References to C.J. Dennis in the Herald 1952

RANDOM VERSE by C.J. Dennis (Melbourne, Hallcraft Publishing Co., price 13/6)

Newspapers occasionally enjoy the services of resident poets. Probably the happiest association of this kind in Melbourne existed during the 1920's and early 1930's between C.J. Dennis and The Herald.

By then "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke" had long since established "Den's" fame. He had a world-wide circle of friends and admirers, and "The Bloke" had received final canonisation as a movie.

But the lovable, whimsical, owl-like poet whom some of us knew, wore none of the affectations of success.

He was happy to be a newspaperman, penning his daily, green-inked verses of comment on the news and the ways of the world.

A generous selection of these verses has now been made by Margaret Herron (Mrs Dennis) and given permanent form. The salvage was well worth while.

The title "Random Verse" reminds that these were mainly works of topical intent, on themes that did not pretend to be timeless. But, slender as they are, many have come down the years with surprising freshness.

One day, in those innocent 1930's, the League of Nations was arguing over the definitions of the word "aggressor." In his corner of the Leader Page, "Den's" comment concluded with words that are releavnt in 1952 -

We talk, we talk, Lord how we talk!
We point the ancient morals,
And seek old remedies to caulk
The leak of ancient quarrels.
Words! Words! It's all a world of words.
Until, uncomprehended,
We someday wake, poor human herds;
To find all troubles mended.

Then there was his advice to the would-be crooner -

Slobber and snuffle and strive to attain,
The tone of a passionate poddy.
Then ululate loonily lachrymose love -
Being careful to rhyme it with "stars up above" -
And use all bromides that go hand-in-glove
In the sorriest lyrical shoddy.

"Den" could make fun with a pungent, prophetic twist - of the proposed Swan Street Bridge, taxation, Mussolini, and the Egg Board.

He could create a swift, sincere tribute to Henry Lawson, Pavlova, or Anzac Day, or bring the morning's bird-song of his Toolangi home into a column of the afternoon's paper.

The lightness that he brought into journalism as a daily bloke is entitled to survival on the book shelves.

Frederick Howard
Herald, 15 November 1952, p14

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003