[Editor: This poem by Joseph Furphy was published in The Poems of Joseph Furphy (1916).]
(For the “Bulletin.”)
A spectral film that came and went,
In its elusive way gave vent
In some unreal words which meant;
“I think therefore I am.”
That phantasm only thought it thought;
A vain conception crudely wrought;
An egotistic sham.
Which brings us up against the fact
By Chunder’s attestation backed —
There is no Substance, Thought, nor Act
Nothing exists but Brahm.
This quaint contraption here below
Is not a magic shadow show
Where phantom figures come and go,
As held by old Khayyam.
A show has time and space enough,
But here we only have such stuff
As dreams are made of — mental fluff
And visionary flam,
Throughout the universal scheme,
Be sure things are not what they seem,
(To quote a well-known psalm)
They’re only whimsies of a dream
A transient dream of Brahm.
All through the cycles of the Past
At which Notation stands aghast
He has subsisted, first and last,
Lone, functionless and calm.
Nothing extraneous can obtrude
Upon his Sabbath quietude,
Or discompose his tranquil mood,
For nothing is but Brahm.
“The Past and Present here unite
Beneath Time’s flowing tide” (to cite
A Bard of Uncle Sam)
For Time stretched out in aeons dim
To Apprehension’s very rim,
Is insignificant to him
A Bagetelle to Brahm.
For once in his negation deep,
He somehow chanced to drop asleep;
And through that forty-wings there ran
A flitting dream. So time began —
He dreamed this stellar lens of ours,
Which mocks at telescopic powers
Innumerable suns sublime,
At furious speed yet keeping time!
And so remote that to the eye,
They look like fixtures in the sky,
But that’s a trifle. Round about
A million light-years further out,
The wisps of nebular portend.
Sidereal schemes without an end
And this is no poetic flight
Nor idiotic blatherskite,
Nor what is termed a cram.
However vast these plans may seem,
They’re only figments of a dream
A trifling dream of Brahm.
He dreamed our System’s fiery gas
Condensing into solid mass;
And during several billion years,
Evolving planetary spheres.
But take this globe, alone, to prove
How things have moved — or seemed to move.
He dreamed some pulpy form of life:
Mutation slow; and savage strife:
With Nature’s forces all in play,
And Darwin’s system under way;
While bits of hide and tufts of hair
For countless centuries fill’d the air;
And only those were left alive
Whose fitness caused them to survive.
Monsters that lived in Gulfs of slime
With names that balk and baffle rhyme
Prodigious sloths, whose daily food
Was half a ton of leaves and wood —
Grim saurians of terrific strength,
A quarter of a mile in length,
Unsightly bats, with twelve-foot wings,
And endless tribes of fearsome things
Cull’d down, in point of fact, so fit
That they should thrive in Sheol’s pit
And breathe its exhalations thick,
Holding their own with Ancient Nick.
And so, while ocean bottoms rose
To stand awhile as high plateaus
And mountains sank beneath the main,
To rise time after time again:
And rocks were formed, and strata rent
And Polar ice-caps came and went;
And geological ages pass’d
Each an improvement on the last;
And on the wrinkled crust of earth
More decent forms of life had birth;
Man was evolved a product queer;
A breed that it would pay to sheer;
And which it might be safe to say,
Has reached a higher stage to-day
Since restless generations gone
Have passed a few ideas on.
But, bear in mind, this human race
Diverse in colour, smell, and face;
These off-shoots from the simian stem
The Sons of Japheth and of Shem,
The progeny of Ham.
With mongrel races that infest
The isles and mainlands, east and west,
From Chili to Siam,
Are less than ripples in a stream,
They’re only ripples on a dream
Namely the dream of BRAHM.
Even that race, divinely nursed,
Which for its virtues has been cursed
And booted into seven times seven
By every nation under Heaven
The seed of Abraham;
And those brave lions in their den
Each one a match for aliens ten,
With fist or rifle, bat or pen
I mean God’s modest Englishmen,
Whose very fog is balm;
These are less tangible withal
Than shadowy rabbits on the wall
Nothing exists but BRAHM.
Our swarming brethren of the North
Whatever you may judge them worth
Sling Muck and Soogoo Ram,
Are fantoids like yourself and me,
Though differing somewhat in degree
Nothing exists but BRAHM.
That Fatman, dining at his club,
On costly wet and sumptuous grub;
The pilgrims in the roadside pub;
The washerwoman at her tub;
And Jacky in his native scrub,
On bandicoot and yam
Are momentary sports of thought
That flicker out and come to nought
In this brief dream of BRAHM.
Illusion in the very air
(If such an envelope were there);
And things that seem to claim your care
Your Wife, with her untidy hair:
And Grandma, in her easy chair:
And baby in the pram —
Are all a visionary crew
Which fact need never worry you,
For you’re an apparition too,
Nothing exists but BRAHM.
But flies are in the ointment sweet,
And jumpers in the cheese we eat,
And maggots in the treacherous meat;
And mildew on the jam.
That is to say, we might complain
Of many a kink in things mundane;
Of barbarisms that still remain
For instance “Sport” imposing pain;
Monarchial “loyalty” inane;
The gnats at which the Wowsers strain;
The camels that they entertain:
Sectarian bigotry insane.
The ruthless quest of sordid gain —
A sad, perennial stream of bane,
Which only in a sense profane
We’re competent to dam.
The feckless poet’s cult of grog:
The idle bummer’s cadge for prog;
The stern official’s odious “gog”
The flunkey’s meek Salaam —
Such provocations, daily met,
And grounds of meddlesome regret,
Shall find their panacea yet;
With rattling promptitude you bet,
In this same dream of BRAHM.
Unquestionably, no one knows
The likely period of his doze;
But this we know that when he wakes
We vanish in a brace of shakes;
Without dismay or qualm.
The earth, the sun, and every star
Shall vanish like the freaks they are;
The corn and oil, the flower and grass,
The fig and vine, shall simply pass,
The eucalypt and palm:
The microbe small, the ponderous whale;
The greyhound swift, the tardy snail;
The lion and the lamb;
The sand and granite, quartz and schist,
Shall vanish like a so-called mist
Which the fictitious sun has kiss’d
(Of course they never did exist),
NOTHING EXISTS BUT BRAHM.
K. B. [Kate Baker] (editor), The Poems of Joseph Furphy, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Co., 1916, pages 9-14
aeon = (also spelt eon) an immeasurably long period of time; (in geology) a period of one thousand million years
Ancient Nick = Old Nick, Satan, the Devil
cycle = a round of years, a recurring period of time, a long period of time
Darwin = Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), biologist and author of On the Origin of Species, who developed the theory of natural selection
Fatman = capitalist
Khayyam = Omar Khayyám (1048-1131), a Persian writer and philosopher, author of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
main = the high sea, the open ocean
The Past and Present here unite, Beneath Time’s flowing tide = a quotation from the poem “A Gleam of Sunshine”, by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
phantasm = a fantasy, figment of the imagination; apparition, illusion; or, ghost, specter
pub = hotel; an establishment where the main line of business is to sell alcoholic drinks for customers to consume on the premises (“pub” comes from the abbreviation of “public house”)
Sheol = a term commonly used as a substitute for saying “hell” (as “hell” was regarded as bad language, when used outside of its proper context); sheol was a term, used in the Old Testament of the Bible, which is translated as “grave”, “pit”, or “abode of the dead”
Siam = the former name of Thailand
Uncle Sam = the United States of America (USA)
[Editor: Corrected “tare not” to “are not”; “cyles” to “cycles”; “ratling” to “rattling”.]
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