Richard Le Gallienne

(1866-1947 / England)

The Overworked Ghost - Poem by Richard Le Gallienne

When the embalmer closed my eyes,
And all the family went in black,
And shipped me off to Paradise,
I had no thought of coming back;
I dreamed of undisturbed repose
Until the Judgment Day went crack,
Tucked safely in from top to toes.

'I've done my bit,' I said. 'I've earned
The right to take things at my ease!'
When folk declared the dead returned,
I called it all tomfooleries.
'They are too glad to get to bed,
To stretch their weary limbs in peace;
Done with it all--the lucky dead!'

But scarcely had I laid me down,
When comes a voice: 'Is that you, Joe?
I'm calling you from Williamstown!
Knock once for 'yes,' and twice for 'no.''
Then, hornet-mad, I knocked back two--
The table shook, I banged it so--
'Not Joe!' they said, 'Then tell us who?

'We're waiting--is there no one here,
No friend, you have a message for?'
But I pretended not to hear.
'Perhaps he fell in the great war?'
'Perhaps he's German?' someone said;
'How goes it on the other shore?'
'That's no way to address the dead!'

And so they talked, till I got sore,
And made the blooming table rock,
And ribald oaths and curses swore,
And strange words guaranteed to shock.
'He's one of those queer spooks they call
A poltergeist--the ghosts that mock,
Throw things--' said one, who knew it all.

'I wish an old thigh-bone was round
To break your silly head!' I knocked.
'A humourist of the burial-ground!'
A bright young college graduate mocked.
Then a young girl fell in a trance,
And foamed: 'Get out--we are deadlocked--
And give some other ghost a chance!'

Such was my first night in the tomb,
Where soft sleep was to hold me fast;
I little knew my weary doom!
It even makes a ghost aghast
To think of all the years in store--
The slave, as long as death shall last,
To ouija-boards forevermore.

For morning, noon, and night they call!
Alive, some fourteen hours a day
I worked, but now I work them all.
No sooner down my head I lay,
A lady writer knocks me up
About a novel or a play,
Nor gives me time for bite or sup.

I hear her damned typewriter click
With all the things she says I say,
You'd think the public would get sick;
And that's my only hope--some day!
Then seances, each night in dozens
I must attend, their parts to play
For dead grandpas and distant cousins.

O for my life to live again!
I'd know far better than to die;
You'd never hear me once complain,
Could I but see the good old sky,
For here they work me to the bone;
'Rest!'--don't believe it! Well, good-by!
That's Patience Worth there on the phone!

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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