James Brunton Stephens
From an Upper Verandah
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, O 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 hills; 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 flutt'ring 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 grade!
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 odours of memory rise from the past,
(And an odour 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!
James Brunton Stephens's Other Poems
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