I am sitting in the stalls —
Evening dress and all the rest —
Where the scented knutlet sprawls
With the flapper faintly drest,
Swishing skirts and billowy blouse,
Figures fat and figures lean,
Powdered necks and pencilled brows,
Smart coiffures and brilliantine.
Yet, amid this modern joy,
Where the stars in splendour spin,
I am once again a boy —
In our mellow middle-age
On the years propelling pow’rs,
Swing we back unto the stage
Of our happy boyhood’s hours.
We are staring, eager-eyed
At the placards of the past —
“The Bandit and His Bride,”
“The Murder on the Mast.”
Thou a whip-stick they’d employ
And our knicker-seats were thin,
There was double-barrelled joy —
“Peanuts, apples, lemonade!”
Yelled the gallery man of old
While his aitches round were sprayed
As the bob-a-nob he strolled.
Pelting patrons in the stalls
With a nut we couldn’t crack,
Swopping cheeky catawauls
With the urchin round the back;
Spiking many a pig-tailed Chow
With a programme and a pin,
It was better then than now —
Byways dark in little Bourke
Lanes familiar to a few;
Every dodge and every lurk
In our urchinhood we knew:
Portals where we’d cautious creep
As a printer’s boy or page;
Past the Cer’brus half asleep
To the splendourland of Stage.
Unmolested in the maze
Of the play’s dramatic din,
They were happy, halcyon days —
Come we now in motor cars.
When the overture begins.
A jazz-band’s broken bars,
Assaulted drums and tins.
But the playhouse holds no joy.
The circus has no tricks
That brightened up the boy
Who nutted in for nix.
It was dash between his legs,
And the speediest would win!
Existence had no dregs —
Operas come and operas go;
Concerts, comedies, revues;
Farces ebb and farces flow,
Pantos score and pantos lose;
But our half-a-guinea seat,
Or whatever funds afford,
Isn’t half as snug and sweet,
As our boyhood gall’ry board;
And when someone threw a smile,
When we gave a sprat a spin,
Life was really worth the while —
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 63-64
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 22 February 1920, p. 4
brilliantine = an oily perfumed hairdressing, used by men so as to make their hair glossy
drest = an archaic form of the word “dressed”
halcyon = carefree, happy, joyful; prosperous, successful, wealthy; calm, peaceful
little Bourke = Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
nix = nothing, zero (from the German “nichts”, meaning nothing); no; a rejection; to disagree, prohibit, or reject (also, in German mythology, a water being, sometimes described as a demon or monster, which is half-human and half-fish)
panto = pantomime