Ode to a Black Gin

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Ode to a Black Gin  (1877) 
by Thomas Henry Kendall

Later published in Song from the Mountains under the title "Black Lizzie".

The gloved and jewelled bards who sing
   Of Pippa, Maud, and Dorothea,
Have hardly done the handsome thing
   For you, my inky Cytherea.

Flower of a land whose sunny skies
   Are like the dome of Dante's clime,
They might have praised your lips, your eyes,
   And, eke, your ankles in their rhyme!

But let them pass! To right your wrong,
   Aspasia of the ardent South,
Your poet means to sing a song
   With some prolixity of mouth.

I'll even sketch you as you are
   In Herrick's style of carelessness,
Not overstocked with things that bar
   An ample view — to wit, with dress.

You have your blanket, it is true;
   But then, if I am right at all,
What best would suit a dame like you
   Was worn by Eve before the Fall.

Indeed, the "fashion" is a thing
   That never cramped your cornless toes:
Your single jewel is a ring
   Slung in your penetrated nose.

I can't detect the flowing lines
   Of Grecian features in your face,
Nor are there patent any signs
   That link you with the Roman race.

In short, I do not think your mould
   Resembles, with its knobs of bone,
The fair Hellenic shapes of old
   Whose perfect forms survive in stone.

Still, if the charm called Beauty lies
   In ampleness of ear and lip,
And nostrils of exceeding size,
   You are a gem, my ladyship!

Here, squatting by the doubtful flame
   Of three poor sticks, without a roof
Above your head, impassive dame
   You live on — somewhat hunger-proof.

The current scandals of the day
   Don't trouble you — you seem to take
Things in the coolest sort of way —
   And wisest — for you have no ache.

You smoke a pipe — of course, you do!
   About an inch in length or less,
Which, from a sexual point of view,
   Mars somehow your attractiveness.

But, rather than resign the weed,
   You'd shock us, whites, by chewing it;
For etiquette is not indeed
   A thing that bothers you a bit.

Your people — take them as a whole —
   Are careless on the score of grace;
And hence you needn't comb your poll
   Or decorate your unctuous face.

Still, seeing that a little soap
   Would soften an excess of tint,
You'll pardon my advance, I hope,
   In giving you a gentle hint.

You have your lovers — dusky beaux
   Not made of the poetic stuff
That sports an Apollonian nose,
   And wears a sleek Byronic cuff.

But rather of a rougher clay
   Unmixed with overmuch romance,
Far better at the wildwood fray
   Than spinning in a ballroom dance.

These scarcely are the sonneteers
   That sing their loves in faultless clothes:
Your friends have more decided ears
   And more capaciousness of nose.

No doubt they suit you best — although
   They woo you roughly it is said:
Their way of courtship is a blow
   Struck with a nullah on the head.

It doesn't hurt you much — the thing
   Is hardly novel to your life;
And, sans the feast and marriage ring,
   You make a good impromptu wife.

This hasty sort of wedding might,
   In other cases, bring distress;
But then, your draper's bills are light —
   You're frugal in regard to dress.

You have no passion for the play,
   Or park, or other showy scenes;
And, hence, you have no scores to pay,
   And live within your husband's means.

Of course, his income isn't large, —
   And not too certain — still you thrive
By steering well inside the marge,
   And keep your little ones alive.

In short, in some respects you set
   A fine example; and a few
Of those white matrons I have met
   Would show some sense by copying you.

Here let us part! I will not say,
   O lady free from scents and starch,
That you are like, in any way,
   The authoress of "Middlemarch".

One cannot match her perfect phrase
   With commonplaces from your lip;
And yet there are some sexual traits
   That show your dim relationship.

Indeed, in spite of all the mists
   That grow from social codes, I see
The liberal likeness which exists
   Throughout our whole humanity.

And though I've laughed at your expense,
   O Dryad of the dusky race,
No man who has a heart and sense
   Would bring displeasure to your face.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was in the public domain in Australia in 1996, and no copyright was registered in the U.S. (This is the combined effect of Australia having joining the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.)

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.