Phantasmagoria - Lewis Carroll - ebook

"Phantasmagoria" is a poem written by Lewis Carroll and first published in 1869 as the opening poem of a collection of verse by Carroll entitled Phantasmagoria and Other Poems.

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Phantasmagoria and other poems


Lewis Carroll

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A Sea Dirge

Ye Carpette Knyghte

Hiawatha’s Photographing


A Valentine

The Three Voices

Tema Con Variazioni

A Game of Fives

Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur

Size and Tears

Atalanta in Camden-Town

Four Riddles

Fame’s Penny-Trumpet


Canto I— The Trystyng

One winter night, at half-past nine,

Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,

I had come home, too late to dine,

And supper, with cigars and wine,

Was waiting in the study.

There was a strangeness in the room,

And Something white and wavy

Was standing near me in the gloom —

I took it for the carpet-broom

Left by that careless slavey.

But presently the Thing began

To shiver and to sneeze:

On which I said “Come, come, my man!

That’s a most inconsiderate plan.

Less noise there, if you please!”

“I’ve caught a cold,” the Thing replies,

“Out there upon the landing.”

I turned to look in some surprise,

And there, before my very eyes,

A little Ghost was standing!

He trembled when he caught my eye,

And got behind a chair.

“How came you here,” I said, “and why?

I never saw a thing so shy.

Come out! Don’t shiver there!”

He said “I’d gladly tell you how,

And also tell you why;

But” (here he gave a little bow)

“You’re in so bad a temper now,

You’d think it all a lie.

“And as to being in a fright,

Allow me to remark

That Ghosts have just as good a right

In every way, to fear the light,

As Men to fear the dark.”

“No plea,” said I, “can well excuse

Such cowardice in you:

For Ghosts can visit when they choose,

Whereas we Humans ca’n’t refuse

To grant the interview.”

He said “A flutter of alarm

Is not unnatural, is it?

I really feared you meant some harm:

But, now I see that you are calm,

Let me explain my visit.

“Houses are classed, I beg to state,

According to the number

Of Ghosts that they accommodate:

(The Tenant merely counts as WEIGHT,

With Coals and other lumber).

“This is a ‘one-ghost’ house, and you

When you arrived last summer,

May have remarked a Spectre who

Was doing all that Ghosts can do

To welcome the new-comer.

“In Villas this is always done —

However cheaply rented:

For, though of course there’s less of fun

When there is only room for one,

Ghosts have to be contented.

“That Spectre left you on the Third —

Since then you’ve not been haunted:

For, as he never sent us word,

’Twas quite by accident we heard

That any one was wanted.

“A Spectre has first choice, by right,

In filling up a vacancy;

Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite —

If all these fail them, they invite

The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

“The Spectres said the place was low,

And that you kept bad wine:

So, as a Phantom had to go,

And I was first, of course, you know,

I couldn’t well decline.”

“No doubt,” said I, “they settled who

Was fittest to be sent

Yet still to choose a brat like you,

To haunt a man of forty-two,

Was no great compliment!”

“I’m not so young, Sir,” he replied,

“As you might think. The fact is,

In caverns by the water-side,

And other places that I’ve tried,

I’ve had a lot of practice:

“But I have never taken yet

A strict domestic part,

And in my flurry I forget

The Five Good Rules of Etiquette

We have to know by heart.”

My sympathies were warming fast

Towards the little fellow:

He was so utterly aghast

At having found a Man at last,

And looked so scared and yellow.

“At least,” I said, “I’m glad to find

A Ghost is not a DUMB thing!

But pray sit down: you’ll feel inclined

(If, like myself, you have not dined)

To take a snack of something:

“Though, certainly, you don’t appear

A thing to offer FOOD to!

And then I shall be glad to hear —

If you will say them loud and clear —

The Rules that you allude to.”

“Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.

This IS a piece of luck!”

“What may I offer you?” said I.

“Well, since you ARE so kind, I’ll try

A little bit of duck.

“ONE slice! And may I ask you for

Another drop of gravy?”

I sat and looked at him in awe,

For certainly I never saw

A thing so white and wavy.

And still he seemed to grow more white,

More vapoury, and wavier —

Seen in the dim and flickering light,

As he proceeded to recite

His “Maxims of Behaviour.”

Canto II— Hys Fyve Rules

“My First — but don’t suppose,” he said,

“I’m setting you a riddle —

Is — if your Victim be in bed,

Don’t touch the curtains at his head,

But take them in the middle,

“And wave them slowly in and out,

While drawing them asunder;

And in a minute’s time, no doubt,

He’ll raise his head and look about

With eyes of wrath and wonder.

“And here you must on no pretence

Make the first observation.

Wait for the Victim to commence:

No Ghost of any common sense

Begins a conversation.

“If he should say ‘HOW CAME YOU HERE?’

(The way that YOU began, Sir,)

In such a case your course is clear —


Is the appropriate answer.

“If after this he says no more,

You’d best perhaps curtail your

Exertions — go and shake the door,

And then, if he begins to snore,

You’ll know the thing’s a failure.

“By day, if he should be alone —

At home or on a walk —

You merely give a hollow groan,

To indicate the kind of tone

In which you mean to talk.

“But if you find him with his friends,

The thing is rather harder.

In such a case success depends

On picking up some candle-ends,

Or butter, in the larder.

“With this you make a kind of slide

(It answers best with suet),

On which you must contrive to glide,

And swing yourself from side to side —

One soon learns how to do it.

“The Second tells us what is right

In ceremonious calls:—


(A thing I quite forgot to-night),


I said “You’ll visit HERE no more,

If you attempt the Guy.

I’ll have no bonfires on MY floor —

And, as for scratching at the door,

I’d like to see you try!”

“The Third was written to protect

The interests of the Victim,

And tells us, as I recollect,



“That’s plain,” said I, “as Tare and Tret,

To any comprehension:

I only wish SOME Ghosts I’ve met

Would not so CONSTANTLY forget

The maxim that you mention!”

“Perhaps,” he said, “YOU first transgressed

The laws of hospitality:

All Ghosts instinctively detest

The Man that fails to treat his guest

With proper cordiality.

“If you address a Ghost as ‘Thing!’

Or strike him with a hatchet,

He is permitted by the King

To drop all FORMAL parleying —

And then you’re SURE to catch it!

“The Fourth prohibits trespassing

Where other Ghosts are quartered:

And those convicted of the thing

(Unless when pardoned by the King)

Must instantly be slaughtered.

“That simply means ‘be cut up small’:

Ghosts soon unite anew.

The process scarcely hurts at all —

Not more than when YOU’re what you call

‘Cut up’ by a Review.

“The Fifth is one you may prefer

That I should quote entire:—