a halloween poem

The Rodent
with many apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a school night dreary, while I graded, weak and weary,
Reading many a quaint and scribbled essay slipped beneath my office door,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
“‘Tis some sophomore,” I muttered, “tapping at my office door –
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak November;
And each separate blogging ‘Tuber cast their tumblr on my floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From their gifs surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost JSTOR –
For the dear, omniscient search box whom the scholars named JSTOR –
Nameless here for evermore.

And the papery, sad, uncertain rustling of each freshman essay
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“‘Tis some student there entreating entrance at my office door –
Some late tutee entreating entrance at my office door; –
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Yes, hello? Come in!” I called, “Your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” – here I opened wide the door; –
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no adjunct ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “JSTOR?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “JSTOR!” –
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the office turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something in the ceiling venting;
Let me see, then, what is rending, and this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
‘Tis the heating, nothing more!”

Open here I flung the grating, when, with many a squeak came skating
Down the shaft a snow white squirrel of my college days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of Dean or Trustee, crouched above my office door –
Crouched upon a bust of Schiller just above my office door –
Crouched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ivory squirrel beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore,
“Though thy tail be scarred and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient maven wandering from the campus tour –
Tell me what thy college name is on your ghostly campus tour!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

Much I marveled this ungainly rat to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no learned and tutored being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing squirrel above their office door –
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above their office door,
With such a name as “Nevermore.”

But the squirrel, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered – not a hairy ear he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other things I’ve lost before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my notes I’ve lost before.”
Then the squirrel said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some untenured Master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his books one thesis bore –
Till the coursework of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of ‘Never – nevermore’.”

But the squirrel still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned chair in front of rat, and bust and door;
Then, upon the pleather sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous rat of yore –
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous squirrel of yore
Meant in squeaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the squirrel whose rodent eyes now burned into my scholar’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s pleather lining that the gif-light gloated o’er,
But whose brownish-pleather lining with the gif-light gloating o’er,
It shall light, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the light grew lighter, lumined from an unseen citer,
Some Chicago-styled writer whose words flickered my whole screen o’er.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy Provost lent thee – by these scholars he hath sent thee
Respite – respite and Zoloft, from thy memories of JSTOR;
Quaff, oh quaff your kind Nyquil and forget this lost JSTOR!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Pundit!” said I, “thing of evil! – pundit still, if squirrel or devil! –
Whether I.T. sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
In this school by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
Is there – is there use in Questia? – tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Pundit!” said I, “thing of evil! – pundit still, if squirrel or devil!
By that Wifi that bends above us – by that Web we both adore –
Tell this prof from huffpo dying if, from all your campus scrying,
she shall clasp a reviewed journal from the archives of JSTOR –
clasp a peer-reviewed citation from the depths of dear JSTOR.”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, rat or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting –
“Get thee back into the tempest and that ghostly campus tour!
Leave no white hair as a token of that lie thy snout hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy nose from out my heart, and take thy paws from off my door!”
Quoth the rodent “Nevermore.”

And the squirrel, never quitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
on the pallid bust of Schiller just above my office door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a spambot that is dreaming,
and the gif-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!


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