Works in the Bulletin 1914
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. He shows no taste in furniture, He never goes to church; His ways our district prim and pure seem, somehow, to besmirch.
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. His servant told the girl we've got He makes a lot of pelf. It seems a pity he will not Strive to improve himself.
She's quite a pretty girl, his wife. Our women-folk declare It is a shame she spoiled her life With such a perfect bear. And yet she seems quite satisfied With this peculiar man; And says, with rather foolish pride, He is Bohemian.
He has the crudest views about Respectability; I've often heard him laugh and shout On Sundays after tea; While our select suburban clan Pass him the stony stare. Smith is a very stupid man, He doesn't seem to care.
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 ostracised a deal He never makes a fuss; I sometimes think he seems to feel He ostracises 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.
And when I speak of great affairs His mind becomes a blank. He shows no interest in the cares Of folk of noble rank. And should we chat of politics He sneers at parliament, And says the modern party tricks Were by the Devil sent.
It seems he has some foolish scheme To right all social wrong; Some silly plan, some idle dream To raise the fallen throng. It tell him if we change our plan All enterprise must end - Smith is a very stupid man; He does not comprehend.
Good books, as I have often said, He mentions with disdain. Marie Corelli he's not read Garvice, nor yet Hall Caine. He talks of writers most obscure: Like Virgil, Carlyle, Kant, Whose works no scholar could endure. His reading must be scant.
In art he is a perfect dunce. That's plainly evident. I recollect I showed him once A Christmas supplement. He asked me if it was a joke, Although the thing was grand! I knew the moment that he spoke Smith didn't understand!
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 on his head he wore The most dilapidated hat That I have ever seen. "This ought to keep 'em off the mat," He said. What did he mean?
I wish that Smith was not so dense. He seems to have no vice; He's educated - in a sense - And could become quite nice. Still, there's a certain "genteel" brand That marks the cultured man. Smith doesn't seem to understand; He's such a stupid man!

The Bulletin, 10 December 1914, p47

This poem was later published in Backblock Ballads and Later Verses in a moderately different version.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003