The Petticoat Plays [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Heart of Spring (1919) and Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

The Petticoat Plays

Teach me not, tell me not,
Love ever sinned!
See how her petticoat
Sweetens the wind.

Back to the earth she went,
Broken at noon;
Here is her petticoat
Flapping a tune.

Have ye not ever heard
Petticoats sing?
I hear a mourning flute
And a sweet string.

Little silk ally in
This her last war,
Know ye the meaning of
What she died for?

Mourner most delicate,
Surely you hold
Manna that she has stored
Safe from the cold.

She had the loving blood,
Love gave her eyes,
And the world showered on her
Icicles — lies.

Speak to her, little wind,
Lovable sky,
Say to the soul of her
Bravo — good-bye.

Teach me not, tell me not,
Love ever sinned:
See how her petticoat
Sweetens the wind!



Source:
Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, The Bookfellow, Sydney, 1919, pages 62-63

Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Lothian Publishing Company, Melbourne, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 56-57

Editor’s notes:
In Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934), the word “bravo” is rendered as “brava”.

manna = something gained freely and unexpectedly; in the Bible it refers to the food bestowed upon the Israelites in their journey from Egypt, hence the expression “manna from heaven” (also refers to spiritual nourishment; also refers to the substance exuded or excreted by certain insects and plants)

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