― 162 ―

The Ghost.

(As delivered at a meeting of the Coffin Club last Christmas Eve.)

In a life I can hardly call long
I have had superstitions like most;
But I rise now to own I was wrong
In my notions regarding the Ghost—
I was terribly hard on the Ghost.

And I think that a gentleman, when
He finds prejudice lead him astray,
Should acknowledge the fact, there and then,
In a simple and straightforward way,
In a candid and dignified way.

So I take this occasion to state
That the Ghost, which I thought was a dread
Thing of Tombs that did merriment hate,
Is the gayest of creatures instead,
The most sprightly of creatures instead.

It was night, and I sat in my room,
Striving vainly (on gin, too!) to write,
By a kind of a glimmering gloom
That looked like the spectre of light,
Like the pale simulacrum of light.

  ― 163 ―
I was working a yarn up for Yule,
That season of stories and toasts,
In which—like a blundering mule—
I had cast some reflections on ghosts,
Most uncalled-for reflections on ghosts.

When, as I sat pondering there,
The candle burnt suddenly blue!
And I felt a cold wind in my hair!
That a Ghost sat beside me I knew,
I most surely and dismally knew.

I am not more than humanly brave,
And now to confess I am free
That this gentleman fresh from the grave
Was a sight that was too much for me,
It was more than sufficient for me.

And I think you will grant me just here,
Such a sight would be too much for most—
Though I hadn't the ghost of a fear
I might still have the fear of a Ghost,
The popular dread of a Ghost.

It stared, and I stared at It back,
And I tried hard to speak: the words froze
And I felt my jaws meet with a crack,
Like the clappers that scare away crows,
That the farmer-boys use to scare crows.

Then slowly, by bit and by bit,
I began (and grew bold then) to see
That, although I was frightened of It,
It was vastly more frightened of me!
Many jugsful more frightened of me.

So I pushed round the gin—which was square—
With a speech in my courtliest tones;

  ― 164 ―
But It sat like a corner-man there,
And absently rattled its bones,
Merely gibbered, and rattled its bones.

Then I said, “This to nothing much tends,
And I'm busy.” It touched with its nails
That pious contrivance of friends
To keep dead men from telling of tales,
The jaw-bandage, stifler of tales.

So I took up the scissors I use
(What the trouble was then became plain)
For dissecting my items of news,
And I severed the bandage in twain,
Cut it quickly and cleanly in twain.

Whereupon the Ghost rose up and laughed—
It would freeze you to hear its dread laugh!—
And it emptied the gin at a draught.
Blessed saints, how that Spectre could quaff!
You would catalepse seeing It quaff.

Then It said: “Arrah, give us yer fisht!
The divel a bone av me's proud,
Though I happen jist now to be dhrist
Out to kill in an illigant shroud,
An ixpinsive and illigant shroud

“And betune you and me and the posht,
When I go on a bit av a shpree,
There isn't, be jabers, a Ghost
In the yard that can turn out loike me,
As gintale and as dhressy as me.”

Then I caught up its humour and said:
“If the question is not impolite,
How long, sir, might you have been dead

  ― 165 ―
And planted away out of sight—
Dibbled down in the ground out of sight?

“For to me, by your leave, it appears
That with fun and high spirits you're rife.”
“Twinty years,” It replied. “Twinty years—
And the foinest I've shpint in me loife,
Jusht the gayest I've passed in me loife.

“And the thought of that same makes me laugh,
Though I don't shtand another Gosht's jeers—
When I look at me own eppytaff,
Bemoanin' me sad fate wid tears,
Wid poethry, praises and tears.”

Then It laughed, and I said, “Bathershin,
Mister, what may your name be again?”
It replied, “Thravel round wid the gin:
Me name's Misther Murphy—from Shpane,
From the county of Cork in ould Shpane.”

Then said I: “What became of your soul
When your body died? Where did it go?”
Its expression was dismally droll
As it answered: “That's more than I know,
Be me sowl, then, that's more than I know.”

I said nothing, but lit a cigar,
And marked, with a scarce-repressed sigh,
How the gin had gone down in the jar;
For the Ghost was most fearfully dry—
It was grimly and gruesomely dry.

Then it went on: “Now, lishten to me,
And ye'll soon be as wise as an owl;
The parts av a man are jisht three—
The body, the gosht, and the sowl,
The gosht, and the body, and sowl.

  ― 166 ―
“Well, the sowl av a man, whin he dies,
Slithers off——” Said I, “Where does it go?
Does it play on a trump in the skies?”
The Ghost testily said, “I dunno,
That depinds on its hand. I dunno.

“But I know that the body and gosht
Stay behind on the airth, and agree
That the gosht by itself for the mosht
Should fly round; but at times, as wid me,
It takes its bones, too, just loike me.

“And I want ye to shtate—pass the dhrink!—
That we goshts are not gloomy or sad,
As ye people above seem to think;
We are merry as niggers, and glad
To be dead—and who wouldn't be glad

“To have no rint to pay, and no debts,
No mother-in-law, and no wife,
And none of the throubles and frets
That make up the thing ye call Loife,
The sorry ould farce ye call Loife.

“And if nixt Christmas Eve ye'll come round
To the Simmethry, bringin' a pome—
Yer shtyle is much loiked undherground—
I'll take ye where ye'll be at home,
Where, me bhoy, ye'll at wanst be at home

“It's a saypulchre, where a few picked
Shpirits meet to enjoy thimsilves—quare
Chaps they are, too, but very selict—
No ornery gosht gets in there,
No low shpecthres ever go there.”

Then It rose to propose a last “toasht,”
And It fell on its skull, and It said,

  ― 167 ―
“I'm not a rispictable gosht;
I'm dhrunk, sor—I wish I was dead!
Be the hokey, I wish I was dead.”

But I lifted It up, and observed,
I would see It safe home to its tomb;
So out of the doorway It swerved,
And we both plunged out into the gloom.
And it said, as we bored through the gloom—

“Well, God be betune us and harm.”
And I said, to myself, “ 'Twill look bright,
With a staggering ghost on my arm,
To be seen at this time of the night,
At this vagabond hour of the night.”

For It kept up a fusillade loud
Of fierce hiccoughs the whole of the way;
Then It stopped, and said, “Tuck up me shroud!
I would not have it shpatthered wid clay,
It's too good to be shpatthered wid clay.”

How this score-year old shroud should be new
Was to me, sirs, a marvel unique;
But It airily said, “I've a few
Shtylish shrouds—I shtole this one lasht week
From a nob that was berried lasht week.”

Then a cab passed. I hailed it. The man
Asked me where he should drive, and I said,
“To the Cemetery—fast as you can!—
To the Home of the Riotous Dead—
The Abode of the Rollicking Dead.”

“Ante-up,” said the cabman, “the fare!
I don't go, sir, on this lay no more;
I believe in things done on the square—

  ― 168 ―
I've been had by these dashed ghosts before,
Too frequent and often before.”

Then the Ghost went to peel off its shroud
To fight, but I said, “You keep still
Or you'll be locked up! Do not be proud!”
To the cabman: “I'll settle the bill!
I'll fix up my spectral friend's bill.”

“Fwhat!” it yelled; “I kin pay him his fee!”
Then sobbed, “This disthrust is too hard—
Take me tombshtone—it's no use to me.”
“Pooh!” the man said, “I've three in my yard,
Three I got the same way, in my yard.”

So I paid. We drove off. Such a drive!
I've been round, in my time, much as most,
But I've never, since I've been alive,
Met such company as that same Ghost!
None so genial as Murphy the Ghost.

Grateful, too—for It said, “I would loike
To give a miminto to ye
To put ye in mind of ould Moike,
The Gosht that ye met on the shpree,
The blathrin' ould Gosht on the shpree.

“To such kindness as yours I'm not dull.”
Then it made the proposal bizarre,
There and then, sirs, to screw off its skull,
To give it to me for a jar
For “tabakky”—Great Scott! what a jar!

Well, the time pretty pleasantly passed;
Then silence awhile did we keep.
When we got to the graveyard at last,
By Jove, sirs, the Ghost was asleep,
Snoring hard in a stertorous sleep.

  ― 169 ―
We went in—and the rest is a blur—
We each have our own little faults!
But some faint recollections occur
Of a revel in one of the vaults,
A wild orgie in one of the vaults.

In which—I remember no more;
But that Murphy, my festive old friend,
Kept the coffin-lids all in a roar
With his jokes—and that, sirs, is the end
Of my story—the ultimate end.

How I got out I never have known;
But when dawn in the Eastern sky glowed
I found myself sitting alone
On a kerb in the Waverley Road,
At my ease in the Waverley Road.

My memory must be at fault—
There is some intellectual gloom—
But I never could find Murphy's vault,
Nor could spend Christmas Eve in the tomb,
Christmas Eve in the jocular tomb.

But I think, sirs, I've put past debate
That the Ghost which I thought was a dread
Thing of Tombs that did merriment hate,
Is the gayest of creatures instead,
The most sprightly of creatures instead.