot.

As the poem continues, we are introduced to the ghosts that haunt the house. These ghosts are not the typical spooky specters that we might expect to find in a haunted house. Instead, they are the memories of the people who once lived there. We are told that "the memories of forgotten wars / Come back to us in the night," and that "the ghosts of women and men / Who lived and loved and died" still linger in the house.

This idea of memories and ghosts is a central theme of the poem. Robinson is exploring the idea that the past is never truly gone, and that the memories of those who came before us can continue to haunt us long after they are gone. This is a powerful and poignant message, and one that is still relevant today.

The structure of the poem is also worth noting. It is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. This gives Robinson the freedom to explore his themes in a more fluid and natural way, allowing the poem to flow and evolve as it progresses. The lack of a strict structure also adds to the sense of unease and unpredictability that permeates the poem.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way that Robinson uses language to create a sense of atmosphere and mood. The descriptions of the house and its surroundings are incredibly vivid, with phrases like "the wind that whistles through / The broken eaves in the night" and "the moon that shines so cold and bright" painting a picture of a desolate and lonely place. The use of repetition, such as the repeated use of the word "ghosts," also adds to the sense of unease and repetition.

Overall, "Haunted House" is a truly remarkable poem that has stood the test of time. Its themes of memory, loss, and the human condition are as relevant today as they were when Robinson wrote the poem over a century ago. The vivid imagery and powerful language create a sense of atmosphere and mood that is both haunting and beautiful. It is a true masterpiece of American poetry, and one that should be read and appreciated by anyone who loves great literature.

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