Uncle to a Pirate [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse (1938).]

Uncle to a Pirate

Often at eventide we go
To a tempestuous picture-show.
Gently I hold his heedless hand
In that preposterous Wonderland.

Pistols we see and big blue knives,
Bad men in trouble with their wives;
Burglars intruding; Life and Death,
And Humbug struggling for his breath.

Still he has hair of baby gold,
A Pirate nearly eight years old.
Oh, but his eyes! I am, I fear,
An uncle to a Buccaneer.

When the Pure Woman in the play
Is in distress he shouts “Hooray!”
But when the keyed-up Villain dies
Tears have uprisen in his eyes.

Sometimes I feebly go with him
To the Old Centuries grave and dim;
Almost at times I understand,
His mutterings to a blood-red band.

Deep he goes down through mysteries,
Fearless he rides the ungoverned seas;
He with a gesture of his sword
Waves the uncounted gold aboard.

Any who would his will defy
Meet with no pity — all must die.
Proudly he hears them as they drown
Gurgling and cursing — all go down.

* * * * *

Ah, it is gone! — the street again,
Hustling of women, noise of men,
The young girls simmering for a joke,
The keen lads in the lighted smoke.

How hopeful is the street! We stop
At his beloved lolly-shop:
Oh, but his eyes! I am, I fear,
An uncle to a Buccaneer.

Shaw Neilson, Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1938, pages 20-21

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