What Next? A Drama in Dress [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 1926]

[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]

What Next?

A Drama in Dress.

Chapter I.

In days long gone our grandmas quaint
Set all the world a-grin
By donning when they wore their paint,
The bulky crinoline.
They waddled in the park and town
Like portions of balloons,
Or monster egg-cups upside down.
Or cut-in-two cocoons;
They blocked the roadway and the lane,
Their bulkiness was such;
Likewise they distant kept a swain
Who strove a waist to clutch.
They whirled about in every breeze
And wobbled in the gale,
Till timid men went on their knees
In apprehension pale.
In play-house or in concert-hall,
In vestibule or stair,
They pushed the males towards the wall
And kept them tightly there.
The drawing-room they crammed and jammed;
They blocked the cab and ’bus
Until the public loudly dammed
Their plaguey overplus;
And while the curs-ed crinoline
The heart of mankind vexed,
A voice arose from out the din
“What next? O, Lord, what next?”

Chapter II.

At last with comic verse and prose
They banned the crinoline,
But with the latest craze in clothes
The bustle waddled in.
It shoved itself upon the block,
Where Percies promenade,
And did its worst to try and shock
The silvertail brigade.
It brazened down the city street,
It wobbled and it bobbed,
And every maid demure and sweet
Of dignity it robbed.
’Twas mostly made of evening rags
Secured by linen tape,
With half a dozen sugar bags
To give it spring and shape.
It often burst the tying line,
And dropped upon the road,
And spoiled the form we thought divine,
Au fait and a la mode.
No maid or madam ever sat
Upon a lover’s knee
Until Dame Fashion lost her rat
And set the bustle free.
But even as afar it fled,
The pubic, sore perplexed,
Gazed hard at vacancy and said,
“What next? O Lord, what next?”

Chapter III.

But fickle fashion once again
A change fantastic brought
And with her way of shocking men
A way-back fashion sought;
And this our twenty-year-back craze,
For which we deeply grieve
Recalled the somewhat fig-leaf days
Of modest Mother Eve
No flounces here her form concealed,
No fulness marked her stride;
Her various charms she now revealed
To mankind far and wide.
She did not strut the stage in tights
To take the stalls by storm;
Still all the world had public rights
To feast upon her form.
Her gait prevented speedy sprints
From Johnnies of that ilk.
Her clingsome clobber held out hints
Of statues clad in silk.
With well rehearsed and studied art,
She gathered up her train;
Imagining she swayed the heart,
While wildering the brain.
And so behold the brazen minx
From whom we take our text.
While mankind murmured mid its drinks
“What next? O Lord, what next?”

Chapter IV.

But maids and madams up-to-date,
In this our year of grace
Evolved a new sartorial state
We’ll try in rhyme to trace.
If brevity’s the soul of wit
Then fashion’s present freaks
On humor’s pedestal should sit
For many wardrobe weeks.
Beginning somewhere near the knee,
They blossom to the bust
And lots of coverings you’ll agree,
You have to take on trust.
They’re painful to the adipose,
To every curve they cling;
Recalling Eden and its clothes
And all that sort of thing!
They’re low on top and high below,
Cool, ravishing, and neat.
And what there is to show they show,
Whether in cold or heat.
They blush not underneath the stare
Of Cuthbert, Claude or Keith,
But show how much a belle can bare
Who’s beautiful beneath.
But ah, those pump, pulsating gaps
Displease the sour unsexed,
Who murmur from their righteous wraps —
“What next? O Lord, what next?”

Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 65-68

Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 7 June 1903, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
adipose = animal fat, or containing, resembling, or relating to animal fat; may also refer to fat in general

à la mode = fashionable, stylish (from the French, “according to the fashion”)

clobber = clothes; accessories, equipment, personal belongings, or supplies (can also mean to strike someone severely; beat, criticize, defeat, or treat harshly)

fulness = an alternative spelling of “fullness”

Johnnies = “Johnny” was used as a term to refer to a man or boy in general; plural “Johnnies”

swain = a young male admirer, lover, or suitor; also may refer to a country lad, peasant, or shepherd

wilder = bewilder, perplex (can also mean to cause to lose one’s way, or to lead astray)

[Editor: Removed full stop from “curs-ed crinoline.” and from “in tights.”; removed second full stop from “wildering the brain. .”.]

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