The Unhappy Lot Of Mr. Knott

A poem by James Russell Lowell



My worthy friend, A. Gordon Knott,
From business snug withdrawn,
Was much contented with a lot
That would contain a Tudor cot
'Twixt twelve feet square of garden-plot,
And twelve feet more of lawn.

He had laid business on the shelf
To give his taste expansion,
And, since no man, retired with pelf,
The building mania can shun,
Knott, being middle-aged himself,
Resolved to build (unhappy elf!)
A mediæval mansion.

He called an architect in counsel;
'I want,' said he, 'a--you know what,
(You are a builder, I am Knott)
A thing complete from chimney-pot
Down to the very grounsel;
Here's a half-acre of good land;
Just have it nicely mapped and planned
And make your workmen drive on;
Meadow there is, and upland too,
And I should like a water-view,
D'you think you could contrive one?
(Perhaps the pump and trough would do,
If painted a judicious blue?)
The woodland I've attended to;'
[He meant three pines stuck up askew,
Two dead ones and a live one.]
'A pocket-full of rocks 'twould take
To build a house of freestone,
But then it is not hard to make
What nowadays is the stone;
The cunning painter in a trice
Your house's outside petrifies,
And people think it very gneiss
Without inquiring deeper;
My money never shall be thrown
Away on such a deal of stone,
When stone of deal is cheaper.'

And so the greenest of antiques
Was reared for Knott to dwell in:
The architect worked hard for weeks
In venting all his private peaks
Upon the roof, whose crop of leaks
Had satisfied Fluellen;
Whatever anybody had
Out of the common, good or bad,
Knott had it all worked well in;
A donjon-keep, where clothes might dry,
A porter's lodge that was a sty,
A campanile slim and high,
Too small to hang a bell in;
All up and down and here and there,
With Lord-knows-whats of round and square
Stuck on at random everywhere,--
It was a house to make one stare,
All corners and all gables;
Like dogs let loose upon a bear,
Ten emulous styles staboyed with care,
The whole among them seemed to tear,
And all the oddities to spare
Were set upon the stables.

Knott was delighted with a pile
Approved by fashion's leaders:
(Only he made the builder smile,
By asking every little while,
Why that was called the Twodoor style,
Which certainly had three doors?)
Yet better for this luckless man
If he had put a downright ban
Upon the thing in limine;
For, though to quit affairs his plan,
Ere many days, poor Knott began
Perforce accepting draughts, that ran
All ways--except up chimney;
The house, though painted stone to mock,
With nice white lines round every block,
Some trepidation stood in,
When tempests (with petrific shock,
So to speak,) made it really rock,
Though not a whit less wooden;
And painted stone, howe'er well done,
Will not take in the prodigal sun
Whose beams are never quite at one
With our terrestrial lumber;
So the wood shrank around the knots,
And gaped in disconcerting spots,
And there were lots of dots and rots
And crannies without number,
Wherethrough, as you may well presume,
The wind, like water through a flume,
Came rushing in ecstatic,
Leaving, in all three floors, no room
That was not a rheumatic;
And, what with points and squares and rounds
Grown shaky on their poises,
The house at nights was full of pounds,
Thumps, bumps, creaks, scratchings, raps--till--'Zounds!'
Cried Knott, 'this goes beyond all bounds;
I do not deal in tongues and sounds,
Nor have I let my house and grounds
To a family of Noyeses!'

But, though Knott's house was full of airs,
He had but one,--a daughter;
And, as he owned much stocks and shares,
Many who wished to render theirs
Such vain, unsatisfying cares,
And needed wives to sew their tears,
In matrimony sought her;
They vowed her gold they wanted not,
Their faith would never falter,
They longed to tie this single Knott
In the Hymeneal halter;
So daily at the door they rang,
Cards for the belle delivering,
Or in the choir at her they sang,
Achieving such a rapturous twang
As set her nerves ashivering.

Now Knott had quite made up his mind
That Colonel Jones should have her;
No beauty he, but oft we find
Sweet kernels 'neath a roughish rind,
So hoped his Jenny'd be resigned
And make no more palaver;
Glanced at the fact that love was blind,
That girls were ratherish inclined
To pet their little crosses,
Then nosologically defined
The rate at which the system pined
In those unfortunates who dined
Upon that metaphoric kind
Of dish--their own proboscis.

But she, with many tears and moans,
Besought him not to mock her.
Said 'twas too much for flesh and bones
To marry mortgages and loans,
That fathers' hearts were stocks and stones.
And that she'd go, when Mrs. Jones,
To Davy Jones's locker;
Then gave her head a little toss
That said as plain as ever was,
If men are always at a loss
Mere womankind to bridle--
To try the thing on woman cross
Were fifty times as idle;
For she a strict resolve had made
And registered in private,
That either she would die a maid,
Or else be Mrs. Doctor Slade,
If a woman could contrive it;
And, though the wedding-day was set,
Jenny was more so, rather,
Declaring, in a pretty pet,
That, howsoe'er they spread their net,
She would out-Jennyral them yet,
The colonel and her father.

Just at this time the Public's eyes
Were keenly on the watch, a stir
Beginning slowly to arise
About those questions and replies.
Those raps that unwrapped mysteries
So rapidly at Rochester,
And Knott, already nervous grown
By lying much awake alone.
And listening, sometimes to a moan,
And sometimes to a clatter,
Whene'er the wind at night would rouse
The gingerbread-work on his house,
Or when some, hasty-tempered mouse,
Behind the plastering, made a towse
About a family matter,
Began to wonder if his wife,
A paralytic half her life.
Which made it more surprising,
Might not, to rule him from her urn,
Have taken a peripatetic turn
For want of exorcising.

This thought, once nestled in his head,
Erelong contagious grew, and spread
Infecting all his mind with dread,
Until at last he lay in bed
And heard his wife, with well-known tread,
Entering the kitchen through the shed,
(Or was't his fancy, mocking?)
Opening the pantry, cutting bread,
And then (she'd been some ten years dead)
Closets and drawers unlocking;
Or, in his room (his breath grew thick)
He heard the long-familiar click
Of slender needles flying quick,
As if she knit a stocking;
For whom?--he prayed that years might flit
With pains rheumatic shooting,
Before those ghostly things she knit
Upon his unfleshed sole might fit,
He did not fancy it a bit,
To stand upon that footing:
At other times, his frightened hairs
Above the bedclothes trusting,
He heard her, full of household cares,
(No dream entrapped in supper's snares,
The foal of horrible nightmares,
But broad awake, as he declares),
Go bustling up and down the stairs,
Or setting back last evening's chairs,
Or with the poker thrusting
The raked-up sea-coal's hardened crust--
And--what! impossible! it must!
He knew she had returned to dust,
And yet could scarce his senses trust,
Hearing her as she poked and fussed
About the parlor, dusting!

Night after night he strove to sleep
And take his ease in spite of it;
But still his flesh would chill and creep,
And, though two night-lamps he might keep,
He could not so make light of it.
At last, quite desperate, he goes
And tells his neighbors all his woes,
Which did but their amount enhance;
They made such mockery of his fears
That soon his days were of all jeers.
His nights of the rueful countenance;
'I thought most folks,' one neighbor said,
'Gave up the ghost when they were dead?'
Another gravely shook his head,
Adding, 'From all we hear, it's
Quite plain poor Knott is going mad--
For how can he at once be sad
And think he's full of spirits?'
A third declared he knew a knife
Would cut this Knott much quicker,
'The surest way to end all strife,
And lay the spirit of a wife,
Is just to take and lick her!'
A temperance man caught up the word,
'Ah yes,' he groaned, 'I've always heard
Our poor friend somewhat slanted
Tow'rd taking liquor overmuch;
I fear these spirits may be Dutch,
(A sort of gins, or something such,)
With which his house is haunted;
I see the thing as clear as light,--
If Knott would give up getting tight,
Naught farther would be wanted:'
So all his neighbors stood aloof
And, that the spirits 'neath his roof
Were not entirely up to proof,
Unanimously granted.

Knott knew that cocks and sprites were foes,
And so bought up, Heaven only knows
How many, for he wanted crows
To give ghosts caws, as I suppose,
To think that day was breaking;
Moreover what he called his park,
He turned into a kind of ark
For dogs, because a little bark
Is a good tonic in the dark,
If one is given to waking;
But things went on from bad to worse,
His curs were nothing but a curse,
And, what was still more shocking,
Foul ghosts of living fowl made scoff
And would not think of going off
In spite of all his cocking.

Shanghais, Bucks-counties, Dominiques,
Malays (that didn't lay for weeks),
Polanders, Bantams, Dorkings,
(Waiving the cost, no trifling ill,
Since each brought in his little bill,)
By day or night were never still,
But every thought of rest would kill
With cacklings and with quorkings;
Henry the Eighth of wives got free
By a way he had of axing;
But poor Knott's Tudor henery
Was not so fortunate, and he
Still found his trouble waxing;
As for the dogs, the rows they made,
And how they howled, snarled, barked and bayed,
Beyond all human knowledge is;
All night, as wide awake as gnats,
The terriers rumpused after rats,
Or, just for practice, taught their brats
To worry cast-off shoes and hats,
The bull-dogs settled private spats,
All chased imaginary cats,
Or raved behind the fence's slats
At real ones, or, from their mats,
With friends, miles off, held pleasant chats,
Or, like some folks in white cravats,
Contemptuous of sharps and flats,
Sat up and sang dogsologies.
Meanwhile the cats set up a squall,
And, safe upon the garden-wall,
All night kept cat-a-walling,
As if the feline race were all.
In one wild cataleptic sprawl,
Into love's tortures falling.



At first the ghosts were somewhat shy,
Coming when none but Knott was nigh,
And people said 'twas all their eye,
(Or rather his) a flam, the sly
Digestion's machination:
Some recommended a wet sheet,
Some a nice broth of pounded peat,
Some a cold flat-iron to the feet,
Some a decoction of lamb's-bleat,
Some a southwesterly grain of wheat;
Meat was by some pronounced unmeet,
Others thought fish most indiscreet,
And that 'twas worse than all to eat
Of vegetables, sour or sweet,
(Except, perhaps, the skin of beet,)
In such a concatenation:
One quack his button gently plucks
And murmurs, 'Biliary ducks!'
Says Knott, 'I never ate one;'
But all, though brimming full of wrath,
Homoeo, Allo, Hydropath,
Concurred in this--that t'other's path
To death's door was the straight one.
Still, spite of medical advice,
The ghosts came thicker, and a spice
Of mischief grew apparent;
Nor did they only come at night,
But seemed to fancy broad daylight,
Till Knott, in horror and affright,
His unoffending hair rent;
Whene'er with handkerchief on lap,
He made his elbow-chair a trap,
To catch an after-dinner nap,
The spirits, always on the tap,
Would make a sudden rap, rap, rap,
The half-spun cord of sleep to snap,
(And what is life without its nap
But threadbareness and mere mishap?)
As 'twere with a percussion cap
The trouble's climax capping;
It seemed a party dried and grim
Of mummies had come to visit him,
Each getting off from every limb
Its multitudinous wrapping;
Scratchings sometimes the walls ran round,
The merest penny-weights of sound;
Sometimes 'twas only by the pound
They carried on their dealing,
A thumping 'neath the parlor floor,
Thump-bump-thump-bumping o'er and o'er,
As if the vegetables in store
(Quiet and orderly before)
Were all together peeling;
You would have thought the thing was done
By the spirit of some son of a gun,
And that a forty-two-pounder,
Or that the ghost which made such sounds
Could be none other than John Pounds,
Of Ragged Schools the founder.
Through three gradations of affright,
The awful noises reached their height;
At first they knocked nocturnally,
Then, for some reason, changing quite,
(As mourners, after six months' flight,
Turn suddenly from dark to light,)
Began to knock diurnally,
And last, combining all their stocks,
(Scotland was ne'er so full of Knox,)
Into one Chaos (father of Nox,)
Nocte pluit--they showered knocks,
And knocked, knocked, knocked, eternally;
Ever upon the go, like buoys,
(Wooden sea-urchins,) all Knott's joys,
They turned to troubles and a noise
That preyed on him internally.

Soon they grew wider in their scope;
Whenever Knott a door would ope,
It would ope not, or else elope
And fly back (curbless as a trope
Once started down a stanza's slope
By a bard that gave it too much rope--)
Like a clap of thunder slamming:
And, when kind Jenny brought his hat,
(She always, when he walked, did that,)
Just as upon his heart it sat,
Submitting to his settling pat,
Some unseen hand would jam it flat,
Or give it such a furious bat
That eyes and nose went cramming
Up out of sight, and consequently,
As when in life it paddled free,
His beaver caused much damning;
If these things seem o'erstrained to be,
Read the account of Doctor Dee,
'Tis in our college library:
Read Wesley's circumstantial plea,
And Mrs. Crowe, more like a bee,
Sucking the nightshade's honeyed fee,
And Stilling's Pneumatology;
Consult Scot, Glanvil, grave Wie-
rus and both Mathers; further see,
Webster, Casaubon, James First's trea-
tise, a right royal Q.E.D.
Writ with the moon in perigee,
Bodin de la Demonomanie--
(Accent that last line gingerly)
All full of learning as the sea
Of fishes, and all disagree,
Save in Sathanas apage!
Or, what will surely put a flea
In unbelieving ears--with glee,
Out of a paper (sent to me
By some friend who forgot to P ...
A ... Y ...--I use cryptography
Lest I his vengeful pen should dree--
His P ...O ...S ...T ...A ...G ...E ...)
Things to the same effect I cut,
About the tantrums of a ghost,
Not more than three weeks since, at most,
Near Stratford, in Connecticut.
Knott's Upas daily spread its roots,
Sent up on all sides livelier shoots,
And bore more pestilential fruits;
The ghosts behaved like downright brutes,
They snipped holes in his Sunday suits,
Practised all night on octave flutes,
Put peas (not peace) into his boots,
Whereof grew corns in season,
They scotched his sheets, and, what was worse,
Stuck his silk nightcap full of burrs,
Till he, in language plain and terse,
(But much unlike a Bible verse,)
Swore he should lose his reason.

The tables took to spinning, too,
Perpetual yarns, and arm-chairs grew
To prophets and apostles;
One footstool vowed that only he
Of law and gospel held the key,
That teachers of whate'er degree
To whom opinion bows the knee
Weren't fit to teach Truth's a b c,
And were (the whole lot) to a T
Mere fogies all and fossils;
A teapoy, late the property
Of Knox's Aunt Keziah,
(Whom Jenny most irreverently
Had nicknamed her aunt-tipathy)
With tips emphatic claimed to be
The prophet Jeremiah;
The tins upon the kitchen-wall,
Turned tintinnabulators all,
And things that used to come to call
For simple household services
Began to hop and whirl and prance,
Fit to put out of countenance
The Commís and Grisettes of France
Or Turkey's dancing Dervises.

Of course such doings, far and wide,
With rumors filled the countryside,
And (as it is our nation's pride
To think a Truth not verified
Till with majorities allied)
Parties sprung up, affirmed, denied,
And candidates with questions plied,
Who, like the circus-riders, tried
At once both hobbies to bestride,
And each with his opponent vied
In being inexplicit.
Earnest inquirers multiplied;
Folks, whose tenth cousins lately died,
Wrote letters long, and Knott replied;
All who could either walk or ride
Gathered to wonder or deride,
And paid the house a visit;
Horses were to his pine-trees tied,
Mourners in every corner sighed,
Widows brought children there that cried.
Swarms of lean Seekers, eager-eyed,
(People Knott never could abide,)
Into each hole and cranny pried
With strings of questions cut and dried
From the Devout Inquirer's Guide,
For the wise spirits to decide--
As, for example, is it
True that the damned are fried or boiled?
Was the Earth's axis greased or oiled?
Who cleaned the moon when it was soiled?
How baldness might be cured or foiled?
How heal diseased potatoes?
Did spirits have the sense of smell?
Where would departed spinsters dwell?
If the late Zenas Smith were well?
If Earth were solid or a shell?
Were spirits fond of Doctor Fell?
Did the bull toll Cock-Robin's knell?
What remedy would bugs expel?
If Paine's invention were a sell?
Did spirits by Webster's system spell?
Was it a sin to be a belle?
Did dancing sentence folks to hell?
If so, then where most torture fell?
On little toes or great toes?
If life's true seat were in the brain?
Did Ensign mean to marry Jane?
By whom, in fact, was Morgan slain?
Could matter ever suffer pain?
What would take out a cherry-stain?
Who picked the pocket of Seth Crane,
Of Waldo precinct, State, of Maine?
Was Sir John Franklin sought in vain?
Did primitive Christians ever train?
What was the family-name of Cain?
Them spoons, were they by Betty ta'en?
Would earth-worm poultice cure a sprain?
Was Socrates so dreadful plain?
What teamster guided Charles's wain?
Was Uncle Ethan mad or sane,
And could his will in force remain?
If not, what counsel to retain?
Did Le Sage steal Gil Blas from Spain?
Was Junius writ by Thomas Paine?
Were ducks discomforted by rain?
How did Britannia rule the main?
Was Jonas coming back again?
Was vital truth upon the wane?
Did ghosts, to scare folks, drag a chain?
Who was our Huldah's chosen swain?
Did none have teeth pulled without payin',
Ere ether was invented?
Whether mankind would not agree,
If the universe were tuned in C?
What was it ailed Lucindy's knee?
Whether folks eat folks in Feejee?
Whether his name would end with T?
If Saturn's rings were two or three,
And what bump in Phrenology
They truly represented?
These problems dark, wherein they groped,
Wherewith man's reason vainly coped,
Now that the spirit-world was oped,
In all humility they hoped
Would be resolved instanter;
Each of the miscellaneous rout
Brought his, or her, own little doubt.
And wished to pump the spirits out,
Through his or her own private spout,
Into his or her decanter.



Many a speculating wight
Came by express-trains, day and night,
To see if Knott would 'sell his right,'
Meaning to make the ghosts a sight--
What they call a 'meenaygerie;'
One threatened, if he would not 'trade,'
His run of custom to invade,
(He could not these sharp folks persuade
That he was not, in some way, paid,)
And stamp him as a plagiary,
By coming down, at one fell swoop,
Come recently from Hades,
Who (for a quarter-dollar heard)
Would ne'er rap out a hasty word
Whence any blame might be incurred
From the most fastidious ladies;
The late lamented Jesse Soule,
To stir the ghosts up with a pole
And be director of the whole,
Who was engaged the rather
For the rare merits he'd combine,
Having been in the spirit line,
Which trade he only did resign,
With general applause, to shine,
Awful in mail of cotton fine,
As ghost of Hamlet's father!
Another a fair plan reveals
Never yet hit on, which, he feels,
To Knott's religious sense appeals--
'We'll have your house set up on wheels,
A speculation pious;
For music, we can shortly find
A barrel-organ that will grind
Psalm-tunes--an instrument designed
For the New England tour--refined
From secular drosses, and inclined
To an unworldly turn, (combined
With no sectarian bias;)
Then, travelling by stages slow,
Under the style of Knott & Co.,
I would accompany the show
As moral lecturer, the foe
Of Rationalism; while you could throw
The rappings in, and make them go
Strict Puritan principles, you know,
(How do you make 'em? with your toe?)
And the receipts which thence might flow,
We could divide between us;
Still more attractions to combine,
Beside these services of mine,
I will throw in a very fine
(It would do nicely for a sign)
Original Titian's Venus.'
Another offered handsome fees
If Knott would get Demosthenes
(Nay, his mere knuckles, for more ease)
To rap a few short sentences;
Or if, for want of proper keys,
His Greek might make confusion,
Then just to get a rap from Burke,
To recommend a little work
On Public Elocution.
Meanwhile, the spirits made replies
To all the reverent whats and whys,
Resolving doubts of every size,
And giving seekers grave and wise,
Who came to know their destinies,
A rap-turous reception;
When unbelievers void of grace
Came to investigate the place,
(Creatures of Sadducistic race,
With grovelling intellects and base,)
They could not find the slightest trace
To indicate deception;
Indeed, it is declared by some
That spirits (of this sort) are glum,
Almost, or wholly, deaf and dumb,
And (out of self-respect) quite mum
To skeptic natures cold and numb
Who of this kind of Kingdom Come
Have not a just conception:
True, there were people who demurred
That, though the raps no doubt were heard
Both under them and o'er them,
Yet, somehow, when a search they made,
They found Miss Jenny sore afraid,
Or Jenny's lover, Doctor Slade,
Equally awestruck and dismayed,
Or Deborah, the chambermaid,
Whose terrors not to be gainsaid
In laughs hysteric were displayed,
Was always there before them;
This had its due effect with some
Who straight departed, muttering, Hum!
Transparent hoax! and Gammon!
But these were few: believing souls,
Came, day by day, in larger shoals,
As the ancients to the windy holes
'Neath Delphi's tripod brought their doles,
Or to the shrine of Ammon.

The spirits seemed exceeding tame,
Call whom you fancied, and he came;
The shades august of eldest fame
You summoned with an awful ease;
As grosser spirits gurgled out
From chair and table with a spout,
In Auerbach's cellar once, to flout
The senses of the rabble rout,
Where'er the gimlet twirled about
Of cunning Mephistopheles,
So did these spirits seem in store,
Behind the wainscot or the door,
Ready to thrill the being's core
Of every enterprising bore
With their astounding glamour;
Whatever ghost one wished to hear,
By strange coincidence, was near
To make the past or future clear
(Sometimes in shocking grammar)
By raps and taps, now there, now here--
It seemed as if the spirit queer
Of some departed auctioneer
Were doomed to practise by the year
With the spirit of his hammer:
Whate'er you asked was answered, yet
One could not very deeply get
Into the obliging spirits' debt,
Because they used the alphabet
In all communications,
And new revealings (though sublime)
Rapped out, one letter at a time,
With boggles, hesitations,
Stoppings, beginnings o'er again,
And getting matters into train,
Could hardly overload the brain
With too excessive rations,
Since just to ask if two and two
Really make four? or, How d' ye do?
And get the fit replies thereto
In the tramundane rat-tat-too,
Might ask a whole day's patience.

'Twas strange ('mongst other things) to find
In what odd sets the ghosts combined,
Happy forthwith to thump any
Piece of intelligence inspired,
The truth whereof had been inquired
By some one of the company;
For instance, Fielding, Mirabeau,
Orator Henley, Cicero,
Paley, John Ziska, Marivaux,
Melancthon, Robertson, Junot,
Scaliger, Chesterfield, Rousseau,
Hakluyt, Boccaccio, South, De Foe,
Diaz, Josephus, Richard Roe,
Odin, Arminius, Charles le gros,
Tiresias, the late James Crow,
Casabianca, Grose, Prideaux,
Old Grimes, Young Norval, Swift, Brissot,
Malmonides, the Chevalier D'O,
Socrates, Fénelon, Job, Stow.
The inventor of Elixir pro,
Euripides, Spinoza, Poe,
Confucius, Hiram Smith, and Fo,
Came (as it seemed, somewhat de trop)
With a disembodied Esquimaux,
To say that it was so and so,
With Franklin's expedition;
One testified to ice and snow,
One that the mercury was low,
One that his progress was quite slow,
One that he much desired to go,
One that the cook had frozen his toe,
(Dissented from by Dandolo,
Wordsworth, Cynaegirus, Boileau,
La Hontan, and Sir Thomas Roe,)
One saw twelve white bears in a row,
One saw eleven and a crow,
With other things we could not know
(Of great statistic value, though,)
By our mere mortal vision.

Sometimes the spirits made mistakes,
And seemed to play at ducks and drakes.
With bold inquiry's heaviest stakes
In science or in mystery:
They knew so little (and that wrong)
Yet rapped it out so bold and strong,
One would have said the unnumbered throng
Had been Professors of History;
What made it odder was, that those
Who, you would naturally suppose,
Could solve a question, if they chose,
As easily as count their toes,
Were just the ones that blundered;
One day, Ulysses happening down,
A reader of Sir Thomas Browne
And who (with him) had wondered
What song it was the Sirens sang,
Asked the shrewd Ithacan--bang! bang!
With this response the chamber rang,
'I guess it was Old Hundred.'
And Franklin, being asked to name
The reason why the lightning came,
Replied, 'Because it thundered.'

On one sole point the ghosts agreed
One fearful point, than which, indeed,
Nothing could seem absurder;
Poor Colonel Jones they all abused
And finally downright accused
The poor old man of murder;
'Twas thus; by dreadful raps was shown
Some spirit's longing to make known
A bloody fact, which he alone
Was privy to, (such ghosts more prone
In Earth's affairs to meddle are;)
Who are you? with awe-stricken looks,
All ask: his airy knuckles he crooks,
And raps, 'I was Eliab Snooks,
That used to be a pedler;
Some on ye still are on my books!'
Whereat, to inconspicuous nooks,
(More fearing this than common spooks)
Shrank each indebted meddler;
Further the vengeful ghost declared
That while his earthly life was spared,
About the country he had fared,
A duly licensed follower
Of that much-wandering trade that wins
Slow profit from the sale of tins
And various kinds of hollow-ware;
That Colonel Jones enticed him in,
Pretending that he wanted tin,
There slew him with a rolling-pin,
Hid him in a potato-bin,
And (the same night) him ferried
Across Great Pond to t'other shore,
And there, on land of Widow Moore,
Just where you turn to Larkin's store,
Under a rock him buried;
Some friends (who happened to be by)
He called upon to testify
That what he said was not a lie,
And that he did not stir this
Foul matter, out of any spite
But from a simple love of right;--
Which statements the Nine Worthies,
Rabbi Akiba, Charlemagne,
Seth, Golley Gibber, General Wayne,
Cambyses, Tasso, Tubal-Cain,
The owner of a castle in Spain,
Jehanghire, and the Widow of Nain,
(The friends aforesaid,) made more plain
And by loud raps attested;
To the same purport testified
Plato, John Wilkes, and Colonel Pride
Who knew said Snooks before he died,
Had in his wares invested,
Thought him entitled to belief
And freely could concur, in brief,
In everything the rest did.

Eliab this occasion seized,
(Distinctly here the spirit sneezed,)
To say that he should ne'er be eased
Till Jenny married whom she pleased,
Free from all checks and urgin's,
(This spirit dropt his final g's)
And that, unless Knott quickly sees
This done, the spirits to appease,
They would come back his life to tease,
As thick as mites in ancient cheese,
And let his house on an endless lease
To the ghosts (terrific rappers these
And veritable Eumenides)
Of the Eleven Thousand Virgins!

Knott was perplexed and shook his head,
He did not wish his child to wed
With a suspected murderer,
(For, true or false, the rumor spread,)
But as for this roiled life he led,
'It would not answer,' so he said,
'To have it go no furderer.'
At last, scarce knowing what it meant,
Reluctantly he gave consent
That Jenny, since 'twas evident
That she would follow her own bent,
Should make her own election;
For that appeared the only way
These frightful noises to allay
Which had already turned him gray
And plunged him in dejection.

Accordingly, this artless maid
Her father's ordinance obeyed,
And, all in whitest crape arrayed,
(Miss Pulsifer the dresses made
And wishes here the fact displayed
That she still carries on the trade,
The third door south from Bagg's Arcade,)
A very faint 'I do' essayed
And gave her hand to Hiram Slade,
From which time forth, the ghosts were laid,
And ne'er gave trouble after;
But the Selectmen, be it known,
Dug underneath the aforesaid stone,
Where the poor pedler's corpse was thrown,
And found thereunder a jaw-bone,
Though, when the crowner sat thereon,
He nothing hatched, except alone
Successive broods of laughter;
It was a frail and dingy thing,
In which a grinder or two did cling,
In color like molasses,
Which surgeons, called from far and wide.
Upon the horror to decide,
Having put on their glasses,
Reported thus: 'To judge by looks,
These bones, by some queer hooks or crooks,
May have belonged to Mr. Snooks,
But, as men deepest read in books
Are perfectly aware, bones,
If buried fifty years or so,
Lose their identity and grow
From human bones to bare bones.'

Still, if to Jaalam you go down,
You'll find two parties in the town,
One headed by Benaiah Brown,
And one by Perez Tinkham;
The first believe the ghosts all through
And vow that they shall never rue
The happy chance by which they knew
That people in Jupiter are blue,
And very fond of Irish stew,
Two curious facts which Prince Lee Boo
Rapped clearly to a chosen few--
Whereas the others think 'em
A trick got up by Doctor Slade
With Deborah the chambermaid
And that sly cretur Jinny.
That all the revelations wise,
At which the Brownites made big eyes,
Might have been given by Jared Keyes,
A natural fool and ninny,
And, last week, didn't Eliab Snooks
Come back with never better looks,
As sharp as new-bought mackerel hooks,
And bright as a new pin, eh?
Good Parson Wilbur, too, avers
(Though to be mixed in parish stirs
Is worse than handling chestnut-burrs)
That no case to his mind occurs
Where spirits ever did converse,
Save in a kind of guttural Erse,
(So say the best authorities;)
And that a charge by raps conveyed
Should be most scrupulously weighed
And searched into, before it is
Made public, since it may give pain
That cannot soon be cured again,
And one word may infix a stain
Which ten cannot gloss over,
Though speaking for his private part,
He is rejoiced with all his heart
Miss Knott missed not her lover.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Unhappy Lot Of Mr. Knott' by James Russell Lowell

comments powered by Disqus