Friday, March 22, 2013

Vendredi: Chthonian Histories

In the more florid days of anatomists and resurrectionists, people worried about their bodies being exhumed for medical research. Such horrors were only replaced in the Victorian mind when the likes of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein gave way to Bram Stoker's Dracula. A long interval of decades indeed and either way we're dealing with the resurrected dead, aren't we?

Today, for your enjoyment, a poem by Thomas Hood who died in 1845, fairly the height of the post Burke and Hare era of the late 1820s. The poem is told from the perspective of the ghost of a young woman who, dead before she could marry her dear William, returns to him one night to recount the ghastly dismemberment her corpse has suffered. Hood clearly has a wry sense of the issue as well as a dark sense of humor. One wonders what he might have to say about our current culture's zombie craze.

The arm that used to take your arm
Is took to Dr. Vyse
And both my legs are gone to walk
The Hospital at Guy's.

I vowed that you should have my hand,
But fate gives us denial;
You'll find it there at Dr. Bell's
In spirits and a phial.

I can't tell you where my head is gone
But Doctor Carpue can; 
As for my trunk, it's all packed up
To go by Pickford's van.

The cock it crows - I must be gone!
My William, we must part
But I'll be yours in death, altho'
Sir Astley has my heart.

Header: Pendumbra by Enjeong Noh via American Gallery


Capt. John Swallow said...

Apparently the macabre poem goes on somewhat longer (and btw, the Cock was CROWing...tsk, tsk)...though somewhat bawdy, just the same!

'Twas in the middle of the night,
To sleep young William tried,
When Mary´s ghost came stealing in,
And stood at his bed-side.

O William dear! O William dear!
My rest eternal ceases;
Alas! my everlasting peace
Is broken into pieces.

I thought the last of all my cares
Would end with my last minute;
But tho´ I went to my long home
I didn´t stay long in it.

The body-snatchers they have come,
And made a snatch at me;
It´s very hard them kind of men
Won´t let a body be!

You thought that I was buried deep
Quite decent like and chary,
But from her grave in Mary-bone
They´ve come and boned your Mary.

The arm that used to take your arm
Is took to Dr. Vyse;
And both my legs are gone to walk
The hospital at Guy´s.

I vow´d that you should have my hand,
But fate gives us denial;
You´ll find it there, at Dr. Bell´s
In spirits and a phial.

As for my feet, the little feet
You used to call so pretty,
There´s one, I know, in Bedford Row,
The t´other´s in the city.

I can´t tell where my head is gone,
But Doctor Carpue can:
As for my trunk, it´s all pack´d up
To go by Pickford´s van.

I wished you´d go to Mr. P.
And save me such a ride;
I don´t half like the outside place,
They´ve took for my inside.

The cock it crows - I must begone!
My William we must part!
But I´ll be yours in death, altho´
Sir Astley has my heart.

Don´t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be;
They haven´t left an atom there
Of my anatomie.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic. But my goodness...did a poet in the 1820's really write "The cock it grows"?

Pauline said...

Well done, Captain; as always, I can count on you to find the best version of these things. Thankee indeed! And on to that other "bit"...

Anon: Perhaps a Freudian slip by your humble hostess?

Timmy! said...

Very amusing all around, Pauline...

Pauline said...

You can't beat it with a stick, I'd have to say :)