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

The Vulture

The Carpet-Bag Dec 18 1852

Once upon a midnight chilling, as I held my feet unwilling
O’er a tub of scalding water, at a heat of ninety-four;
Nervously a toe in dipping, dripping, slipping, then out-skipping,
Suddenly there came a ripping, whipping, at my chamber’s door.
“’Tis the second floor,” I mutter’d, “flipping at my chambers door—
Wants a light — and nothing more!”
Ah! distinctly I remember, it was in the chill November,
And each cuticle and member was with influenza sore;
Falt’ringly I stirr’d the gruel, steaming, creaming o’er the fuel,
And anon removed the jewel that each frosted nostril bore,
Wiped away the trembling jewel that each redden’d nostril bore—
Nameless here for evermore!
And I recollect a certain draught that fann’d the window curtain
Chill’d me, fill’d me with the horror of two steps across the floor,
And, besides, I’d got my feet in, and a most refreshing heat in,
To myself I sat repeating — “If I answer to the door—
Rise to let the ruffian in who seems to want to burst the door,
I’ll be ——” that and something more.
Presently the row grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Really, Mister Johnson, blow it! — your forgiveness I implore,
Such an observation letting slip, but when a man’s just getting
Into bed, you come upsetting nerves and posts of chambers door,
Making such a row, forgetting” — Spoke a voice beyond the door:
“’Tisn’t Johnson” — nothing more!
Quick a perspiration clammy bathed me, and I uttered “Dammy!”
(Observation wrested from me, like the one I made before)
Back upon the cushions sinking, hopelessly my eyes, like winking,
On some stout for private drinking, ranged in rows upon the floor,
Fix’d — and on an oyster barrel (full) beside them on the floor,
Look’d and groan’d, and nothing more.
Open then was flung the portal, and in stepp’d a hated mortal,
By the moderns called a VULTURE (known as Sponge in days of yore),
Well I knew his reputation! cause of all my agitation—
Scarce a nod of salutation changed, he pounced upon the floor;
Coolly lifted up the oysters and some stout from off the floor,
Help’d himself, and took some more!
Then this hungry beast untiring fix’d his gaze with fond admiring
On a piece of cold boil’d beef, I meant to last a week or more,
Quick he set to work devouring — plates, in quick succession, scouring—
Stout with every mouthful show’ring — made me ask, to see it pour,
If he quite enjoy’d his supper, as I watch’d the liquid pour;
Said the Vulture “Never more.”
Much disgusted at the spacious vacuum by this brute voracious
Excavated in the beef — (he’d eaten quite enough for four)—
Still, I felt relief surprising when at length I saw him rising,
That he meant to go surmising, said I, glancing at the door—
“Going? well, I won’t detain you — mind the stairs and shut the door—”
“Leave you, Tomkins! — never more.”
Startled by an answer dropping hints that he intended stopping
All his life — I knew him equal to it if he liked, or more—
Half in dismal earnest, half in joke, with an attempt at laughing,
I remarked that he was chaffing, and demanded of the bore,
Ask’d what this disgusting, nasty, greedy, vile, intrusive bore
Meant in croaking “Never more?”
But the Vulture not replying, took my bunch of keys, and trying
Sev’ral, found at length the one to fit my private cupboard door;
Took the gin out, fill’d the kettle; and with a sangfroid to nettle
Any saint, began to settle calmly down the grate before,
Really as he meant departing at the date I named before,
Of never, never more!
Then I sat engaged in guessing what this circumstance distressing
Would be likely to result in, for I knew that long before
Once (it served me right for drinking) I had told him that if sinking
In the world, my fortunes linking to his own, he’d find my door
Always open to receive him, and it struck me now that door
He would pass, p’raps never more!
Suddenly the air was clouded, all the furniture enshrouded
With the smoke of vile tobacco — this was worse than all before;
“Smith!” I cried (in not offensive tones, it might have been expensive,
For he knew the art defensive, and could costermongers floor);
“Recollect it’s after midnight, are you going? —mind the floor.”
Quoth the Vulture, “Never more!”
“Smith!” I cried (the gin was going, down his throat in rivers flowing),
“If you want a bed, you know there’s quite a nice hotel next door,
Very cheap. I’m ill — and, joking set apart, your horrid smoking
Irritates my cough to choking. Having mentioned it before,
Really, you should not compel one — Will you mizzle — as before?”
Quoth the Vulture, “Never more!”
“Smith!” I cried, “that joke repeating merits little better treating
For you than a condemnation as a nuisance and a bore.
Drop it, pray, it isn’t funny; I’ve to mix some rum and honey—
If you want a little money, take some and be off next door;
Run a bill up for me if you like, but do be off next door.”
Quoth the Vulture, “Never more!”
“Smith!” I shriek’d — the accent humbler dropping, as another tumbler
I beheld him mix, “be off! you drive me mad — it’s striking four.
Leave the house and something in it; if you go on at the gin, it
Wont hold out another minute. Leave the house and shut the door—
Take your beak from out my gin, and take your body through the door!
Quoth the Vulture, “Never more!”
And the Vulture never flitting — still is sitting, still is sitting,
Gulping down my stout by gallons, and my oysters by the score,
And the beast, with no more breeding than a heathen savage feeding,
The new carpet’s tints unheeding, throws his shells upon the floor.
And his smoke from out my curtains, and his stains from out my floor,
Shall be sifted never more!

Subtitled “An Ornithological Study. (After the late Edgar A Poe)”, this poem was published with a note about the vulture, purporting to be extracted from a “New Translation of Cuvier” (meaning French naturalist and zoologist Georges Cuvier):

The Vulture is the most cruel, deadly, and voracious of birds of prey. He is remarkable for his keen scent, and for the tenacity with which he invariably clings to the victim on whom he has fixed his gripe. He is not to be shaken off whilst the humblest pickings remain. He is usually to be found in an indifferent state of feather. — New Translation of Cuvier.

Initially published anonymously, “The Vulture” was later attributed to UK writer Robert Barnabas Brough, though this may not be correct, as its first publication was in the US.

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