The Glugs of Gosh by C. J. Dennis Continued

The Glugs live in the kingdom of Gosh, ruled over by Splosh their King, and Tush his Queen. But the real power lies with Sir Stodge, who oversees the day to day workings of the kingdom through his minions, the Swanks. The Glugs, as a people, are prosaic and tightly bound by tradition: all eating their meals the same way, sleeping with their feet in the same direction and climbing trees when certain weather conditions apply - which is just about all the time.

In a neighbouring country live the Ogs, the very opposite of the Glugs. The Ogs are industrious and business-like who strike a long-term trade deal with the Glugs: "We'll sell you pianers and pickels and spanners/For seventeen shiploads of stones:/Smooth 'uns or nobbly 'uns,/Firm 'uns or wobbly 'uns,/All we ask is stones." The Glugs are eminently stupid, and are soon trading their stones for "eight-day clocks, And hand-painted screens, and sewing machines, And mangles, and scissors, and socks." Until

So the Glugs continued, with greed and glee,
To buy cheap clothing, and pills, and tea;
Till every Glug in the land of Gosh
Owned three clean shirts and a fourth in the wash.
But they all grew idle, and fond of ease,
And easy to swindle, and hard to please;
And the voice of Joi was a lonely voice,
When he railed at Gosh for its foolish choice.
But the great King grinned, and the good Queen gushed,
As the goods of the Ogs were madly rushed.
And the Knight, Sir Stodge, with a wave of his hand,
Declared it a happy and prosperous land.
Which sounds more than a little familiar in this Australia of ours.

One Glug, Joi, gets a bit disgusted with all this behaviour, and says so. Sir Stodge doesn't take too kindly to this and has Joi executed for his behaviour. Joi's son Sym, a tinker with a talent for rhyming poetry, decides he is better off on the road and leaves home rather than get into trouble with the authorities. Some time later the Mayor of Quog, a small suburb of Gosh, becomes peeved that he is being ignored by the King and decides the only way he can get more attention is by getting rid of Sir Stodge. An ancient book carries a prophesy that in times of need a tinker will appear, recite three rhymes and all will be well. Sym is still remembered in Gosh and he is sought and railroaded into the cause. He recites the three required rhymes, but this only incites Sir Stodge to action and, in a public debate in the market place, Sym is ridculed and Sir Stodge holds sway. Sym makes a hasty getaway.

About this time the Glugs discover that they have run out of stones, having traded them all for consumer goods from the Ogs. The Ogs also realise this and launch an invasion of Gosh using the stones as missiles. This pretty much destroys Gosh society as they have nothing left with which to defend themselves; Sir Stodge is killed in the process. The King is at a loss for what to do until he remembers Sym, who basically refuses the Kings' request for assistance and retires to the hills with his wife and little red dog. The Glugs continue on as before having learnt no lessons whatsoever, and Sym lives happily in his small house looking down on the Kingdom below.

This is a very strange book: strange in the sense that it comes as a complete style shift from Dennis's earlier work. His The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke was written in clipped phonetic slang about the larrikin push of Melbourne and the romantic tale of Bill and Doreen; Ginger Mick extended that slang and added in the story of the diggers in the trenches of the First World War. Here Dennis has written a verse-novel in a genre that was not to become popular until the 1980s when Terry Pratchett got into stride with his Discworld novels. It wasn't the first political satire that Dennis wrote, but the previous examples tended to be more party political in nature - Dennis at this time was on the centre-left of politics, having worked in Sydney on the Labor Party's newspaper in the lead-up to the 1914 election.

[Further thoughts later.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 17, 2007 10:13 AM.

Poem: The Play by C.J. Dennis - Part 2 was the previous entry in this blog.

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