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 can'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 a Ghost 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 kep 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."

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Stefan Bilaniuk, Department of Mathematics, Trent University
Maintained by Stefan Bilaniuk. Last updated 1999.09.26.