The Devout Lover.
’Twas by the sandy Crawley Spit
His eye upon his float,
I saw a fishing person sit
Within a fishing boat.
And glancing upwards from my book,
From one of many yawns,
I saw him bait his barb’rous hook
With one of many prawns.
“O man,” said I, in tones of woe,
“In these thine hours of ease,
Is there no gentler sport, you know
Than death by slow degrees?
What joy is there in murd’ring mullet
With your lines and rod?”
Again with barbs behind his gullet
Came a wriggling cod.
I also noticed by the smells
And firewood on the shore,
That he’d been boiling in their shells
Crustaceans by the score.
In kerosene and other tins
That litter picnic lawns,
Floated the fragments of the skins
Of crayfish, crabs and prawns.
“O, man,” again repeated I,
“What pleasure can you gain
In watching helpless creatures die
In agonising pain?”
He hauled his hooks from out the sea
His skiff ashore he ran,
“Behold,” said he, “behold in me,
A disappointed man.”
“But you have here enough of fish,”
Said I, and counted ten,
“To satisfy the whim and wish
Of ordinary men.
Has fortune then denied you dross
And gifts from heaven above?”
“Not so,” he cried, “my only loss
Is lasting, lingering love.
No matter who or what the girl
My fancy falls upon,
I merely clasp my precious pearl
To lose her later on.
And this lone, sandy, stormy spot,
Where Swanny surges roll,
Remains the one where I have not
Severed from some sweet soul.
“At all the others — Applecross,
Point Walter and the rest,
My loving heart has suffered loss
Benumbed has been my breast.
From Cottesloe to Canning Bridge,
From Perth to Blackwall Reach,
Romance abides on every ridge
Sacred to some sweet peach.
Mount Henry’s heights were dear to me
With all its gullies green,
Till at that spot a sobbing she
I left in anguish keen.
I can’t forget our farewell climb
When sighing by my side,
She said her people thought it time
She made some bloke a bride.
“Once Como had a call for me
Till on its shelving shore,
Sweet Sarah Jane I there set free
To swim with me no more.
The weary world seems out of joint
And Nature tolled her knell,
When on the wharf at Coffee Point
I bade good-bye to Belle.
I first squeezed Fanny’s fairy hand
By muddy Brewery Bay
And left her sobbing on the sand
Where Bull’s Creek winds its way.
The nymph on Naughty Nedlands shore,
The spindle-legged youth,
Bring sorrow to my cankered core
When I remember Ruth.
“I’m sad when I survey the sea,
And when I look on land;
The world is mournful now to me,
On each and every hand.
And can you wonder that I pine
When picnic parties pass
Knowing the darlings who will dine
And gambol on the grass?
From every sentimental scene,
I turn away in tears
That calls unto my memory keen
My lost departed dears.
And when I’m boiling crabs alive,
I wish that they could be
The coves who came along to wive
The maidens meant for me!”
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 106-108
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 12 October 1919, p. 4
cove = man, chap, fellow
Swanny = Swan River (Western Australia)