The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)
Spring is Sprung and Other Troubles
The Spirit of Snaptember.
Dear reader, have you not, since the drying of the winter rains, noticed in the gluey dawn, a certain feverishness about Nature's small-goods in your immediate proximity? Have you not yourself experienced a sensation of reckless abandon, provocative of goose-flesh on the wave lengths, a glugging of the glottis, and a buzziness in the head?
Have you not, during your matutinal egg-and-spoon race with “Baby Ben,” detected a certain jazzical jocundity, a sort of rhapsody about the flora and fauna around your domiciliary woodpile?
Have you not noticed your soul expanding like a sea-soaked doughnut, at the sights and sounds, the flights and bounds, of that delirious dame called Nature?
Has not the Sitwellian significance of all things light and spoofical entered your perforated prescience, such as sin and syntax, daffodils and dough, passion and pastry, sonnets and sawdust, fat and fate, love and laundry, hope and soap, jelly and joy, rope and romance, odes and odours, and all the other abstractions and contraptions the ultra-modern metremonger merges into his political pasties?
Have you not felt the pulse of Nature beating over the landscape, like a grandfather clock with palpitation of the pendulum?
Have you not tuned into the cries and croonings of the growing crops—the tootling of the toadstool, the maternal murmurings of female fungi, the rasp of the raspberry, the querulous quack of the gooseberry, the turning of the turnip, the airchoke of the artichoke, the shriek of the leek, the mellifluous meowing of the pussy-willow, the springing of the infant onion, and the guttural gurgling of the swede? Have you not hearkened to the panegyrical pipings of the birds and beasts, i.e., the wireless warbling of the wire-worm, the glug of the slug, the burring of the early bellbird (also known as the “false-alarm” clock), the lacteal lilt of the milk-bottle bird, the swan-song of the spring chicken, the high note of the draper-bill, the ring of the ring-worm, the short pants of the carpet-runner, and, perchance, the voluminous vapourings of the lounge-lizard?
If so, and whether or no, dear reader, these adumbratory ambiguities mean one thing only—Spring has Sprung. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that Spring Is sprung, for there is a carelessness about the face of Nature betokening a stimulation of the spring-onion from extraneous sources—a sort of sportointoxication. Her “joi de vie” has a suspicion of “eau de vie.” There is about her conduct and deportment a suspicion of esprit de corpuscle, a quid pro quip, a fill-em-up-againness, connoting a disregard of the behaviour befitting a lady-bird. She has decked herself out in greens and gone on the “skate” with that notorious “back-to-nature” page 50 exponent, Pan. She has completely forgotten for the nonce that “life is realty, life is earnings,” and it's “Save” or “Up The Pole.”
Perhaps a squirt of rhetoric from the ink-syringe of the spring-poet, A. Bysmal-Bunk, will convey to you the methylated spirit of spring.
Hark to the bang of the bursting bud,
And the cryptic cry of the early spud;
Ho for the glow of a red bo-ko,
And the gurgling gasp of drying mud.
Hark to the shout of the Brussels sprout,
Rejoicing that Winter's up the spout,
And the gusty breeze of an early sneeze,
Proclaiming the fact that Flu's about.
Hark to the bark of the hard-boiled egg,
And the gurgling glug of a K.O'd keg,
And the thingomybobs with the shingled knobs,
Who sing in the Spring and “shake a leg.”
Oh, for the Spring, when poets lisp
Of lambkins roasted, and crackling crisp;
When drapers tell of the things they sell,
And Sanity's gone on her annual “frisk.”
Ho, for the season of “racketty-coo,”
When flappers—and octogenarians, too—
Respectively gambol and skittishly amble,
Barefooted in fields of Elysian hue.
Spring to the Spring, for as truly as fate,
She's out on the doorstep, awaiting a date
To take you bewitchingly out on the “skate.”
Enough of A. Bysmal-Bunk, and the rashness and rashes of Spring. Admittedly all the world's a-warbling, and life is one sweet din.
Speaking of din and the jag-pipes of Pan, have you ever, dear reader, considered the terrific turbulence of titillated oxygen, the enormous volume of agitated ether, the devastating immensity of reticulated rhapsody, murdered melody, and desiccated discord, masquerading as music, which is unleashed throughout this vale of blows in one little moment of time? Have you paused to gauge the possibilities of all this aerial agitation? Have you considered the resultant reaction if all these vocalists, bagpipists, saxaphonists, piano smashers, euphonium thunderers, organ crashers and unspecified puffers, pounders, twangers and twankers of note, valve, string and reed, were brought together, and, jointly and severally were to uncork one simultaneous blast—just one sharp, quaver or quiver. What think you, would happen?
The Last Rent Day.
Verily, the result would be not dissimilar to that cosmic crash scheduled by the ancient pessimists to occur on the last rent day when certain celestial soloists will announce, per trombo, the grand foreclosure of the mundane mortgage, and the audience and auditorium will disperse without notice.
But if it Were possible to gather all these “birds of the air” together and produce the greatest array of crashed bands ever offered to the public forbearance, I fear that when they pulled the cork out, the rebound would catch them in the wind and knock them back ten thousand runs, right to the mussel-bound era of music.
But let us consider music calmly and without malice aforethought. In the early days, when music was a vocation, confined to the vocality of bird and beast, and the swanee whistle had not yet been derived from the gum-chewing giggler, the boast that “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,” might have had some foundation in truth, but in these enblightened days of metallurgical music, when the mania of the mob finds expression in the clashing of tinware, the bashing of ivory, the braying of infuriated fauna, and the howling of compressed air, all amalgamated in a medley remindful of an iron foundry rampant, a company of carnivora crying for meat, and a battalion of “Bolshie bottle-os,” it is possible that the simplest methods of soothing the “savage breast,” would be to swat it a wallop with some blunt wind-instrument.
Let us consider some of our contemporary splurgical instruments. Is it not fitting that, music having originated in the bellows of our four-footed friends, we should utilise their spare parts in the construction of our squawkers and rattlers?
I hate to mention it, dear reader, but what of the bagpipes? Thousands have asked this question with tears in their eyes, and the only answer has been a low moan, like the sob of a heart-broken haggis. The bagpipes remain one of life's mysteries. They have never been adequately explained. People sob, “Why are bagpipes?” and put chewing gum into their ears; but still from the oatmeal caves of Caledonia come these bags of irreconcilable alternatives, marked “Explosives,” “Aeropains,” or “MacHinery,” and sometimes even disguised as music. But let us be fair. Do not let our feelings carry us away more than five or six miles from the seat of the disturbance. Let us remember that for the manufacture of every nest of bagpipes, at least one poor quadruped has laid down its life for Scotland, for it is known that bagpipes are manufactured from the scooped-out personality of a sheep, or an ox, or an ass?
Having deflated the bagpipes, let us turn to the combination of horse's flyswatter and cat's mousetrap known as the violin—but often referred to as the vile-din, and worse.
Is not nature inscrutable, gentle reader, when we consider the fact that a horse's swisher brought into conflict with a cat's inner meaning is, more often than not, productive of a disturbance akin to the howl of that continental quadruped known as the hors-de-tomcat?
Of course you are aware that the notes of a piano are manufactured from the eye-teeth of an elephant—hence the jungle noises which frequently emanate from its little-known interior. Of pianos there are various species, including the grand piano. Suffice it to say that of grand pianos the baby variety is the most persistent and is provided with a self-starter which is difficult to stop. The “baby” usually performs from midnight until the first rays of daylight, and is at its best when completely unstrung.
But let us turn from these musical morbidities to consider the railway engine as a vocalist. Truly the locomotive is a voco-motive. If you doubt the assertion, trusting reader, remove the cotton wool from your receiving set and station yourself in the vicinity of a crossing, or a tunnel, or a shunting yard. Then you will hearken to the sweet childish tootle of the baby shunter as it patters up and down the rails, learning its letters from the alphabetical rolling stock.
The Galloping Garratt.
You will hear the full-throated “tally-ho” of a galloping Garratt, beating the wind down the straight; you will thrill to the soprano of an A.B. trilling like Galli Curci to her audience awaiting on the platform, with all the anticipatory emotions appropriate to these palpitating moments.
You will appreciate the tuneful humming of escaping steam emanating from some powerful black bass-tenor, relaxing momentarily at a water tank. The whoop of a speeding baritone greeting a tunnel, the sentimental salvo of sound emitted by a goods engine as he patters along the rails on a moonlight night, and the comic items rendered by the little “black-face comedians” on festive occasions and days of national rejoicing will gladden your ears.
“A ‘Shunting We Will Go.”
You will stand enthralled by the glad chorus of the engines congregated in the yard preparatory to their long journeys, as they open up their throttles and give voice to that grand old song “A'Shunting We Will Go.”
This is virile, wholesome music; the songs are of joy and action; they are uplifting pæans to the wide open spaces, the wind and the rain and the beckoning hills; they are a challenge to the hothouse horrors masquerading as music and perpetrated with hammers on hardware.
Pursuing this train of thought we are suddenly brought to the terminus of our treatise, and so must rake out the fires of inspiration, and leave any further ideas on the siding.