Antigonish (poem)

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An empty stairway

"Antigonish" is an 1899 poem by the American educator and poet, William Hughes Mearns. It is also known as "The Little Man Who Wasn't There" and was adapted as a hit song under the latter title.


Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada,[1] the poem was originally part of a play called The Psyco-ed, which Mearns had written for an English class at Harvard University, circa 1899.[2] In 1910, Mearns staged the play with the Plays and Players, an amateur theatrical group, and on March 27, 1922, the newspaper columnist FPA printed the poem in "The Conning Tower", his column in the New York World.[2][3] Mearns subsequently wrote many parodies of this poem, giving them the general title of Later Antigonishes.[4]


"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!"[5]

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door...

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away....


Other versions were recorded by:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Colombo, John Robert (1984). Canadian Literary Landmarks. Dundurn Press. ISBN 978-0-88882-073-0.
  2. ^ a b McCord, David Thompson Watson (1955). What Cheer: An Anthology of American and British Humorous and Witty Verse. New York: The Modern Library. p. 429.
  3. ^ a b Kahn, E. J. (September 30, 1939). "Creative Mearns". The New Yorker. p. 11.
  4. ^ Colombo (2000), p.47.
  5. ^ Mearns, quoted by Hayakawa, Samuel Ichiyé & Hayakawa, Alan R. (1990). Language in Thought and Action. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 96. ISBN 9780156482400.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
    - Mearns, quoted by Colombo, John Robert (2000). Ghost Stories of Canada. Dundurn. p. 46. ISBN 9781550029758.. Italics and exclamation points.
    - Mearns, quoted by Gardner, Martin (2012). Best Remembered Poems. Courier. p. 107. ISBN 9780486116402. Italics and exclamation points.