Works in the Bulletin 1913
A FEW REMARKS ON GOATS, ASSES AND THE DEAD HAND
The Ministry had effected one act of restoration - it had restored, with all its signs and portents, the mace, that
sign and portent of the Government of ancient days, the Government of the fourteenth century. (Laughter.) - Anstey,
I don't mind kings and dukes and things;
I don't mind wigs or maces;
I don't mind crowns or robes or gowns
Or ruffles, swords or laces -
But what I do object to, and some others more than I,
Are the mad old, bad old practices these baubles signify.
Good friends, brother Australians and fellow voters;
I think that you will agree with me that few of us are doters
Upon the customs, practices, fooleries and tommyrotics of the mouldy past;
Nor are we apt to cast
A reverent eye behindward upon ancient precedent:
Nor do we consent
To let the cold, clammy and unusually muddling Dead Hand
Control the destinies of this our native land.
Nay, rather do we stand
Tiptoe upon the summit of the Present, peering out,
With faces eager and expectant eyes, into the mystic Future. Have you a doubt
That in Progress, Business-like Procedure, Common-sense Habit, and Up-to-Date
Method we are all earnest believers?
Is it not so?....
Well, I don't know
So much about it. 'Twere easy to prove, good friends, that we are, in the
lump, followers of Make-Believe, triflers with Humbug and inance self-
'Twere easy to prove that our ass-like attribute indeed surpasses
That of innumerable and intensely asinine asses.
And here, good friends, I extend to all of you my blessin',
And conclude, amidst great applause, the first lesson.
Secondly, my brothers -
Right-thinking persons, men-in-the-street, common-sense individuals, and
people who call a spade a spade, and others -
There are full many of us who deeply deplore
The use or display of these gauds, decorations, baubles and trappings that
belong to the unpractical, superstitious and quite unfashionable days of
We deride, for instance, the ntion that the caudal appendage of a deceased
Perched upon the cranium of an erudite justice can add to his dignity or
give to his remarks more force.
In short, we class as mere bunkum, bosh, flapdoodle and other sludge
The contention that the hind end of a horse can in any way assist the fore
end of a judge.
The wig, the gown, the staff, the rod, the mace,
We regard as obsolete, and entirely out of place.
If there is one thing more than another upon which we pride ourselves it is,
The fact that we scorn to wear grandpa's old-fashioned clothes.
The poor old gentleman's pantaloons, his shirts, his cravat, his fob-chain,
his frill-whiskers are all anathema to us.
Good friends, why all this fuss?
Why waste all this precious energy in denouncing the wig, the gown, the mace?
They may be, in a sense, out of place;
Yet, why should these things shock you?
Believe me, they are perfectly innocu-
Ous, and furthermore, dear friends,
They serve their ends;
Fo why deny these toys
To that large, mentally-bogged, and much musinderstood class of elderly girls
Whose state demands some sign or symbol
To push an idea or a principle into their heads, even as the thimble
Thrusts the needle into the cloth?
Then why so wrath?
Heed ye, good friends, the parable of the beam and the mote.
Nay, I crave your pardon, but I have known a not particularly intelligent
To view materially essential matters with a more discerning eye; to possess,
so to speak, more inate perspicacity
Than you - that is to say, us. Nay, grasp not at the seeming audacity
Of these few remarks; for perfect perspicuity
Attends them, and I like not ambiguity.
As thinking machines the ass, the goat, good people are preferable; at least,
so it appears.
And here, the ending of my second lesson is attended by your deafening and
My worthy friends, ye who scorn to wear my poor grandpa's clothes
Get down from your pedestals, O ye modern intellectual giants; let each decline
his scornful and uptilted nose.
Deride, would ye, grandpa's ancient mace?
Abolish it, would ye, and hunt it off the place?
What's the matter with it? It's not eating anythng, is it?
And it might prove handy if a masked burglar, or a Trust or a mad dog paid the
House a visit.
Gird, would ye, at grandpa's wig, at his gown trimmed with the overcoats of late
But, Oh! my up-to-date brothers, what have ye to say about grandpa's and great-
grandpa's and great-great-grandpa's ridiculous customs, absurd precedents,
inance systems and obsolete habits?
What about that musty, dusty, mouldy, mildewed, hoary, Tory, injurious, time-
wasting, insane, inane, self-ridiculed, unwieldy and utterly unprofitable
system of Party Govrnment? Great-great-great-great-grandpa's cherished
System, good friends?
Does it serve our modern ends?
Or is it, think you, obsolete and absurd?
I pause for a reply....What! Not a word?
Do I hear you raving to have it abolished?
Yearn ye to see this thing demolished?
Go to the ass, ye dullards! He doesn't eat mouldy sawdust when there's good
And here, kind friends, I pass to "fourthly," flattered by your encouraging shout.
Friends, countrymen and fellow-voters of this fair land,
All ye smart, up-to-date people who scorn dear grandpa's raiment, are you feeling
his dead hand?
Think ye that ancient fist should interfere so in the vital affairs of to-day?
Or are ye so apathetic that you don't care a tuppenny curse either way?
'Tis cheap and easy to scoff at granpa's gauds and trappings and to the Devil send
But have ye ever seriously considered such things as elected Mnistries or the
Initiative and Referendum?
Not you! You shirk, good friend, you shirk.
That means Work!
Friends, I am done....I know not what ye intend to do about it, and I haven't
much hope; but, for my part,
I say unto ye, in a spirit of true brotherly love, and with my hand upon my heart,
That I have enjoyed the acquaintance of asses who were never fooled by musty
precedent. Aye, and intelligent goats
Who scorned the jam-tin diet of their forebears when there was good grass about -
but they had no votes.
And what is a goat without a vote?
The Bulletin, 25 September 1913, p6