Richard Harris Barham

Here you will find the Long Poem The Ghost, of poet Richard Harris Barham

The Ghost,

There stands a City,-- neither large nor small, 
Its air and situation sweet and pretty; 
It matters very little -- if at all -- 
Whether its denizens are dull or witty, 
Whether the ladies there are short or tall, 
Brunettes or blondes, only, there stands a city!-- 
Perhaps 'tis also requisite to minute 
That there's a Castle and a Cobbler in it. 

A fair Cathedral, too, the story goes, 
And kings and heroes lie entomb'd within her; 
There pious Saints, in marble pomp repose, 
Whose shrines are worn by knees of many a Sinner; 
There, too, full many an Aldermanic nose 
Roll'd its loud diapason after dinner; 
And there stood high the holy sconce of Becket, 
-- Till four assassins came from France to crack it. 

The Castle was a huge and antique mound, 
Proof against all th' artillery of the quiver, 
Ere those abominable guns were found 
To send cold lead through gallant warrior's liver. 
It stands upon a gently rising ground, 
Sloping down gradually to the river, 
Resembling (to compare great things with smaller), 
A well-scooped, mouldy Stilton cheese,-- but taller. 

The Keep, I find, 's been sadly alter'd lately, 
And, 'stead of mail-clad knights, of honour jealous, 
In martial panoply so grand and stately, 
Its walls are fill'd with money-making fellows, 
And stuff'd, unless I'm misinformed greatly, 
With leaden pipes, and coke, and coals, and bellows; 
In short, so great a change has come to pass, 
'Tis now a manufactory of Gas. 

But to my tale.-- Before this profanation, 
And ere its ancient glories were cut short all, 
A poor hard-working Cobbler took his station 
In a small house, just opposite the portal; 
His birth, his parentage, and education, 
I know but little of -- a strange, odd mortal; 
His aspect, air, and gait, were all ridiculous; 
His name was Mason -- he'd been christen'd Nicholas. 

Nick had a wife possessed of many a charm, 
And of the Lady Huntingdon persuasion; 
But, spite of all her piety, her arm 
She'd sometimes exercise when in a passion; 
And, being of a temper somewhat warm, 
Would now and then seize, upon small occasion, 
A stick, or stool, or anything that round did lie, 
And baste her lord and master most confoundedly. 

No matter!--'tis a thing that's not uncommon, 
'Tis what we have all heard, and most have read of,-- 
I mean, a bruizing, pugilistic woman, 
Such as I own I entertain a dread of, 
-- And so did Nick, whom sometimes there would come on 
A sort of fear his spouse might knock his head off, 
Demolish half his teeth, or drive a rib in, 
She shone so much in 'facers' and in 'fibbing.' 

'There's time and place for all things,' said a sage, 
(King Solomon, I think,) and this I can say, 
Within a well-roped ring, or on a stage, 
Boxing may be a very pretty Fancy, 
When Messrs. Burke or Bendigo engage; 
--' Tis not so well in Susan, Jane, or Nancy;-- 
To get well mill'd by any one's an evil, 
But by a lady --' tis the very Devil. 

And so thought Nicholas, whose only trouble 
(At least his worst) was this his rib's propensity, 
For sometimes from the alehouse he would hobble, 
His senses lost in a sublime immensity 
Of cogitation -- then he couldn't cobble -- 
And then his wife would often try the density 
Of his poor skull, and strike with all her might, 
As fast as kitchen wenches strike a light. 

Mason, meek soul, who ever hated strife, 
Of this same striking had the utmost dread, 
He hated it like poison -- or his wife -- 
A vast antipathy!-- but so he said -- 
And very often for a quiet life 
On these occasions he'd sneak up to bed, 
Grope darkling in, and, soon as at the door 
He heard his lady -- he'd pretend to snore. 

One night, then, ever partial to society, 
Nick, with a friend (another jovial fellow), 
Went to a Club -- I should have said Society -- 
At the 'City Arms,' once called the Porto Bello; 
A Spouting party, which, though some decry it, I 
Consider no bad lounge when one is mellow; 
There they discuss the tax on salt, and leather, 
And change of ministers, and change of weather. 

In short, it was a kind of British Forum, 
Like John Gale Jones's, erst in Piccadilly, 
Only they managed things with more decorum, 
And the Orations were not quite so silly; 
Far different questions, too, would come before 'em, 
Not always Politics, which, will ye nill ye, 
Their London prototypes were always willing, 
To give one quantum suff. of -- for a shilling. 

It more resembled one of later date, 
And tenfold talent, as I'm told, in Bow Street, 
Where kindlier natured souls do congregate, 
And, though there are who deem that same a low street, 
Yet, I'm assured, for frolicsome debate 
And genuine humour it's surpaass'd by n