James Brunton Stephens
New Chum and Old Monarch
“Chieftain, enter my verandah;
Sit not in the blinding glare;
Thou shalt have a refuge, and a
Remnant of my household fare.
“Ill becomes thy princely haunches
Such a seat upon the ground:
Doubtless on a throne of branches
Thou hast sat, banana-crowned.
“By the brazen tablet gleaming
On the darkness of thy breast,
Which, unto all outward seeming,
Serves for trousers, coat, and vest;—
“By the words thereon engraven,
Of thy royal rank the gage,
Hail! true King, in all things save in
“Such divinity doth hedge thee,
I had guessed thy rank with ease—
Such divinity—(but edge thee
Somewhat more to leeward, please).
“Though thy lineage I know not,
Thou art to the manner born;
Every inch a king, although not
King of one square barleycorn.
“Enter, sire; no longer linger;
Cease thy signals grandly dumb:
Point not thus with royal finger
To thy hungry vacuum.
“Though thy pangs are multifarious,
Soon they all shall pass away:
Come, my begging Belisarius—
Belisorious I should say.
“Fear not; I am the intruder;
I, and white men such as I:
Simpler though thou art, and ruder,
Thou art heir of earth and sky.
“Thine the mountain, thine the river,
Thine the endless miles of scrub:
Shall I grudge thee, then—oh never!—
Useless ends of refuse grub?
“Lay aside thy spears—(I doubt them),
Lay aside thy tomahawk;
I prefer thee, sire, without them,
By a somewhat longish chalk.
“Lay aside thy nullah-nullahs;
Is there war betwixt us two?
Soon the pipe of peace shall lull us—
Pipe a-piece, bien entendu.
“Seat thee in this canvas chair here;
Heed not thou the slumbering hound;
Fear not; all is on the square here,
Though thou strangely lookest round.
“Or if thou, my chair deriding,
Follow thine ancestral bent,
To the naked floor subsiding
Down the groove of precedent,—
“If the boards have more temptation,
Wherefore should I say thee No,
Seeing caudal induration
Must have set in long ago?
“Take thou now this refuse mince-meat;
Pick this bone, my regal guest:
Shall a fallen warrior-prince meet
Other welcome than the best?
“Treated like a very rebel,
Chased from town at set of sun,
Wert thou ev'n the debbil-debbil,
Thou shouldst eat—when I am done.”
On the bare floor sat the sable
Chieftain of a fallen race,
Two black knees his only table,
“Wai-a-roo” his simple grace.
Stood I by and ruminated
On the chief's Decline and Fall,
While his highness masticated
What I gave him, bone and all.
“Chief,” said I, when all had vanished,
“Fain am I thou shouldst relate
Why thou roam'st discrowned and banished
From thy scrub-palatinate.”
Stared the chief, and wildly muttered,
As if words refused to come;
“Want him rum,” at length he uttered;
“Black f'lo plenty like him rum!”
“Nay! 'Twill make thee mad—demoniac!
Set thee all a-fire within!
Law forbids thee rum and cognac,
Though in mercy spares thy gin.
“Come; thy tale, if thou hast any.”—
Forth the chieftain stretched his hand,
Stood erect, and shouted “Penny!”
In a voice of stern command.
“Out upon thee! savage squalid!
Mine ideal thus to crush,
With thy beggary gross and solid,
All for money and for lush!
“Out upon thee! prince degenerate!
Get thee to thy native scrub!
Die a dog's death!—or, at any rate,
Trouble me no more for grub!
“At him, Ginger! Up and at him!
Go it, lad! On, Ginger, on!
King, indeed! the beggar! . . Drat him!
One more fond illusion gone.”
James Brunton Stephens's Other Poems
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(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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