Backblock Ballads and Later Verses
Smith is a very stupid man;
   He lives next door to me;
He has no settled scheme or plan
   Of domesticity.
He does not own a gramophone,
   Nor rush for morning trains;
His garden paths are overgrown,
   He seldom entertains.

In all our staid suburban street
   He strikes the one false note.
He goes about in slippered feet,
   And seldom wears a coat.
I don't know how he earns his bread;
   'Tis said he paints or writes;
And frequently, I've heard it said,
   He works quite late at nights.

She's quite a pretty girl, his wife.
   Our women-folk declare
It is a shame she spoiled her life
   By wedding such a bear.
And yet she seems quite satisfied
   With this peculiar man;
And says, with rather foolish pride,
   He is Bohemian.

He will not join our tennis club,
   Nor come to may'ral balls,
Nor meet the neighbours in a rub
   At bridge, nor pay them calls.
He just delights to scoff and sneer,
   And feigns to be amused
At everything we hold most dear --
   What wonder he's abused?

Although he's ostracized a deal
   He never makes a fuss;
I sometimes think he seems to feel
   He ostracizes us!
But that, of course, is quite absurd;
   And, risking the disgrace,
I sometimes say a kindly word
   When I pass by his place.

But still, although one likes to keep
   One's self a bit select,
And not be, so to speak, too cheap,
   I'm broad in that respect.
So oft, on sultry summer eves,
   I waive all diffidence,
And chat across the wilted leaves
   That garb our garden fence.

But, oh, his talk is so absurd!
   His notions are so crude.
Such drivel I have seldom heard;
   His mode of speech is rude.
He mentions "stomach" in a bark
   You'd hear across the street.
He lacks those little ways that mark
   A gentleman discreet.

Good books he seldom seems to read;
   In Art all taste he lacks.
To Slopham's works he pays no heed;
   He scorns my almanacks --
Framed almanacks!  It's simply rot
   To hear the fellow prate
About Velasquez, Villon, Scott,
   And such folk out of date.

He lacks all soul for music, too;
   He hates the gramophone;
And when we play some dance-tune new
   I've often heard him groan.
He says our music gives him sad,
   Sad thoughts of slaughtered things.
I think Smith is a little mad;
   Nice thoughts to me it brings.

Now, I have quite a kindly heart;
   Good works I do not stint;
Last week I spoke to Smith apart,
   And dropped a gentle hint.
He will be snubbed, I told him flat,
   By neighbours round about,
Unless he wears a better hat
   On Sundays, when he's out.

Last Sunday morn he passed my place
   About the hour of four;
A smile serence was on his face,
   And rakishly he wore
A most dilapidated hat
   Upon his shameless head.
"This ought to keep 'em off the mat,'
   He yelled.  I cut him dead.

The Bulletin, 10 December 1914, p47

This poem was originally published in a moderately different version.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06