SCROOGE and MARLEY (Deceased)
A POEM by Paul Curtis
BASED ON THE STORY by
Charles Dickens “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”
STAVE 4 - THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS
VERSE 1 – THE PHANTOM OF THE FUTURE
The Phantom approached slowly, gravely, silently
When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee
For the very air which this spirit moved through
It seemed to scatter gloom and mystery in his view
The phantom was shrouded in a deep black uniform
Which concealed its head and face its limbs and form
And left nothing visible save one outstretched hand
Scrooge managed to summon up the courage to stand
It was not easy to separate the figure from the night
By the virtue that it was surrounded by a lack of light
Though it was tall and stately fear filled Scrooge’s head
And the presence of it filled him with a solemn dread
Surprisingly it was a very motionless and silent spirit
And reluctantly Scrooge was prompted to question it
"Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" he said
The Spirit did not answer, but nodded with its head
"You will show me things that have not happened yet,
But will happen in the time before us, is that so, Spirit?"
The slightest movement of its head could be perceived
An inclination was the only answer Scrooge received
Although by this time well used to ghostly company
Scrooge feared the dark and silent phantom greatly
So much so that his legs trembled beneath his body
And when he prepared to follow it his steps were heavy
Scrooge exclaimed, "I fear you Ghost of the Future!"
More than any spirit I have seen more than any specter
But as I know spirit that to do me good is your plan
And as I hope to live my life and to be another man
From what I was, I am prepared to bear you company,
And do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"
It gave him no reply. The hand pointed straight on
"Lead on spirit,” said Scrooge tiredly. "Just Lead on.
The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me,
So lead on" The Phantom moved off effortlessly
VERSE 2 – THE PLACE OF MERCHANT’S
The phantom’s shadow seemed to carry Scrooge along
Then suddenly they were in amongst the city’s throng
They didn’t enter it they just seemed to enter the city
The city actually sprang up about them in reality
But they were in its heart amongst the merchants
With the chinking of money and mongers chants
The Spirit stopped beside a knot of businessmen
They were known to Scrooge who’d met them often
Observing the spirit stop Scrooge halted his walk
The spirit pointed so Scrooge listened to their talk.
"No," said a great fat man with a even fatter head,
"I don't know much about it, I only know he's dead."
"When did he die?" inquired another. "Last night"
The general tone was not at all grave but rather light
"What was the matter with him?" asked a third,
"I thought he'd never die." Not even a little absurd
"God knows," said the first, yawning in assent
"What about his money?" asked a red-faced gent
"I haven't heard, perhaps he left it to his company”
He said “All I know is that he hasn't left it to me."
They responded with a laugh to this pleasantry
"It will be a very cheap funeral more than likely,"
Said the same speaker "For on my life I don't know
Of anybody who knew him who would want to go,
I suppose we could make up a party and volunteer?"
"Only if a lunch is provided," said one with a sneer
And then another laugh echoed around the mall
"Well, I am the most disinterested of you, after all,"
Said the first speaker,"I never ever eat lunch and
Black gloves are never ever seen upon my hand
But I will offer to go, if somebody else will also
I think I was his most particular friend you know”
With that the group broke up going separate ways
And the speakers and the listeners strolled away
To mix with other groups. Scrooge knew the men
And looked towards the Spirit for some explanation
The Phantom did not speak yet glided on to a street
Its finger pointed to where two persons would meet
Scrooge listened, thinking it maybe the explanation
He knew these men who were now in conversation
They were great men of business and very wealthy
Of great importance and of good opinion worthy
Scrooge made a point of standing well in their esteem
But only in a business point of view it would seem
"How are you?" said one of the men "How are you?"
Returned the other. "Well!" said the first to be true
"Well Old Scratch has got his own at last, then hey."
"So I’m told," returned the second. “And so they say”
"Cold, isn't it." Said the first of the business men
"Seasonable for Christmas. Do you like skating”?
"No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning."
Not another word was said, that was their meeting,
That was their conversation, and then their parting.
Scrooge was surprised the Spirit thought important
Conversations apparently so trivial and insignificant
But feeling assured they must have some relevancy
He set himself to consider what it was likely to be
He reasoned they had no baring on Marley’s demise
Jacob died in the past so he didn’t see how it applies
He could not think of any person connected to him
And was at a loss to explain what had provoked them
But he did not doubt there was in the scenes content
Some moral to be learned for his own improvement
He resolved to treasure what he saw and every word
And to observe his shadow and act on what he heard
For he decided that the conduct of his future entity
Would render him the solution of these riddles easy
He looked about the merchants for his own figure
But another man stood in his corner in the future
But before the significance of this could sink in
The phantom stood beside him its hand pointing
When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest
And turned his full attention to his phantom guest
He felt the unseen eyes were looking at him keenly
It made him shudder, and feel very cold suddenly
They left the busy scene both familiar and renown
And went instantly into an obscure part of the town
VERSE 3 – OLD JOE’S
Scrooge had never been here before and it didn’t suit
Although he knew it’s situation, and its bad repute
The ways were foul and narrow the houses squalid
The people wretched, drunken, ugly and slipshod
Offensive smells were disgorged from every alley
The whole quarter reeked of crime, filth, and misery
Far in this den of infamy was a rag and bone shop
To Scrooges surprise it was here that he had to stop
The floor within the shop had piles and heaps upon
Of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, and refuse iron
Sitting in among what he dealt in, by a charcoal stove
Was a seventy five year old and gray-haired cove
Screened from the cold air behind a curtain of rags
And smoked his pipe amidst piles of clothes and bags
The Phantom entered with Scrooge close by his side
Just as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk inside
But she had scarcely entered, when another woman
Similarly laden came in closely followed by a man
It was clear that all four were known to each other
And they stood embarrassed eyeing one another
Then after quite a short period of blank astonishment
They all three burst into a laugh of nervous merriment
"Let the charwoman go first!" cried the first woman
"The laundress second and third the undertaker's man
After all Joe here’s a chance that all three haven’t met”
She continued “All together without us meaning it!"
"You couldn't have met in a better place," said old Joe
And removed his pipe from his mouth and said, “lets go
Come into the parlor, let me just shut the shop door
How it skreeks, there’s nothing here that’s rusted more
And I'm sure there's no bones here old as mine. Ha, ha!
We're suited to our calling, we're well matched we are
Come into the parlor then all it’s a cold, cold night
Come into the parlor." Joe said, “I’ll trim the light”
They all followed after the old rag and bone broker
The old man then raked the fire over with a poker
While he did this, the woman who had already spoken
Threw her bundle on the floor as a gesture or token
Then she sat down in a flaunting manner on a chair
And then she gave her two companions a defiant stare
"Well what odds then. Mrs. Dilber." said the woman.
"Everyone has a right to look to themselves if they can.
He always did." She said in a tone of self-righteousness
"True, indeed, No man more so " said the laundress
"Why then, who's to be the wiser? And who knows?
We're not going to pick holes in each other, I suppose?"
"No, indeed," said Mrs. Dilber and the man together
"We should hope not." Said the solemn old undertaker
"Very well, then! Who's the worse, goodness knows
For the loss of these things? Not a dead man, I suppose."
"No, indeed," said Mrs. Dilber, laughing nervously anew
"If he wanted to keep them after death, wicked old screw,"
Pursued the woman, "Why wasn't he more natural in life?
If he had been, he'd have had somebody in his strife
To look after him when he was struck with death,
Instead of lying alone gasping out his last breath"
"It's true it's a judgment on him," said Mrs. Dilber.
The woman replied "I wish it had been a bit heavier
And it would have been, you may depend upon it,
If I could have lain my hands on more I will admit
Open the bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value
You can speak plain old Joe in front of those two
I'm not afraid to be the first, nor for them to see
Come on then old Joe open the bundle and tell me
We knew we were helping ourselves before we met
I believe. It's no sin. Open the bundle, Joe. Let’s see it"
But the gallantry of her friends would not allow her
And the man stepped forward and produced his plunder
It wasn’t much, a pair of sleeve-buttons, A seal or two
A pencil case and a brooch all of them no great value.
Old Joe severely examined and appraised them all
Then chalked the sum he was to give on the wall
"That's yours done, and not another penny or so
Not if I was to be boiled for not doing it.” Said Joe
“Who's next?" Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towel,
Sugar tongs, silver tea spoons, a little wearing apparel,
Her account was stated on the wall in the same way
"I always give too much to ladies it’s the price I pay
It's my weakness and that's the way I ruined myself,
That's yours said Joe putting the goods on the shelf
If you asked me for a penny more than I’ve writ down
I'll repent of being so liberal and knock off half-a-crown."
"And now undo my bundle, Joe," said the first woman.
Joe went down on his knees difficult for an old man
And undid the bundle revealing something uncertain
"What do you call this?" said old Joe. "A Bed-curtain?"
"Ah”! She replied leaning forward her face cracking
"Bed-curtains Joe " continued the woman, laughing
"You don’t mean to say you took them down, so
Rings and all with him lying there?" asked old Joe
"Yes I do," replied the woman. "Why not though?"
"You were born to make your fortune," said Joe,
Joe laughed heartily “and you will certainly do it."
"I certainly shan't hold my hand, when I can get
Anything in it by reaching, for the sake of a so and so
Such a man as he was, I promise you that old Joe,"
Returned the woman. Joe examined the next item
"Don't drop oil upon the blankets, don’t spoil them"
"His blankets?" asked Joe. "Whose would they be?"
She replied "He won’t get a chill without them, will he?"
"I hope he didn't die of any thing catching. Eh?"
Said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking at her
"Don't you be afraid of that, if he did" said the woman.
"I wasn’t so fond of him that I'd loiter with the man
And you may look through that shirt till your eyes ache
You’ll find no hole, nor threadbare place and no mistake
It's the very best he had, and a fine one too as you see
And they'd have wasted it, if it hadn't been for me."
"And What do you call wasting of it?" asked old Joe.
"Putting it on him to be buried in, don’t you know,"
She said with a laugh "Somebody was fool enough
To put it on, but I took it off and dressed him in rough
If calico ain't good enough for the purpose of burying
It isn't good enough for anything. It's quite as becoming”
She said, “He can't look uglier than he did in that one."
Scrooge listened to this horrified at what they’d done
As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light
He was filled with detestation and disgust at the sight
"Ha, ha!" laughed the same woman, as Joe paid out
Laughter still rang in his ears as they went without
"Spirit," said Scrooge, shuddering from head to toe
"I see, The case of this man might be my own I know”
Shaking with rage and fear “I know” he began again
“My life tends that way, now. Oh Merciful Heaven,”
“What is this?" he said fearing that he was deranged
And he recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed
VERSE 4 – RIP
They stood in a room by a bare and uncurtained bed
On which, beneath a ragged sheet lay something dead
The room was very, very dark, too dark to see clear
But Scrooge glanced round anyway driven by fear
A shaft of pale moonlight fell straight upon the bed
The Phantom steady hand was pointed to the head
Scrooge looked at the phantom then again at the man
The plundered and bereft, unwept and uncared for man
The sheet was so loosely arranged that any movement
Would have exposed the cadaver’s embodiment
Scrooge thought of how easy it would be to do it
But was as powerless to do so as to dismiss the spirit
Though he was willing He could not expose the face
"Spirit," Scrooge said, "This is a cold fearful place.
I shall not leave this lesson, trust me. Let us not linger."
Still the Ghost pointed to the head with a bony finger
"I understand you," Scrooge said "And I would do it,
If I only could. But I have not the power to, Spirit."
The phantom seemed to look coldly down on him
"If there is any person in the town, who has in them”
Scrooge said, “Any emotion caused by this man's death,
Show them to me, I beg you with my last breath."
The Phantom spread its dark robe out like a wing
And then a new scene appeared on its withdrawing
VERSE 5 – A SHOW OF EMOTION
The scene revealed was a room illuminated by the day
Where a mother watched her children quietly play
She was expecting some one with anxious eagerness
For she began pacing up and down in her distress
She started at every sound and looked out the window
Then glanced at the clock the tried in vain to sit and sew
She could hardly bear the noise of her playing children
But the expected and feared knock was heard then
Hurrying to the door she found her husband there
A young man who’s depressed face was full of care
But there was a remarkable expression in it now
A kind of serious delight about his eyes and brow
The feelings of delight of which he felt ashamed
And he struggled hard to repress the joy unnamed
He sat down near to his wife beside the fireside
Her obvious anxiety was quite impossible to hide
Then she asked him to tell her the news that he had
When he didn’t answer "Is it good." she said, "or bad?"
"Bad," he answered. "We are quite ruined." Said she
"No. Caroline” he replied “There is hope yet you see"
"If he relents then nothing is past hope,” Caroline said
"He is past relenting," said her husband. "He is dead."
Caroline was mild and pleasant still in her youth
An open young creature whose face showed the truth
She was thankful in her soul to hear it and was happy
She prayed forgiveness next moment, and was sorry
"What the half-drunken woman actually said to me
About him being ill and not allowing me to see
When I tried to see him and obtain a week's delay
And I told you last night dear that I was sent away
I thought that it was an excuse and she was lying
Well it was true but he wasn’t only very ill, but dying"
"To whom will our debt be transferred to though?"
She asked him and he replied to her "I don't know.
But before that we shall have the money for them
And if not we’ll not find a successor as mean as him”
“Caroline we may sleep with lighter hearts tonight
Yes for the future does indeed look exceeding bright”
Even the children became brighter with each breath
And it was a much happier house for this man's death.
VERSE 6 – BACK IN CAMDEN TOWN
Now the only emotion that the phantom could show
Caused by the death, was only one of pleasure though
"Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,"
Said Scrooge; “Some tenderness spirit is my request”
The Ghost conducted him through alley and street
Road, lane and thoroughfare all of them familiar to his feet
And as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there
To find himself, but he could not see himself anywhere
They reached poor Bob Cratchit's humble house again
And found around the fire sat mother and children
It was Quiet. Very quiet unnaturally so in Scrooges views
Even The noisy little Cratchit’s were as still as statues
Sat in a corner, looking up at Peter, who was reading
The mother and her daughters were engaged in sewing
It was very quiet as he read from the book before him
"And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them."
The mother laid her work upon the table at her side
Put her hand to her face to hide the tear she’d cried
"The color hurts my eyes," she said to the children
Then Mrs. Cratchit said, "They're better now again,
Sewing by candlelight makes them weak rather
And I wouldn't want to show weak eyes to your father
Not for the world I wouldn’t” she heard a bell chime
“No not when he comes home, It must be near his time."
"Past it rather," Peter answered, shutting up his book.
Then he walked to the window so that he could look
Then he said "But I think he's walked a little slower
These last few evenings, than he used to, mother"
They were quiet again. Until she broke the silence
And in a steady, cheerful voice, only faltering once
"I have known him walk with Tiny Tim on his shoulder
Very fast indeed." "And so have I, often" cried Peter
"And so have I," exclaimed another. So had they all.
"He was very light to carry," she continued to recall
Resuming her work, "And his father loved him so,
That it was no trouble” she faltered “No trouble, no”
“There your father at the door!" continued the mother
She hurried to meet him as Bob stood in his comforter
He sat beside the fire as his wife prepared some tea
And they all tried to settle him down comfortably
Then the two young Cratchit’s got up on his knees
And each child kissed his cheek to set him at ease
He feigned good cheer and spoke to them all pleasantly
And Bob saw their work and he praised the industry
And the speed that Mrs. Cratchit and the girls display
He said they would be done long before next Sunday
"Sunday Robert! You went to-day, then?" she said
"Yes I went their today, my dear," Bob responded
"I wish you had come, you could have seen It then
Seen how green a place it is but you'll see it often.
I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday”
His words deserted him then and he could only say
“My little, little child!" cried Bob. "My little son!"
He broke down the loss was to great of his little one
He couldn't help it. It was the price of feeling love
He left the room, and went up to the room above,
Which was lit cheerfully, and hung with Christmas.
And he entered and saw the cause of his distress
There was a chair set close beside the child’s bed
And he composed himself and kissed the little head
When he was reconciled to the loss of his little son
He went down stairs content to be with everyone
They drew about the fire, and huddled against the chill
And talked at length the girls and mother working still
Bob told them of the act of extraordinary kindness
By Mr. Scrooge's nephew who witnessed his distress
When they had met that very day in Camden town
And noticing that Bob looked more than a little down
Inquired what had happened to distress Bob Cratchit
"And as he is a nice fellow" said Bob, "I told him all of it.
'I am heartily sorry for it, Mr. Cratchit’, he said to me,
'And heartily sorry for your good wife most heartily’.
“By the bye, how he ever knew that, I don't know."
"Knew what, my dear?” she said continuing to sew
"Why, that you were a good wife," Bob said warmly
"Everybody knows that," said Peter very proudly
"Very well observed," cried Bob. "I hope they do.
'Heartily sorry,' he said, 'sorry for the both of you.
If I can be of service to you in any way,' said he,
Giving me his card, 'I live here. Pray come to me.”
It really seemed as if he knew our Tiny Tim, and felt it"
"I'm sure he's a good dear soul," said Mrs. Cratchit.
“I shouldn't be at all surprised so mark what I say,”
Bob said, “If he got Peter a better situation one day
And Peter will make his way in some way or other
But however and when ever we part from one another,
I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim”
"Never, father!" cried them all. “We’ll never forget him”
"I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient
And how mild he was and how happy and content
And although he was a little, little child we shall not
Easily quarrel, among ourselves” Bob said “and forget
Poor Tiny Tim in doing it." "No, never!" they all said
"I am very happy," said Bob, "I am very contented!"
Mrs. Cratchit kissed him; his daughters kissed him,
The two young Cratchit’s kissed him and he kissed them
Peter shook his father’s hands and gave a foppish nod
Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God
VERSE 7 – WRITING ON THE STONE
“Specter! Something tells me but I don’t know how”
Said Scrooge “That our parting moment is at hand now
Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?"
The spirit did not speak yet conveyed him on instead
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come led him, as before
Through a different time, to another place in the future
"This court," said Scrooge, “Is a very familiar location
And that’s my counting house and place of occupation
Spirit of the future let me behold what I shall be
In the days to come and see what becomes of me "
The Spirit stopped but the hand pointed elsewhere.
"Its here" He exclaimed. "Why do you point there?"
But the bony spectral finger continued to point away
Scrooge rushed over to his office window anyway
He looked in, It was an office still, but not his own
The furniture was not the same and décor unknown
And the figure in the chair was not Scrooge clearly
The Phantom just pointed as before disinterestedly
Scrooge rejoined it once again and they continued
Until through iron gates a churchyard he viewed
Here then in a churchyard the man who lay dead
Under the sheet now lay beneath the earth instead
The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed to one
Scrooge advanced to it trembling, as it must be done
"Spirit before I draw nearer to that stone’s location,"
Pleaded Scrooge, "Answer me just one question.
Are these the shadows of the things that will be,
Or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"
Still the Ghost pointed to the grave it was stood by
Despite no response Scrooge was resigned to try
"Men's courses will foreshadow,” he began to plead
Certain ends, which, if persevered in, they must lead,"
"But if the courses be departed from, the ends will be
Changed, Say it is thus with what you show me."
Scrooge crept towards the grave trembling madly
And read on the cold stone, Ebeneezer Scrooge. R.I.P.
"Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" he cried,
Slumped to his knees he begged the spirit to confide
The finger went from the grave to him and back again.
"No, Spirit! Please don’t send me to that dark domain"
"Good Spirit!" he cried, clutching at its robe tightly,
The finger still was there pointing. "Spirit hear me”
I’m not the man I was and I wont be that man again
That I must have been but for this spiritual campaign
Why show me this, if I am past all hope good spirit?"
"Oh Good Spirit," he pursued and fell down before it
“Assure me that, by an altered life, you guarantee
I may change these shadows you have shown me."
Then Scrooge with his hands trembling held his head
"I will honor Christmas in my heart”, Scrooge said
And I will try to keep it all the year you can be sure
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future
And within me shall strive The Spirits of all Three
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach me
Oh, please tell me” Scrooge cried in a pleading tone
That I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"
In his agony, he caught the spectral hand of the spirit
It sought to free itself, but he was strong, and held it
The Spirit, stronger, shook him and left him prostrate
He held up his hands in a last prayer to save his fate
He saw a change in hood and dress of his spirit host
It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled into a bedpost