Poem: The Ghost (of Abel Law)

'Tis about twenty years since ABEL LAW,
A short, round-favored, merry
Old soldier of the Revolutionary
War,
Was wedded to
A most abominable shrew.–
The temper, sir, of Shakespeare's “Catharine”
Could be no more compared with her's,
Than mine,
With Lucifer's.

Her eye was like a weasel's.
She had a harsh
Face, like a cranberry marsh;
And spread
With spots of white and red,
As if she had the measles;
With hair of the colour of a wisp of straw,
And a disposition like a cross-cut saw.
The appellation of this lovely dame
Was Ann, or Nancy–don't forget the name.

Her brother–David–was a tall
Good-looking chap, and that was all.
One of your great, big nothings, as we say
Here in Rhode-Island; picking up old jokes,
And cracking them on other folks.
Well, David undertook one night, to play
The Ghost, and frighten Abel, whom he knew
Would be returning from a journey, through
A grove of forest wood,
That stood
Below
The house–some distance, half a mile, or so.

With a long, taper
Cap of white paper
Just made to cover
A wig nearly as large over
As a corn basket; and a sheet
With both ends made to meet
Across his breast;
(The way in which ghosts are always drest;)
He took
His station, near
A huge oak tree;
Whence he could overlook the road, and see
Whatever might appear.

It happened, that about an hour before, friend
  Abel
Had left the table
Of an inn, where he had made a halt,
With his horse and wagon,
To taste a flagon
Of malt
Liquor, and so forth; which being done,
He went on;
Caring no more for twenty ghosts,
Than if they were many posts.

David was nearly tired of waiting–
His patience was abating,
At length, he heard the careless tones
Of his kinsman's voice;
And then, the noise
Of the wagon wheels among the stones.

Abel was quite elated, and was roaring
With all his might; and pouring
Out, fragment confusion,
Scraps of old songs, made in “the revolution.”
His head was full of Bunker-Hill and Trenton.
And still he went on,
Scaring the whip-poor-will's among the trees,
With rhymes like these.
  “See the Yankees
   Leave the Hill,
   With baggerets declining–
   With lopp'd down bats,
   And rusty guns,
   And leather aprons shining.”

“See the Yankees.–What! Why what is that!”
Said Abel, startling like a cat,
As slowly, on the fearful figure strode
Into the middle of the road.
“My conscience! What a suit of clothes!
Some crazy fellow, I suppose.
Halloo! friend What's-name; By the powers
  of gin
That's a strange dress to travel in.”

“Be silent, Abel; for I now have come
To rend your doom.
Then, hearken, while your fate I now declare.
I am a Spirit,”–“I suppose you are,
But you'll not hurt me; and I'll tell you why.
Here is a fact which you cannot deny.
All spirits can be either good or bad–
Thats understood.
And be you good or evil, I am sure
That I'm secure.
If a good spirit–I am safe. If evil,
And I don't know but you may be the DEVIL
If that's the case, you'll recollect I fancy,
That I am married to your sister NANCY.”

**************

Originally printed in New-Hampshire Statesman, (Concord, NH) Monday, February 16, 1824; Issue 7; col A, as a reprint from the Manufacturers' & Farmer's Journal;  Title: Poetry Run Mad, No. 2 the Ghost ; By the author of “Ezekiel's Visit to Deacon Stokes.”

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