Ballade of Suburbia


I’ve never killed a Marquis in a fight,
Nor led a lovely lady’s feet astray,
I’ve never swum the Great Australian Bight,
Nor loitered on the Road to Mandalay.
And yet think not I lack my little day,
And insignificance obscures me quite.
These facts I view without the least dismay;
I may have heard the nightingales last night.

Of course I can’t be certain I was right;
Perhaps it was a blackbird or a jay –
The kitchen tap was running, just for spite,
And in the street a trombone, bray on bray,
Shivered the silence – Really I can’t say.
Was it my hour, or merely Fancy’s flight?
I shall make certain on the Judgment Day.
I may have heard a nightingale last night.

Shakespeare was a meteor blazing bright;
Milton, immortal, though of mortal clay;
England and England’s sons can ne’er require
What Nelson gave ere he went on his way.
All these great men have risen and had their day,
And though my name may never see the light,
Perhaps I’ve had my little part to play.
I think I heard a nightingale last night.


Prince, you have half the East beneath your sway;
Health, wealth are yours, and wisdom, ay and might.
Prince, were they mine I’d throw them all away.
I may have heard a nightingale last night.

School poems

  • Now virgin forest

    Where now the virgin forest reigns
    In solitary state

  • Quiet

    Where wooded hills run downward to the sea,
    Beside a land-locked harbour, still and deep

  • Voyages

    A merchant ship came sailing here today,
    Her timbers stained, her cordage worn and old

  • Sunday morning

    I wake to the sound of the chapel Bell,
    And I roll from my bed at dawning

  • Re-Awakening

    The dappled sunlight heard those airy footsteps on the grass,
       Rustling in the coppice and
       Dancing on the sward.

  • The Saturday Party

    The dusky storm and the grey half-light,
    The whispered word and a muffled tread

  • Grimy ships

    When the grimy ships go down,
    Down the river to the sea
    Dirty decks and funnels brown

  • Cambyses

    Cambyses is the name men call me. King
    Of Persia once and Egypt.

  • Pirates’ chorus

    We sing of sunken treasure-ships in coral-girt lagoons,
    And ancient casquets burst with weight of ducats and dubloons,

  • Life and Death

    Look where he lies, a clod of earth at best,
    Yet colder than a clod, for where there shone

  • Lines written in meditation upon the recent moth plague

    Moths! Moths! Moths!
    In trouser-leg, singlet and shirt..

  • Easter

    I stood in the street in the morning,
    On a blue and shiny day.

  • Ballade of Suburbia

    I’ve never killed a Marquis in a fight,
    Nor led a lovely lady’s feet astray

  • On first venturing upon a switchback railway

    O mortal man, how fleeting is true bliss,
    So eager sought, so often seeming found

  • To A. E. Houseman

    Full many wise old men have said
       That this world has more ill than good

  • Australia to her Children

    I am so old, oh very old, my children,
       Ye that are so young,

  • Timber

    “Up here the schooners used to come
      For timber, years ago,

  • Music

    He spoke with eager grace, and learnedly,
    Of matters strange, dark, wonderful to me