Works in the Herald 1935

In the progressive city of London, England, the campaign against noise continues. With the abolition of trams from main streets the employment of "phons" is to be considered. A "phon" is the unit for measuring sound, and no vehicle may emit more than 90 "phons" at a distance of 18 feet. Meantime, Melbourne increases its electric trams and its noise, and cheerfully ignores its "phons".

Ladies and Gentlemen of Melbourne's delectable but deplorably detonating city:
It is less in censure than in pity
That I would crave your gracious permission
To allude briefly to the awful condition
Of your city streets.
Where'er one fares in and about your otherwise pleasant metropolis one almost 
   inevitably meets
Noise, clamor, uproar, outcry, bangs, bumps, rumbles, rattles, shrieks, clangs, 
Due mainly, as I and other distinguished visitors have told you, to those 
   horrific, lumbering, archaic street railways known locally as electric trams.
I hate, detest, abominate, condemn and abhor them;
But, smiling tolerantly at my rustic sensibility, you bid me ignore them.
"For," say you, "we have become inured to them thro' familiarity and long use,
So that we no longer regard them as an inconvenience, danger or abuse."
To which I reply, "Forget it!
Snap out of your silly urban complacency before, too late, you come to regret it."
For I have seen the signs writ plain
On face, hand, eye, nerve and brian
Of the fevered city dweller.
Wherefore, poor feller,
Since, with other wise ones, I know that excessive noise is a deplorably deleterious 
I am moved compassionately to sing:-

Oh, bury Mr Bagosights!
   In spite of all his wealth
The phons attacked his phagocytes
   And undermined his health.

He dwelt on Clamor Crescent
   All among the traffic din;
And he deemed it rather pleasant
   Just to sit and listen in.

But the phons thro' his defences
   Inconsiderately hummed,
And obtunded all his senses
   Till he finally succumbed.

We'd be happier the sooner all
   His obsequies are done;
Then we'll ride back from the funeral
   In electric trams.  What fun!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken.
Here, amid sweet silences, tranquil and unbroken,
Save by the songs of birds or the whispering breeze,
I have heard the city visitor, ill at ease,
With strained face, nerves taut, and frightened, listening eyes,
Cry pitifully unto the quiet  incurious skies,
"Alas, the ambient atmosphere of this bucolic backwater is positively unlawful.
Turn on the raucous radio.  Gyrate the gabbling gramophone.  This silence is awful!"
And then I know that the frenzied phons have got him.
And he will return to the urban uproar till, harried and hog-ridden, the phons will 
   rend and riddle and rot him.
Oh, be ye warned in time by the fearful fate of Mr Bagosights, -- tho' in presenting 
   it I may have been a little vague --
And avoid the ferocious phon as you would the plague,
For powers nor principalities shall avail when once ye are smitten.
So it is written.

Herald, 16 October 1935, p8

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2005