The Three Tall Men

" What's that tapping at night: tack, tack,

In some house in the street at the back?"

" O, 'tis a man who, when he has leisure,

Is making himself a coffin to measure.

He's so very tall that no carpenter

Will make it long enough, he's in fear.

His father's was shockingly short for his limb —

And it made a deep impression on him."

The Second Tapping

" That tapping has begun again,

Which ceased a year back, or near then?"

" Yes, 'tis the man you heard before

Making his coffin. The first scarce done

His brother died — his only one —

And, being of his own height, or more,

He used it for him; for he was afraid

He'd not get a long enough one quick made.

He's making a second now, to fit

Himself when there shall be need for it.

Carpenters work so by rule of thumb

That they make mistakes when orders come."

The Third Tapping

" It's strange, but years back, when I was here,

I used to notice a tapping near;

A man was making his coffin at night,

And he made a second, if I am right?

I have heard again the self-same tapping —

Yes, late last night — or was I napping?"

" O no. It's the same man. He made one

Which his brother had; and a second was done —

For himself, as he thought. But lately his son,

As tall as he, died; aye, and as trim,

And his sorrowful father bestowed it on him.

And now the man is making a third,

To be used for himself when he is interred."

" Many years later was brought to me

News that the man had died at sea."

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