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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