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Poem by Thomas Hood
‘Tis very hard when men forsake This melancholy world, and make A bed of turf, they cannot take A quiet doze, But certain rogues will come and break Their “bone” repose. 'Tis hard we can't give up our breath, And to the earth our earth bequeath, Without Death-Fetches after death, Who thus exhume us; And snatch us from our homes beneath, And hearths posthumous. The tender lover comes to rear The mournful urn, and shed his tear- Her glorious dust, he cries, is here! Alack! Alack! The while his Sacharissa dear Is a sack! 'Tis hard one cannot lie amid The mould, beneath a coffin-lid, But thus the Faculty will bid Their rogues break through it, If they don't want us there, why did They send us to it? One of these sacrilegious knaves, Who crave as hungry vulture craves, Behaving as the goul behaves, 'Neath church-yard wall— Mayhap because he fed on graves, Was nam'd Jack Hall. By day it was his trade to go Tending the black coach to and fro; And sometimes at the door of woe, With emblems suitable, He stood with brother Mute, to show That life is mutable. But long before they pass'd the ferry, The dead that he had help'd to bury, He sack'd—(he had a sack to carry The bodies off in) In fact, he let them have a very Short fit of coffin. Night after night, with crow and spade, He drove this dead but thriving trade, Meanwhile his conscience never weigh'd A single horsehair; On corses of all kinds he prey'd, A perfect corsair! At last—it may be, Death took spite; Or, jesting only, meant to fright- He sought for Jack night after night. The churchyards round; And soon they met, the man and sprite, In Pancras' ground. Jack, by the glimpses of the moon. Perceiv'd the bony knacker soon, An awful shape to meet at noon Of night and lonely; But Jack's tough courage did but swoon A minute only. Anon he gave his spade a swing Aloft, and kept it brandishing, Ready for what mishaps might spring From this conjunction; Funking indeed was quite a thing Beside his function. "Hollo!" cried Death, "d'ye wish your sands Run out? the stoutest never stands A chance with me,—to my commands The strongest truckles; But I'm your friend—so let's shake hands, I should say—knuckles." Jack, glad to see th' old sprite so sprightly And meaning nothing but uprightly, Shook hands at once, and, bowing slightly, His mull did proffer: But Death, who had no nose, politely Declin'd the offer. Then sitting down upon a bank, Leg over leg, shank over shank, Like friends for conversation frank, That had no check on: Quoth Jack unto the Lean and Lank, "You're Death, I reckon.” The jaw-bone grinn'd:— “I am that same, You've hit exactly on my name; In truth it has some little fame Where burial sod is." Quoth Jack, (and wink'd), "of course ye came Here after bodies." Death grinn'd again and shook his head:— "I've little business with the dead; When they are fairly sent to bed I've done my turn: Whether or not the worms are fed Is your concern. "My errand here, in meeting you, Is nothing but a ‘how-d'ye-do;' I've done what jobs I had—a few Along this way; If I can serve a crony too, I beg you'll say." Quoth Jack, "Your Honour's very kind: And now I call the thing to mind, This parish very strict I find; But in the next 'an There lives a very well-inclined Old sort of sexton." Death took the hint, and gave a wink As well as eyelet holes can blink; Then stretching out his arm to link The other's arm,— "Suppose," says he, "we have a drink Of something warm." Jack nothing loth, with friendly ease Spoke up at once:—"Why, what ye please; Hard by there is the Cheshire Cheese, A famous tap." But this suggestion seem'd to tease The bony chap. "No, no—your mortal drinks are heady, And only make my hand unsteady, I do not even care for Deady, And loathe your rum; But I've some glorious brewage ready. My drink is—Mum!" And off they set, each right content— Who knows the dreary way they went? But Jack felt rather faint and spent. And out of breath; At last he saw, quite evident, The Door of Death. All other men had been unmann'd To see a coffin on each hand, That served a skeleton to stand By way of sentry; In fact, Death has a very grand And awful entry. Throughout his dismal sign prevails, His name is writ in coffin nails; The mortal darts make area rails; A skull that mocketh, Grins on the gloomy gate, and quails Whoever knocketh. And lo! on either side, arise Two monstrous pillars—bones of thighs, A monumental slab supplies The step of stone, Where waiting for his master lies A dog of bone. The dog leapt up, but gave no yell, The wire was pull'd, but woke no bell, The ghastly knocker rose and fell, But caused no riot; The ways of Death, we all know well Are very quiet. Old Bones stept in; Jack stepp'd behind; Quoth Death, "I really hope you'll find The entertainment to your mind, As I shall treat ye— A friend or two of goblin kind, I've asked to meet ye," And lo! a crowd of spectres tall, Like jack-a-lanterns on a wall, Were standing—every ghastly ball— An eager watcher. “My friend," says Death—"friends, Mr. Hall, The body-snatcher." Lord, what a tumult it produced. When Mr. Hall was introduced! Jack even, who had long been used To frightful things, Felt just as if his back was sluic'd With freezing springs! Each goblin face began to make Some horrid mouth—ape—gorgon—snake; And then a spectre-hag would shake An airy thigh-bone; And cried, (or seem'd to cry,) I'll break Your bone, with my bone! Some ground their teeth—some seem'd to spit— (Nothing, but nothing came of it,) A hundred awful brows were knit In dreadful spite. Thought Jack—"I'm sure I'd better quit Without good-night." One skip and hop and he was clear, And running like a hunted deer, As fleet as people run by fear Well spurr'd and whipp'd, Death, ghosts, and all in that career Were quite outstripp'd. But those who live by death must die; Jack's soul at last prepared to fly; And when his latter end drew nigh. Oh! what a swarm Of doctors came,—but not to try To keep him warm. No ravens ever scented prey So early where a dead horse lay, Nor vultures sniff'd so far away A last convulse: A dozen "guests" day after day Were "at his pulse." 'Twas strange, altho' they got no fees, How still they watch 'd by twos and threes. But Jack a very little ease Obtain'd from them; In fact he did not find M. D.'s Worth one D——M. The passing bell with hollow toll Was in his thought—the dreary hole! Jack gave his eyes a horrid roll, And then a cough:— "There's something weighing on my soul I wish was off; "All night it roves about my brains, All day it adds to all my pains, It is concerning my remains When I am dead:" Twelve wigs and twelve gold-headed canes Drew near his bed. "Alas!" he sigh'd, "I'm sore afraid A dozen pangs my heart invade; But when I drove a certain trade In flesh and bone, There was a little bargain made About my own." Twelve suits of black began to close, Twelve pair of sleek and sable hose, Twelve flowing cambric frills in rows, At once drew round; Twelve noses turn'd against his nose, Twelve snubs profound. "Ten guineas did not quite suffice, And so I sold my body twice; Twice did not do—I sold it thrice, Forgive my crimes! In short I have received its price A dozen times! Twelve brows got very grim and black, Twelve wishes stretched him on the rack, Twelve pair of hands for fierce attack Took up position, Ready to share the dying Jack By long division. Twelve angry doctors wrangled so, That twelve had struck an hour ago, Before they had an eye to throw On the departed; Twelve heads turn'd round at once, and lo! Twelve doctors started. Whether some comrade of the dead, Or Satan took it in his head To steal the corpse—the corpse had fled! 'Tis only written, That "there was nothing in the bed, But twelve were bitten!"
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