William Schwenck Gilbert ( )


The Bab Ballads. Haunted


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 Id 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 thats manly, free, and brave:
Youll find their names on the architrave
      Of that charnel-house, Society.

Black Mondayblack 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 wouldnt 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 Cæsar unprepared,
      Im 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 wasnt 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 Ive run my race,
Is, Reader, this is the resting-place
      Of an unsuccessful duffer.

Ive fought them all, these ghosts of mine,
But the weapons Ive used are sighs and brine,
And now that Im 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.



William Schwenck Gilbert's other poems:
  1. The Modest Couple
  2. The Bab Ballads. Ferdinando and Elvira; or, the Gentle Pieman
  3. The Bab Ballads. The Phantom Curate
  4. The Bab Ballads. The Force of Argument
  5. The Bab Ballads. Gentle Alice Brown


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