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The Bough of Nonsense

An Idyll

by Robert Graves
Back from the Somme two Fusiliers
Limped painfully home; the elder said,
S. "Robert, I've lived three thousand years
This Summer, and I'm nine parts dead."
R. "But if that's truly so," I cried, "quick, now,
Through these great oaks and see the famous bough
"Where once a nonsense built her nest
With skulls and flowers and all things queer,
In an old boot, with patient breast
Hatching three eggs; and the next year ..."
S. "Foaled thirteen squamous young beneath, and rid
Wales of drink, melancholy, and psalms, she did."
Said he, "Before this quaint mood fails,
We'll sit and weave a nonsense hymn,"
R. "Hanging it up with monkey tails
   In a deep grove all hushed and dim...."
S. "To glorious yellow-bunched banana-trees,"
R. "Planted in dreams by pious Portuguese,"
S. "Which men are wise beyond their time,
  And worship nonsense, no one more."
R. "Hard by, among old quince and lime,
  They've built a temple with no floor,"
S. "And whosoever worships in that place,
  He disappears from sight and leaves no trace."
R. "Once the Galatians built a fane
  To Sense: what duller God than that?"
S. "But the first day of autumn rain
  The roof fell in and crushed them flat."
R. "Ay, for a roof of subtlest logic falls
  When nonsense is foundation for the walls."
I tell him old Galatian tales;
He caps them in quick Portuguese,
While phantom creatures with green scales
Scramble and roll among the trees.
The hymn swells; on a bough above us sings
A row of bright pink birds, flapping their wings.

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