From an Upper Verandah by J. Brunton Stephens

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What happier haunt could the gods allot
   For loftiest musing to sage or bard? --
Yet I would that this upper verandah did not
   Look down on my beautiful Neighbour's Back-yard!

I stir the afflatus: Descend, oh ye Nine!
   Let the crystalline gates of the soul be unbarred!
No. My thoughts will keep running in one fixed line --
   The clothes-line that hangs in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Let me gaze on the bills; let me think of the sea;
   Of the dawn rosy-fingered -- the night silver starred:--
(What dear little feet must the owner's be
   Of those stockings that hang in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Let me tune my soul to a measure devout:--
   Ah, the musical mood is all jangled and jarred,
While things with borders, and things without,
   Keep fluttering down there in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Are the True and the Good and the Beautiful dead,
   That I win not one gleam of Pierian regard?
(Does she suffer, I wonder, from cold in the head? --
   Such a lot of mouchoirs in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Comes the fit. While it sways me, high themes would I sing!
   Prometheus! Achilles! Have at you! En garde!   
Alexander the Great -- (oh that I were a string
   On that apron hung out in my Neighbour's Back-yard!)   

I will shut my eyes fast -- I have hit it at last
   Now my purest Ideals flit by me unmarred;
And odors of memory rise from the past,
   (And an odor of suds from my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Ah, yes, when the eyelids together are prest,
   Every vestige of earth we throw off and discard.
(These are flannels, I think. Is she weak in the chest? --
   There! I'm looking again at my Neighbour's Back-yard!)

Since the Muses back out, let Philosophy in:
   Let me ponder its problems cold and hard.
Ah, Philosophy dies in a celibate grin
   At that bolster-case down in my Neighbour's Back-yard!

Oh shame on my rapidly silvering hairs!
   Oh shame on this veteran battered and scarred!
I to be witched with these frilled-affairs!
   Confound my neighbour! Confound her Back yard!

Why seek for the blossoms of Auld Lang Syne,
   When the boughs where they budded are blasted and charred? --
Faugh! the whole concern's too alkaline --
   It's washing day in my Neighbour's Back-yard.

First published in The Queenslander, 18 September 1875;
and later in
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1885; and
The Poetical Works of Brunton Stephens by J. Brunton Stephens,1902.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 18, 2011 10:32 AM.

The Forest of Night: 1898-1902: The Twilight of Disquietude: 36 by Christopher Brennan was the previous entry in this blog.

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