Poem: A Bad Influence by T. the R. (Charles Hayward)

"The Commonwealth Government has decided to ban the importation of sensational crime literature from the U.S." [Note: this poem is from 1934.]

These tales of Yankee crime and grim duellos
   'Twixt crooks and cops corrupt the growing kid.
Duval and Turpin, one suspects, were fellows
   Of whom the world was mercifully rid,
But time obliterates and legend mellows
   The more objectionable things they did.
De mortuis, you know, speak nothing wrong;
And they've been dead so long, so very long!

To dip into a Deadwood Dick or thriller
   Is something boyhood naturally likes;
But they who limn (say) the Chicago spiller
   Of blood ignore the note that Dickens strikes.
It's rarely you will find them make a killer
   End up as Fagin did, or hunted Sikes,
Or that arch-villian Jonas Chuzzlewit;
They'd sooner let him "get away with it."

When we were lads what glamor and what glory
   On R.L.S.'s "Treasure Island" shone!
But you'll recall in that enthralling story
   The highly proper end was dies non
For all the buccaneers whose hands were gory
   With slaughter, barring elongated John
Silver -- and a hereafter dark and grim,
'Twas prophesied, awaited even him.

Bandits we, too, have known whom local Shallows
   Have sought with hero touches to invest,
Whose squalid crimes perverse tradition hallows
   Gilbert and Dunn, the Kellys and the rest;
But, since they mostly finished on the gallows
   Unless a trooper's bullet sent them west,
It can't be said that their example sways
Impressionable youth to evil ways.

But these Big Shots we read about, whose function
   Is bidding bullets o'er the sidewalks spray.
Who break God's laws and men's with equal unction,
   Bribe, blackmail, periodically slay
Each other with no atom of compunction,
   Kidnap and rob and loot -- and make it pay
We must preserve our children from the touch
If only in the printed word, of such.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 July 1934

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 18, 2006 9:52 AM.

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