Works in the Bulletin 1913
Now Mr. Jeremiah Bane
He owned a warehouse in The Lane,
An edifice of goodly size,
Where, with keen private enterprise,
   He sold imported napery
   And drapery - and drapery.
His singlets and his socks were sent
Out over half the continent;
   In clothing for the nursery
   And mercery - and mercery
He plied a most extensive trade,
And quite enormous prodfits made,
And barracked, with much fervency,
For foreign-trade - described as "Free."
         He said,
         It was
            His creed.
The trade described as Free.

And this good man was known to fame For charity; indeed, his name Shone often in the daily press. When needy folk were in distress He aided - (with publicity) - Mendicity - mendicity. And though much cash he thuswise spared There still were people who declared His act of private charity A rarity - a rarity. Donations, duly advertised, From business point of view, he prized; But "good by stealth" he ne'er could see Was any use to such as he. But still, The press, With much Success, Declared his hand was free.
Now Mr. Bane's employees were Wont to address the boss as "Sir," To show him most intense respect; And there were few who would neglect To couple with civility Humility - humility. They dressed in cheap but pretty clothes, And ev'ry man turned up his nose And scorned familiarity Or parity - or parity With ill-dressed toilers who "combined." They thought proceedings of that kind Were of a very "low" degree, For they were "cultured," don't you see. 'Tis true Their pay Was mean, But they Felt proud to be so free.
Though they were viley underpaid They were too proud - or else afraid To advertise the fact abroad Or see to get a Wages Board. Besides their meek servility, Gentility - gentility Forbade so rash an act; but still One man there was - (his name was Bill) Who vowed their fool propensity Was density - was density - An unenlightened state of mind, A lack of wit that made them blind. "You're but a lot of worms," said he. "If you were men you'd clearly see Until You band And make A stand You never can be free."
And ev'ry day this person, Bill, Conversed with them of unions till They owned his arguments were true, And one by one waxed eager to Embrace an opportunity For unity - for unity. They talked about a Wages Board Which, formerly, they had abhorred, And girded at their slavery With bravery - with bravery. Each man began to feel "The Firm" No longer owned it for its worm; Their independence they could see Achieved by simple unity; Forgot Their clothes And mixed With those Who battle to be free.
When Mr. Bane one morning heard About his thing he cried, "Absurd! They'll never get my clerks to horde With those who seek the Wages Board, And lose respectability! Futility! - Futility! My clerks are gentlemen who'd scorn To mingle with the lowly born. Such bosh I've never heard!" said he. "Absurd!" said he - "Absurd!" said he. "As for their pay, they're quite content They've never asked an extra cent! And in The morn They'll mark Their scorn, And show you they are free."
And on the morrow Mr. Bane Called them together to "explain": "I have a small petition here - But first, I wish to make it clear," Said he, with simple gravity And suavity - and suavity, "That no man here is asked to sign." (His voice was gentle and benign) "I trust to your humanity And sanity - and sanity To guide you; but I feel quite sure That Wages Boards you can't endure. I leave it all to you," said he. "It makes no difference to me. My views Are known, But still, I've shown Your choice in this is free."
The staff it looked at Mr. Bane, And in his eye it read, quite plain, 'Neath that expression so benign, The fate of him who did not sign - A vision of futurity - Obscurity - obscurity - A dearth of work - in short, the sack. They knew that he who answered back Would earn, by his temerity, Severity - severity. So one and all, with shaky pen, Signed this refusal to be men.... But surely, as you must agree, Their choice was free as it could be, They said The Board They all Abhorred, Preferring to be free.
Still Mr. Bane grows fat and sleek, And still, at thirty bob a week, His clerks slave on from morn till night, No hope of better things in sight. But Bane, with much benignity And dignity - and dignity, When talk of Wages Board is heard, Declares the notion is absurd: "My clerks with prompt celerity And verity - and verity Refused the thing with one accord. The clerks themselves don't want the Board! It is preposterous," says he, "To force it on who don't agree!" And still His men With brain And pen To fatten him are free.

"C.J. Dennis"
The Bulletin, 17 July 1913, p47

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003