The Cultured Constable [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918).]

The Cultured Constable

Five nights agone I lay at rest
On my suburban couch.
My trousers on the bedpost hung,
Red gold within their pouch.
The twin-gods Law and Order seemed
To me all powerful as I dreamed.

My life was staid, my rates were paid,
And peace was in my mind.
Nor recked I of unruly men
To evil deeds inclined —
Strange, primal atavistic men
Who shock the peaceful citizen.

But all the same by stealth he came,
A man of vile intent.
What cared he that my life was pure,
Or that I paid my rent?
He willed to violate my shrine
For household treasures that were mine.

With purpose vile and with a file
My window he attacked.
A stealthy scratch upon the catch
Awoke me to the fact.
Softly, with sudden fear amazed,
A corner of the blind I raised.

I saw his face! . . . Oh, that a man
His manhood should degrade,
And seek to rob (I checked a sob)
Except in honest trade!
A predatory face I saw
That showed no reverence for Law.

With whirring head I slid from bed,
Crept from my peaceful couch;
Forsook my trousers hanging there,
Red gold within their pouch.
Out through my chamber door I fled
And up the hallway softly sped.

Into the murky night I stole
To see a certain cop,
Whose forthright feet patrol the beat
A stone’s throw from my shop.
In my pyjama suit went I. . . .
Across the moon dark clouds swept by.

I saw him draped upon a post,
Like someone in a swoon.
His buttons gleamed what time the clouds
Released the troubled moon.
He gazed upon the changing sky,
A strange light in his dreamy eye.

“Now, haste thee cop!” I called aloud,
And seized him by the arm.
“There is a wretch without my house
Who bodes my treasure harm”. . . .
Toward the sky he waved a hand
And answered, “Ain’t that background grand?”

“Nay, gentle John,” said I, “attend
A thief my goods and gold
Seeks to purloin. Go, seize the man
Before the trail is cold!”
“Those spires against the sky,” said he,
“Surcharged with beauty are to me.”

“I give the man in charge!” I cried,
“He is on evil bent!
He seeks of all its treasured art
To strip my tenement!”
He answered, as one in a dream,
“Ain’t that a bonzer colour-scheme?

“Them tortured clouds agen the moon,”
The foolish cop pursued,
“Remind me of some Whistler thing;
But I prefer the nood.”
Said I, “Arrest this man of vice!”
Said he, “The nood is very nice.”

“My pants,” cried I, “unguarded lie
Beside my peaceful couch —
My second-best pair, with the stripes,
Red gold within their pouch!
Thieves! Murder! Burglars! FIRE!” cried I.
Sighed he, “Oh, spires against the sky!”

Then, in my pink pyjamas clad,
I danced before his eyes.
In anger impotent I sought
His ear with savage cries.
He pushed me from him with a moan.
“Go ’way!” he said. “You’re out of tone.”

“Why do I pay my rates?” I yelled —
“The wages that you draw!
Come, I demand, good cop, demand
Protection from the law!”
“You’re out of drorin’, too,” said he.
“Still, s’pose I better go an’ see.”

I guided him a-down the street;
And now he stayed to view
The changing sky, and now he paused
Before some aspect new.
And thus, at length, we gained my gate.
“Too late!” I cried. “Alas, too late!”

Too late to save my household gods,
My treasures rich and rare.
My ransacked cupboards yawned agape,
My sideboard, too, was bare.
And there, beside my tumbled couch,
My trousers lay with rifled pouch.

“Now, haste thee, cop!” I called again,
“Let not thy footsteps lag!
The thief can not be far away.
Haste to regain the swag!” . . .
His arms I saw him outward fling.
He moaned, “Where did you get that thing?”

With startled state I looked to where
His anguished gaze was bent,
And, hanging by my wardrobe, saw
A Christmas Supplement —
A thing I’d got for little price
And framed because I thought it nice.

It was a Coloured Supplement
(The frame, I thought, was neat).
It showed a dog, a little maid —
Whose face was very sweet —
A kitten, and some odds and ends.
The title, rather apt, was “Friends.”

“Accursed Philistine!” I heard
The strange policeman hiss
Between his teeth. “O wretched man,
Was I hired here for this?
O Goth! Suburbanite! Repent!
Tear down that Christmas Supplement!”

And, as athwart my burgled pane
The tortured storm-wrack raced,
That man of Coptic Culture grew
All limp and ashen-faced.
Then to my window seat he crept,
And bowed his head, and wept, and wept.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 91-96

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