When the Circus Came to Town [poem by John O’Brien]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]

When the Circus Came to Town

When the circus came to town
With its coaches and four, and its steeds galore,
And a band and a painted clown,
Out to the road with a shout we’d fly
To gape at the elephants trudging by,
And our hearts beat fast and our hopes ran high,
As we followed it up and down;
For nought in, the air, the sea, or sky
Could fill a spot in our youthful eye,
When the circus came to town.

So after the show we went,
And we got in the way of the men when they
Were rigging the circus tent,
And we knew that we stood on holy ground,
As we followed an empty van around —
And got for ourselves a belting sound,
Which a charm to the business lent.
But we wagged it from school behind the pound,
Till some Jack Pudding our shelter found
And word to headquarters sent.

When the circus came to town,
We swallowed hot tea with tears of glee,
And rushed in a tumult down;
We took quite the full of our shilling’s worth,
And roared at the dummy’s ponderous girth,
Or yelled in a salvo of noisy mirth,
At the tricks of the painted clown.
Oh, wondrous thoughts in our minds had birth,
And we felt that the band was the best on earth,
When the circus came to town.

We fondly recalled the scene,
Horses that pranced, and eyes entranced,
And the smell of the kerosene;
The mule, and the monkey, and tall giraffe,
The “juggerlin’-man” with his magic staff,
The girl who went round with her photograph
(And oh, but we thought her a queen!)
We started a show on our own behalf,
“Performed” on the back of a poddy calf,
And sighed for the might-have-been.

Now the circus comes to town,
And it rattles along, and a bare-foot throng
Is pacing it up and down;
And the elephants trudge as they trudged of yore,
With the shabby shebangs, and the steeds galore;
But the glee of the youngsters who shout and roar
At the tricks of the painted clown
Is balm to my soul, add I call encore
To the frowsy old jokes I’ve heard before,
When the circus came to town.



Published in:
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921

Editor’s notes:
frowsy = slovenly or unkempt; can also refer to having an unpleasant or musty smell
poddy calf = a hand-fed calf; can also refer to an unbranded calf

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