VII. THE SIREN
She sung a song; an' I sat silent there, Wiv bofe 'ands grippin' 'ard on to me chair; Me 'eart, that yesterdee I thort wus broke Wiv 'umpin' sich a 'eavy load o' care, Come swellin' in me throat like I would choke. I felt 'ot blushes climbin' to me 'air. 'Twas like that feelin' when the Spring wind breaves Sad music in the sof'ly rustlin' leaves. An' when a bloke sits down an' starts to chew Crook thorts, wivout quite knowin' why 'e grieves Fer things 'e's done 'e didn't ort to do -- Fair winded wiv the 'eavy sighs 'e 'eaves. She sung a song; an' orl at once I seen The kind o' crool an' 'eartless broot I been. In ev'ry word I read it like a book -- The slanter game I'd played wiv my Doreen -- I 'eard it in 'er song; an' in 'er look I seen wot made me feel fair rotten mean. Poor, 'urt Doreen! My tender bit o' fluff! Ar, men don't understand; they're fur too rough; Their ways is fur too coarse wiv lovin' tarts; They never gives 'em symperthy enough. They treats 'em 'arsh; they tramples on their 'earts, Becos their own crool 'earts is leather-tough. She sung a song; an' orl them bitter things That chewin' over lovers' quarrils brings Guv place to thorts of sorrer an' remorse. Like when some dilly punter goes an' slings 'Is larst, lone deener on some stiffened 'orse, An' learns them vain regrets wot 'urts an' stings. 'Twas at a beano where I lobs along To drown them memories o' fancied wrong. I swears I never knoo that she'd be there. But when I met 'er eye -- O, 'struth, 'twas strong! 'Twas bitter strong, that jolt o' dull despair! 'Er look o' scorn! ... An' then, she sung a song. The choon was one o' them sad, mournful things That ketch yeh in the bellers 'ere, and brings Tears to yer eyes. The words was uv a tart 'Oo's trackin' wiv a silly coot 'oo slings 'Er love aside, an' breaks 'er tender 'eart.... But 'twasn't that; it was the way she sings. To 'ear 'er voice! ... A bloke 'ud be a log 'Oo key 'is block. Me mind wus in a fog Of sorrer for to think 'ow I wus wrong; Ar, I 'ave been a fair ungrateful 'og! The feelin' that she put into that song 'Ud melt the 'eart-strings of a chiner dog. I listens wiv me 'eart up in me throat; I drunk in ev'ry word an' ev'ry note. Tears trembles in 'er voice when she tells 'ow That tart snuffed out becos 'e never wrote. An' then I seen 'ow I wus like that cow. Wiv suddin shame me guilty soul wus smote. Doreen she never looked my way; but stood 'Arf turned away, an' beefed it out reel good, Until she sang that bit about the grave; "Too late 'e learned 'e 'ad misunderstood!" An' then -- Gorstrooth! The pleadin' look she gave Fair in me face 'ud melt a 'eart o' wood. I dunno 'ow I seen that evenin' thro'. They muster thort I was 'arf shick, I knoo. But I 'ad 'urt Doreen wivout no call; I seen me dooty, wot I 'ad to do. O, strike! I could 'a' blubbed before 'em all! But I sat tight, an' never cracked a boo. An' when at larst the tarts they makes a rise, A lop-eared coot wiv 'air down to 'is eyes 'E 'ooks on to Doreen, an' starts to roam Fer 'ome an' muvver. I lines up an' cries, "'An's orf! I'm seein' this 'ere cliner 'ome!" An' there we left 'im, gapin' wiv surprise. She never spoke; she never said no word; But walked beside me like she never 'eard. I swallers 'ard, an' starts to coax an' plead, I sez I'm dead ashamed o' wot's occurred. She don't reply; she never takes no 'eed; Gist stares before 'er like a startled bird. I tells 'er, never can no uvver tart Be 'arf wot she is, if we 'ave to part. I tells 'er that me life will be a wreck. I t ain't no go. But when I makes a start To walk away, 'er arms is roun' me neck. "Ah, Kid!" she sobs. "Yeh nearly broke me 'eart!" I dunno wot I done or wot I said. But 'struth! I'll not forgit it till I'm dead -- That night when 'ope back in me brisket lobs: 'Ow my Doreen she lays 'er little 'ead Down on me shoulder 'ere, an' sobs an' sobs; An' orl the lights goes sorter blurred an' red. Say, square an' all--It don't seem right, some'ow, To say such things; but wot I'm feelin' now 'As come at times, I s'pose, to uvver men -- When you 'ave 'ad a reel ole ding-dong row, Say, ain't it bonzer makin' up agen? Straight wire, it's almost worth ... Ar, I'm a cow! To think I'd ever seek to 'arm a 'air Of 'er dear 'ead agen! My oath, I swear No more I'll roust on 'er in angry 'eat! But still, she never seemed to me so fair; She never wus so tender or so sweet As when she smooged beneath the lamplight there. She's never been so lovin' wiv 'er gaze; So gentle wiv 'er pretty wimmin's ways. I tells 'er she's me queen, me angel, too. "Ah, no, I ain't no angel, Kid," she says. "I'm jist a woman, an' I loves yeh true! An' so I'll love yeh all me mortal days!" She sung a song.... 'Ere, in me barmy style, I sets orl tarts; for in me hour o' trile Me soul was withered be a woman's frown, An' broodin' care come roostin' on me dile. She sung a song.... Me 'eart, wiv woe carst down, Wus raised to 'Eaven be a woman's smile.
This poem was originally published in The Bulletin on 30 April 1914 under the title under the title "The Sentimental Bloke and the Siren" in slightly different form. The poems are fundamentally the same with the minor differences being with spelling, punctuation and a few phrases rewritten.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-08|