The Vagabond's House . . .
Don Blanding -
The Vagabond Poet
. . . Some Lines Scrawled on the Door of Vagabond's House . . .
West of the sunset stands my house,
There . . and east of the dawn;
North to the Arctic runs my yard;
South to the Pole, my lawn;
Seven seas are to sail my ships
To the ends of the earth . . . beyond;
Drifter's gold is for me to spend -
For I am a vagabond.
Fabulous cities are mine to loot;
Queens of the earth to wed;
Fruits of the world are mine to eat;
The couch of a king, my bed;
All that I see is mine to keep;
Foolish the fancy seems,
But I am rich with the wealth of Sight,
The coin of the realm of dreams . . .
When I have a house . . . as I sometimes may . . .
I'll suit my fancy in every way.
I'll fill it with things that have caught my eye
In drifting from Iceland to Molokai.
It won't be correct or in period style,
But . . . oh, I've thought for a long, long while
Of all the corners and all the nooks,
Of all the bookshelves and all the books,
The great big table, the deep soft chairs,
And the Chinese rug at the foot of the stairs
(It's an old, old rug from far Chow Wan
That a Chinese princess once walked on).
My house will stand on the side of a hill
By a slow, broad river, deep and still,
With a tall lone pine on guard nearby
Where the birds can sing and the storm winds cry.
A flagstone walk, with lazy curves,
Will lead to the door where a Pan's head serves
As a knocker there, like a vibrant drum,
To let me know that a friend has come,
And the door will squeak as I swing it wide
To welcome you to the cheer inside.
For Iíll have good friends who can sit and chat
Or simply sit, when it comes to that,
By the fireplace where the fir logs blaze
And the smoke rolls up in a weaving haze.
Iíll want a woodbox, scarred and rough
For leaves and bark and odorous stuff,
Like resinous knots and cones and gums,
To toss on the flames when winter comes.
And I hope a cricket will stay around,
For I love itís creaky lonesome sound.
Thereíll be driftwood powder to burn on logs
And a shaggy rug for a couple of dogs,
Boreas, winner of prize and cup,
And Mickey, a lovable gutter-pup.
Thoroughbreds, both of them, right from the start,
One by breeding, the other by heart.
There are times when only a dog will do
For a friend . . . when youíre beaten, sick and blue
And the worldís all wrong, for he wonít care
If you break and cry, or gouch and swear,
For heíll let you know as he licks your hands
That heís downright sorry . . . and understands.
Iíll have on a bench a box inlaid
With dragon-plaques of milk white jade
To hold my own particular brand
Of cigarettes brought from the Pharaohs land,
With a cloisonne bowl on a lizards skin
To flick my cigarette ashes in.
And a squat blue jar for a certain blend
Of pipe tobacco, Iíll have to send
To a quaint old chap I chanced to meet
In his fusty shop on a London street.
A long low shelf of teak will hold
My best-loved books in leather and gold,
While magazines lie on a bowlegged stand,
In a polyglot mixture close at hand.
Iíll have on a table a rich brocade
That I think the pixies must have made,
For the dull gold thread on blues and grays
Weaves a pattern of Puck . . . the Magic Maze.
On the mantlepiece Iíll have a place
For a little mud god with a painted face
That was given to me . . . oh, long ago,
By a Philippine maid in Olangapo.
Then just in range of a lazy reach . . .
A bulging bowl of Indian beech
Will brim with things that are good to munch,
Hickory nuts to crack and crunch;
Big fat raisins and sun-dried dates,
And curious fruits from the Malay Straits;
Maple sugar and cookies brown
With good hard cider to wash them down;
Wine-sap apples, pick of the crop,
And ears of corn to shell and pop
With plenty of butter and lots of salt . . .
If you donít get filled itís not my fault.
And there where the shadows fall Iíve planned
To have a magnificent concert-grand
With polished wood and ivory keys,
For wild discordant rhapsodies,
For wailing minor Hindu songs,
For Chinese chants and clanging gongs,
For flippant jazz, and for lullabies,
And moody things that Iíll improvise
To play the long gray dusk away
And bid goodbye to another day.
Pictures . . . I think Iíll have but three:
One, in oil, of a windswept sea
With the flying scud and the waves whipped white . . .
(I know the chap who can paint it right)
In lapis blue and deep jade green . . .
A great big smashing fine marine
Thatíll make you feel the spray in your face.
Iíll hang it over my fireplace.
The second picture . . . a freakish thing . . .
Is gaudy and bright as a macawís wing,
An impressionist smear called ďSinĒ,
A nude on a striped zebra skin
By a Danish girl I knew in France.
My respectable friends will look askance
At the purple eyes and the scarlet hair,
At the pallid face and the evil stare
Of the sinister, beautiful vampire face.
I shouldnít have it about the place,
But I like . . . while I loathe . . . the beastly thing,
And thatís the way that one feels about sin.
The picture I love the best of all
Will hang alone on my study wall
Where the sunsetís glow and the moonís cold gleam
Will fall on the face, and make it seem
That the eyes in the picture are meeting mine,
That the lips are curved in the fine sweet line
Of that wistful, tender, provocative smile
That has stirred my heart for a wondrous while.
Itís a sketch of the girl who loved too well
To tie me down to that bit of Hell
That a drifter knows when he knowís heís held
By the soft, strong chains that passions weld.
It was best for her and for me, I know,
That she measured my love and bade me go _
For we both have our great illusion yet
Unsoiled, unspoiled by vain regret.
I wonít deny that it makes me sad
To know that Iíve missed what I might have had.
Itís a clean sweet memory, quite apart,
And Iíve been faithful . . . in my heart.
All these things I will have about,
Not a one could I do without;
Cedar and sandalwood chips to burn
In the tarnished bowl of a copper urn;
A paperweight of meteorite
That seared and scorched the sky one night,
A moro kris . . . my paper knife . . .
Once slit the throat of a Rajahís wife.
The beams of my house will be fragrant wood
That once in a teeming jungle stood
As a proud tall tree where the leopards crouched
And the parrots screamed and the black men crouched.
The roof must have a rakish dip
To shadowy eaves where the rain can drip
In a damp persistent tuneful way;
Itís a cheerful sound on a gloomy day.
And I want a shingle loose somewhere
To wail like a banshee in despair
When the wind is high and the storm-gods race _
And I am snug by my fireplace.
I hope a couple of birds will nest
Around the house. Iíll do my best
To make them happy, so every year
Theyíll raise their brood of fledglings here.
When I have my house Iíll suit myself
And have what I call my ďCondiment ShelfĒ,
Filled with all manner of herbs and spice,
Curry and chutney for meats and rice,
Pots and bottles of extracts rare . . .
Onions and garlic will both be there . . .
And soya and saffron and savoury goo
And stuff that Iíll buy from an old Hindu;
Ginger with syrup in quaint stone jars;
Almonds and figs in tinselled bars;
Astrakhan caviare, highly prized,
And citron and orange peel crystallised;
Anchovy paste and poha jam;
Basil and chilli and marjoram;
And flavours that come from Samarkand;
And, hung with a string from a handy hook,
Will be a dog-eared, well-thumbed book
That is pasted full of recipes
>From France and Spain and the Caribbees;
Roots and leaves and herbs to use
For curious soups and odd ragouts.
Iíll have a cook that Iíll name ďOh JoyĒ,
A sleek, fat, yellow-faced China boy
Who can roast a pig or mix a drinkl,
(You canít improve on a slant-eyed Chink).
On the gray-stone hearth thereíll be a mat
For a scrappy, swaggering yellow cat
With a war-scarred face from a hundred fights
With neighboursí cats on moonlight nights.
A wise old Tom who can hold his own
And make my dogs let him alone.
Iíll have a window-seat broad and deep
Where I can sprawl to read or sleep,
With windows placed so I can turn
And watch the sunsets blaze and burn
Beyond high peaks that scar the sky
Like bare white wolf-fangs that defy
The very gods. Iíll have a nook
For a savage idol that I took
>From a ruined temple in Peru,
A demon-chaser named Mang-Chu
To guard my house by night and day
And keep all evil things away.
Pewter and bronze and hammered brass;
Old carved wood and gleaming glass;
Candles and polychrome candlesticks,
And peasant lamps with floating wicks;
Dragons in silk on a Mandarin suit
In a chest that is filled with vagabond-loot.
All of the beautiful, useless things
That a vagabondís aimless drifting brings.
Then, when my house is all complete
Iíll stretch me out on the window seat
With a favourite book and a cigarette,
And a long cool drink that Oh Joy will get;
And Iíll look about at my bachelor-nest
While the sun goes zooming down the west,
And the hot gold light will fall on my face
And make me think of some heathen place
That Iíve failed to see . . . that Iíve missed some way . . .
A place that Iíd planned to find some day,
And Iíll feel the lure of it driving me.
Oh damn! I know what the end will be _
Iíll go. And my house will fall away
While the mice by night and the moths by day
Will nibble the covers off all my books,
And the spiders weave in the shadowed nooks.
And my dogs . . . Iíll see that they have a home
While I follow the sun, while I drift and roam
To the ends of the earth like a chip on the stream,
Like a straw on the wind, like a vagrant dream;
And the thought will strike with a swift sharp pain
That I probably never will build again
This house that Iíll have in some far day _
Well . . . itís just a dream house, anyway.
. . . A little more info on Don Blanding:
The house is his ideal expression of that imaginary
retreat which each man builds and furnishes according
to his heart's desire.
His wanderings and wishings brought him sufficient success
to realize his dream and he built his 'Dream House'.
As you will hear, he filled it with all the beautiful things
his heart had longed for.
He lived in it and his door was always open
to the guest or wayfarer.
The tragedy came some years later when,
during one of his nomadic absences,
the dream house was destroyed by fire.
With his experience and philosophies
he would have made a wonderful 'dinner guest', eh?
he is probably not around any more . . .
the book This was quoted from was printed in 1950. . .
"Philosopher's Scrapbook" ,
an anthology of prose and verse compiled by Monty Blandford,
and from the writings used in the sessions broadcast
in the in the '30s and '40s from 3DB, Melbourne.
Thanks To Granny Pat For Passing on
the Poem and Commentry T:
Page Copyright © 1996 & 1997 & 1998 & 1999Tony Lush.
All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated on Friday, 28 May 1999
This page has been accessed
times since Friday, 28 May 1999.