He Saw the Jig [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse (1938).]

He Saw the Jig

He saw the jig, he said, an emerald thing
With speech of love, whose blood is liberty:
It lies beyond the fiddler and the string.

Hotly it tells how innocence and mirth
Came into love in uncorrupted days,
Ere the loud greed was thick upon the earth.

It has the green of goodness at the glow,
Proud as an Emperor of the elements,
It is the bird that will not see the woe.

It has the stammering of the held-up rain;
It has the hint of old magnificence;
It is the bird that rides above the pain.

How eloquent it is! It shakes the door;
It turns and tells and then returns to tell
That cowardice can chill the world no more.

Slowly he said: This in my people ran;
It is the top of all extravagance;
It is the blood that beats about a man.

’Tis is in the feet that must surmount the tune;
’Tis like a Summer of uncertainties,
Or a white burst of brilliance in the moon.

It has no wisdom that the wise man knows:
Whistling it comes in shrill impertinence,
Whistling it runs where all the whistling goes.

It is no dance for cowards; it has scorn
Of the unclean; it is for Godliness;
It has the scent that all the flowers have borne.

Gaol it you cannot — ’tis the butterfly
That for the moment lives, and dies, and tells —
Tells to the world that Beauty shall not die.

* * * * *

Kindly and wistful as a folly rhyme,
’Tis of the ripening red of manliness:
It is the God-child of a golden time.

Shaw Neilson, Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1938, pages 26-27

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