The Wedding in September [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 Wedding in September

They talked as neighbours solemnly
Of lambs and wheat and wool . . .
The stripling said, “’Twill not be dark:
To-night the moon is full.”

Into the wedding feast there came
The many psalms of Spring:
The fiddler by the seamstress sat
And said not anything.

The bridegroom was the happiest man
That ever stepped the town;
But the little seamstress she had cried
And made the wedding gown.

Oh, ask me not why she has cried!
Nay, ask a simpler thing:
Why do the little birds go out
To meet the kiss of Spring?

In with the dark the dancing came
In a little yellow room,
And by the flowers the old folks said
The young ones love the bloom.

The fiddler was a witless man
By night or noon or day,
But the world had need of moistening
And he had tears to play.

He played the darkness into death
And stood where joy had been . . .
The bridegroom could not see the bride
Or know what love could mean.

He played of maids and merriment
And the young blood of the rover;
Of sacraments he played, and tolls,
And the baby joy of clover.

The fiddler was a handless man
That could not sew or reap:
He did not know the care of kine
Or the many ways of sheep.

Of water-birds he played and boats
And the white legs in a stream,
Of hot love in the market-place
And the spinning of a dream.

He played for timorous worshippers
Who have no God to call;
He played to make the flowers grow,
To make the manna fall.

He played of falls and holiness
And the whistling of a rover;
Of sacraments he played, and tolls,
And the baby joy of clover.

The fiddler played. On lies or hate
He would not waste a tune:
A bridesmaid pale with jealousy
Was patient as the moon.

The seamstress had the unsoiled heart
That suffers heat and chill,
And God had plagued her in the eyes
With pity hot to spill.

He played of all that men call death,
Too dear a thing to end:
And Life, the unfilled reveller
That has a coin to spend.

He played of deeps and loneliness
And the whistling of a rover,
Of merriment he played and maids
And the summer-time in clover.

Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, The Bookfellow, Sydney, 1919, pages 83-85

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 75-76

Editor’s notes:
handless = someone who is not skilled or useful at manual tasks; in contrast to someone who is handy or a handyman (may also refer to someone without hands, such as from an accident or war injury)

kine = cattle

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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