The Quarrel with the Neighbour [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

The Quarrel with the Neighbour

Clear was the morning
(’Twas the time o’ the hay)
The little birds running heard
All we could say.

The quarrel came so quickly
(’Twas a sweet sunshine),
’Twas the straying of cattle,
His rights and mine.

Then spoke we fury
In the white morning air,
— Never again to my doorstep
Should his body dare.

And he with his big eyes
By the Great God swore
Never again should my feet
Come in at his door.

Then did the blood-rush
Beset me, and I
Told of good I had done him
In the years gone by.

In his eyes’ glitter
Vile threats could I see,
And he spoke of past favour
In the old days to me.

’Twas a clear morning
In the time o’ the hay —
With a shut fist my neighbour
Rode grimly away.

* * * * * *

At the end o’ the harvest
Sickness burned me,
Yet always of my neighbour
I thought bitterly.

Oh, the night — the hot anguish —
The poor fight with pain;
But I craved not for my neighbour
At my door again.

’Twas morning. The sunlight
Ran round at the door.
The voice was an old voice
Long loved before.

In came my neighbour,
Shook me by the hand —
He smelt of the morning,
He smelt of the land.

Of markets and weather
He spoke cheerily,
And I saw his big eyes
Look squarely at me.

Of my little sickness,
Of men we had known,
Of old folk gone under,
Children all grown.

So spoke we and slowly
Of days yet to come —
But at his going why,
Why was I dumb?

When at the doorway
He laughed Good-bye,
How great was my neighbour!
How mean was I!



Source:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Melbourne: Lothian Publishing Company, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], pages 83-85

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