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The Bough of Nonsense


Back from the Somme two Fusiliers 
Limped painfully home; the elder said, 
“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.

by Robert Graves
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