A Different Meaning by C.J. Dennis

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A word as applied to tactics has a different meaning from the same word if used in a personal sense. - Alfred Deakin.

It is truly as lucid as lucid can be;
   It is plain as the nose on your face
Though the tactics may be a disgrace, don't you see,
   The tactician is not a disgrace.
He may wobble and swerve and crayfish and curve -
   It is all of it part of the game -
But you mustn't say "Wobbler," for, prithee, observe
   That the meaning is not quite the same.

One might carry this argument ever so far -
   There is not the least good in denying
That though a man's talk may be lies you must baulk
   At describing the talker as "lying."
His work may be slow, but it's nonsense, you know.
   To declare that the man's a "slow worker."
And it he should shirk in the House all his work
   'Twould be foolish to call him a "shirker."

In quoting such things one could fill up a ream;
   It is so to the end of the chatter.
A man who adapts his adversary's scheme,
   He need never be called an "adapter."
And if he should fuse, it is not the least use
   To describe him as being a "Fuser."
Such a use of the word is distinctly absurd,
   And would earn but contempt for the user.

For a statesman's a statesman right on to the end,
   Never mind what his actions resemble;
He may bargain and palter and stumble and falter
   And wheedle and scheme and dissemble.
But, observe, these are acts, and though probably facts
   That would earn for the mere politician
A horrible name, it is not quite the same
   When applied to a master tactician.

And so, you electors, when chewing the ended
   Of reflection, attend to this study.
And observe, though a member may meddle with mud
   He in not, of necessity, muddy.
Though he turns like a weathercock ten ways at once,
   Till you never know which way he's leaning,
To call him a weathercock proves you a dunce,
   For it has quite a different meaning.

First published
in The Bulletin, 14 October 1909

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 14, 2012 9:15 AM.

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