The Vulture: An Ornithological Study


Once upon a midnight chilling, as I held my feet unwilling

O'er a tub of scalding water, at a heat of ninety-four;

Nervously a toe in dipping, dripping, slipping, then out-skipping,

Suddenly there came a ripping whipping, at my chamber's door.

"'Tis the second-floor," I muttered, "flipping at my chamber's door—

Wants a light—and nothing more!"


Ah! distinctly I remember, it was in the chill November,

And each cuticle and member was with influenza sore;

Falt'ringly I stirred the gruel, steaming, creaming o'er the fuel,

And anon removed the jewel that each frosted nostril bore,

Wiped away the trembling jewel that each reddened nostril bore,

Nameless here for evermore!


And I recollect a certain draught that fanned the window curtain

Chilled me, filled me with a horror of two steps across the floor,

And, besides, I'd got my feet in, and a most refreshing heat in,

To myself I sat repeating—"If I answer to the door—

Rise to let the ruffian in who seems to want to burst the door,

I'll be ­—" that and something more.


Presently the row grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,

"Really, Mr. Johnson, blow it! — your forgiveness I implore

Such an observation letting slip, but when a man's just getting

Into bed, you come upsetting nerves and posts of chambers' door,

Making such a row, forgetting"—Spoke a voice beyond the door:

“’Tisn't Johnson”—nothing more!


Quick a perspiration clammy bathed me, and I uttered "Dammy!"

(Observation wrested from me, like the one I made before)

Back upon the cushions sinking, hopelessly my eyes, like winking,

On some stout for private drinking, ranged in rows upon the floor,

Fixed--and on an oyster barrel (full) beside them on the floor,

Looked and groaned, and nothing more.


Open then was flung the portal, and in stepped a hated mortal,

By the moderns called a VULTURE (known as Sponge in days of yore),

Well I knew his reputation! cause of all my agitation—

Scarce a nod or salutation changed, he pounced upon the floor;

Coolly lifted up the oysters and some stout from off the floor,

Helped himself, and took some more!


Then this hungry beast untiring fixed his gaze with fond admiring

On a piece of cold boiled beef I meant to last a week or more,

Quick he set to work devouring--plates, in quick succession, scouring--

Stout with every mouthful showering--made me ask, to see it pour,

If he quite enjoyed his supper, as I watched the liquid pour;

Said the Vulture, "Never more."


Much disgusted at the spacious vacuum by this brute voracious

Excavated in the beef— (he'd eaten quite enough for four) —

Still I felt relief surprising when at length I saw him rising,

That he meant to go surmising, said I, glancing at the door—

"Going? well, I won't detain you--mind the stairs and shut the door—"

—"Leave you, Tompkins! never more."


Startled by an answer dropping hints that he intended stopping

All his life—I knew him equal to it if he liked, or more—

Half in dismal earnest, half in joke, with an attempt at laughing,

I remarked that he was chaffing, and demanded of the bore,

Asked what this disgusting, nasty, greedy, vile intrusive bore,

Meant in cloaking "Never more."


But the Vulture not replying, took my bunch of keys and trying

Sev'ral, found at length the one to fit my private cupboard door;

Took the gin out, filled the kettle; and with a sang froid to nettle

Any saint, began to settle calmly down the grate before,

Really as he meant departing at the date I named before,

Of never, never more!


Then I sat engaged in guessing what this circumstance distressing

Would be likely to result in, for I knew that long before

Once (it served me right for drinking) I had told him that if sinking

In the world, my fortunes linking to his own, he'd find my door

Always open to receive him, and it struck me now that door

He would pass, p’raps never more!


Suddenly the air was clouded, all the furniture enshrouded

With the smoke of vile tobacco—this was worse than all before;

"Smith!" I cried (in not offensive tones, it might have been expensive,

For he knew the art defensive, and could coster-mongers floor;)

"Recollect it's after midnight, are you going? —mind the floor."

Quoth the Vulture, "Never more."


"Smith!" I cried (the gin was going down his throat in rivers flowing,)

"If you want a bed, you know there's quite a nice hotel next door,

Very cheap—I'm ill—and, joking set apart, your horrid smoking

Irritates my cough to choking. Having mentioned it before,

Really, you should not compel me—Will you mizzle—as before?"

Quoth the Vulture, "Never more."


Smith!" I cried, "that joke repeating merits little better treating

For you than a condemnation as a nuisance and a bore;

Drop it, pray, it isn't funny; I've to mix some rum and honey--

If you want a little money, take some and be off next door;

Run a bill up for me if you like, but do be off next door."

Quoth the Vulture, "Never more."


"Smith!" I shrieked—the accent humbler dropping, as another tumbler

I beheld him mix, "be off! you drive me mad—it's striking four.

Leave the house and something in it; if you go on at the gin, it

Won't hold out another minute. Leave the house and shut the door—

Take your beak from out my gin, and take your body through the door!

Quoth the Vulture, "Never more!"


And the Vulture never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,

Gulping down my stout by gallons, and my oysters by the score;

And the beast, with no more breeding than a heathen savage feeding,

The new carpet's tints unheeding, throws his shells upon the floor.

And his smoke from out my curtains, and his stains from out my floor,

Shall be sifted never more.