O’er unreclaimed suburban clays Some years ago were hobblin’ An elderly ghost of easy ways, And an influential goblin. The ghost was a sombre spectral shape, A fine old five-act fogy, The goblin imp, a lithe young ape, A fine low-comedy bogy. And as they exercised their joints, Promoting quick digestion, They talked on several curious points, And raised this delicate question: “Which of us two is Number One— The ghostie, or the goblin?” And o’er the point they raised in fun They fairly fell a-squabblin’. They’d barely speak, and each, in fine, Grew more and more reflective: Each thought his own particular line By chalks the more effective. At length they settled some one should By each of them be haunted, And so arrange that either could Exert his prowess vaunted. “The Quaint against the Statuesque”— By competition lawful— The goblin backed the Quaint Grotesque, The ghost the Grandly Awful. “Now,” said the goblin, “here’s my plan— In attitude commanding, I see a stalwart Englishman By yonder tailor’s standing. “The very fittest man on earth My influence to try on— Of gentle, p’r’aps of noble birth, And dauntless as a lion! Now wrap yourself within your shroud— Remain in easy hearing— Observe—you’ll hear him scream aloud When I begin appearing! The imp with yell unearthly—wild— Threw off his dark enclosure: His dauntless victim looked and smiled With singular composure. For hours he tried to daunt the youth, For days, indeed, but vainly— The stripling smiled!—to tell the truth, The stripling smiled inanely. For weeks the goblin weird and wild, That noble stripling haunted; For weeks the stripling stood and smiled, Unmoved and all undaunted. The sombre ghost exclaimed, “Your plan Has failed you, goblin, plainly: Now watch yon hardy Hieland man, So stalwart and ungainly. “These are the men who chase the roe, Whose footsteps never falter, Who bring with them, where’er they go, A smack of old SIR WALTER. Of such as he, the men sublime Who lead their troops victorious, Whose deeds go down to after-time, Enshrined in annals glorious! “Of such as he the bard has said ‘Hech thrawfu’ raltie rorkie! Wi’ thecht ta’ croonie clapperhead And fash’ wi’ unco pawkie!’ He’ll faint away when I appear, Upon his native heather; Or p’r’aps he’ll only scream with fear, Or p’r’aps the two together.” The spectre showed himself, alone, To do his ghostly battling, With curdling groan and dismal moan, And lots of chains a-rattling! But no—the chiel’s stout Gaelic stuff Withstood all ghostly harrying; His fingers closed upon the snuff Which upwards he was carrying. For days that ghost declined to stir, A foggy shapeless giant— For weeks that splendid officer Stared back again defiant. Just as the Englishman returned The goblin’s vulgar staring, Just so the Scotchman boldly spurned The ghost’s unmannered scaring. For several years the ghostly twain These Britons bold have haunted, But all their efforts are in vain— Their victims stand undaunted. This very day the imp, and ghost, Whose powers the imp derided, Stand each at his allotted post— The bet is undecided.
– W. S. Gilbert, 1868(?)