Haunted? Ay, in a social way
By a body of ghosts in dread array;
But no conventional spectres they—
Appalling, grim, and tricky:
I quail at mine as I’d never quail
At a fine traditional spectre pale,
With a turnip head and a ghostly wail,
And a splash of blood on the dickey!
Mine are horrible, social ghosts,—
Speeches and women and guests and hosts,
Weddings and morning calls and toasts,
In every bad variety:
Ghosts who hover about the grave
Of all that’s manly, free, and brave:
You’ll find their names on the architrave
Of that charnel-house, Society.
Black Monday—black as its school-room ink—
With its dismal boys that snivel and think
Of its nauseous messes to eat and drink,
And its frozen tank to wash in.
That was the first that brought me grief,
And made me weep, till I sought relief
In an emblematical handkerchief,
To choke such baby bosh in.
First and worst in the grim array-
Ghosts of ghosts that have gone their way,
Which I wouldn’t revive for a single day
For all the wealth of Plutus—
Are the horrible ghosts that school-days scared:
If the classical ghost that Brutus dared
Was the ghost of his “Caesar” unprepared,
I’m sure I pity Brutus.
I pass to critical seventeen;
The ghost of that terrible wedding scene,
When an elderly Colonel stole my Queen,
And woke my dream of heaven.
No schoolgirl decked in her nurse-room curls
Was my gushing innocent Queen of Pearls;
If she wasn’t a girl of a thousand girls,
She was one of forty-seven!
I see the ghost of my first cigar,
Of the thence-arising family jar—
Of my maiden brief (I was at the Bar,
And I called the Judge “Your wushup!”)
Of reckless days and reckless nights,
With wrenched-off knockers, extinguished lights,
Unholy songs and tipsy fights,
Which I strove in vain to hush up.
Ghosts of fraudulent joint-stock banks,
Ghosts of “copy, declined with thanks,”
Of novels returned in endless ranks,
And thousands more, I suffer.
The only line to fitly grace
My humble tomb, when I’ve run my race,
Is, “Reader, this is the resting-place
Of an unsuccessful duffer.”
I’ve fought them all, these ghosts of mine,
But the weapons I’ve used are sighs and brine,
And now that I’m nearly forty-nine,
Old age is my chiefest bogy;
For my hair is thinning away at the crown,
And the silver fights with the worn-out brown;
And a general verdict sets me down
As an irreclaimable fogy.