Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Collected Poems

The Rakehelly Man

page 117

The Rakehelly Man

page 119

The Rakehelly Man

For F. H. Worsfold, esprit fort

A great black-hearted ruffian
came riding from the south
with spurs upon his ankles
and laughter on his mouth.

He wore two ladies' wish-bones
a-dangling from his ears,
his great black curly whisker
was wet with maidens' tears.

Oh, black were his moustaches,
and black his evil heart,
as black as ever trembled
upon the hangman's cart.

He lolloped through the meadow
upon his great black horse,
a-seeking in his madness
a maiden he could force.

He found her leaning idly
upon her mother's gate,
her mother was to market,
her business kept her late.

He fondled his moustaches
and flashed his wicked eye,
his smile was like the spider's
rend="indent"that gleams upon the fly.

Oh, deep as hell the cunning
that lurked beneath that smile!
His lips were full of laughter,
his heart was black with guile!

page 120

He took her by the arm-hole
and led her up the drive,
he held her hand so slender
and stroked its fingers five.

Upon her mother's bower
he hung his feathered cap,
oh, fierce were his embraces,
and fraught with evil hap!

He took her on the terrace,
they rudely came to grips,
he bent his curly whisker
and tasted her red lips.

He plucked her in the portico,
and not content with that
the ruffian rumble-dumbled her
upon the back-door mat.

With evil-sounding chuckles
he chased her through the hall
and with his jewelled falchion
he forced her to the wall.

And then he chortled madly,
and much against her will
banged up the kitchen window
and bussed her on the sill.

She tumbled over backwards
and fell into the yard,
the hell-hound scrambled after
and held her fast and hard.

He chased her through the meadow
beyond the reeking sty,
the heifers stood and sorrowed,
a tear in every eye.

He held her by the hawthorn,
He towsled her in hay,
he gleaned her in the cornfield,
and then he rode away.

page 121

He leapt upon his charger
and rode into the south,
with lightning in his bridle
and laughter on his mouth.

Ah, let the weary wanton
dissolve in tears of shame!
For she has cast a shadow
upon the family name.

And you, you backseat riders
who mock the maiden's tears,
restrain your ribald laughter,
and cease your heartless jeers.

For all that is foreboded
in youth and love betrayed
is another Black Rakehelly,
or another Feckless Maid.

Walking on my Feet

hitched up my bundle
went down the street
long way to go
walking on my feet

went past Charley's
didn't turn in
broke to the wide
had a good spin

toting my gunny
hit the south road
long way to go
got a heavy load

tired already
walking on my feet
dust in my mouth
and damn this heat

page 122

bloke just passed
had a spare seat
left me behind
walking on my feet

all my life
always on the go
keep on doing
the old heel and toe

put one in front
then put the other
same old way
I learnt from my mother

blister on my heel
don't know when I'll eat
same old business
walking on my feet

I know where I'm going
walking on my feet
reckon when I get there
I'll be dead beat

won't get a woman
won't find gold
pockets will be empty
bed will be cold

never will be worried
never want a snack
don't worry lady
I won't be back

I know where I'm going
where I'll lie down
nice quiet place
long way from town

long way to go
I'll sleep all alone
fingers round the earth
earth round the bone

page 123

living rent free
on easy street
never any more
go walking on my feet

Latter-Day Love-Song

I am the miser in the madhouse garden
singing and throwing pennies over the wall,
I am the man who lived with Dolly Varden,
sometime butler to the apostle Paul.
I met you in the crush, we heard the trumpets,
I wooed you through the winter and the spring,
when summer came with tea and buttered crumpets
I shot the bird of love upon the wing.

I remember September, our days on the coast.
Seedsmen's catalogues congested the post.

October was sober, a time of renewal,
the nights still cold, and a shortage of fuel.

I remember November, strange doings at the rectory,
and the issue of a brave new telephone directory.

I remember December. I wrote to my Member
and suggested something I can't quite remember.

I am the miser in the madhouse garden,
your hands were gende, your prognosis bridal,
heads grow soft but hearts will ever harden,
the moon was waning, your affection tidal.
We tried to live like lovers in a novel,
we lunched at three and dined on bread and butter,
after a month in our romantic hovel
your eyes were full of thoughts you could not utter.

Turn to me now, like a reluctant statue
swivelling on its pedestal of granite,
write to me now, for there's no getting at you,
my bicycle can't cross the sea, now can it?
page 124 Here in my pocket-book with chits and papers
and licences to drive and fish and listen
I carry a memento of our capers—
this faded photograph, with eyes that glisten.

Away From It All

All I ask for is a minimum of commotion,
and an unimpeded view of the Pacific Ocean.

I'll need a good store of some old-time potion
—say bottled Guinness. Skip the sunburn lotion.

I want to sail boats like a Nova Scotian,
and to follow the tides with a dog-like devotion.

I want to leave behind me all rancid emotion.
I want to be alone. I want to forget Goschen.

I want to lie still, and feel the earth's motion,
with nothing in my head, not a whim or a notion.

My Pretty Maid

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
Better get cracking, for rose cheeks fade.
We'll go for a trip to the Cape of Good Hope.
Jot down pyjamas, binoculars, soap.

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
We've letters to answer and bills to be paid.
Your mother was young and your father was bold,
you'll never have patience to grow to be old.

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
You can put on your duds for the fashion parade.
We're going to squat on the Great South Pole
with an album of Bach and a scuttle of coal.

page 125

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
There won't be room for us both, I'm afraid.
Your feet will be cold if you stand in the snow,
so kick up your heels as you did long ago.

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
We've loved at a hundred and ten in the shade.
There isn't a mountain we haven't climbed up.
I don't like the sediment left in the cup.

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
We haven't a racket, vocation or trade.
The summer is lapsing, and nothing to show,
we've nothing to talk of, and nowhere to go.

Where are we going to, my pretty maid?
There's thunder and lightning, but don't be afraid.
A lover should stay in the arms of his lass,
so shut all the windows and turn on the gas.

Hymn of Peace

Ring out, ye joyful bells, O ring, ring out!
And all ye happy people, sing and shout!
On borrower and lender
now dawns in all its splendour
      the Age of Peace
(without, however, benefit of Lend-Lease).

O happy time, when all the world is free!
The sun of Freedom shines o'er land and sea!
Released from war's alarms
now men lay down their arms,
      and all is quiet
(except for an odd Palestinian riot).

In field and factory, too, joy reigns supreme,
for men have realised their age-old dream;
loving co-operation
builds Peace within each nation
      (bar, inter alia,
strikes in America, Java, Britain, Australia).

page 126

Go, bind the daffodillies in your hair,
and dance, ye maidens, dance, and cast off care!
Peace reigns: with one accord
nations renounce the sword
      and meet as brothers
(all but the Big Three, and some forty others).

Modern Love

We often speak
of our technique
as though we handled spanners;
we mate like cats
in modern flats,
our morals match our manners.

The angels in
our dreams of sin
no longer are cherubic;
we've shown that hearts
aren't private parts,
we've put an 'l'in 'pubic'.

At break of day
all cats are grey,
and legion's Eros' cousin;
to sleep with one
is not much fun,
we need a baker's dozen.

The best hotels
have sorting-bells,
and no-one ever hears us;
a drop of gin
absolves our sin,
a change of linen cheers us.

Your sticks and stones
may break our bones,
hard names will never hurt us;
we'll go our way,
still staunchly gay,
till health and wealth desert us.

page 127

Boarding House

Five beds in the big back room.
Handy at the crack of doom.
Five beds creaking all in key,
chord of F, the black note's me.

Butcher-boy and baker call,
down the passage hear them bawl.
Madam's face comes up the yard,
large as life and twice as hard.

Steak and kidney's good for us.
Eat it up, don't make a fuss.
Pound of steak and half a kidney.
Madam plans to go to Sydney.

Greasy stew means easy swallow.
Prunes and parboiled rice to follow.
All the custard tart is gone.
Yolk of egg is always on.

Daughter Doreen's wearing silk.
A fly has fallen in the milk.
Must be that young grocer chap.
Gentlemen, a hearty clap.

Mrs Jones has gone to bed,
speaks of noises in the head.
Pray she has the grace to die.
Shut the door and let her lie.

Redhead Maggie's getting hitched.
Just in time, and nearly ditched.
Soon the soup will look much duller,
lacking just that touch of colour.

Bow and arrows in the hall
decorate the sagging wall.
Sent by Madam's Uncle Norm.
Cannibals enjoyed his form.

Blowflies on the window-pane
buzz and watch the summer rain.
page 128 Hand me down the book of laughs,
Madam's family photographs.

Madam's gone to see the races,
all the kids have dirty faces.
Grant her a three-figure winner,
lamb and peas will come to dinner.

Castaways upon a raft,
chaos lapping fore and aft,
Tom, Dick, Harry, Eve and Adam,
Maggie and the kids and Madam.


If evil comes close, and is more than a rumour,
you must have recourse to your sense of humour.

Recall, when your cup of sorrow fills,
that laughter is sovereign to cure all ills.

You'll find nothing better to serve as an ointment
for wounded vanity or disappointment.

If you're black with rancour, and chock full of guile,
you can cover it up with a cheery smile.

If you've swindled a friend, or betrayed your love,
a hearty laugh will fit like a glove.

The salesman's greeting, the consumptive's cough
can never hurt if you laugh them off.

If you're thinking too closely of the hereafter,
gain peace of mind with a deep draught of laughter.

There'll be no Judgment, have no doubt of it,
but if there should be, you can laugh your way out of it.

Laughter is sovereign to cure all ills.
Only honesty stabs and kills.

page 129


Cupid's a small boy dawdling home from school.
He won't learn anything. Teacher says he's a fool.

He spits and chews gum, and pulls the wings off flies.
He dips the little girls' plaits in the ink, and tells lies.

Cupid's a ragged urchin rattling his stick
along the tin fence where the old lady is sick.

He cheats at his lessons, and throws stones in the street.
He's rude to his mother, and never washes his feet.

Open your doors and let him steal,
give him the cake that will spoil his meal.
Let him go dirty, hair full of lice,
everyone knows that he isn't nice.
When you catch him robbing your orchard tree
give him some toffee and let him go free.
Give him his bird with a broken wing,
his bows and arrows, his piece of string,
give him his top, and his mangy pup,
for Cupid's the lord of our world, and will never grow up.

The Impetuous Lover

This is the time, the appointed place,
love's paratroops have hit the ground,
surprise is scrawled across your face—
soft, not a sound!

The floor sways up to meet the wall,
my blood is up, my cab can't wait.
Tell me, before the pictures fall,
tell me my fate!

Tell me with passion's flaming tongue
as here before your throne I kneel,
tell me, before the trap is sprung—
how do you feel?

page 130

Speak to me now, for love's sweet sake,
send me a wire, my gay entrancer.
I warn you I shall never take
"No!" for an answer.

See—in my buttonhole I wear
the tiger lily of desire!
Its fumes are more than flesh can bear—
Speak, or I Fire!

page 131page 132