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
now available for purchase via SHOP NOW button at
In Canada, purchase at elizabethfaris.com
A BIT OF BAD BEEF
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.