On a Starred Night

derived from a George Meredith poem

On a starred night, Prince Lucifer uprose;
From smoke and stink and howl of the distraught
And sulphur stench and brimstone, change he sought.
Garbed in inconspicuous human clothes,
He walked abroad, but not a one of those
To whom he spoke of finer stuff was wrought
Than them who burned below. All cared for naught
But the opportunity to impose

Their will upon the weak, women be they
Or youth, unversed in self-protectiveness,
Or elderly and palsied: easy prey
For them who aim to swindle or dis-dress.
Back down below, the Devil went his way
And left the human jungle to its mess.




inspired by a sonnet by Jennie Porter Arnold

Life is too short, dear love, for heated feeling,
For shrill reproach, uttered in bitter tone
And execrative oath and platter thrown
That, misdirected, may bring down the ceiling
Or leave behind a half-done meal, congealing.
Can you not see our neighbour, still as stone,
Grasping in ghoulish hands an ear-trombone,
To the adjoining wall adroitly kneeling?

Let us, therefore, muffle our animus,
Fling feathers, Styrofoam, or paper platters
(After we’ve eaten), sotto voce cuss
And, in between, speak balderdash that flatters;
Respectability, we’ll garner thus,
And, darling, isn’t that what really matters?



If You Must

with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If you must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love him for his smile, his look, his way
Of speaking, his upstanding cast of thought;’
Nor puff up how implacably he sought
Your down-soft hand on that most wondrous day
When, in your presence, stood on feet of clay,
With unexpressed emotion overwrought,

He stuttered out his love. But, if you must,
Say only this, ‘My appetite he whetted
By his cavemanly snoring (so robust!)
And greasy hair (so long it should be netted!),
But most of all, he woke to life my lust
By just how much his manly armpits sweated.’



The Morning After

developed from a sonnet by Julia Dorr

Come, blessed nighttime, come and bring your balm
For eyes grown weary of the working day!
Come in the sequined suit of a DJ,
With rap-speed patter rout the evening calm,
The hush of twilight, dull as an ashram!
For then, tis time for such as me to play,
In drunken glee to dance the night away,
Untroubled by the least digestive qualm.

But, Oh, the morning after, when I needs
Must put, once more, my shoulder to the wheel,
Accomplishing a hundred workday deeds
Like every other nine-to-five schlemiel,
While my pulsing, hungover headpiece pleads
For a dusky hush and a place to heal!



Peter Austin is a retired Professor of English who lives in Toronto with his younger two daughters.

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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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9 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    I liked them all, Peter. In general, your concatenations of phrases & clauses tend to exhaust the possibilities of factors in play that relate to the simple subject/predicate skeleton of the sentences. Your diction & syntax impart to these poems a very literate/literary feeling, though without a trace of pretentiousness; the occasional barbs and dark images are delightful. But this, as I have observed over the past decade or so, is how you always write: with subtlety, complete clarity, aptness of expression and perfect closure.

    • Peter Austin


      Thank you very much for the feedback. I don’t think my work has ever been appreciated by anyone as much as you, and I truly delight in your encouragement.


      • C.B. Anderson

        You are a master of the craft, Peter, whether other readers have acknowledged it or not. I should add: Your subject matter is always engaging in a way few other authors even approach. You are in the reader’s face, unapologetic, direct, and unafraid of upsetting an applecart or two. Although I might have a few skills of my own, I can’t imagine having written some of the things I’ve seen from you — poignancy, concinnity and universality all at once.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Peter, I thoroughly enjoyed these sonnets. I like C.B.’s spot on observation that “Your diction & syntax impart to these poems a very literate/literary feeling”. This fine quality adds to the wit of the works, which have given me a huge Saturday afternoon smile. Thank you!

    • C.B. Anderson

      When you smile, Susan, the whole world smiles with you. It’s our good luck that so many good poets have chosen to bring light into these pages. I find it hard to delete many of these offerings from my inbox, even though I like to keep my active posts down to about twelve. Right now I’m sitting on around twenty-six of them. Fourteen to go.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I am thrilled and inspired by the sheer volume and the high standard of the poetry on SCP of late. This fact, together with the generous, informative and entertaining comments, make the SCP the prime place to be for anyone whose passion lies in poetry. I’m proud to be a member.

  3. Paul Freeman

    The consistency in quality of your sonnets is extremely impressive, Peter.

  4. Dave Whippman

    Skilful work. The word “schlemiel” took me back about 60 years, when my dad used the term to describe some of his business associates!


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