The Rime of the Ancient Player.

A puffing man in tennis shorts

he stoppeth one of four.

"By thy haggard face and ragged garb,

I cannot stay here more,


I must attend a wedding feast,

this evening at eight."

The player holds him with his gaze

and starteth to orate.


The car was stacked, our rackets packed,

happily were we met;

chatting until we realised

our fourth had not come yet.


Midst creeping fear, the time grew near;

to the lost one's domicile fleeing

we scanned each passing omnibus

lest that we pass unseeing.


Her father said, 'she's gone to camp,

I fear she has forgotten';

we drove at random round the streets

discussing the misbegotten.


Our first reserve left a tasty serve

of dinner on her plate,

and mourned her repast as we set off fast,

but thirty minutes late.


And now the storm-blast came, and drenched

our car, as cold and blind

we threaded through, our wheels askew,

what gap that we could find.


Cars were here and cars were there,

the cars were all about;

they snarled and honked and barred our way

with many an uncouth shout.


At last we stopped, and the weather cleared;

we heard with faces pale,

'You should not be at Moonee Ponds,

but down at Aspendale!"


Inching along through a motionless throng

of cars just setting out

to get away for the school holiday,

we first began to doubt.


We stopped and saw a red light sign

which hung upon a height.

In mist or cloud, above the crowd

it perched for vespers nine;

until, as bloody oaths I vowed,

I ran that red stop light!


And I had done a hellish thing,

and it would work me woe!

For all averred, with every word,

that I was 'gunna go!'

'Ah wretch', they cried, 'this awful ride

will get us killed, I know!'


There passed a weary time. Each throat

was parched, and glazed each eye.

A weary time! A weary time!

How glazed each weary eye,

when looking westward I beheld

a something in the sky.


At first it seemed a little speck,

and then it seemed a globe.

It seemed to dominate the sky;

and then it launched a probe.


We woke in cubes, our heads in tubes

which made their thoughts our own.

They learned our ways, then in a daze

we heard them give a groan.


To our disgrace, the human race

was not to be approached.

Our ways of war would be our bar

if ever we encroached.

Lost to the empires of the stars,

we felt lost and reproached.


They asked where we would like to be,

and set us near this place.

Without a fuss they abandoned us

here in our disgrace.


The listeners stare and tear their hair.

They hear their leader say,

"All right, your story has touched our hearts.

Put back the nets; we'll play"