He Thrusts His Fists Against The Posts(And Still Insists He Sees the Ghosts)

He thrusts his fists against the posts,
And still insists he sees the ghosts.

Very short written works are interesting. People can remember them without really trying, they can have a powerful effect, and they can be written totally by accident.

For that one, the extended version is often cited as:

"Amidst the mists and coldest frosts,
stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
He thrusts his fists against the posts,
And still insists he sees the ghosts."

Occasionally you'll hear "With barest wrists and stoutest boasts" instead, but other than that, most modern versions seem to follow the general pattern.

You probably know it from the Steven King usage, but before that it appeared in "Donovan's Brain", and before that, an 1843 book, Practical Elocution by Samuel Niles Sweet.

For some reason, people mention online that the first reference they know of is in "An 1843 book", but never mention which one, which is mildly annoying. The version there is:

"Amidst the mists he thrusts his fists against the posts, and still insists he sees the ghosts." Not quite as poetic as the now-common extended version, but still interesting.

Using Google book search, we learn that it also appears in a slightly later work, around 1853, called "Sanders' Rhetorical, or Union Fifth Reader" as:

"Amidst the mists with angry boasts
He thrusts his fists against the posts
And still insists he sees the ghosts."

It's listed there among several others, notably:

"Round the rough and ragged rocks the ragged rascal ran".
Much later, Gaelic Storm would use a similar line,

"Around the ragged rocks, the ragged rascal ran"
in their song "Johnny Jump Up".

Some people say it's "Rugged", but it sounds like "Ragged" to me.

Another work, this time from 1908, called "The Canadian Teacher, Volume 13", Lists it as:

"Amidst the wildest fiercest blasts
he thrusts his fists against the posts
and still insists he sees the ghosts."

Again, we see it listed among other pronunciation practice excercises, such as

"Request them not to give up the contest without protest". And

"The heaviest frosts do not come on the coldest nights"

As for a title, a Straight Dope forum post suggests that it's title is "The Drunkard", but doesn't give any citations to back that one up. I think he might be full of it, but you never know. It kinda fits, but it's also kinda depressing and I'm not a fan of the whole "Dark reimaginging of a fun show" meme.

However, if that really is the historical context of it, I'd accept that.

"English: Reading and Speech" By Dennis Brooks, from 2015, calls it "He Sees a Ghost", which might just be a random title he gave it, because he thought it needed a heading. The title doesn't quite seem to fit.

Whatever the title is, if it were to have one, the imagery is certainly powerful, and seems to resonate with people.

In the middle of an icy frost, a man is refusing to back down about what he believes. He can see them with his own eyes even when nobody else can(Or else, why would he need to insist?)

Why is he thrusting his fists? Is there something specific about those posts, or is he just expressing his frustration that nobody believes him?

Do you have a favorite very short work? Maybe even one that isn't one of those ultra-depressing one sentence stories?