Imitation of the Inferno of Dante

I TURNED my steps and lo! a shadowy throng
Of ghosts came fluttering towards me — blown along,
Like cockchafers in high autumnal storms,
By many a fitful gust that thro' their forms
Whistled, as on they came, with wheezy puff,
And puft as — tho' they 'd never puff enough.

" Whence and what are ye? " pitying I inquired
Of these poor ghosts, who, tattered, tost, and tired
With such eternal puffing, scarce could stand
On their lean legs while answering my demand.
" We once were authors " — thus the Sprite, who led
This tag-rag regiment of spectres, said —
" Authors of every sex, male, female, neuter,
" Who, early smit with love of praise and — pewter ,

" On C — lb — n's shelves first saw the light of day,
" In — — 's puffs exhaled our lives away —
" Like summer windmills, doomed to dusty peace,
" When the brisk gales that lent them motion, cease.
" Ah! little knew we then what ills await
" Much-lauded scribblers in their after-state;
" Bepuft on earth — how loudly Str — t can tell —
" And, dire reward, now doubly puft in hell! "

Touched with compassion for this ghastly crew
Whose ribs even now the hollow wind sung thro'
In mournful prose, — such prose as Rosa's ghost
Still, at the accustomed hour of eggs and toast,
Sighs thro' the columns of the Morning Post , —
Pensive I turned to weep, when he who stood
Foremost of all that flatulential brood,
Singling a she -ghost from the party, said,
" Allow me to present Miss X. Y. Z.,
" One of our lettered nymphs — excuse the pun —
" Who gained a name on earth by — having none;
" And whose initials would immortal be,
" Had she but learned those plain ones, A. B. C.

" Yon smirking ghost, like mummy dry and neat,
" Wrapt in his own dead rhymes — fit winding-sheet —
" Still marvels much that not a soul should care
" One single pin to know who wrote " May Fair;" —
" While this young gentleman, " (here forth he drew
A dandy spectre, puft quite thro' and thro',
As tho' his ribs were an Æolian lyre
For the whole Row's soft trade -winds to inspire,)
" This modest genius breathed one wish alone,
" To have his volume read, himself unknown;
" But different far the course his glory took,
" All knew the author, and — none read the book.

" Behold, in yonder ancient figure of fun,
" Who rides the blast, Sir Jonah Barrington; —
" In tricks to raise the wind his life was spent,
" And now the wind returns the compliment.
" This lady here, the Earl of — 's sister,
" Is a dead novelist; and this is Mister —
" Beg pardon — Honorable Mister Lister,
" A gentleman who some weeks since came over
" In a smart puff (wind S. S. E.) to Dover.
" Yonder behind us limps young Vivian Grey,
" Whose life, poor youth, was long since blown away —
" Like a torn paper-kite on which the wind
" No further purchase for a puff can find. "

" And thou, thyself " — here, anxious, I exclaimed —
" Tell us, good ghost, how thou, thyself, art named. "
" Me, Sir! " he blushing cried — " Ah! there's the rub —
" Know, then — a waiter once at Brooks's Club,
" A waiter still I might have long remained,
" And long the club-room's jokes and glasses drained;
" But ah! in luckless hour, this last December,
" I wrote a book, and Colburn dubbed me " Member" —
" " Member of Brooks's!" — oh Promethean puff,
" To what wilt thou exalt even kitchen-stuff!
" With crumbs of gossip, caught from dining wits,
" And half-heard jokes, bequeathed, like half-chewed bits,
" To be, each night, the waiter's perquisites; —
" With such ingredients served up oft before,
" But with fresh fudge and fiction garnisht o'er,
" I managed for some weeks to dose the town,
" Till fresh reserves of nonsense ran me down;
" And ready still even waiters souls to damn,
" The Devil but rang his bell, and — here I am; —
" Yes — " Coming up Sir," once my favorite cry,
" Exchanged for " Coming down , Sir," here am I! "

Scarce had the Spectre's lips these words let drop,
When, lo! a breeze — such as from — 's shop
Blows in the vernal hour when puffs prevail,
And speeds the sheets and swells the lagging sale —
Took the poor waiter rudely in the poop,
And whirling him and all his grisly group
Of literary ghosts — Miss X. Y. Z. —
The nameless author, better known than read —
Sir Jo — the Honorable Mr. Lister,
And last, not least, Lord Nobody's twin-sister —
Blew them, ye gods, with all their prose and rhymes
And sins about them, far into those climes
" Where Peter pitched his waistcoat " in old times,
Leaving me much in doubt as on I prest,
With my great master, thro' this realm unblest,
Whether Old Nick or Colburn puffs the best.
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