Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
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Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost

cetmst 26 Jan 07 - 07:26 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 26 Jan 07 - 11:28 PM
Jim Dixon 28 Jan 07 - 01:20 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Jan 07 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Jan 07 - 02:11 PM
cetmst 28 Jan 07 - 07:08 PM
Jim Dixon 30 Jan 07 - 12:31 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: cetmst
Date: 26 Jan 07 - 07:26 AM

At the St. Andrew's Society of Baltimore's Burns Night dinner last week a member presented to each member attending a copy of a letter he had recently purchased at an auction. The letter was from Robert Burns to James Candlish, a long time friend and a student of Medicine in Glasgow, and states in part "I am engaged in assisting a friend of mine who is an engraver, and has taken it into his head to publish a collection of all our songs set to music, of which the words and music are done by Scotsmen (James Johnson, The Scots Musical Museum, 1787-1803). Pompey's Ghost, words and music, I beg from you immediately." According to the Robert Burns Encyclopedia ( Candlish replied that since he was no musician he had sent the words only. The song is not in the Scots Musical Museum, nor can I find any further mention of it in the online encyclopedia, my copies of Burns' works or the Merry Muses of Caledonia. Searching Google brought up a poem "Pompey's Ghost" attributed to Thomas Hood. The poem seems to be a cleaned-up version of the original which is described as "bawdy and containing sexual and racial material." Pompey was a black servant (?slave) whose ghost visits a white lady one day (not night since a black ghost wouldn't be seen in the dark). Since Hood wasn't born until three years after Burns died this cannot be the original.
Can anyone furnish lyrics and tune for this song?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 26 Jan 07 - 11:28 PM

Hood was three years old when Burns died, acc. to the bio I looked at, but that doesn't help.
Hood's ghost poems were well known; no others come up.
Can't help.

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Subject: Lyr Add: POMPEY'S GHOST (Thomas Hood)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 01:20 PM

Here's Thomas Hood's poem. I copied from a text found at Project Gutenberg (The Haunted Hour: An Anthology, edited by Margaret Widdemer, 1920—and then made a few corrections based on versions I found with Google Book Search.

I know it's not the version you want, but we might as well have it at Mudcat:



"Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same."

'Twas twelve o'clock, not twelve at night,
    But twelve o'clock at noon;
Because the sun was shining bright
    And not the silver moon.
A proper time for friends to call,
    Or pots, or penny-post;
When lo! as Phoebe sat at work,
    She saw her Pompey's ghost!

Now when a female has a call
    From people that are dead,
Like Paris ladies, she receives
    Her visitors in bed.
But Pompey's spirit would not come
    Like spirits that are white,
Because he was a Blackamoor,
    And wouldn't show at night!

But of all unexpected things
    That happen to us here,
The most unpleasant is a rise
    In what is very dear.
So Phoebe screamed an awful scream
    To prove the seaman's text,
That after black appearances,
    White squalls will follow next.

"O Phoebe dear! O Phoebe dear!
    Don't go and scream or faint;
You think because I'm black, I am
    The Devil, but I ain't!
Behind the heels of Lady Lambe
    I walked while I had breath,
But that is past, and I am now
    A-walking after death!

"No murder, though, I come to tell,
    By base and bloody crime;
So, Phoebe dear, put off your fits
    To some more fitting time.
No coroner, like a boatswain's mate,
    My body need attack,
With his round dozen to find out
    Why I have died so black.

"One Sunday, shortly after tea,
    My skin began to burn,
As if I had in my inside
    A heater like the urn.
Delirious in the night I grew,
    And as I lay in bed,
They say I gathered all the wool
    You see upon my head.

"His lordship for his doctor sent,
    My treatment to begin;
I wish that he had called him out
    Before he called him in!
For though to physic he was bred,
    And passed at Surgeons' Hall,
To make his post a sinecure,
    He never cured at all!

"The Doctor looked about my breast
    And then about my back,
And then he shook his head and said,
    'Your case looks very black.'
At first he sent me hot cayenne,
    And then gamboge to swallow.
But still my fever would not turn
    To scarlet or to yellow!

"With madder and with turmeric,
    He made his next attack;
But neither he nor all his drugs
    Could stop my dying black.
At last I got so sick of life,
    And sick of being dosed,
One Monday morning I gave up
    My physic and the ghost!

"O Phoebe dear, what pain it was
    To sever every tie!
You know black beetles feel as much
    As giants when they die.
And if there is a bridal bed,
    Or bride of little worth,
It's lying in a bed of mould,
    Along with Mother Earth.

"Alas! Some happy, happy day,
    In church I hoped to stand,
And like a muff of sable skin
    Receive your lily hand.
But sternly with that piebald match,
    My fate untimely clashes;
For now, like Pompe-double-i,
    I'm sleeping in my ashes!

"And now farewell! a last farewell!
    I'm wanted down below,
And have but time enough to add
    One word before I go--
In mourning crêpe and bombazine
    Ne'er spend your precious pelf;
Don't go in black for me--for I
    Can do it for myself.

"Henceforth within my grave I rest,
    But Death, who there inherits,
Allowed my spirit leave to come,
    You seemed so out of spirits:
But do not sigh, and do not cry,
    By grief too much engrossed,
Nor for a ghost of color turn
    The color of a ghost!

"Again, farewell, my Phoebe dear!
    Once more a last adieu!
For I must make myself as scarce
    As swans of sable hue."
From black to gray, from gray to nought
    The shape began to fade--
And like an egg, though not so white,
    The ghost was newly laid!"

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 02:05 PM

I am glad you posted it. I had made a copy for my daughter-in-law (a doctor), and judged, perhaps wrong, that Mudcatters wouldn't be interested. I didn't know Hood's poetry; it is light and amusing. Mary's Ghost and Ghost are two more posted at the same site.

'Pompey's Ghost' is mentioned in Lucan, "De bello civili," appearing to Sextilus in Sicily, fortelling Caesar's murder. I haven't looked for a poem about this Pompey (Pompey and Caesar at one time rival commanders, at the time Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Definitely not Hood's poem, but one about the Roman.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 02:11 PM

Possibly a poem by Catellus. Can't find.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: cetmst
Date: 28 Jan 07 - 07:08 PM

Thanks, Jim, for posting the complete Hood poem - I had come across an abridged version and am pleased to get the whole story. Also there is a ghost story circulating in New England Girl Scout camps concerning the ghost of Pompey Lovejoy a freed slave who died "mysteriously" in Andover, Massachusetts about 1826, again too late to be Burns' friend. There is a legend that the Roman Pompeii's ghost had its revenge on Julius Caesar when Caesar was assassinated at the statue of Pompeii in Rome. Haven't found any other clues but I'm woefully ignorant of Roman literature. Also, not to quibble but the biographies I've found give Burns' death 1796 and Hood's dates 1799 to 1845.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Pompey's Ghost
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 30 Jan 07 - 12:31 AM

The text of the very letter you describe—from Robert Burns to James Candlish, 1787—along with Candlish's reply, is given in "The Works of Robert Burns; with His Life" by Allan Cunningham, 1834, starting on page 138, which can be seen courtesy of Google Book Search. Furthermore, a note on page 117 of the same book explains that the song they are referring to was written by John Lowe.

Other sources say this was John Lowe (1750-1798) of Galloway, whose fame is based mainly on one poem: MARY'S DREAM ("The moon had climbed the highest hill, / That rises o'er the source of Dee....").

"The Cambridge History of English Literature" (1927) says: "Pompey's Ghost, also, is attributed to Lowe by Burns; but it appeared in The Blackbird in 1764, when Lowe was only fourteen years old...."

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