Signals [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 1926]

[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]


Since man made love in prehistoric times,
Since maidens wooed and winked in leafy lanes;
Lovers have sung their songs in raptured rhymes,
Don Juans serenaded Jills and Janes.
Beneath a window in her family manse,
To Juliet, Romeo made sheepish eyes;
The moon, the midnight hour, did but enhance
The sentimental nature of their sighs;
But I’ve a hero in my mental eye,
Who dresses not in doublet, cloak, and hose;
He gets the office as he passes by
From backyard clothes!

From backyard clothes, plain linen, plainer wool,
Coarse calico, with handkerchiefs of silk;
Blankets that sag and counterpanes that pull,
Singlets and sox and others of that ilk.
Our swain is not a courtly cavalier,
A Montague or Capulet disguised;
Sam is his name, and on the railway near
He fires an engine as you’ve p’r’aps surmised.
She is the daughter of old surly Skeggs —
He an old wolf, and she a timid lamb;
So, with the clothes depending from the pegs,
She signals Sam!

In Old Madrid, in Venice, and in Rome,
Sweethearts have waved a veil or silken shawl;
But Susie, from the back yard of her home,
Signals with clothes to save a family brawl.
Upon his railway engine, puffing by,
Young Sam perceives what’s doing at the ranch;
The washing is a Morse onto his eye,
A warning message or an olive branch.
Pyjamas upside down mean “Keep away!”
A sheet pegged endways, sagging near the ground,
Says “Father has had a drink or two to-day —
Don’t come around!”

From off the footplate as they rumble by,
Sam sees one clothes-line resting on a rake —
A sign that means “Let sleeping troubles lie —
The old man’s home, and surly as a snake.”
A pair of stockings hanging by the toes,
A dainty nightie drying inside out,
Says plainly, “To the pictures Auntie goes!
Come in to-night, there’s not a soul about!”
A singlet swaying sideways on the line,
Two clothes-pegs on the yoke of mother’s frock,
Sing to the soul of Samuel, “Love, I pine
For eight o’clock!”

A pair of Billy’s knickers near the prop,
Explains that Daddy won’t be home to-day;
A suit of Jaegers, buttoned to the top,
Means Uncle’s sleeping off his supper cray.
A pair of baby’s booties on the sill,
A pillow-slip across the rubbish box,
Produce in Sam love’s own ecstatic thrill —
The love that knows no barrier, bars, nor locks.
If there should smite young Sam’s discerning sight,
Four female stockings drying in a row,
It means, “Regarding Dinkums’ dance to-night —
Our cake is dough!”


Let poets sing and painted canvas tell
Of casements and of balconies bemooned;
Of flutt’ring ’kerchief and the vesper bell.
That told of maidens from the world marooned.
For real romance, come, pause we here in Perth,
Here where the locomotive roars and rocks;
In this sweet, sun-kissed section of the earth,
Love signals love with singlets, shirts, and sox.
Though Juliet, from her balcony above,
In joyous whispers answered Cupid’s chants;
Our own sweet Susie heliographs her love —
With underpants!

Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 89-90

Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 7 January 1923, p. 6

Editor’s notes:
Jaegers = long underwear made of wool, manufactured by the Jaeger clothing company (an English company which was founded upon the ideas of Dr. Gustav Jaeger, who theorised that wearing clothes made of animal fibres was beneficial to the health of humans; the Jaeger produced many products, especially woolen items, including long underwear and suits)
See: 1) Shaun Cole, The Story of Men’s Underwear, New York: Parkstone Press, 2012, pages 53-54
2) “Jaeger Timeline”, Jaeger (accessed 14 May 2014)
3) “Jaeger”, Fashion Encyclopedia (accessed 14 May 2014)
4) Brendan Mackie, “Gustav Jaeger and the undead fads of the past”, Raise high the roofbeam, Carpenters!, 4 September 2013 (accessed 14 May 2014)

’kerchief = handkerchief

Morse = Morse code

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