"Cosi quel fiato gli spiriti mali
Di quà, di là, di giu, di su gli mena."
Inferno, canto 5.
I turned my steps and lo! a shadowy throng
Of ghosts came fluttering towards me--blown along,
Like cockchafers in high autumnal storms,
By many a fitful gust that thro' their forms
Whistled, as on they came, with wheezy puff,
And puft as--tho' they'd never puff enough.
"Whence and what are ye?" pitying I inquired
Of these poor ghosts, who, tattered, tost, and tired
With such eternal puffing, scarce could stand
On their lean legs while answering my demand.
"We once were authors"--thus the Sprite, who led
This tag-rag regiment of spectres, said--
"Authors of every sex, male, female, neuter,
"Who, early smit with love of praise and--pewter,
"On C--lb--n's shelves first saw the light of day,
"In ---'s puffs exhaled our lives away--
"Like summer windmills, doomed to dusty peace,
"When the brisk gales that lent them motion, cease.
"Ah! little knew we then what ills await
"Much-lauded scribblers in their after-state;
"Bepuft on earth--how loudly Str--t can tell--
"And, dire reward, now doubly puft in hell!"
Touched with compassion for this ghastly crew,
Whose ribs even now the hollow wind sung thro'
In mournful prose,--such prose as Rosa's ghost
Still, at the accustomed hour of eggs and toast,
Sighs thro' the columns of the Morning Post,--
Pensive I turned to weep, when he who stood
Foremost of all that flatulential brood,
Singling a she-ghost from the party, said,
"Allow me to present Miss X. Y. Z.,
"One of our lettered nymphs--excuse the pun--
"Who gained a name on earth by--having none;
"And whose initials would immortal be,
"Had she but learned those plain ones, A. B. C.
"Yon smirking ghost, like mummy dry and neat,
"Wrapt in his own dead rhymes--fit winding-sheet--
"Still marvels much that not a soul should care
"One single pin to know who wrote 'May Fair;'--
"While this young gentleman," (here forth he drew
A dandy spectre, puft quite thro' and thro',
As tho' his ribs were an AEolian lyre
For the whole Row's soft tradewinds to inspire,)
"This modest genius breathed one wish alone,
"To have his volume read, himself unknown;
"But different far the course his glory took,
"All knew the author, and--none read the book.
"Behold, in yonder ancient figure of fun,
"Who rides the blast, Sir Jonah Barrington;--
"In tricks to raise the wind his life was spent,
"And now the wind returns the compliment.
"This lady here, the Earl of ---'s sister,
"Is a dead novelist; and this is Mister--
"Beg pardon--Honorable Mister Lister,
"A gentleman who some weeks since came over
"In a smart puff (wind S. S. E.) to Dover.
"Yonder behind us limps young Vivian Grey,
"Whose life, poor youth, was long since blown away--
"Like a torn paper-kite on which the wind
"No further purchase for a puff can find."
"And thou, thyself"--here, anxious, I exclaimed--
"Tell us, good ghost, how thou, thyself, art named."
"Me, Sir!" he blushing cried--"Ah! there's the rub--
"Know, then--a waiter once at Brooks's Club,
"A waiter still I might have long remained,
"And long the club-room's jokes and glasses drained;
"But ah! in luckless hour, this last December,
"I wrote a book, and Colburn dubbed me 'Member'--
"'Member of Brooks's!'--oh Promethean puff,
"To what wilt thou exalt even kitchen-stuff!
"With crumbs of gossip, caught from dining wits,
"And half-heard jokes, bequeathed, like half-chewed bits,
"To be, each night, the waiter's perquisites;--
"With such ingredients served up oft before,
"But with fresh fudge and fiction garnisht o'er,
"I managed for some weeks to dose the town,
"Till fresh reserves of nonsense ran me down;
"And ready still even waiters' souls to damn,
"The Devil but rang his bell, and--here I am;--
"Yes--'Coming up, Sir,' once my favorite cry,
"Exchanged for 'Coming down, Sir,' here am I!"
Scarce had the Spectre's lips these words let drop,
When, lo! a breeze--such as from ---'s shop
Blows in the vernal hour when puffs prevail,
And speeds the sheets and swells the lagging sale--
Took the poor waiter rudely in the poop,
And whirling him and all his grisly group
Of literary ghosts--Miss X. Y. Z.--
The nameless author, better known than read--
Sir Jo--the Honorable Mr. Lister,
And last, not least, Lord Nobody's twin-sister--
Blew them, ye gods, with all their prose and rhymes
And sins about them, far into those climes
"Where Peter pitched his waistcoat" in old times,
Leaving me much in doubt as on I prest,
With my great master, thro' this realm unblest,
Whether Old Nick or Colburn puffs the best.