Nonsuited

“Dear Richard, come at once;”—so ran her letter;
The letter of a married female friend:
“She likes you both, and really knows no better
Than I myself do, how her choice will end.
Be sure of this, the first who pops will get her.
He's here for Chris——” Whatever else was penned
Dick never knew: nor knows he to this day
How he got drest, and mounted—and away!

Like arrow from the bow, like lightning-streak,
Including thunder following fierce and quick,
By ridge and flat, through scrub and foaming creek
Dick galloped like a very lunatic;
Whipped, jerked, and spurred, but never word did speak,
Although his thoughts rushed furious and thick,
Headed by one he strove in vain to wipe out,
The fear that this same “he” might put his pipe out.

And faster yet, and ever faster grew
The maddening music of the pace, until
The station-roofs gleamed suddenly in view,
Quivering in noon-heat on the vine-clad hill:
When all at once his bridle-rein he drew,
But not from craven fear or flagging will,—
Though, truth to tell, his heart a moment sank
To see the river nearly “bank and bank.”

For Bowstring was the choice of all his stud,
And he at least had no fair bride to win;
And wherefore should he risk him in the flood?—
A question Bowstring also asked within:
For though he was a squatter's horse by blood,
And held the grazing interest more than kin,
He eyed the huge logs wheeling, bobbing, bowling,
As if his soul objected to “log-rolling.”
And by that curious telegraphic force,
Outspeaking half-a-dozen formal speeches,
That works its quick inexplicable course
Through saddle-cloth, pigskin, and buckskin breeches,
Until the dumb opinion of a horse
Its sympathetic rider's spirit reaches—
Dick, feeling under him the strong flanks quiver,
Knew that his thoroughbred would funk the river
 
A moment more, Dick from his seat had leapt,
Ungirthed, uncurbed, unreined his trembling steed;
Who straightway vanished from his sight, nor kept
The high tradition of a loyal breed,
But quickened by no stimulus except
His own unbridled (and unsaddled) greed,
Before a man had time to reckon two,
Was gorging in fresh fields and pastures new.

Then Dick threw off his boots, undid his belt,
Doffed—here we shirk particulars. In brief,
When nought remained but his primeval pelt,
He tied his garments in his handkerchief;
Then feeling as “the grand old gardener” felt
(After the apple), crouching like a thief,
Down to the stream did this lorn lover slink,
And threw his bundle to the further brink.

Nor longer paused, but plunged him in the tide,
A hero and Leander both in one;
Struck the entangling boughs from either side,
And held his head up bravely to the sun;
Dodged the huge logs, the torrent's strength defied;—
To cut it short, did all that could be done;
Touched land, and uttering a fervent “Thank . . .
—Just then his bundle floated by, and sank.

Take Yarra-bend, take Bedlam, Colney Hatch,
And Woogaroo, and mix them weight for weight,
And stir them well about—you could not match
Dick's madness with the whole conglomerate.
If the Recording Angel did but catch
One half his ravings against Heaven and Fate,
And rising creeks and slippery banks, some day
Poor Dick will have a heavy bill to pay.

Was ever lover in so lorn a case?
Was ever lover in so wild a mood?
He nearly pulled the beard from off his face;
He would have rent his garments, if he could.
How could he woo a dame his suit to grace
Who had no suit, save that wherein he stood?
Oh! what were youth, wealth, station in society,
Without the textile adjuncts of propriety!

When oaths and half-an-hour were spent in vain,
It dawned on Dick that he might slyly crawl
From tree to tree across the wooded plain,
And gain “the hut,” that stood a mile from all
 
The other buildings—whence some labouring swain,
Unscared by nudity, might come at call,
And lend, for thanks or promissory payment,
Whatever he could spare of decent raiment.

From one variety of Eucalypt
Unto another, blue gum, spotted gum,
Black-butt, etcetera, Dick crawled or skipped,
Bitten and blistered like the newest chum;
Till, marking where the open level dipped,
Distracted with mosquito-martyrdom,
He rushed and plunged—and not a bit too soon—
Into the coolness of a quiet lagoon.

No, not a bit too soon; for something white,
Topped by a parasol of lustrous pink,
At this same perilous moment hove in sight,
And glided gently to the water-brink;
The while in thickest sedge the rueful wight
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James Brunton Stephens

James Brunton Stephens was a Scottish-born Australian poet, author of Convict Once. more…

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"Nonsuited" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 1 Apr. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/20013/nonsuited>.

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