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Short poem

Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)

Old Adam, the Carrion Crow

              1  Old Adam, the carrion crow,
              2    The old crow of Cairo;
              3He sat in the shower, and let it flow
              4    Under his tail and over his crest;
              5      And through every feather
              6      Leak'd the wet weather;
              7    And the bough swung under his nest;
              8    For his beak it was heavy with marrow.
              9      Is that the wind dying? O no;
            10      It's only two devils, that blow,
            11      Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
            12      In the ghosts' moonshine.

            13  Ho! Eve, my grey carrion wife,
            14    When we have supped on king's marrow,
            15Where shall we drink and make merry our life?
            16    Our nest it is queen Cleopatra's skull,
            17      'Tis cloven and crack'd,
            18      And batter'd and hack'd,
            19    But with tears of blue eyes it is full:
            20    Let us drink then, my raven of Cairo!
            21      Is that the wind dying? O no;
            22      It's only two devils, that blow
            23      Through a murderer's bones, to and fro,
            24      In the ghosts' moonshine.


1] First published, posthumously, in 1850. In an early form the play seems to have been completed by 1830, but Beddoes added and rewrote until his death in 1848. It is a strange revenge play written in the Elizabethan manner. The Song from the Ship marks the departure of an expedition from Ancona to rescue Duke Melveric from captivity among the Moors. Old Adam, the carrion crow, is sung in the charnel-house scene of revenge with which the play ends.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Death's jest-book; or, The fool's tragedy (London: W. Pickering, 1850). B-11 4357 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: 1850
RPO poem editor: J. D. Robins
RP edition: 2RP.2.337; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/24

Rhyme: ababccaaab ababccaab

Other poems by Thomas Lovell Beddoes