Friday, May 7, 2010

G is for gentility

(1. superior refinement or elegance, possessed or
affected  2. gentle or noble birth) Macquarie

(refers to people of high social status, and their 
typical way of life) Collins Cobuild

In Van Demon's Land

Very little experience of this
type of existence.
India: we ate in the streets
allowed one hotel, one salad.
Dar es Salaam: that old
pukka faded gracious terrace
Out of Copenhagen, empty
black and white tiled halls

In Melbourne, you can
persuade your children to
romp on Como's lawns, or
drift through the fernery
at Ripponlea, forget the nearby
railway, main road, workers
cottages, car parks, car yard.
I think of Sarah,caught

in London streets
with cloth
sent to Van
Diemen's Land
to service
landed gentry.

Who did they think they were
those early adventurers? Making
slaves, the servile, stacking the odds
with penal servitude. You venture
into their old homes, so young
still, two centuries of scramble
self-justification, stories about
natural order, cream at the top

the 'bread and circuses' mobs
decent folk and special, the nobs.
"Stuck up!" we chanted
at school. And still there are those
for whom embroidery and piano
performance are the measure
the signal that the family, or
the one person, is born to rule.


  1. 'Born to rule' - such a ridiculous concept, when you put it like that. (Though I dare say hereditary monarchs see it differently. Still, most of them don't do a lot of actual ruling any more, do they?)

  2. True. But did you see the article recently in I think the Weekend Australian about the rulers of Tsarist Russia, Germany-Prussia and England all being related through Queen Victoria? Their spats and tiffs turned into WW1. Such getility! And all those "bread and circuses" people dead because of it.