THE BATTLE OF THE WAZZIR
If ole Pharaoh, King of Egyp', 'ad been gazin' on the scene
'E'd' ave give the A.I.F. a narsty name
When they done their little best to scrub 'is dirty Kingdom clean,
An' to shift 'is ancient 'eap uv sin an' shame.
An' I'm tippin' they'd 'ave phenyled 'im, an' rubbed it in 'is 'ead.
But old Pharaoh, King uv Egyp', 'e is dead.
So yeh don't 'ear much about it; an' it isn't meant yeh should,
Since 'is Kingship wasn't there to go orf pop;
An' this mishunery effort fer to make the 'eathen good
Wus a contract that the fellers 'ad to drop.
There wus other pressin' matters, so they 'ad to chuck the fun,
But the Battle uv the Wazzir took the bun.
Now, Ginger Mick 'e writes to me a long, ixcited note,
An' 'e writes it in a whisper, so to speak;
Fer I guess the Censor's shadder wus across 'im as 'e wrote,
An' 'e 'ad to bottle things that musn't leak.
So I ain't got orl the strength uv it; but sich as Ginger sends
I rejooce to decent English fer me friends.
It wus part their native carelessness, an' part their native skite;
Fer they kids themselves they know the Devil well,
'Avin' met 'im, kind uv casu'l, on some wild Australian night-
Wine an' women at a secon'-rate 'otel.
But the Devil uv Australia 'e's a little woolly sheep
To the devils wot the desert children keep.
So they mooches round the drink-shop's, an' the Wazzir took their eye,
An' they found old Pharoah's daughters pleasin' Janes;
An' they wouldn't be Australian 'less they give the game a fly . . .
An' Egyp' smiled an' totted up 'is gains.
'E doped their drinks, an' breathed on them 'is aged evil breath . . .
An' more than one woke up to long fer death.
When they wandered frum the newest an' the cleanest land on earth,
An' the filth uv ages met 'em, it wus 'ard.
Fer there may be sin an' sorrer in the country uv their birth;
But the dirt uv cenchuries ain't in the yard.
They wus children, playin' wiv an asp, an' never fearin' it,
An' they took it very sore when they wus bit.
First, they took the tales fer furphies.. when they got around the camp,
Uv a cove done in fer life wiv one night's jag,
But when the yarns grew 'ot an' strong an' bore the 'all-mark stamp
Uv dinkum oil, they waved the danger flag.
An' the shudder that a clean man feels when 'e's su'prized wiv dirt
Gripped orl the camp reel solid; an' it 'urt.
There wus Bill from up the Billabong, 'oo's dearest love wus cow,
An' 'oo lived an' thought an' fought an' acted clean.
'E wus lately frum 'is mother wiv 'er kiss wet on 'is brow;
But they snared 'im in, an' did 'im up reel mean.
Fer young Bill, wus gone a million, an' 'e never guessed the game. . .
For 'e's down in livin' 'ell, an' marked fer sbame.
An' Bill wus only one uv 'em to fall to Eastern sin
Ev'ry comp'ny 'ad a rotten tale to tell,
An' there must be somethin' doin' when the strength uv it sunk in
To a crowd that ain't afraid to clean up 'ell.
They wus game to take a gamble; but this dirt dealt to a mate-
Well, it riled 'em; an' they didn't 'esitate.
'Ave 'yeh seen a crowd uv fellers takin' chances 'on a game,
Crackin' 'ard while they thought it on the square?
'Ave yeh 'eard their owl uv anguish when they tumbled to the same,
'Avin' found they wus the victums uv a snare?
It wus jist that sort uv anger when they fell to Egyp's stunt;
An', remember, they wus trainin' fer the front.
I 'ave notions uv the Wazzir. It's as old as Pharaoh's tomb;
It's as cunnin' as the oldest imp in 'ell;
An' the game it plays uv lurin' blokes, wiv love-songs, to their doom
Wus begun when first a tart 'ad smiles to sell.
An' it stood there thro' the ages; an' it might be standin' still
If it 'adn't bumped a clean cove, name o' Bill.
An' they done it like they done it when a word went to the push
That a nark 'oo'd crooled a pal wus run to ground.
They done it like they done it when the blokes out in the bush
Passed a telegraft that cops wus nosin' round.
There wus no one rung a fire-bell, but the tip wus passed about;
An' they fixed a night to clean the Wazzir out.
Yes, I've notions uv the Wazzir. It's been pilin' up its dirt
Since it mated wiv the Devil in year One,
An' spawned a brood uv evil things to do a man a 'urt
Since the lurk uv snarin' innercents begun.
But it's sweeter an' it's cleaner since one wild an' woolly night
When the little A.I.F. put up a fight.
Now, it started wiv some 'orseplay. If the 'eads 'ad seen the look,
Dead in earnest, that wus underneath the fun,
They'd 'ave tumbled there wus somethin' that wus more than commin crook,
An' 'ave stopped the game before it 'arf begun.
But the fellers larfed like school-boys, tbo' they orl wus more than narked,
An' they 'ad the 'ouses well an' truly marked.
Frum a little crazy balkiney that clawed agin a wall
A chair come crasbin' down into the street;
Then a woman's frightened screamin' give the sign to bounce the ball,
An' there came a sudden rush uv soljers' feet.
There's a glimpse uv frightened faces as a door caved in an' fell;
An' the Wazzir wus a 'owlin' screamin' 'ell.
Frum a winder 'igh above 'em there's a bloke near seven feet,
Waves a bit uv naked Egyp' in the air.
An' there's squealin' an' there's shriekin' as they chased 'em down the street,
When they dug 'em out like rabbits frum their lair.
Then down into the roadway gaudy 'ouse'old gods comes fast,
An' the Wazzir's Great Spring Cleanin' starts at last.
Frum the winders came pianners an' some giddy duchess pairs;
An' they piled 'em on the roadway in the mire,
An' 'eaped 'em 'igh wiv fal-de-rals an' pretty parlor chairs,
Which they started in to purify wiv fire.
Then the Redcaps come to argue, but they jist amused the mob;
Fer tbe scavengers wus warmin' to their job.
When the fire-reels come to quell 'em-'struth! they 'ad no bloomin' 'ope;
Fer they cut the 'ose to ribbons in a jiff;
An' they called u'pon tbe drink-shops an' poured out their rotten dope,
While the nigs 'oo didn't run wus frightened stiff.
An' when orb wus done an' over, an' they wearied uv the strife,
That old Wazzir'd 'ad the scourin' uv its life.
Now, old Gin er ain't quite candid; 'e don't say where 'e came in;
But 'e mentions that'e don't get no C.B.,
An' 'e's 'ad some pretty practice dodgin' punishment fer sin
Down in Spadger's since 'is early infancy.
So I guess, if they went after 'im, they found 'im snug in bed.
Fer old Ginger 'as a reel tactician's 'ead.
An' 'e sez that when 'e wandered down the Wazzir later on
It wus like a 'ome where 'oliness reposed;
Fer its sinfulness wus 'idden, an' its brazenness wus gone,
An' its doors, wiv proper modesty, wus closed.
If a 'ead looked out a winder, as they passed, it quick drew in;
Fer the Wazzir wus a wowser, scared from sin.
If old Pharaoh, King uv Egyp', 'e 'ad lived to see the day
When they tidied up 'is 'eap uv shame an' sin,
Well, 'e mighter took it narsty, fer our fellers 'ave a way
Uv completin' any job that they begin.
An' they might 'ave left 'is Kingship nursin' gravel-rash in bed. . .
But old Pharaoh, King uv Egyp', 'e is dead.
In his book The Making of the Sentimental Bloke, Alec H. Chisholm writes:
On Good Friday of 1915, when Australian and New Zealand troops were about to leave Egypt for the front, some of them
determined to exact punishment for certain injuries they believed themselves to have incurred at brothels in the street
known to them as "The Wazzir", or "The Wozzer" - the Haret et Wasser, near Shepherd's Hotel in Cairo. The bad drink sold
in the neighbourhood led this demonstration to greater lengths than were intended: the street was fired and clashes
occurred between the demonstrators and British military police, plus the Egyptian fire brigade. Some months later men of
the 2nd Australian Division tried to repeat this scene in the "Second Battle of the Wazzir." "These two affairs," says the
Official History to Australia in the War of 1914-18, "made a good deal of noise at the time. They were not
heroic, but they also differed very little from what at Oxford and Cambridge and in Australian universities is known as a
'rag.'" Dennis wrote the accompanying verses soon after reports of the first "Battle of the Wazzir" reached Australia. He
intended them for inclusion in The Moods of Ginger Mick, but when the censor intervened he stopped publication and
issued only a few copies in "unrevised proof" form, dated 12 July 1916. The story, of course, purports to be told by the
Sentimental Bloke on the authority of Ginger Mick.
On 24 March 1915, Dennis wrote to
regarding the problems he was having with the censorship of this poem.