The Philistine [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Philistine

Smith is a very stupid man;
He lives next door to me;
He has no settled scheme or plan
Of domesticity.
He does not own a gramophone,
Nor rush for morning trains;
His garden paths are overgrown,
He seldom entertains.

In all our staid suburban street
He strikes the one false note.
He goes about in slippered feet,
And seldom wears a coat.
I don’t know how he earns his bread;
’Tis said he paints or writes;
And frequently, I’ve heard it said,
He works quite late at nights.

She’s quite a pretty girl, his wife.
Our women-folk declare
It is a shame she spoiled her life
By wedding such a bear.
And yet she seems quite satisfied
With this peculiar man;
And says, with rather foolish pride,
He is Bohemian.

He will not join our tennis club,
Nor come to may’ral balls,
Nor meet the neighbours in a rub
At bridge, nor pay them calls.
He just delights to scoff and sneer,
And feigns to be amused
At everything we hold most dear —
What wonder he’s abused?

Although he’s ostracized a deal
He never makes a fuss;
I sometimes think he seems to feel
He ostracizes us!
But that, of course, is quite absurd;
And, risking the disgrace,
I sometimes say a kindly word
When I pass by his place.

But still, although one likes to keep
One’s self a bit select,
And not be, so to speak, too cheap,
I’m broad in that respect.
So oft, on sultry summer eves,
I waive all diffidence,
And chat across the wilted leaves
That garb our garden fence.

But, oh, his talk is so absurd!
His notions are so crude.
Such drivel I have seldom heard;
His mode of speech is rude.
He mentions “stomach” in a bark
You’d hear across the street.
He lacks those little ways that mark
A gentleman discreet.

Good books he seldom seems to read;
In Art all taste he lacks.
To Slopham’s works he pays no heed;
He scorns my almanacks —
Framed almanacks! It’s simply rot
To hear the fellow prate
About Velasquez, Villon, Scott,
And such folk out of date.

He lacks all soul for music, too;
He hates the gramophone;
And when we play some dance-tune new
I’ve often heard him groan.
He says our music gives him sad,
Sad thoughts of slaughtered things.
I think Smith is a little mad;
Nice thoughts to me it brings.

Now, I have quite a kindly heart;
Good works I do not stint;
Last week I spoke to Smith apart,
And dropped a gentle hint.
He will be snubbed, I told him flat,
By neighbours round about,
Unless he wears a better hat
On Sundays, when he’s out.

Last Sunday morn he passed my place
About the hour of four;
A smile serence was on his face,
And rakishly he wore
A most dilapidated hat
Upon his shameless head.
“This ought to keep ’em off the mat,”
He yelled. I cut him dead.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 117-120

Editor’s notes:
Scott = Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), Scottish poet and novelist

Slopham = [it is unclear who or what “Slopham” is a reference to] [unknown]

Velasquez = Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660), Spanish painter

Villon = François Villon (ca.1431-1463), French poet

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