Updated: Dec 10, 2020

by Elizabeth Faris

“‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost.”

Illustration of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol by Harry Furniss


A poem from Elizabeth Faris'

Palimpsest: A Book of Literary Classics Penned Again in Verse

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Away in a corner, no wick for a flame

A grizzled old miser records the year’s gain

The sum for deposit he marks with great care

For kindly donations he’s nothing to spare.

The hour has arrived for his counting to stop

To stock up the coffer and lock up the shop

“Bless ye’ for Christmas!” cries his employee

“Humbug!” he growls, “You’ll get nothing from me!”

And as he approaches his own barren door

He wonders what Christmas is really meant for:

A frivolous nuisance, a costly event

Where good money’s wasted, impractically spent.

So, donning his nightcap, he lies down to sleep

First musing of riches and contracts to keep

Then drifting still deeper, his last conscious thought:

How sweet it would be if Christmas were not!

But soon he’s awakened: a harsh grating sound...

He opens his eyes and he peers all around

Down at his feet, a strange form has unfurled!

A visage immortal, not part of this world!

And yet it resembles someone from his past

To the atrophied features, an intimate cast

The tormented profile is one he should know

For it’s that of his partner who died long ago!

“Repent, Ebenezer!” he hears the ghost moan

In a voice so horrific it chills to the bone

“I’ve come here to tell you to find a new way

Or for your indifference, you surely will pay!”

“This can’t be old Marley,” the miser replies

“My senses deceive! In the graveyard he lies!

It’s mere indigestion, a bit of bad beef

If I just close my eyes, I will find some relief.”

“Not so!” wails the spectre and rattles his chain

“I’m here to reform you, and here I’ll remain!

Come to your senses - before it’s too late -

Or suffer, as I have, a hideous fate!”

By now, Ebenezer has covered his head

All hunkered down in his rustic old bed

And thus does he linger and keeps very still

Dulling his heartbeat by sheer force of will.

When finally he ventures to unveil his face

Behold! A new phantom in old Marley’s place!

A fey little figure, at one with the night:

Bearing a candle that casts a pure light.

“Rise up from your bed -- make ready, and fast!

I’ve come here to show you the deeds of your past

Hold tight to your courage and cling to my hand:

Tonight we are bound for a faraway land.”

Together, they fly to a place of his youth

Where fond days of old are revealed in their truth

They speak of a time when he laughed and shed tears

And promised to give his heart down through the years.

They also allude to ambition’s strong pull

To how his fat purse couldn’t ever be full

And worse, how it stole him away from his vow

And left him alone, the way he is now.

This scene, from the miser, draws one single tear

It’s more than he’s shed in so many a year

He asks of the ghost if these loved ones are well

Who replies, “Of the present, I never can tell.”

Then quick as it kindled, the flame is snuffed out

The next thing he hears is a knock and a shout:

“I am the one who will speak of today!

Just open the door, for I don’t mean to stay!”

Yet ere he can ponder, the door is thrown wide

And in storms a giant with purposeful stride

Surrounded by plenty and crowned with a wreath

Fine rings on his fingers and gold in his teeth.

This new ghost sheds light on the home of his clerk

The one he pays meanly for diligent work:

He sees Cratchit raising a glass to his health

In spite of not seeing his share of the wealth.

His shame is complete when he learns, with a sigh

His youngest is sickly and likely to die!

“Oh, Spirit! Have pity and tell me his fate…

Is the boy going to rally, or is it too late?”

“I am of the present; I cannot foresee!

You want to know more? You must ask spirit three!”

Then aiming his sceptre into the dark night

His laughter resounds and he fades out of sight.

And now a grim mantle has fallen around

As poor Ebenezer drops down to the ground

And while he envisions his certain demise

A shadow spreads over the place where he lies.

Looming above, with no face he can see

The ominous figure of ghost number three:

It wears a vast cloak, and he spies, with alarm

Amid its black folds --- a bony white arm!

It doesn’t take long for this ghoul to make clear

A soul has departed not ever held dear

A miserly fool all are glad to see dead

For plentiful pickings beneath his old bed.

Next, he is shown one more prospect in store:

A graveside attended by so many more

He sees by the fire a blank little stool

Once used by a child just barely in school.

“Why, that is the place of Cratchit’s young son!

Don’t tell me what’s happened cannot be undone!

For if I’m to blame through my consummate greed,

I sorely repent! For your mercy, I plead!

I know that forgiveness is too much to ask

Just give me one chance to accomplish the task

Of pledging myself to keep Christmas year round

A worthier soul will never be found!”

And the next thing he knows, he’s awake in his room

Where sunshine replaces the ill-omened gloom

And when he hears bells celebrating the morn

He knows that it’s Christmas -- and he is reborn!

From that Christmas onward, the miser is changed

What matters to him is now all rearranged:

Instead of conserving the bulk of his pay

In Love he gets rich -- as he gives it away.

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