Backblock Ballads and Later Verses

The Philistine

C.J. Dennis

SMITH is a very stupid man;
    He lives next door to me;
He has no settled scheme or plan
    Of domesticity.
He does not own a gramophone,
    Nor rush for morning trains;
His garden paths are overgrown,
    He seldom entertains.

In all our staid suburban street
    He strikes the one false note.
He goes about in slippered feet,
    And seldom wears a coat.
I don’t know how he earns his bread;
    ’Tis said he paints or writes;
And frequently, I’ve heard it said,
    He works quite late at nights.

She’s quite a pretty girl, his wife.
    Our women-folk declare
It is a shame she spoiled her life
    By wedding such a bear.
And yet she seems quite satisfied
    With this peculiar man;
And says, with rather foolish pride,
    He is Bohemian.

He will not join our tennis club,
    Nor come to may’ral balls,
Nor meet the neighbours in a rub
    At bridge, nor pay them calls.
He just delights to scoff and sneer,
    And feigns to be amused
At everything we hold most dear—
    What wonder he’s abused?

Although he’s ostracized a deal
    He never makes a fuss;
I sometimes think he seems to feel
    He ostracizes us!
But that, of course, is quite absurd;
    And, risking the disgrace,
I sometimes say a kindly word
    When I pass by his place.

But still, although one likes to keep
    One’s self a bit select,
And not be, so to speak, too cheap,
    I’m broad in that respect.
So oft, on sultry summer eves,
    I waive all diffidence,
And chat across the wilted leaves
    That garb our garden fence.

But, oh, his talk is so absurd!
    His notions are so crude.
Such drivel I have seldom heard;
    His mode of speech is rude.
He mentions “stomach” in a bark
    You’d hear across the street.
He lacks those little ways that mark
    A gentleman discreet.

Good books he seldom seems to read;
    In Art all taste he lacks.
To Slopham’s works he pays no heed;
    He scorns my almanacks—
Framed almanacks!    It’s simply rot
    To hear the fellow prate
About Velasquez, Villon, Scott,
    And such folk out of date.

He lacks all soul for music, too;
    He hates the gramophone;
And when we play some dance-tune new
    I’ve often heard him groan.
He says our music gives him sad,
    Sad thoughts of slaughtered things.
I think Smith is a little mad;
    Nice thoughts to me it brings.

Now, I have quite a kindly heart;
    Good works I do not stint;
Last week I spoke to Smith apart,
    And dropped a gentle hint.
He will be snubbed, I told him flat,
    By neighbours round about,
Unless he wears a better hat
    On Sundays, when he’s out.

Last Sunday morn he passed my place
    About the hour of four;
A smile serene was on his face,
    And rakishly he wore
A most dilapidated hat
    Upon his shameless head.
“This ought to keep ’em off the mat,”
    He yelled.    I cut him dead.

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