Poem: The Anonymous Altruist by C.J. Dennis

The Minister for Customs (Mr White) recently made a vigorous effort to defend the anonymous censorship of books by the Customs Department, neglecting to state what qualifications -- if any -- the Censor may possess.

A mysterious cove in the Customs --
   The boss, so to speak, of the Ban --
I have blamed a good deal;
But I wronged him, I feel,
   Since I've come to imagine the man.
When he censored some book that I wanted
   I sneered at him once, I'll allow;
But, since I've given heed
To the life he must lead,
   He has all my sympathy now.

This mysterious cove at the Customs
   Is clearly a martyr; that's sure.
On his shoulders he takes
Loads of sin for our sakes,
   And he suffers to keep us all pure.
For he reads all the hot stuff imported
   And never once threatens to strike,
Tho' he loathes it, no doubt.
Ah, my pity goes out
   To him. Think what his mind must be like!

This anonymous cove at the Customs,
   This storehouse for horrible stuff,
Is as venal, I'll bet,
As the rest of us, yet,
   Does he whine that his job is too tough?
No. He keeps his identity secret,
   His knowledge safe under his hat;
And he lurks all alone,
Unsuspected, unknown,
   Such as the hangmen and heroes like that.

This incredible cove at the Customs,
   His duties are drastic and grim;
For, if human he be,
What is poison to me
   Must be equally poison to him.
Yet, undaunted he seizes and scoffs it,
   And perhaps throws a fit on the floor,
Doped with all the impure
Of the world's literature.
   But he manfully comes up for more.

This untouchable cove at the Customs,
   He sneaks to his work in the dawn
And, in some secret lair
Reads the spicy bits there,
   With his soul, as it were, all in pawn.
Pity, then, this official absorber
   Of rank Rabelaisian lore
Who wallows in sin
To protect us, his kin.
   Could an altruist ever do more?

First published in Herald, 29 August 1935

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