The Ballad of Ebenezer
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, reimagined in verse
by Christopher Kent
Back in 1843, Charles Dickens was well known;
A writer with a string of hits that he could call his own.
But he hated all the suffering he saw both near and far,
The cost of ignorance and want, and callous disregard
By those who had the means to help, but chose to say “No matter”
About those starving at their feet, while they got rich and fatter.
So in hopes of opening our eyes, that good will might prevail,
Charles Dickens set about writing a cautionary tale.
He told a Christmas story of a certain Ebenezer
A wealthy man who had a heart as frigid as a freezer.
He treated others with contempt, of their motives was suspicious;
“Bah, humbug!” was his brusque reply to any Christmas wishes.
He wouldn’t share a single pence, a miser through and through;
He scoffed at his clerk Bob Crachit, and his nephew’s family, too.
Scrooge once had a partner named Marley; like Scrooge, he’d shed no tears
For anyone except himself—but Marley’d been dead for years.
It now was Christmas Eve, but Scrooge showed not one ounce of pity
For the hungry or the homeless or the poor of London city.
Two men came by to ask if he’d share coins to help the poor;
Scrooge said, “Are there no prisons?” as he showed them to the door.
And Scrooge complained, as darkness fell and he sent home his clerk,
Of having to pay him for Christmas day, when he wouldn’t do any work.
Outside, the night was dark and cold, the fog thick and oppressing;
But people in the street still laughed and shared their Christmas blessing.
Now Scrooge walked home to his empty house, which once had been Marley’s place,
Where to his shock, upon the knocker he saw dead Marley’s face!
Then once inside the house things went from spooky to appalling:
Bells were clanging, chains were dragging. Then Marley himself came calling!
He was a frightful, moaning ghost, a dreadful apparition
Weighed down with chains of earthly wealth—but a spectre on a mission.
“I had the chance to do much good when I was alive,” he said.
“I blew it! Now I wear these chains—a lousy way to be dead!”
“You were always good at business,” whimpered Scrooge, wiping his brow.
“Mankind was my business!” Marley said. “I know that now.
You only have one chance left to avoid my grisly fate.
Three ghosts shall come to visit you, to try and set you straight.”
Then Marley floated out the window; Scrooge looked out to find
The sky was filled with wailing ghosts, all dragging chains behind.
Beside himself with fear, exhausted Scrooge fell into bed.
In seconds he was fast asleep. Then, just as Marley’d said….
The First of the Three Spirits
A ghost appeared beside him there, a most uncanny sight:
A mix of youth and age, and from its head there shone a light.
“Are you the one whose coming was foretold to me?” Scrooge asked.
“Indeed,” the ghost replied. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Come walk with me,” it said, and took him back in time to see
Images of Christmas past, the boy Scrooge used to be.
He saw the Christmases that he’d been left at school alone
While other boys went off to be with their families at home.
He’d mostly blocked these memories out, this sorry Christmas fate;
Now he realized it helped make Christmas a holiday he’d hate.
And then he saw his sister, once again alive before his eyes;
The ghost reminded Scrooge her son was the nephew he despised.
Then years flew by and Scrooge had grown; he now was an apprentice
And he saw his boss, old Fezziwig, whose Christmas cheer seemed endless.
‘Twas Christmas Eve. Now Fezziwig cleared off the workplace floor
And in came all in his employ, plus friends and several more.
A fiddler played; they danced and ate and laughed for hours on end,
And Scrooge was filled with great delight to live that night again.
The ghost said, “Why such gratitude when the money spent was small?”
And Scrooge said, “Money’s not the point, it’s the happiness he gave us all.”
And then he saw the irony in the words that he had said;
But the ghost transported him again, to a few more years ahead.
A woman that he once had loved was telling him he broke her heart;
She said the golden idol he now chased had torn their love apart.
And then he saw her older still, with a family of her own,
While he was left with riches, but a life to live alone.
On seeing all of this, Scrooge felt disheartened and dismayed;
He saw what he had chosen, and the price that he had paid.
In horror and dismay he tried to quench the ghost’s bright light,
But he failed, and then exhausted fell asleep into the night.
The Second of the Three Spirits
He was wakened by the chimney clock, in bed in his darkened room
But a light shone through a nearby door, calling to him through the gloom…
Behind that door he found a giant, sitting bright and jolly,
Surrounded by a massive feast, with mistletoe and holly.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the spirit, very bold.
“Come close to me, you’ve much to see.” Scrooge did as he was told!
Suddenly it was Christmas morn, and they stood in the street below,
Where everyone was filled with cheer, despite the cold and snow.
The Spirit spread his Christmas blessing, so that all might catch it;
Then brought his blessings to the house of Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Crachit.
Here Scrooge observed Bob’s family, all cheerful and excited
Preparing for their Christmas feast, with everyone invited.
The children ran around and danced, a Christmas celebration,
Potatoes, goose and pudding earning sighs of admiration.
Then Bob arrived with young son Tiny Tim, and in they came,
Tim high upon Bob’s shoulder, his limbs held up by a metal frame.
The family ate ‘til they were full, then gathered by the fire
And shared the toasts and blessings that such gatherings inspire.
“A merry Christmas to us all!” said Bob, lifting his glass up high;
“God bless us, every one!” said Tiny Tim, a sparkle in his eye.
This scene was not what Scrooge expected! Now he began to see
These people were quite pleasant—and having much more fun than he!
And Scrooge was moved by Tiny Tim. He asked his spirit guide
If Tiny Tim would live. “Well that depends,” the ghost replied.
“If nothing changes, he will die.” But Scrooge said, “Are you sure?”
The ghost said, “Until now, you never cared about the poor.
You’ve called them ‘surplus population.’ ” Scrooge looked down in shame;
But then he raised his eyes again, because he heard his name.
Bob Crachit toasted Scrooge, filling his family with dismay.
They knew how Bob was treated. But Bob said, “It’s Christmas Day!”
The mention of old Scrooge’s name had filled the place with gloom;
But after a few minutes, Christmas cheer returned and filled the room.
The Ghost and Scrooge moved on; Scrooge saw how Christmas Day connected
The hearts of people, even those whom Scrooge had least expected.
Miners who worked in the earth sang songs and laughed quite heartily,
And lighthouse keepers did as well, and sailors far at sea.
Then Scrooge was in his nephew’s house, amidst a Christmas party;
His nephew gathered with his friends; their laughter was most hearty.
His nephew shared how Scrooge belittled Christmas and complained,
But noted it was Scrooge who paid the price for his disdain.
For Scrooge derived no benefit from all the wealth he’d got,
“I’m sorry for my uncle,” said his nephew, “rich or not.”
Scrooge felt even more dismayed, because he understood
The truth in what his nephew said. His wealth had done him little good.
But then the party carried on, those present singing merrily;
Scrooge begged the ghost to let him stay, but that was not to be.
They traveled near and far observing Christmas’s elation,
Bringing hope and cheer to all, no matter what their station.
Then Scrooge observed the spirit aging, saw its hair turn gray;
The spirit said he only lived the length of this one day.
And then, from underneath its robe, Scrooge saw an awful sight;
Two wretched, frightful children there emerged into the light.
A ragged, hideous boy and girl filled Scrooge’s heart with dread.
“The boy is ignorance, the girl is want,” the spirit said.
“They are the children of your world, and all will feel their sting;
Beware the boy especially, for doom is what he’ll bring.”
“Have they nowhere to turn?” cried Scrooge. Then back his own words came:
“Are there no prisons?” cried the ghost. And Scrooge was filled with shame.
The Last of the Spirits
Then suddenly the clock struck twelve; the ghost was gone from sight.
But Scrooge beheld a phantom coming toward him in the night.
This ghost was hooded, draped in black. He came up slowly, silently;
No face or form was visible; one hand was all that Scrooge could see.
This phantom filled old Scrooge with dread; he could not help but fear it.
“Are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?” he asked the spirit.
Silence was the only answer. Now his legs felt hollow.
“I know you mean to help,” said Scrooge. “Lead on and I shall follow.”
They moved away together, though Scrooge had no sense of walking;
Then the city was around them. Merchants stood together, talking.
Guided by the Spirit’s finger, Scrooge approached, to listen;
They spoke of someone who had died. It was clear no one would miss him.
Scrooge noticed that his future self was nowhere to be found;
He hoped this meant he’d changed his ways and turned his life around.
The ghost led on in silence. But then, to his chagrin,
They came into a part of town where Scrooge had never been.
The streets were foul and narrow, full of nasty smells and grime;
This quarter reeked of misery, and drunkenness and crime.
Deep within they found a shop piled high with rags and nails;
It dealt in refuse of all kinds: keys and hinges, bones and scales.
There, smoking a pipe, the gray-haired owner sat within,
But then two women and a man with bundles scuttled in.
They laughed to see each other there, with their ill-gotten gains,
Stolen from the dead man. Their dislike for him was plain.
They showed the things they’d brought to sell; the owner told them what he’d pay
For the curtains from the dead man’s bed, and the shirt in which the body lay
When he was ready to be buried. No remorse was shown.
“If he’d been kinder while alive,” one said, “he’d not have died alone.”
Scrooge was horrified to watch this scene, but then, the next minute,
He stood inside a darkened room; the dead man lay within it.
A ragged sheet was covering the body on a bed;
The scene was plundered. Now the spectre pointed at the dead man’s head.
Scrooge could feel the weight of death that lay upon this place,
And he knew a pull upon the sheet would disclose the dead man’s face.
But he could not bring himself to do it. Gnawing rats were heard nearby.
Thoughts were racing through his head. Then he let out a cry:
“Someone in this town must feel emotion that this man is dead;
Show that person to me, Spirit,” Ebenezer said.
The spirit spread his dark robe out and swallowed up the gloom;
And then Scrooge saw a mother and her children in a daylit room.
She waited for her husband to return, and soon he did.
She asked what news he’d brought, while trying hard to keep her feelings hid.
For they were in another’s debt, which they could not repay.
He’d gone to ask the man in question for a week’s delay.
She asked him if the news was good or bad. “It’s mixed,” he said.
“Our debt is not forgiven, but our creditor is dead.
I can’t imagine anyone as merciless as he;
Whoever takes our debt, this is good news for you and me.”
And Scrooge observed this brought a lightening of the family’s mood;
They’d have more time to find a way to pay the rent and buy some food.
Scrooge’s heart sank. He’d hoped to see some sorrow, tears of grief,
But all this death had caused, it seemed, was pleasure and relief.
“Please show me tenderness connected with this,” Scrooge implored.
And then he saw Bob Crachit’s house, where Scrooge had been before.
But this time all was quiet in the house; few words were shared,
And by the table Scrooge observed there sat an empty chair.
Poor Tiny Tim was gone. And now it wasn’t hard to tell
Bob Crachit’s heart was broken, and the others grieved as well.
Again the ghost moved onward, and Scrooge asked if he could finally see
His future self, to learn just how his coming life might be.
The spectre led him past his office. Through the glass Scrooge stared;
He saw that all was rearranged, and someone else was in his chair.
Still the ghost moved forward, ‘til they reached an iron gate—
A churchyard. Scrooge knew he was about to learn his fate.
The spectre pointed at one gravestone; Scrooge was filled with dread.
He saw his name upon the stone. “Was I that man upon the bed?”
Now he could feel the weight of all the choices he had made;
The people he’d mistreated, and the hope that he’d betrayed.
In agony he fell, and cried, “I’m not the man I was before!
Please tell me these are shadows of what may be,” Scrooge implored.
“Why show me this, if all is lost? I won’t forget what I’ve seen here.
I’ll honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
Tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Then suddenly the ghost was gone, and Scrooge was back in bed alone.
The End of It
His face was wet with tears, he mumbled like a man deranged;
But he was overcome with joy; the future still was his to change!
He saw his room was as before, the curtains on his bed still there;
He danced around the room with glee; he’d make amends, with time to spare!
“A merry Christmas to the world!” he cried with happy tears;
And then he laughed a mighty laugh! (He hadn’t laughed in years!)
He wasn’t sure what day it was, how many nights had been displaced;
But then he heard the church bells peal, and to the window ran in haste.
He threw the window open and looked out; the day was clear and bright.
The pealing bells and sweet fresh air now filled his heart with great delight.
He saw a boy in Sunday clothes below. “What day is this?” Scrooge cried.
The boy looked up. “It’s Christmas Day, of course,” the boy replied.
“I haven’t missed it!” Scrooge rejoiced. “The spirits only took one night.”
His mind now filled with ways to make amends and set things right.
He sent the boy to purchase a prize turkey at a nearby store;
Then, when it came, he sent it to Bob Crachit’s house, and laughed some more!
And once he’d donned his finest clothes he walked along his sun-lit street,
Smiling, saying “Merry Christmas!” to each person that he’d meet.
Then coming toward him he observed one of the men from Christmas Eve
Who’d asked if Scrooge would give a little to the poor—and been asked to leave.
Now Scrooge approached and greeted him, and asked forgiveness for his words
And offered him so much the man could scarce believe what he’d just heard.
Then Scrooge approached his nephew’s house, to which he’d often been invited;
He asked if he could join them, and his nephew was delighted.
In minutes they were all at ease; a lovely party then ensued.
Scrooge hadn’t felt such happiness in all his years of solitude!
And within days Bob Crachit had received a raise, and Scrooge had sworn
To help Bob’s family in every way. Scrooge felt reborn!
Thus, Ebenezer changed his life. Now Dickens’ tale was done,
And the story he’d created struck a chord with everyone.
It gave hope for a world in which all people, without hesitation,
Treat all others with respect, regardless of their station.
And Christmas gained another story, with a moral brightly dreamed:
Even those most heartless in the world can be redeemed!
Dickens knew he’d struck a spark — a wave of hope begun.
And so he left us with the words of Tiny Tim:
“God bless us, every one!”
Copyright 2023 by Christopher Kent. All rights reserved.