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Phantasmagoria and Other Poems

Lewis Carroll

  Phantasmagoria and Other Poems

  Lewis Carroll

  Phantasmagoria and Other Poems

  by Lewis Carroll


  Canto I — The Trystyng

  One winter night, at half-past nine,

  Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,

  I had come home, too late to dine,

  And supper, with cigars and wine,

  Was waiting in the study.

  There was a strangeness in the room,

  And Something white and wavy

  Was standing near me in the gloom —

  I took it for the carpet-broom

  Left by that careless slavey.

  But presently the Thing began

  To shiver and to sneeze:

  On which I said "Come, come, my man!

  That's a most inconsiderate plan.

  Less noise there, if you please!"

  "I've caught a cold," the Thing replies,

  "Out there upon the landing."

  I turned to look in some surprise,

  And there, before my very eyes,

  A little Ghost was standing!

  He trembled when he caught my eye,

  And got behind a chair.

  "How came you here," I said, "and why?

  I never saw a thing so shy.

  Come out! Don't shiver there!"

  He said "I'd gladly tell you how,

  And also tell you why;

  But" (here he gave a little bow)

  You're in so bad a temper now,

  You'd think it all a lie.

  "And as to being in a fright,

  Allow me to remark

  That Ghosts have just as good a right

  In every way, to fear the light,

  As Men to fear the dark."

  "No plea," said I, "can well excuse

  Such cowardice in you:

  For Ghosts can visit when they choose,

  Whereas we Humans ca'n't refuse

  To grant the interview."

  He said "A flutter of alarm

  Is not unnatural, is it?

  I really feared you meant some harm:

  But, now I see that you are calm,

  Let me explain my visit.

  "Houses are classed, I beg to state,

  According to the number

  Of Ghosts that they accommodate:

  (The Tenant merely counts as weight ,

  With Coals and other lumber).

  "This is a 'one-ghost' house, and you

  When you arrived last summer,

  May have remarked a Spectre who

  Was doing all that Ghosts can do

  To welcome the new-comer.

  "In Villas this is always done —

  However cheaply rented:

  For, though of course there's less of fun

  When there is only room for one,

  Ghosts have to be contented.

  "That Spectre left you on the Third —

  Since then you've not been haunted:

  For, as he never sent us word,

  'Twas quite by accident we heard

  That any one was wanted.

  "A Spectre has first choice, by right,

  In filling up a vacancy;

  Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite —

  If all these fail them, they invite

  The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

  "The Spectres said the place was low,

  And that you kept bad wine:

  So, as a Phantom had to go,

  And I was first, of course, you know,

  I couldn't well decline."

  "No doubt," said I, "they settled who

  Was fittest to be sent

  Yet still to choose a brat like you,

  To haunt a man of forty-two,

  Was no great compliment!"

  "I'm not so young, Sir," he replied,

  "As you might think. The fact is,

  In caverns by the water-side,

  And other places that I've tried,

  I've had a lot of practice:

  "But I have never taken yet

  A strict domestic part,

  And in my flurry I forget

  The Five Good Rules of Etiquette

  We have to know by heart."

  My sympathies were warming fast

  Towards the little fellow:

  He was so utterly aghast

  At having found a Man at last,

  And looked so scared and yellow.

  "At least," I said, "I'm glad to find

  A Ghost is not a dumb thing!

  But pray sit down: you'll feel inclined

  (If, like myself, you have not dined)

  To take a snack of something:

  "Though, certainly, you don't appear

  A thing to offer food to!

  And then I shall be glad to hear —

  If you will say them loud and clear —

  The Rules that you allude to."

  "Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.

  This is a piece of luck!"

  "What may I offer you?" said I.

  "Well, since you are so kind, I'll try

  A little bit of duck.

  "One slice! And may I ask you for

  Another drop of gravy?"

  I sat and looked at him in awe,

  For certainly I never saw

  A thing so white and wavy.

  And still he seemed to grow more white,

  More vapoury, and wavier —

  Seen in the dim and flickering light,

  As he proceeded to recite

  His "Maxims of Behaviour."

  Canto II — Hys Fyve Rules

  "My First — but don't suppose," he said,

  "I'm setting you a riddle —

  Is — if your Victim be in bed,

  Don't touch the curtains at his head,

  But take them in the middle,

  "And wave them slowly in and out,

  While drawing them asunder;

  And in a minute's time, no doubt,

  He'll raise his head and look about

  With eyes of wrath and wonder.

  "And here you must on no pretence

  Make the first observation.

  Wait for the Victim to commence:

  No Ghost of any common sense

  Begins a conversation.

  "If he should say 'How came you here ?'

  (The way that you began, Sir,)

  In such a case your course is clear —

  'On the bat's back, my little dear !'

  Is the appropriate answer.

  "If after this he says no more,

  You'd best perhaps curtail your

  Exertions — go and shake the door,

  And then, if he begins to snore,

  You'll know the thing's a failure.

  "By day, if he should be alone —

  At home or on a walk —

  You merely give a hollow groan,

  To indicate the kind of tone

  In which you mean to talk.

  "But if you find him with his friends,

  The thing is rather harder.

  In such a case success depends

  On picking up some candle-ends,

  Or butter, in the larder.

  "With this you make a kind of slide

  (It answers best with suet),

  On which you must contrive to glide,

  And swing yourself from side to side —

  One soon learns how to do it.

  "The Second tells us what is right

  In ceremonious calls:—

  'First burn a blue or crimson light '

  (A thing I quite forgot to-night),

'Then scratch the door or walls. '"

  I said "You'll visit here no more,

  If you attempt the Guy.

  I'll have no bonfires on my floor —

  And, as for scratching at the door,

  I'd like to see you try!"

  "The Third was written to protect

  The interests of the Victim,

  And tells us, as I recollect,

  To treat him with a grave respect,

  And not to contradict him."

  "That's plain," said I, "as Tare and Tret,

  To any comprehension:

  I only wish some Ghosts I've met

  Would not so constantly forget

  The maxim that you mention!"

  "Perhaps," he said, "you first transgressed

  The laws of hospitality:

  All Ghosts instinctively detest

  The Man that fails to treat his guest

  With proper cordiality.

  "If you address a Ghost as 'Thing!'

  Or strike him with a hatchet,

  He is permitted by the King

  To drop all formal parleying —

  And then you're sure to catch it!

  "The Fourth prohibits trespassing

  Where other Ghosts are quartered:

  And those convicted of the thing

  (Unless when pardoned by the King)

  Must instantly be slaughtered.

  "That simply means 'be cut up small':

  Ghosts soon unite anew.

  The process scarcely hurts at all —

  Not more than when you 're what you call

  'Cut up' by a Review.

  "The Fifth is one you may prefer

  That I should quote entire:—

  The King must be addressed as 'Sir.'

  This, from a simple courtier,

  Is all the laws require:

  "But, should you wish to do the thing

  With out-and-out politeness,

  Accost him as 'My Goblin King!

  And always use, in answering,

  The phrase ' Your Royal Whiteness!'

  "I'm getting rather hoarse, I fear,

  After so much reciting :

  So, if you don't object, my dear,

  We'll try a glass of bitter beer —

  I think it looks inviting."

  Canto III — Scarmoges

  "And did you really walk," said I,

  "On such a wretched night?

  I always fancied Ghosts could fly —

  If not exactly in the sky,

  Yet at a fairish height."

  "It's very well," said he, "for Kings

  To soar above the earth:

  But Phantoms often find that wings —

  Like many other pleasant things —

  Cost more than they are worth.

  "Spectres of course are rich, and so

  Can buy them from the Elves:

  But we prefer to keep below —

  They're stupid company, you know,

  For any but themselves:

  "For, though they claim to be exempt

  From pride, they treat a Phantom

  As something quite beneath contempt —

  Just as no Turkey ever dreamt

  Of noticing a Bantam."

  "They seem too proud," said I, "to go

  To houses such as mine.

  Pray, how did they contrive to know

  So quickly that 'the place was low,'

  And that I 'kept bad wine'?"

  "Inspector Kobold came to you — "

  The little Ghost began.

  Here I broke in — "Inspector who?

  Inspecting Ghosts is something new!

  Explain yourself, my man!"

  "His name is Kobold," said my guest:

  "One of the Spectre order:

  You'll very often see him dressed

  In a yellow gown, a crimson vest,

  And a night-cap with a border.

  "He tried the Brocken business first,

  But caught a sort of chill ;

  So came to England to be nursed,

  And here it took the form of thirst ,

  Which he complains of still.

  "Port-wine, he says, when rich and sound,

  Warms his old bones like nectar:

  And as the inns, where it is found,

  Are his especial hunting-ground,

  We call him the Inn-Spectre. "

  I bore it — bore it like a man —

  This agonizing witticism!

  And nothing could be sweeter than

  My temper, till the Ghost began

  Some most provoking criticism.

  "Cooks need not be indulged in waste;

  Yet still you'd better teach them

  Dishes should have some sort of taste.

  Pray, why are all the cruets placed

  Where nobody can reach them?

  "That man of yours will never earn

  His living as a waiter!

  Is that queer thing supposed to burn?

  (It's far too dismal a concern

  To call a Moderator).

  "The duck was tender, but the peas

  Were very much too old:

  And just remember, if you please,

  The next time you have toasted cheese,

  Don't let them send it cold.

  "You'd find the bread improved, I think,

  By getting better flour:

  And have you anything to drink

  That looks a little less like ink,

  And isn't quite so sour?"

  Then, peering round with curious eyes,

  He muttered "Goodness gracious!"

  And so went on to criticise —

  "Your room's an inconvenient size:

  It's neither snug nor spacious.

  "That narrow window, I expect,

  Serves but to let the dusk in — "

  "But please," said I, "to recollect

  'Twas fashioned by an architect

  Who pinned his faith on Ruskin!"

  "I don't care who he was, Sir, or

  On whom he pinned his faith!

  Constructed by whatever law,

  So poor a job I never saw,

  As I'm a living Wraith!

  "What a re-markable cigar!

  How much are they a dozen?"

  I growled "No matter what they are!

  You're getting as familiar

  As if you were my cousin!

  "Now that's a thing I will not stand ,

  And so I tell you flat."

  "Aha," said he, "we're getting grand!"

  (Taking a bottle in his hand)

  "I'll soon arrange for that !"

  And here he took a careful aim,

  And gaily cried "Here goes!"

  I tried to dodge it as it came,

  But somehow caught it, all the same,

  Exactly on my nose.

  And I remember nothing more

  That I can clearly fix,

  Till I was sitting on the floor,

  Repeating "Two and five are four,

  But five and two are six."

  What really passed I never learned,

  Nor guessed: I only know

  That, when at last my sense returned,

  The lamp, neglected, dimly burned —

  The fire was getting low —

  Through driving mists I seemed to see

  A Thing that smirked and smiled:

  And found that he was giving me

  A lesson in Biography,

  As if I were a child.

  Canto IV — Hys Nouryture

  "Oh, when I was a little Ghost,

  A merry time had we!

  Each seated on his favourite post,

  We chumped and chawed the buttered toast

  They gave us for our tea."

  "That story is in print!" I cried.

  "Don't say it's not, because

  It's known as well as Bradshaw's Guide!"

  (The Ghost uneasily replied

  He hardly thought it was).

  "It's not in Nursery Rhymes? And yet

  I almost think it is —

  'Three little Ghosteses' were set

  'On posteses,' you know, and ate

  Their 'buttered toasteses.'

  "I have the book; so if you doubt it — "

  I turned to search the shelf.

  "Don't stir!" he cried. "We'll do without it:

  I now remember all about it;

  I wrote the thing myself.

  "It came out in a 'Monthly,' or

  At least my agent said it did:

  Some literary swell, who saw

  It, thought it seemed adapted for

  The Magazine he edited.

  "My father was a Brownie, Sir;

  My mother was a Fairy.

  The notion had occurred to her,

  The children would be happier,

  If they were taught to vary.

  "The notion soon became a craze;

  And, when it once began, she

  Brought us all out in different ways —

  One was a Pixy, two were Fays,

  Another was a Banshee;

  "The Fetch and Kelpie went to school

  And gave a lot of trouble;

  Next came a Poltergeist and Ghoul,

  And then two Trolls (which broke the rule),

  A Goblin, and a Double —

  "(If that's a snuff-box on the shelf,"

  He added with a yawn,

  "I'll take a pinch) — next came an Elf,

  And then a Phantom (that's myself),

  And last, a Leprechaun.

  "One day, some Spectres chanced to call,

  Dressed in the usual white:

  I stood and watched them in the hall,

  And couldn't make them out at all,

  They seemed so strange a sight.