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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.

“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…”
“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,”
“Hanging it up with monkey tails
In a deep grove all hushed and dim….

“To glorious yellow-bunched banana-trees,”
“Planted in dreams by pious Portuguese,”

“Which men are wise beyond their time,
And worship nonsense, no one more.

“Hard by, among old quince and lime,
They’ve built a temple with no floor,”
“And whosoever worships in that place,
He disappears from sight and leaves no trace.

“Once the Galatians built a fane
To Sense: what duller God than that?”
“But the first day of autumn rain
The roof fell in and crushed them flat.

“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.
Written by: Robert Graves