Reprint: On Climbing Trees: Satire by C. J. Dennis

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"The Glugs of Gosh." By C. J. Dennis, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, Ltd. 

What is a Glug? Mr. Dennis supplies a definition in his new book. A Glug is a familiar creature -- so familiar that any town might well be called Gosh. Few can escape the impeachment of Mr. Dennis. His book is like a mirror, and he who looks into it will see his reflection, perhaps more or less distorted to his mind, but nevertheless a reflection of some sort. At least he will admit the sincerity with which his neighbor is pictured, even though he denies his own gluggishness. In "The Glugs of Gosh" Mr. Dennis has broken away from the style of "The Sentimental Bloke'' and "Ginger Mick." The idiom he uses is more fanciful than colloquial, although the popularity of the writer will doubtless ensure the wide adoption of some of the terms he happily invents. Mr. Dennis has been wise in discarding his earlier style. It has served its purpose, and it is fittingly preserved in the two works mentioned and in "Doreen." The new book, is delightful in every way. It may not pain so much public favor as its predecessors, but it stands as the best that has yet come from the pen of its author. In satire "The Glugs of Gosh" is rich. Mr. Dennis shoots his pointed shafts with unerring aim. His sentences do not spare the glugs, or the swanks, but they are dressed up so whimsically and fall into such a merry rhythm that they carry something of a cure with them. And the cure is the best of cures, for it makes all, with a vestige of humor, laugh at themselves. They are fortunate glugs who can laugh at themselves, even if they must continue to "climb the trees when the weather is wet to see how high they can really get."'

The philosophy of Mr. Dennis is reminiscent of some of that lighter reasoning which colored certain stanzas of the old Tentmaker of Naishapur. It is the philosophy which points to the joy of the world around us. The writer pulls us down from the trees we are climbing and urges us to look around. There are the fields, the blue skies and golden sunshine, and the little blue wren. And still to climb trees when the weather is wet is a human practice. The lesson of "The Glugs of Gosh" is a good one, and couched in agreeable poetry -- poetry which is strikingly fine in places. But the main charm of the book is its quaint and fanciful humor. Mr. Dennis carries the reader along at a gallop -- a rare exhilarating gallop. The bells of his rhyme tinkle musically and sweet, and in Gilbertian rhythm he sings his song.  

For one in search of a Glug Mr. Dennis has many directions. His whims have full play, and his poesy is dominant:-

   On a white, still night, where the dead tree-bends
      Over the track like a waiting ghost,
   Travel the winding raid that wends 
      Down to the shore on an eastern coast.
   Follow it down where the wake of the moon
      Kisses the ripples of silver sand;  
   Follow it on where the night seas croon   
     A traveller's tale to the listening land.

Then it is necessary to wait until the wash of the thirteenth wave "tumbles a jellyfish out at your feet." But if the fish proves disappointing and ''sneers in your face like a fish possessed," there are other ways. You can "wait till the clock in the tower booms three,'' and then proceed until you halt

   By the carrier's horse with the long sad face
      And the wisdom of years in his mournful eye;
   Bow to him thrice with a courtier's grace,
      Proffer your query, and pause for reply.

If the melancholy equine should be as reticent as the jellyfish, there are still other ways. You may wait till "the blood of a slain day reddens the west,"

      Choose you a night when the intímate stars
   Carelessly prattle of cosmic affairs.

The author warns you that "Who finds not, 'tis he shall be found;" and then passes to his tale of Gosh:-  

   The Glugs abide in a far, far land ,
   That is partly pebbles and stones and sand,
   But mainly earth, of a chocolate hue,
   When it isn't purple or slightly blue.
   And the Glugs live there with aunts and wives,
   In draught-proof tenements all their lives.

And, in addition to their exercises under uncongenial conditions, they

      . . Climb the trees when the weather is hot,
   For a bird's-eye view of the garden plot.  
      Of course, it's rot, 
   But they love that view of the garden plot. 

The Glugs press a peculiar trade in stones with the Ogs from the land of Podge. But, meanwhile, there is born to an unGluggish Glug named Joi a son, who is christened Sym. And Joi gives his son good advice. 

   Said he. "Whenever the fields are green,    
   Lie still, where the wild rose fashions a screen,  
   While the brown thrush calls to his love-wise mate,
   And know what they profit who trade with hate."
   Said he, "Whenever the great skies spread,
   In the beckoning vastness overhead,
   A tent for the blue wren building a nest,
   Then down in the heart of you, learn what's best."

So while the Glugs listen to the "song of the Guffer Bird, or chase the Feasible Dog, as so many are wont to do, Sym grows up in wisdom, and becomes a tinker who delights to sit with his back to a tree and sing his own rhymes. When Joi develops revolutionary tendencies, and suggests the assassination of King Splosh, they hang him on a Snufflebust Palm. The Swanks then flourish, and swathe themselves in red tape, and the Lord Swank swaddles "his portly shape like a large, insane cocoon." These "minute-writing, nation-blighting" Swanks are plentiful in Gosh.

   They lurk in every Gov'ment lair,
      'Mid docket dull and dusty file,
   Solemnly squat in an easy chair,  
   Penning a minute of rare hot air
      In departmental style.
   In every office, on every floor,
   Are Swanks, and Swanks, distracting Swanks,
         And acting Swanks a score,
   And coldly distant, sub-assistant,
         Under Swanks galore.

In Gosh there is an old volume rare that nobody asks for, heeds, or reads, which fact "makes it a classic, famed through the land." In this book there is a prophecy that when Gosh is in danger a rhyming tinker may be its saviour. Gosh is in danger, and the Mayor of Quog discovers Sym, and drags him into public life. Sym creates a sensation with rhymes, but the cunning Sir Stodge overthrows him in debate. So Sym goes off with his little red dog, content to be free of the Glugs again. There dawns a day when Gosh is literally "stony broke," and then the scheme of the Ogs is revealed. They attack Gosh with the stones which they have gained in trade.

   And the first of the stones, hit poor Mr. Ghones,
      The captain of industry.

Protests are uttered against this un- gluggish behaviour--

   But the warlike Ogs, they hurled great rocks,
   Thro' the works of the wonderful eight day clocks
      They had sold to the Glugs but a month before,
      Which was very absurd; but, of course, 'twas war.

When the Ogs retire, declaring their victory, King Splosh sends for Sym. But the rhymester will have no more of politics. He is happy with his Emily Ann, and content to leave Splosh to his own troubles. The tale of Gosh ends with Sym's song:

   Kettles and pans! Ho, kettles and pans!
   The stars are the gods, but the earth, it is man's!
      Yet down in the shadow dull mortals there are
      Who climb in the tree-tops to snatch at a star:
   Seeking content and a surcease of care,
   Finding but emptiness everywhere.
   Then make for the mountain, importunate man!
   With a kettle to mend . . and your Emily Ann." 

There is one more couplet:  

   As he cocked a sad eye o'er a sheltering log,
   "Oh, a Glog is a Glug!" sighed the little red dog.

Whether the reader looks for lesson or laughter, "The Glugs of Gosh" is well worth while. There are some capital illustrations with brush and pen by Mr. Hal Gye. Mr. Gye has happily caught and expressed the whimsical spirit of the verse-maker.

First published in The Advertiser, 27 October 1917

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 26, 2011 7:25 AM.

2011 Hugo Award Winners was the previous entry in this blog.

Poem: The Busted Bard: A Tragedy in Six Spasms by C. J. Dennis is the next entry in this blog.

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