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- I LAY in my coffin under the sod;
- But the rooks they caw'd, and the sheep they trod
- And munch'd and bleated, and made such a noise--
- What with the feet of the charity boys
- Trampling over the old grave-stones--
- That it loosen'd my inarticulate bones,
- And chased my sleep away.
- So I turn'd (for the coffin is not so full
- As it was, you know) my aching skull;
- And said to my wife--and it's not my fault
- If she does lie next to me in the vault--
- Said to her kindly, "My love, my dear,
- How do you like these sounds we hear
- Over our heads to-day?"
- My wife had always a good strong voice;
- But I'm not so sure that I did rejoice
- When I found it as strong as it used to be,
- And so unexpectedly close to me:
- I thought, if her temper should set in,
- Why, the boards between us are very thin,
- And whenever the bearers come one by one
- To deposit the corpse of my eldest son,
- Who is spending the earnings of his papa
- With such sumptuous ease and such great eclat,
- They may think it more pleasant, perhaps, than I did,
- To find that in death we were not divided.
- However, I trusted to time and the worms;
- And I kept myself to the mildest terms
- Of a conjugal "How d'ye do."
- "John," said my wife, "you're a Body, like me;
- At least if you ain't, why you ought to be;
- And I really don't think, when I reflect,
- That I ought to pay as much respect
- To a rattling prattling skeleton
- As I did to a man of sixteen stone.
- However" (says she), "I shall just remark
- That this here place is so cool and dark,
- I'm certain sure, if you hadn't have spoke,
- My slumber'd never have thus been broke;
- So I wish you'd keep your--voice in your head;
- For I don't see the good of being dead,
- If one mayn't be quiet too."
- She spoke so clear and she spoke so loud,
- I thank'd my stars that a linen shroud
- And a pair of boards (though they were but thin)
- Kept out some part of that well-known din:
- And, talking of shrouds, the very next word
- That my empty echoing orbits heard
- Was, "Gracious me, I can tell by the feel
- That I'm all over rags from head to heel!
- Here's jobs for needle and thread without ending,
- For there's ever-so-many holes wants mending!"
- "My love," I ventured to say, "I fear
- It's not much use, your mending 'em here;
- For, as fast as you do, there's worse than moth,
- And worse than mice, or rats, or both,
- Will eat up the work of your cotton ball
- And leave you never a shroud at all--
- No more than they have to me."
- Now, whether it was that she took it ill
- My seeking to question her feminine skill,
- Or whether 'twas simply that we were wedded--
- The very thing happen'd that I most dreaded:
- For, by way of reply, on the coffin-side,
- Just where the planks had started wide,
- There came a blow so straight and true
- That it shook my vertebral column in two;
- And what more might have follow'd I cannot tell,
- But that very minute ('twas just as well)
- The flagstone was lifted overhead,
- And the red-nosed buriers of the dead
- Let down a load on my coffin-plate
- That stunned me quite with the shock of its weight.
- 'Twas the corpse, of course, of my eldest son,
- Who had injured his brain (a little one)
- By many a spirituous brain-dissolver,
- And finish'd it off with a Colt's revolver.
- Well--when they had gone and the noise had ceased,
- I look'd for one other attack, at least:
- But, would you believe it? The place was quiet,
- And the worms resumed their usual diet!
- Nay, everything else was silent too;
- The rooks they neither caw'd nor flew,
- And the sheep slept sound by footstone and head,
- And the charity boys had been whipp'd to bed.
- So I turn'd again, and I said to myself--
- "Now, as sure as I'm laid on this sordid shelf
- Away from the living that smile or weep,
- I'll sleep if I can, and let her too sleep:
- And I will not once, for pleasure or pain,
- Unhinge my jaws to speak again,
- No, not if she speaks to me."
- Arthur Munby
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