A Long & True Story
By many a tottering nurse is known
The legend of the Cock-Lane Ghost;
How it would rumble, sigh, and groan,
And ’mid the platters rule the roast.
Great was the fear this ghost produc’d,
’Mong children small & children great,
Till its importance was reduc’d
By Gardner’s ghost without a pate! 1
Yet ghosts, like mortal sons of clay,
Shrink under fate’s constraining force,
E’en they like dogs have but their day,
And traverse but a stated course.
Hide your diminish’d heads ye ghosts,
If heads ye have, or else your shoulders;
Ye ancient goblins cease your boasts,
Attend my tale ye sprite beholders!
Know then in fair Queen Ann Street East
There dwells a man of worth and fame,
One, whom you’d think, of all men least,
Intended for a ghostly game.
At this man’s door, not long ago,
Just as the parish clock struck ten,
The bell was heard to ring! — when lo!
The bell was heard to ring again!
The door was op’d, yet none could spy,
Who dar’d thus stir up such alarm;
Without, within, below, on high
All stood confounded by the charm.
Yet not enough — for now a sound
Of long-protracted pain was heard;
Then would the walks with blows rebound,
Tho’ neither shape, nor hand appear’d!
Imagination’s ample pinion
Swift bore her from her rainbow sky;
And with her, from their dark dominion,
She brought pale fear’s fantastic fry.
Man, woman, child, were dumb with dread,
Whilst horror changed each object’s hue,
’Till each slunk trembling up to bed
Scar’d by the lights that burnt so blue!
The ghost was laid — ’twas silent all
Though not a soul could get a doze;
Nor groans were heard; nor thund’ring wall,
Nor bell, — ’till all the folks arose.
Then once again the din began,
Our wight was now well nigh distraught
And swore he’d fetch a cunning man
Who held all ghostlike things at nought.
The cunning man to Ann Street drove,
He search’d the wall, he search’d the wire
He heard the noise but vainly strove
To make the mystery transpire.
The cunning man discours’d of ”matter”,
Of ”causes & effects unknown,”
How ”of itself” a bell might clatter,
And bricks and mortar might sigh & groan.
Said science yet had much to do
Before she laid Dame Nature bare,
Besides he’d boldly ask who knew
The chemical effects of air?
Small consolation for our wight! —
Th’ effect he car’d for, not the cause,
So off he trudg’d to name his plight
To an expounder of the laws.
With laws & statutes cramm’d, he came
The ghostly tenant to eject;
First in our noble sov’reigns name
Commanded peace! — this dialect,
Must have been gibb’rish to the ghost
For straight, a noise as thunder loud
Rapid as light’ning clear’d the coast
Nor left one remnant of the crowd!
Old Minos gall’d at this reception
So riotous, so strange, so rude —
Gravely gave out as his conception
The ghost was one of Satan’s brood!
Indeed, quoth he ’tis plain & level
Since tailors at the next door dwell,
That this same ghost must be the devil
Hid in the tailors motley hell! 2
Forthwith in solemn order sped
His worship to the hapless tailors,
His valiant van by runners led;
His rear brought up by clarks and jailors,
How poor is language, Art how vain
To speak the pangs that guilt produces
Where culprits view the rattling chain,
Or gibbets tall, or dangling nooses.
So Snip, whose conscience somewhat soil’d
In truth was rather worse for wear,
In anguish from the sight recoil’d
When first he saw the justice there!
Swift on his knees the varlet try’d
His worship’s pity to awaken —
And with a mournful accent cry’d,
“Take all my cabbage, spare my bacon!”
At this the inquisitor was huff’d
Judging it offer’d in derision,
So straight poor tremb’ling snip was cuff’d
And sent to limbo for “misprision!”
His little darling daughter then
By solemn sacred oath was bound,
To tell unto these legal men
“If aught she knew that made the sound!”
Her answer, simple thing, was plain.
“She nothing knew and nothing heard”
Nor all their quirking arts could gain,
Another syllable or word! —
But now at last this ghost is laid!
Without or priest, or sage confessor, —
Thanks to the Institution’s aid
Who sent their learned sound Professor!
He watched the rattling wonder slowly,
He bid the folks their terrors hush;
Then swore by all that saints deem holy
The noise was made by wooden brush!
And to confirm his affirmation,
And shame all rude incred’lous airs,
He told them that the ghostly station
Lay underneath the kitchen stairs!
And true as fate on bursting in
To where the spirit lay perdue
They found the secret of the din,
Molly the housemaid met their view!
There hid, the jade had play’d the ghost,
With jack-weight, Brushes, bells and stones;
Or when the plaintives pleased her most
Assail’d their ears with sighs & groans!
This closed the scene — refuse who can
A triffling tribute of applause
To hear who pos’d a cunning man
And eke the cunning men of laws.
And now a moral to the tale;
And then concludes our harmless labour
Look well at home, ere you assail
With fool-born fears your next door neighbour!