Wot price ole Ginger Mick?  'E's done a break -
   Gone to the flamin' war to stoush the foe.
Wus it fer glory, or a woman's sake?
   Ar, arst me somethin' easy! I dunno.
'Is Kharki clobber set 'im off a treat,
That's all I know; 'is motive's got me beat.

Ole Mick 'e's trainin' up in Cairo now; An' all the cops in Spadger's Lane is sad. They miss 'is music in the midnight row Wot time the pushes mix it good an' glad. Fer 'e wus one o' them, you understand, Wot "soils the soshul life uv this fair land."
A peb wus Mick; a leery bloke wus 'e, Low down, an' given to the brinnin' cup; The sort o' chap that coves like you an' me Don't mix wiv, 'cos of our strick bringin's-up. An' 'e wus sich becos unseein' Fate Lobbed 'im in life a 'undred years too late.
'E wus a man uv vierlence, wus Mick, Coarse wiv 'is speech an' in 'is manner low, Slick wiv 'is 'ands, an' 'andy wiv a brick When bricks wus needful to defeat a foe. An' now 'e's gone an' mizzled to the war, An' some blokes 'as the nerve to arst "Wot for?"
Wot for? gawstruth! 'E wus no patriot That sits an' brays advice in days uv strife; 'E never flapped no flags nor sich like rot; 'E never sung "Gawsave" in all 'is life. 'E wus dispised be them that make sicg noise: But now - O strike! - 'e's "one uv our brave boys."
'E's one uv our brave boys, all right, all right. 'Is early trainin' down in Spadgers Lane Done 'im no 'arm fer this 'ere orl-in fight: 'Is loss o' culcher is 'is country's gain. 'Im wiv 'is carst-ir'n chiv an' leery ways - An' swell tarts 'eavin' 'im sweet words o' praise.
Why did 'e go? 'E 'ad a decent job, 'Is tart an' 'im they could 'a' made it right. Why does a wild bull fight to guard the mob? Why does a bloomin' bull-ant look fer fight? Why does a rooster scrap an' flap an' crow? 'E went becos 'e dam well 'ad to go.
'E never spouted no 'igh-soundin' stuff About stern jooty an' 'is country's call; But, in 'is way, 'e 'eard it right enough A-callin' like the shout uv "On the Ball!" Wot time the footer brings the clicks great joy, An' Saints or Carlton roughs it up wiv 'Roy.
The call wot came to cave-men in the days When rocks wus stylish in the scrappin' line; The call wot knights 'eard in the minstrel's lays, That sent 'em in tin soots to Palerstine; The call wot draws all fighters to the fray It come to Mick, an' Mick 'e must obey.
The Call uv Stoush! ... It's older than the 'ills. Lovin' an' fightin' - there's no more to tell Concernin' men. an' when that feelin' thrills The blood uv them 'oo's fathers mixed it well, They 'ave to 'eed it - bein' 'ow they're built - As traders 'ave to 'eed the clink uv gilt.
An' them whose gilt 'as stuffed 'em stiff wiv pride An' 'aughty scorn uv blokes like Ginger Mick - I sez to them, put sich crook thorts aside, An' don't lay on the patronage too think. Orl men is brothers when it comes to lash An' 'aughty scorn an' Culcher does their lash.
War ain't no giddy garden feete - it's war: A game that calls up love an' 'atred both. An' them that shudders at the sight o' gore, An' shrinks to 'ear a drunken soljer's oath, Must 'ide be'ind the man wot 'eaves the bricks, An' thank their Gawd for all their Ginger Micks.
Becos 'e never 'ad the chance to find The glory o' the world by land an' sea, Becos the beauty 'idin' in 'is mind Wus not writ plain fer blokes like you an' me, They calls 'im crook; but in 'im I 'ave found Wot makes a man a man the world around.
Be'ind that dile uv 'is, as 'ard as sin, Wus strange, soft thorts that never yet showed out; An' down in Spadger's Lane, in dirt an' din, 'E dreamed sich dreams as poits sing about. 'E's 'ad 'is visions uv the Bonzer Tart; An' stoushed some coot to ease 'is swellin' 'eart.
Lovin' an' fightin' . . . when the tale is told, That's all there is to it; an' in their way Them brave an' noble 'ero blokes uv old Wus Ginger Micks - the crook 'uns uv their day. Jist let the Call uv Stoush give 'im 'is chance An' Ginger Mick's the 'ero of Romance.
So Ginger Mick 'e's mizzled to the war; Joy in 'is 'eart, an' wild dreams in 'is brain; Gawd 'elp the foe that 'e goes gunnin' for If tales is true they tell in Spadger's Lane - Tales that ud fairly freeze the gentle 'earts Uv them 'oo knits 'is socks - the Culchered Tarts.

This poem was originally published in The Bulletin, 10 June 1915, p7, under the title "Ginger Mick", as by The Sentimental Bloke.

This poem was also published in the collections:
Favourite Poems of C.J. Dennis, and
More than a Sentimental Bloke.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-04