The Bard and the Lizard [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

The Bard and the Lizard

The lizard leans in to October,
He walks on the yellow and green,
The world is awake and unsober,
It knows where the lovers have been:
The wind, like a violoncello,
Comes up and commands him to sing:
He says to me, “Courage, good fellow!
We live by the folly of Spring!”

A fish that the sea cannot swallow,
A bird that can never yet rise,
A dreamer no dreamer can follow,
The snake is at home in his eyes.
He tells me the paramount treason,
His words have the resolute ring:
“Away with the homage to Reason!
We live by the folly of Spring!”

The leaves are about him; the berry
Is close in the red and the green,
His eyes are too old to be merry,
He knows where the lovers have been.
And yet he could never be bitter,
He tells me no sorrowful thing:
“The Autumn is less than a twitter!
We live by the folly of Spring!”

As green as the light on a salad
He leans in the shade of a tree,
He has the good breath of a ballad,
The strength that is down in the sea.
How silent he creeps in the yellow —
How silent! and yet can he sing:
He gives me, “Good morning, good fellow!
We live by the folly of Spring!”

I scent the alarm of the faded
Who love not the light and the play,
I hear the assault of the jaded,
I hear the intolerant bray.
My friend has the face of a wizard,
He tells me no desolate thing:
I learn from the heart of the lizard,
We live by the folly of Spring!



Source:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Melbourne: Lothian Publishing Company, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 163-164

Editor’s notes:
violoncello = the formal name for the cello (a bowed musical instrument with four strings, one of the violin family of musical instruments)

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