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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Frederick Locker-Lampson 1821–95

The Skeleton in the Cupboard

THE CHARACTERS of great and small

Come ready-made, we can’t bespeak one;

Their sides are many, too, and all

(Except ourselves) have got a weak one.

Some sanguine people love for life,

Some love their hobby till it flings them.

How many love a pretty wife

For love of the éclat she brings them!

A little to relieve my mind

I ’ve thrown off this disjointed chatter,

But more because I ’m disinclin’d

To enter on a painful matter:

Once I was bashful; I ’ll allow

I ’ve blush’d for words untimely spoken;

I still am rather shy, and now…

And now the ice is fairly broken.

We all have secrets: you have one

Which may n’t be quite your charming spouse’s;

We all lock up a skeleton

In some grim chamber of our houses;

Familiars, who exhaust their days

And nights in probing where our smart is,

And who, excepting spiteful ways,

Are “silent, unassuming parties.”

We hug this phantom we detest,

Rarely we let it cross our portals;

It is a most exacting guest:

Now, are we not afflicted mortals?

Your neighbor Gay, that jovial wight,

As Dives rich, and brave as Hector,—

Poor Gay steals twenty times a night,

On shaking knees, to see his spectre.

Old Dives fears a pauper fate,

So hoarding is his ruling passion:

Some gloomy souls anticipate

A waistcoat straiter than the fashion!

She childless pines, that lonely wife,

And secret tears are bitter shedding;

Hector may tremble all his life,

And die,—but not of that he ’s dreading.

Ah me, the World!—how fast it spins!

The beldams dance, the caldron bubbles;

They shriek, they stir it for our sins,

And we must drain it for our troubles.

We toil, we groan; the cry for love

Mounts up from this poor seething city,

And yet I know we have above

A FATHER infinite in pity.

When Beauty smiles, when Sorrow weeps,

Where sunbeams play, where shadows darken,

One inmate of our dwelling keeps

Its ghastly carnival; but hearken!

How dry the rattle of the bones!

That sound was not to make you start meant:

Stand by! Your humble servant owns

The Tenant of this Dark Apartment.