Quaint and Curious - Parodies and Pastiches of Poe's The Raven

The Baby

Beeton’s Christmas Annual 1877

Once upon a midnight dreary, whilst I waited, faint and weary,
On the landing till the doctor the expected tidings bore;
Whilst I nodded, nearly napping, dreaming of what then was happing—
Dreaming of what then was happing t’other side yon chamber door,
Stood the doctor there, and whispered, opening the chamber door,
“’Tis a boy!” and nothing more.
Ah, distinctly I remember, by my chilblains, ’twas December,
And I stamped each smarting member, stamped it smartly on the floor.
Eagerly I wished for slumber, as my feet and hands grew number;
Oh, could I some bed encumber, oh, how quickly I would snore!
Oh, how I would wake the echoes with my deep sonorous snore!
But my vigil was not o’er.
For as I thus thought of snoring, came a sound of liquid pouring—
’Twas a sound that oft, when thirsty, I had heard with joy before;
And when it I heard repeating, thro’ the darkness sent I greeting,
Saying, “Who is that that’s drinking something in behind my door?”—
For the sound came from a chamber, mine erstwhile, now mine no more—
“Who are you and what d’you pour?”
But no answer came, so rising with a rashness most surprising,
“Sir,” said I, “or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, when I heard some liquid lapping,
Lapping, lapping, softly lapping, in behind this chamber-door.
Who are you in there, I pray you?” — here I opened wide the door—
Smell of spirits, nothing more!
Deeply that strong odour sniffing stood I “butting” there and “if-ing;”
Guessing, wondering, surmising who it was that I’d heard pour.
Still the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token;
But a bottle brandy-soaken I remarked upon the floor.
This I noticed, black and empty, lying there upon the floor—
Merely that, and nothing more!
From the chamber I was turning, all my soul within me yearning
For a little cup of cognac: since my chilblains were so sore—
When I heard a sound of rustling, as of some stout woman bustling—
“Ah,” said I, “this chamber’s mystery I will linger and explore—
Stay will I another minute and its mystery explore—
Why I heard that brandy pour?”
Opened here a folding-door was; and in a few seconds more was
A full stout and snuffy matron coming towards me o’er the floor;
Not the least obeisance made she; not a minute stopped or stayed she,
But upon a chair down sitting, beckoned me to what she bore:
’Twas a tiny roll of flannel in her portly arms she bore—
Only that, and nothing more!
Then this flannel roll beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the strange and utter contrast that it to the matron bore,
Sought my thoughts another channel, and I spoke unto the flannel,
Saying, “What art thou and wherefore art thou brought here, I implore?—
Tell me why thou art thus carried, why so gently, I implore?”
But it sobbed, and nothing more!
Much I marvelled at its sobbing, and my heart was quickly throbbing
As unto the ponderous matron said I, “Turn that flannel o’er!
For you cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet beheld a bundle that could sob, and nothing more—
Ever yet a roll of flannel saw that sobbed and nothing more!”
Quoth the matron, “Shut the door.”
Then the flannel pink unfolding, soon was I with awe beholding
Something like to which my eyes had never gazed upon before.
Nothing further then it uttered — but I mouthed awhile and stuttered
Till I positively muttered, “Tell me all, I would implore!”
Said the matron, “There is little to inform you on that score:
’Tis your son, and nothing more!”
“Ah,” said I, no longer dreaming, with a sudden knowledge gleaming,
“You’ve a monthly nurse’s seeming, and ’twas you that I heard pour;
Tell me, then, when I may slumber, when this room you’ll cease to cumber,
Since of chilblains such a number in the passage I deplore;
Tell me when I may turn in and cease their smarting to deplore.”
Quoth that woman, “Never more!”
“Woman!” said I, “nurse, how dare you? If you do not have a care, you
Soon will find that I can spare you, for I’ll show to you the door!”
But that woman, calmly sitting, and her brows engaged in knitting,
In a way most unbefitting took the bottle from the floor,
Took it up, although ’twas empty, took it up from off the floor;
Waved it and said, “Never more!”
“Nurse,” I shouted, “I won’t stand it; put it down, at once, unhand it!
As your master, I demand it, and this room to me restore;
Take yon saucepan from my table; clear my bed, for you are able,
Of your wardrobe, and the baby take where it was heretofore;
For I long to sink in slumber: nurse, I’m dying for a snore!”
Quoth that woman, “Never more!”
“Be that word our sign of parting, monthly nurse,” said I, upstarting,
“Get thee gone, thou Gamp[1] outrageous, to where’er thou wast before;
Leave that bottle as a token of the rest that thou hast broken—
Now be off — have I not spoken? Get thee gone, Gamp, there’s the door—
Take thy wardrobe from my bed, and take thyself out through that door!”
Quoth that woman, “Never more!”
And that monthly nurse is sitting, drinking in a way unfitting,
In an easy-chair luxurious just behind my chamber-door;
There for weeks she has been sleeping, me from my own chamber keeping;
Degradations on me heaping, till my heart of hearts is sore;
Fearing that her shadow never will be lifted from my floor,
And that, smelling strong of spirits, she through yonder open door
Shall be lifted — Never more!


  1. GampSarah Gamp was the name of the nurse in Dickens’ 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit. (back to text)

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