Author: Lewis Carroll  | Date: 1869


The Trystyng

ONE winter night, at half-past nine,

Cold, tired, and cross, and muddy,

I had come home, too late to dine,

And supper, with cigars and wine,

Was waiting in the study.

There was a strangeness in the room,

And Something white and wavy

Was standing near me in the gloom-

I took it for the carpet-broom

Left by that careless slavey.

But presently the Thing began

To shiver and to sneeze:

On which I said "Come, come, my man!

That’s a most inconsiderate plan,

Less noise there, if you please!"

"I’ve caught a cold", the Thing replies,

"Out there upon the landing."

I turned to look in some surprise,

And there, before my very eyes,

A little Ghost was standing!

He trembled when he caught my eye,

And got behind a chair.

"How came you here," I said, "and why?

I never saw a thing so shy.

Come out! Don’t shiver there!"

He said "I’d gladly tell you how,

And also tell you why;

But" (here he gave a little bow)

"You’re in so bad a temper now,

You’d think it all a lie.

"And as to being in a fright,

Allow me to remark

That Ghosts have just as good a right,

In every way, to fear the light,

As Men to fear the dark."

"No plea", said I, "can well excuse

Such cowardice in you:

For Ghosts can visit when they choose,

Whereas we Humans ca’n’t refuse

To grant the interview."

He said "A flutter of alarm

Is not unnatural, is it?

I really feared you meant some harm:

But, now I see that you are calm,

Let me explain my visit.

"Houses are classed, I beg to state,

According to the number

Of Ghosts that they accommodate:

(The Tenant merely counts as weight,

With Coals and other lumber).

"This is a ’one-ghost’ house, and you,

When you arrived last summer,

May have remarked a Spectre who

Was doing all that Ghosts can do

To welcome the new-comer.

"In Villas this is always done-

However cheaply rented:

For, though of course there’s less of fun

When there is only room for one,

Ghosts have to be contented.

"That Spectre left you on the Third-

Since then you’ve not been haunted:

For, as he never sent us word,

’Twas quite by accident we heard

That any one was wanted.

"A Spectre has first choice, by right,

In filling up a vacancy;

Then Phantom, Goblin, Elf, and Sprite-

If all these fail them, they invite

The nicest Ghoul that they can see.

"The Spectres said the place was low,

And that you kept bad wine:

So, as a Phantom had to go,

And I was first, of course, you know,

I couldn’t well decline."

"No doubt", said I, "they settled who

Was fittest to be sent:

Yet still to choose a brat like you,

To haunt a man of forty-two,

Was no great compliment!"

"I’m not so young, Sir," he replied,

"As you might think. The fact is,

In caverns by the water-side,

And other places that I’ve tried,

I’ve had a lot of practice:

"But I have never taken yet

A strict domestic part,

And in my flurry I forget

The Five Good Rules of Etiquette

We have to know by heart."

My sympathies were warming fast

Towards the little fellow:

He was so utterly aghast

At having found a Man at last,

And looked so scared and yellow.

"At least", I said, "I’m glad to find

A Ghost is not a dumb thing!

But pray sit down: you’ll feel inclined

(If, like myself, you have not dined)

To take a snack of something:

"Though, certainly, you don’t appear

A thing to offer food to!

And then I shall be glad to hear-

If you will say them loud and clear-

The Rules that you allude to."

"Thanks! You shall hear them by and by.

This is a piece of luck!"

"What may I offer you?" said I.

"Well, since you are so kind, I’ll try

A little bit of duck.

"One slice! And may I ask you for

Another drop of gravy?"

I sat and looked at him in awe,

For certainly I never saw

A thing so white and wavy.

And still he seemed to grow more white,

More vapoury, and wavier-

Seen in the dim and flickering light,

As he proceeded to recite

His "Maxims of Behaviour".


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Chicago: Lewis Carroll, "Canto I," Phantasmagoria Original Sources, accessed May 25, 2024,

MLA: Carroll, Lewis. "Canto I." Phantasmagoria, Original Sources. 25 May. 2024.

Harvard: Carroll, L, 'Canto I' in Phantasmagoria. Original Sources, retrieved 25 May 2024, from