January 2013 Archives

Tall Timber by C.J. Dennis

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According to recent news, a snake which fastened on to a man's leg at Burnie, Tasmania, was much disgusted upon finding that the leg was a wooden one.

That sort o' reminds me of ole days (said Bill)
In the bush at Toolangi, at Switherton's mill --
   A sor-mill, you know -- an' the sawyer we 'ad
   Was ole 'Oppy McClintock, a wooden-legged lad.
'E was walkin' one day for to tighten a peg,
When a tiger snake grabs at 'is ole timber leg;
   An' there it 'angs on, till I fetched it a crack,
   But ole 'Oppy jist grins as 'e starts to walk back.
An' then, somethink 'appens.  We seen 'Oppy stop,
As 'e stumbles a bit, an' looks down at 'is prop
   With a dead funny look.  Then 'e lets out a yell:
   "'Ere boys!  Take it off me! it's startin' to swell!"
Well, we unstraps 'is leg, an' it swole an' it swole.
Snake pisen?  Too right!  'Twas a twenty-foot pole
   In less than five minutes!  Believe me or not,
   An' as thick -- It's as true as I stand on this spot!
We was 'eavin it out, when the boss starts to roar:
"'Ere!  Why waste good wood?  Shove it on to the sor!"
   So we sors it in two, down the middle, an' then,
   Them there slabs swole an' swole; so we sors 'em agen
An' we sors, an' we sors; an' it swole an' it swole
Till the end of the day, when the tally, all tole,
   Was two thousan' foot super.  You doubt it? (said Bill)
   You ask any ole 'and at Switherton's mill!

First published in The Herald, 31 January 1933;
and later in 
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

The Bridge Across the Crick by C.J. Dennis

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(Being a Sort of Sermon on the Beauties of Party Government and the Utter Needlessness of the Referendum.)

   Joseph Jones and Peter Dawking
      Strove in an election fight;
   And you'd think, to hear them talking,
      Each upheld the people's right.
Each declared he stood for Progress and against his country's foes
When he sought their votes at Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

   Peter Dawking was a student,
      Of a kindly turn of mind,
   A reformer, keen but prudent,
      Aiming but to serve mankind -
Just a simple, thoughtful scholar who e'er kept this aim in view;
"Tricks and shams are sinful folly; we must see the Big Things through!"

   Joseph Jones had never tasted
      Fame, but he was sly and fat;
   And, ere he set out, he pasted
      This reminder in his hat;
"Noble aims are platform blither, and the art of politics
Is the game of nobbling voters with soft words and cunning tricks."

   Up at Wombat, where the Muddy
      Trickles down amongst the ferns,
   Folk care little for the study
      of great national concerns;
But they pride themselves on being plain and practical and slick,
And the burning local question is "the bridge across the crick."

   Bland, unfaithful politicians
      Long had said this bridge should be.
   Some soared on to high positions,
      Some sank to obscurity;
Still the bridge had been denied it by its unrelenting foes -
By the foes of patient Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

   Peter Dawking, scorning party,
      As an Independent ran;
   Joseph Jones, loud, blatant, hearty,
      Was a solid party man.
But the electors up at Wombat vowed to him alone they'd stick
Who would give his sacred promise for the "bridge across the crick".

   Up at Wombat Peter Dawking
      Held a meeting in the hall,
   And he'd spent an hour in talking
      On Reform's insistent call
When a local grey-beard, rising, smote him with this verbal brick:
"Are or are yeh not in favour of the bridge across the crick?"

   Peter just ignored the question,
      Simple and unselfish man;
   Understand a mean suggestion
      Men like Peter never can,
Or that free, enlightened voters look on all Great Reforms as rot,
While a Burning Local Question fires each local patriot.

   Joseph Jones, serene and smiling,
      Took all Wombat to his heart.
   "Ah," he said, his "blood was b'iling" --
      He declared it "made him smart"
To reflect how they'd been swindled; and he cried in ringing tones
"Gentlemen, your bridge is certain if you cast your votes for Jones!"

   Joseph Jones and Peter Dawking
      Strove in an election fight,
   And, when they had finished talking,
      On the great election night
They stood level in the voting, and the hope of friends and foes
Hung upon the box from Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

   Then the Wombat votes were counted;
      Jones, two hundred; Dawking, three!
   Joseph, proud and smiling, mounted
      On a public balcony,
And his friends awoke the echoes with triumphant shouts of glee;
For that vote saved Jones's Party by a one majority!

   Jones's Party -- note the sequel --
      Rules that country of the Free,
   And the fight, so nearly equal,
      Swayed the whole land's destiny.
And the Big Things of the Nation are delayed till hope grows sick,
Offered up as sacrifices to "the bridge across the crick".

   Brothers, in this age of Reason,
      Seers, economists and such,
   Preaching in and out of season,
      Seldom seem to matter much.
And, when next you see the Joneses snaring votes with shameful tricks,
Marvel not that Big Things languish in the game of politics.

   Dawking now is sadly fearing
      For the crowd's intelligence.
   Joseph, skilled in engineering,
      Full of pomp and sly pretence,
Still holds out the pleasing promise of that bridge whene'er he goes
Up to Wombat, patient Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

First published in The Bulletin, 30 January 1913;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985; and
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis, 1988.

The Mercenary View by C.J. Dennis

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With the present increased rate of exchange, people who are deriving fixed incomes from abroad are placed in the enviable position of receiving thirty per cent. more in Australian currency than is actually paid in England.

I knew a poor remittance man,
    A decent chap, but funny,
In days when my ideas began
   To be controlled by money.
He wore a swank, patrician air;
But, oh, his life was filled with care,
For he had seldom cash to spare;
   His mien was far from sunny.

I fear I was a snobbish youth
   Who led a prig's existence.
I snubbed the chap, to tell the truth,
   And kept him at a distance.
His clothes, well cut, were often worn
Threadbare.  Tho' he was gently born
His friendship I refused with scorn
   Despite his soft insistence.

But now the whirligig of time
   Sees fit to elevate him.
While, lo, the money that was mine
   Is shrinking, seriatim;
And faced by serious mishap.
While he reclines in Fortune's lap.
I'd like to find the dear old chap
   I'd want to cultivate him.

First published in The Herald, 29 January 1931

Culture and Cops by C.J. Dennis

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Beauty and policemen seem to me, somehow, intrinsically antipathetic. They are as far apart as butterflies and hippopotamuses, or the Law of Torts and the Pastoral Symphony. - An artist in Melbourne Argus.

Five nights agone I lay at rest
   On my suburban couch.
My trousers on the bedpost hung,
   Red gold within their pouch.
The twin-gods Law and Order seemed
To me all powerful as I dreamed.

My life was staid, my rates were paid,
   And peace was in my mind.
Nor recked I of unruly men
   To evil deeds inclined --
Strange, primal atavistic men
Who shock the peaceful citizen.

But all the same, by stealth he came,
   A man of vile intent.
What cared he that my life was pure,
   Or that I paid my rent?
He willed to violate my shrine
For household treasures that were mine.

He planned to thieve my household goods,
   Heirlooms of divers kinds.
(I cannot understand such men,
   Nor fathom their dark minds.
Why cannot they abjure all vice,
And be respectable and nice?)

With purpose vile and with a file
   My window he attacked.
A stealthy scratch upon the catch
   Awoke me to the fact.
Softly, with sudden fear amazed,
A corner of the blind I raised.

I saw his face!...Oh, what a man
   His manhood should degrade,
And seek to rob (I checked a sob)
   Except in honest trade!
A predatory face I saw
That showed no reverence for Law.

With whirring head I slid from bed,
   Crept from my peaceful couch;
Forsook my trousers hanging there,
   Red gold within their pouch.
Out through my chamber door I fled
And up the hallway softly sped.

Into the murky night I stole
   To see a certain cop,
Whose forthright feet patrol the beat
   A stone's throw from my shop.
In my pyjama suit went I....
Across the moon dark clouds swept by.

I saw him draped upon a post,
   Like someone in a swoon.
His buttons gleamed what time the clouds
   Released the troubled moon.
He gazed upon the changing sky,
A strange light in his dreamy eye.

"Now, haste thee, cop!" I called aloud,
   And seized him by the arm.
"There is a wretch without my house
   Who bodes my treasure harm" ....
Toward the sky he waved a hand
And answered, "Ain't that background grand?"

"Nay, gentle John," said I, "attend
   A thief my household gods
Seeks to purloin.  Go, seize the man
   And scourge his back with rods!"
"Those spires against the sky," said he,
"Surcharged with beauty are to me."

"I give the man in charge!" I cried,
   "He is on evil bent!
He seeks of all its treasured art
   To strip my tenement!"
He answered, as one in a dream,
"Ain't that a bonzer colour-scheme?   

"Them tortured clouds agen the moon,"
   The foolish cop pursued,
"Remind me of some Whistler thing;
   But I prefer the nood."
Said I, "Arrest this man of vice!"
Said he, "The nood is very nice."

"My pants," cried I, "unguarded lie
   Beside my peaceful couch --
My second-best pair, with the stripes,
   Red gold within their pouch!
Thieves! Murder! Burglars! FIRE!" cried I.
Sighed he, "Oh, spires against the sky!"

Then, in my pink pyjamas clad,
   I danced before his eyes.
In anger impotent I sought
   His ear with savage cries.
He pushed me from him with a moan.
"Go 'way!" he said.  "You're out of tone."

"Why do I pay my rates?" I yelled --
   "What are policemen for?
Come, I demand, good cop, demand
   Protection from the law!"
"You're out of drorin', too," said he.
"Still, s'pose I better go an' see."

I guided him a-down the street;
   And now he stayed to view
The changing sky, and now he paused
   Before some aspect new.
And thus, at length, we gained my gate.
"Too late!" I cried.  "Alas, too late!"

Too late to save my household gods,
   My treasures rich and rare.
My ransacked cupboards yawned agape,
   My sideboard, too, was bare.
And there, beside my tumbled couch,
My trousers lay with rifled pouch.

"Now, haste thee, cop!" I called again,
   "Let not thy footsteps lag!
The thief can not be far away.
   Haste to regain the swag!" ...
His arms I saw him outward fling.
He moaned, "Where did you get that thing?"

With startled state I looked to where
   His anguished gaze was bent,
And, hanging by my wardrobe, was
   A Christmas Supplement --
A thing I'd got for little price
And framed because I thought it nice.

It was a Coloured Supplement
   (The frame, I thought, was neat).
It showed a dog, a little maid --
   Whose face was very sweet --
A kitten, and some odds and ends.
The title, rather apt, was "Friends."

"Accursed Philistine!" I heard
   The strange policeman hiss
Between his teeth.  "O wretched man,
   Was I hired here for this?
O Goth!  Suburbanite!  Repent!
Tear down that Christmas Supplement!"

And, as athwart my burgled pane
  The tortured storm-wrack swept,
He bowed his head upon his hands,
   And wept and wept and wept....
So, on the whole, it seems to me,
Art and policemen don't agree.

First published in The Bulletin, 28 January 1915;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

Note: this poem is also known by the title The Cultured Cop.

Shaw? Pshaw! by C.J. Dennis

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In declaring that the King is the best speaker in the realm, whose broadcasts create loyalty, Mr Bernard Shaw declares: "If he (the King) delivered a single broadcast with an 'Oxford' accent his people would rise up that very day and proclaim a republic."

Not reahly?  Oh Ai say!  What priceless rot!
   Suahly such uttah nonsense can't be true?
The King not speak ouah culchahed tongue?  What, what?
   Whai?  Ai've been to Oxford; but Ai do.
Ai've spoken Oxford now foah quaite a whaile --
Ever since Ai achieved mai latest stayle.

Ai mean to say -- these statements seem to me
   Quaite teeasonable, if you undahstand
Mai meaning.  And, bai jove! there seems to be
   A hint of something rathah undahhand
In statements that this Shaw straives to uphold --
A rabid Bolshevik!  So ai've been told.

This fellah Shaw!  Ai've nevah read his traipe,
   And never want to.  Balley lot of rot!
Ai always hev dislaiked that common taipe
   Who sneer at culchah.  Why the boundah's got 
The priceless nerve to claim that loyaltay
Comes thro' rough speaking bai His Majestay!

Would he infer Ai've wasted all mai taime,
   Giving mai accent just the propah ring,
To learn that Royaltay has no such aim?
   By gad, sir!  It's an insult to ouah King!
Would Shaw infer that he has let us down?
No!  Definitely, no!  The man's a clown! 

First published in The Herald, 27 January 1934

A Peaceable Man. (As Told to the Bench) by C.J. Dennis

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"Lay orf it!" I sez to 'im.  "Bodyline bowlin'?" ...
I'm a peaceable cove.  But to see 'is eyes rollin',
To 'ark at 'im pratin'
An' gistickillatin',
To 'ark at 'im 'oller
An' splutter an' swaller
'Is great Adam's apple,
To look at 'im grapple
For 'andfuls of air like a preacher in chapel,
It 'ad me fair grinnin' . . . .
"Don't matter 'oo's winnin',"
I sez to 'im gentle.  "Right from the beginnin'
I'm peaceable; see?  An' tho' cricket I foller,
An' barrack an' 'oller,
You don't see me gettin' 'ot under the collar
An' seekin' to quarrel
Concernin' no moral
Or physical aspects.  It's only a game.
I'm a peaceable man; an' I'm wise to the same.
It's me objeck an' aim
To git slingin' no blame,
Nor compliments neither;
I don't deal in either.
I'm peaceable.  Get me?"  I sez to 'im quiet.
"An' body-line bowlin' don't injer me diet
Or trouble me sleepin',
I jist keep on keepin'
Quite mum.  It's a game; an' if Jardine or Wyatt
Wants body line bowlin' they're welcome to try it.
I don't say it's right, an' I don't say it's wrong.
I jist goes along --
An' me language ain't strong --
In me peaceable way.  An' I'm neither disputin'
A thing that you say, or agreein'.  Refutin'
I ain't; or advisin',
I ain't criticisin',
Inferrin', imputin', admirin', despisin',
Or nothink.  Lay orf it, I ain't interested.
Lay orf, till you git all the true facks digested" . . . 
But 'e won't lay orf.  So I quietly backs 'im
Close up the the gutter.  "Now, look," I sez.  "'Paxim."
That's Latin for 'peace'; an' it's alwiz me maxim.
"Lay orf it, good feller,
It's no use to beller" ....
But 'e still don't lay orf ... So I ups, an' I cracks 'im.

First published in The Herald, 26 January 1933

Note: this poem refers to the Bodyline controversy that arose during the MCC Test cricket tour of Australia in 1932/33.  The "Jardine" mentioned is Douglas Jardine, who was the visiting captain on that tour, and "Wyatt" is Bob Wyatt, who was vice-captain.

Care Free Bloke's Cigar by C.J. Dennis

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Bush-fire prevention week began on Monday and renewed efforts are to be made to check carelessness with fire. - News Item.

There's a little spark and a wisp of smoke
   By the road where the tall gums are;
And a mile away a care-free bloke
   Speeds onward in his car.
No thought of evil mars his day,
And he's well a hundred miles away
And safe at home, as skies grow grey,
   With another fine cigar.
There's a spurt of flame in the breathless night
   And a crackling in the scrub;
There's a withered mint-bush burning bright,
   And a kindling dog-wood shrub.
For yards about the bush glows red
But the care-free bloke, his paper read,
Says, "Bonzer day.  And now for bed
   After a bite of grub."
There's a sickening roar as the fire sweeps down
   From the mountainside aflame
On the helpless little forest town,
   And one knew how it came.
Ten miles of blackened hills gape wide
And a stricken home on the mountain side ...
But the care-free bloke toils on in pride.
He saw no spark by the bush roadside,
   So how is he to blame? 

First published in The Herald, 25 January 1933

Song of the Puzzled Pedagogue by C.J. Dennis

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The President of the Victorian Teachers' Union declared recently that teachers were a legion of the lost, singing in rather a pathetic way. "We are going down to hell with the drums playing." There was much talk of ensuring that square pegs should not be fitted to round holes: but were square holes available for square pegs? Education required sympathetic insight and wise leadership.

They leave it in these hands of ours to shape a nation's soul;
   But we're marching, marching down below.
For we haven't got a leader and we haven't got a goal.
   And we haven't, no we haven't got a show.... 
Eleven eights are eighty-eight.  And what should Alfred do?
And was he wrong to burn the cakes, or was the dame a shrew?
   Johnny Jones, hold out your hand!  My lad, you must be bossed!
   Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  We're the legion of the lost.

We've got the drums to pummel, but we haven't got a flag;
   And we're marching, marching to the pit.
For there's none to lead us upward, and we loiter and we lag.
   And there's no one seems to care a little bit....
Now, the square of the hypothenuse -- Sam Smith, stand out of class!
Oh, I've coached you, I've reproached you.  Must you always be an ass?
   You're growing up a gump, my lad; but do you count the cost?
   Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  We're the legion of the lost.

They leave to us the fashioning of citizens to come;
   But we're marching, marching ever down;
But the guiding voice of politics is pitifully dumb,
   And potential leaders leave us here to drown....
Now, consider Kings of England, or consider capes of Spain,
Consider -- Silence, Smithers!  Must I speak to you again?
   We'll take the Latin lesson now.  That's sure to be a frost.
   Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  We're the legion of the lost.

Square holes will not accommodate round pegs, and never would --
   Oh, we're marching, marching to the drum --
And the dull, defeatist attitude was never any good....
   But -- horror!  What a thought is this to come!
Supposing that our attitude the vital question begs?
Supposing that the hole we're in is square, and we round pegs?
   Nay, lift the dirge and bang the drum!  Our creed must not be crossed!
   Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  We're the legion of the lost.

First published in The Herald, 24 January 1935

The Hulk by C.J. Dennis

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      Now, 'ere's my tip
      Fer the Fusion ship,
   An' I tells it straight an' square.
      I'm a rare old tar
      As nigh an' far
   You'll not meet ev'rywhere.
      I've seen 'er sail
      In many a gale,
   But she's done 'er final trip;
So I 'itches me breeches, an' a simple tale I pitches
   O' this good ole Fusion ship.

      'Twas Alf an' Joe,
      Long years ago,
   They built 'er any 'ow.
      'Twas a strange ole skiff
      With 'er keel skew-wiff,
   An' a double-ended bow.
      Yus, a nose each end,
      An' a Grecian bend
   Amidships, quaint an' queer.
When I seen 'er take the water, "Ho!" ses I, "she is a snorter!"
   An' I gives a 'earty cheer.

      An' sail she did.
      But I'l lay ten quid
   No ship, before nor since,
      Done 'arf 'er tricks;
      'Er darned ole fix
   'Ud make longshoremen wince.
      She'd bob and bow,
      The blamed old scow,
   Like a wet an' foolish 'en;
An' 'er subsekint behav'er an' the effects fer to save 'er
   Was a treat fer sailor-men.

      An' Alf 'e was
      'Er skipper, 'cos
   No other could be got
      To sail that craft!
      An' fore an' aft
   They was a rare ole lot.
      So queer a crew
      I never knew
   An' Joe, 'e was fust mate.
An' to 'ear 'im scold and rate 'er, when 'e tried to navigate 'er -
   Well, I tell yeh, it was great!

      Fer some they said
      To point 'er 'ead
   Fer nor'-nor'-east by east,
      Fer Tory Bay,
      An' some said "Nay,"
   An' the langwidge never eased.
      An' some they pressed
      To sail doo west,
   Fer the ole Freetection port.
An' the way she waltzed an' wobbled, while they 'owled an' fought an' squabbled.
   Ho, I never seen sich sport!

      An' pore ole Joe!
      'Is watch below
   Was mostly short an' sweet;
      Fer 'e never knew
      Wot time that crew
   Might up an' change 'er beat.
      But Alf, the boss,
      'E took 'is doss,
   An' 'e let 'er sail or stop;
Fer in days when seas was finer 'e was skipper of a liner,
   An' 'e sorter felt the drop.

      Now, she's dropped at last
      'Er anchor fast
   In the 'arbor of Recess.
      'Er sheets is tore,
      An' 'er plates is wore,
   An' she'll sail no more, I guess.
      Alf got the pip
      On 'er final trip,
   An' there's some as said 'e swore
'E was sickened of 'er capers; so 'e 'anded in 'is papers,
   An' she'll put to sea no more.

      But it's 'ip, 'ip, 'ip!
      Fer the Fusion ship,
   Fer the navigatin' 'en!
      Since 'er cruise begun
      She 'as give great fun
   To us 'eart sailor-men.
      We 'ave cheered an' laughed
      An' joked an' chaffed
   Since the day she put to sea;
So I takes a pull and 'itches (as our 'abit is) my breeches,
   An' I give 'er three times three.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 January 1913

Forest Summer Idyll by C.J. Dennis

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"Wet day tomorrow!" says the old grey jay;
And all the bush is sweltering beneath the burning day.
      Then comes the contradiction in a sweet melodious rush.
      "Fine hot weather now!" declares grey thrush.
Tall trees are tossing as the north wind blows
"Bush fire! Bush fire!" it is sobbing as it goes.

But the boys are in the forest and the 'plane hums overhead,
And Science bids us exorcise an old-time dread.
      The 'plane is high above us; it is watching for the smoke,
      It brings a sudden comfort now to all bush folk.
But the lees of dread stay with them, the terror never dies:
"Bush fire! Bush fire!" the north wind sighs.

Old Pete, the pensioner, he cocks a bleary eye
Up to the vast blue zenith. As he slowly scans the sky,
      "Sun spots, they're sayin' now, makes weather change that way.
      Pig-swill an' poppcock!" says old Pete Parraday.
"I never hear the like of it, not since me day begun --
Floods an' fires a-comin' out of pimples on the sun!"

"Wet day tomorrow!" shrieks the old grey jay.
"Suns spots? Fiddlesticks!" scoffs Peter Parraday.
      Then sweet above the garden in the noon-day hush:
      "Fine hot weather now," insists grey thrush.
But the boys are in the forest and the high 'plane drones.
"Bush fire! Bush fire!" the north wind moans.

First published in The Herald, 22 January 1936

One Dull Man by C.J. Dennis

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Major Montague, an ex-secretary of Portland Club and one of the framers of the rules of Bridge, who is visiting Australia, declares that women are better Bridge players than men. Women, he says, are quick and alert, while men are often dull and lifeless.

Why did you play your spade in there? (said she).
I can't think why you don't take care (said she).
You fuss and fiddle with every card
As tho' you found the game too hard
   You hung on to your trumps until
   They caught you napping.  Really, Will,
You think and hesitate so long;
Then in the end you play it wrong.
   Why, you can't even call your hand.
   You men!  I cannot understand.
You are so stupid, dull and dense.
The game requires just common-sense.
   But Bridge for you holds little gain:
   Yet you're supposed to have a brain (said she).

Tired?  You?  I hope I am no cat (said she).
But I must say I do like that (said she).
What about me? You go to town,
And gossip there with Smith and Brown.
   And go to lunch and have a drink,
   Yet in the evening you can't think.
What about me?  Your life's the best.
Why should you crave for so much rest?
   Ask any doctor.  He will say
   A business man should always play.
You should play more.  You know you should.
A change of occupation's good.
   Yet, when I ask you to go out,
   You say you're tired and moon about.
What about me?  Do I complain?
Why, it's a wonder I keep sane
   With all the dull monotony
   That this existence holds for me.
You'll tell me that I'm lazy soon.
Why, I played all the afternoon! (said she).

Did you, my dear? I didn't know (said he).
Well, I suppose I must be slow (said he).
   Yes, slow and dull.  Again you're right -
   You always are . . .Heigh, ho! . . . Good night (said he).

First published in The Herald, 21 January 1931

In the Fullness of Time by C. J. Dennis

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Let us not speak of the wars or be ever and ever pursuing
      Tales of the madness of men and his savage turmoil;
For this is the time of the terror of hate and of great evil-doing;
      But is echoes fall light where a man lives close to the soil
In a calm land and fair land fruited deeply,
      Where conqueror's ruthless heel has never trod,
Where the rain falls and the sun shines, slanting steeply
      On the fertile sod.

They have fashioned their engines of war from the earth of the metals it yielded,
      Ingenious, mighty, the product of hand and of brain;
And the flesh of a man 'gainst their might quivers bare and for ever unshielded,
      But every shot that they fire is a shot fired in vain.
For the years come and the years go, and their going
      Leaves nothing with these who but death and bedevilment plan,
Who have moved scarce a pace; spite of all their aggression be showing,
      From the Piltdown man.

These shall make nothing of earth, tho' they put all her lands to the slaughter;
      And the toil of their hands and their culture may never abide;
For in some far corner of earth by impassable water
      A race shall live on to arise, an implacable tide.
When you pass, and I pass into the darkness,
      Or into light, then shall the high tide climb,
And the wise hearts conquer hate and its foul starkness,
      In the fullness of time

First published in The Herald, 20 January 1938

The Way Out by C.J. Dennis

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Yet another scheme for juggling with Australia's finances has been evolved, this time by Mr
Theodore.  It is described as "the use of Government guarantees for the conveyance of credits."
Meantime, eight earnest professional economists, sitting in conference, urge that Australia's 
one hope of salvation lies in "reduction of wages, interest and public spending."

"There must be some way out," they say.
   "There must be some way out!
We've fallen on an evil day;
   That we no longer doubt.
But surely there's some magic rare
To banish this dull load of care,
   And strengthen out defences.
We'll find it, yet, if we but look;
But this is sure: By hook or crook,
   We won't cut down expenses!"

How like a harried housewife these
   Wild politicians seem.
"Oh, George!" she cries.  "Don't scold so, please!
   You must find some shrewd scheme.
There surely must be some way out.
What of those deals you talked about?
   Are all your plans pretences?
I want a frock; I want a hat.
My parties?  Bridge debts?  What of that?
   I can't cut down expenses!"

But George he knows, as well we know,
   There is but one way out:
When incomes fall we must go slow.
   Stern facts no man may flout.
And well we know, as George must know,
A pound note just so far will go.
   And all men in their senses
Well realise there's but one way,
When we fall on an evil day --
   We've got to cut expenses.

The magic stone philosophers
   Sought in the olden years,
May, by no chance, be ours, or hers,
   For all our pleas and tears.
The only magic's common sense
Despite vague schemes and sly pretence,
   Wrangles and differences.
When economic stress appears,
One warning echoes down the years:
   "Go slow, and cut expenses!"

First published in The Herald, 19 January 1931

Under the Party Plan by C.J. Dennis

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This is written for a future generation, and may be recited in "drawing-rooms" by veteran M's.P. 50 or 100 years hence, after the establishment of Elective Ministries.

Ah, yes, but the story's an old one now;
'Tis an ancient tale, but, if you'll allow,
I'll tell you something of how they made
Our laws in the days of the Biff brigade;
In the days of valor and old Romance,
When a hasty word or an angry glance
Brought vengeance, swift as a shooting star;
And a member hurtled across the bar.
When a man relied on his strong right hand,
And -- a book, or a bottle, or a glass ink-stand;
When the Speaker's voice, like the Crack o' Doom,
Echoed and volleyed across the room,
Suspending members in threes and fours
'Mid the Labor shrieks and the Lib'ral roars.
Ah! Those were the days when a man was a man
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

Who, in these days, can conceive the sight
When they battled for office as strong men fight?
And who can picture the baresark rage
Of a member baulked of a Minister's wage?
'Twas woe to the member who failed to duck
When the missiles flew in that ancient ruck.
And woe to the Speaker who left the Chair
Without precaution, without due care
That the way was clear for a swift retreat;
For....Hist!....Was that thunder?  Nay, 'twas the feet
Of the Opposition in swift pursuit,
Eager to settle an old dispute;
Eager to settle it then and there,
Like hounds on the scent of a startled hare.
For a feud was a feud, and a clan was a clan,
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

Was a man too timid to tell the truth
Because of a Sergeant-at-Arms, forsooth?
Was a man too craven to speak his mind
For fear of the Law and the men behind?
Was a man to be hounded from place and pay
By the votes of an ignorant people?  Nay!
An interjection, a word misplaced,
And answer given in nervous haste,
And....quick as a flash: "You lie!  You cur!
You're a dirty....Order!....Disgraceful!....Sir!....
I rise to....Scoundrel!....I won't withdraw!....
You blackguard!....Liar!!....I'll break your jaw!...
I name the member....I'll let you see!...
Let go my whiskers!....Apologise?  Me??
I'll see you....Order!....Come on outside!....
Dog!....Traitor!....Villain!....I'll tear your hide!....
Sergeant, remove the....Contemptible!  Bash!!....
Insulting!....Constable, do your....CRASH!!"
Ah, show me the heroes to-day, if you can,
   As in Parliament under the Party plan.

Those were the days when a member fought
For his place and pay as a strong man ought;
When they spoke their minds till the borrowed hair
Stood straight on the head of the startled Chair;
When they said their say, till the clerks turned pale,
And the pressmen bent 'fore the awful gale.
And many a fierce and gory fight
Cheered up the sitting on some late night.
But finest of all was the last brave stand
Of the member for Fatville, Claude Legrand,
The hope, the pride of the Cursing Clan....
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

He had called the Premier a low-bred hound,
He had scattered a few choice names around,
But he scarce had warmed to his subject yet,
When the insolent Speaker bade him -- "get!"
"What?"....For an instant a hush like death
Fell on the House; and the labored breath
Of the pressmen, over the Speaker's Chair,
Was the only sound on the calm, still air.
Then....Biff!....Like a tiger Claude Legrand
Reached down, and, straight from his strong right hand,
His boot came fair at the Speaker's head,
And he dropped from the Chair like a thing of lead.
'Twas the signal!....Boom!!  In the far-off street
They heard that thunder of rushing feet;
They heard the shrieks as the members fell
With a smothered curse or a muffled yell.
For their blood was up when the fight began
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

'Twas an even battle; this way and that
The members struggled and fought and spat
Fierce oaths and teeth, as they tore and scratched,
Ay, the sides that day were right well matched.
Evenly matched till -- ah, tell it with shame --
At the Government's bidding policemen came!
And six of them hastened to Claude Legrand
Where he fought and cursed at the head of his band.
Did he blanch?  Did he quail?  Did he sue for peace?
Nay, not for a breath did his cursing cease.
On, on he fought till the Chamber floor
Was strewn with collars and coast and gore.
On, on they battled till, one by one,
His side went down to the low John Dunn.
Then scratched, and bleeding, and cut, and torn,
Brave Claude Legrand to the floor was borne.
And ten strong constables held him tight,
Then heaved him forth in the outer night...
And he who had come to the House that morn
Well-groomed, and tailored, and shaved, and shorn,
With a shiny hat, and a sleek black coat,
And a spotless collar around his throat,
Went, clothed in glory, and gore, and dirt,
And a pair of pants, and a tattered shirt....
Ah, such were the heroes who led the van
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

Yes, that is the story of Claude Legrand,
The leader of that last Liberal stand.
And through the ages his name shall ring
As the last of the Lashers, the Cursing King....
And you wonder, now that I'm old and grey,
That I take no heed of affairs to-day.
You wonder why, in the Halls of State,
I find no joy in the dull debate.
'Tis because my thoughts and my heart are there
In the days when a man defied the Chair;
In the days of valor and old Romance,
When a blow came quick on an angry glance;
When they cast them hither in threes and fours
'Mid the Labor shrieks and the Lib'ral roars;
When the pack yelped high as the Speaker ran --
   In Parliament under the Party plan.

First published in The Bulletin, 18 January 1912;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Limitations by C.J. Dennis

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The biggest scientific congress ever held in Australia is at present in session in Melbourne.  Eighty learned societies are represented, and subjects to be discussed include: Medical science, wireless research, meteorology, agriculture, surveying, anthropology and many others.

"Who are these blokes with bulging brows
   I see all o'er the shop?"
The layman asked.  "Them's scientists,"
   Replied the courteous cop.
"They are the country's biggest brains;
   There's nothing they don't know --
The ways of stars, the weight of suns,
   And why the winds do blow."
"Then think you they could cure this cold
   That leaves me leaden-eyed?"
"Well -- no; they ain't quite up to that,"
   The constable replied.

"But they could take a man apart
   And sew him up again
As good as new; they know how trees
   Grow from a tiny grain.
And they can harness wireless waves
   And make hem do their will,
Or split an atom bang in two,
   Or cleave a mighty hill."
"But could they make this north wind change
   A point to east or west?"
"Well, no," the cop replied; "not yet.
   That's far too stiff a test,

"But they can cause electric eyes
   To shut and open doors,
Or answer telephones, or guide
   A great ship from the shores.
Their 'ographies' and 'ologies'
   And wonders that they plan,
To shove ahead this human race
   Do fair amaze a man.
Why they'll have television soon,
   Or so I've heard or read."
"And will that make man happier?"
   The simple layman said.

"Tho' most amazing, as you say,
   The things they do and know,
They cannot make the rain to fall
   Or cause the breeze to blow.
They cannot build one blade of grass,
   Or read a flapper's mind;
That collar stud I dropped this morn
   I'll swear they could not find!... "
"Move on, there!" cried the constable
   These ain't things for a joke.
Upon my word, I never see
   So iggnerint a bloke!"

First published in The Herald, 17 January 1935

The Minglers by C.J. Dennis

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What our reporter calls "the unconventional mingling of the sexes" is much more unwholesome than can be any piles of dirty jam and fish tins. - Melbourne AGE on Seaside Camps. 

A sight that gives me much distress
   Is George without his trousers,
Garbed, scantily, in bathing dress
   Proscribed by saintly Wowsers,
And Gerty, gay and forward flirt,
Without the regulation shirt.

Though 'tis a fearsome sight, I ween,
   When jam tins strew the shingle,
It is a far more shocking scene
   When Bert and Benjy mingle
With Maude and Winnie in the wave;
It hurts to see them so behave. 

The melancholy dead marine
   Sown thick along the beaches,
The can that held the late sardine,
   Or potted prawn, or peaches,
Are things of innocence beside
Gay Tom and Topsy in the tide.

I hold by stern morality,
   Despite the worldings' scoffing,
And though it pains my soul to see
   A fish tin in the offing,
'Tis naught beside the things I feel
Whene'er I hear Belinda squeal.

Indeed, this tin that held sardine
   My sad soul sorely vexes.
The fish it harbored might have been
   Unwed, and mixed in sexes!
Good brothers, can you wonder then,
That seaside damsels mix with men?

A pile of picnic scraps, 'tis true,
   Can raise a mild commotion.
But what of John and Jane and Sue
   Mixed in a single ocean?
A sight that stabs me to the heart
Is Billo smoodging with his tart.

But hark, my brothers, yester eve
   I had a wondrous vision.
The sun was just about to leave,
   With his well-known precision,
When I espied upon the sand
A tin with a familiar brand.

And, as I gazed, my limbs grew limp
   And giddiness came o'er me;
For from it stepped a fish-like imp
   That smirked and bowed before me!
His puckered features seemed to be
Awry with spite and devilry.

"Young man," he said, "You're wasting time.
   Why do you sit there mooning?
So brave a youth, just in his prime,
   Should find more joy in spooning.
For see! the ocean hath its pearls.
Go forth and mingle with the girls!"

And from the tins that lay about
   Upon the silver shingle
I heard a wee shrill chorus shout,
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!"
And then I knew each empty tin
Concealed its special imp within.

I know my eye grew wide and bright,
   Despite a life ascetic,
And from the narrow path of right
   I felt a tug magnetic,
That sought to draw me o'er the sand
Out to the siren-haunted strand.

I felt the red blood course anew,
   I felt my pulses tingle;
And still the tiny chorus grew:
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!" ....
Then, from the old, bashed can I saw
A lordly lobster wave a claw.

"Good fellow, have a care!" he said,
   "Stray not from pathways upper!
I am the ghost of one long dead,
   Slain for a sinful supper.
But once good works were done by me
Amongst the sinners of the sea.

"In life I roamed the vasty deep
   Engaged upon a mission
Which was my fellow-fish to keep
   From swimming to perdition.
Now I am dead" (his voice grew thin)
"Alas! they mingle in the tin!

"Beware the blood that bounds and leaps!
   Your sinful feelings throttle.
Beware the imp that leers and peeps
   From out each tin and bottle!
A submarine Chapzander speaks.
Beware when gay Belinda squeaks!"

Lo, as he spoke my blood grew chill,
   The spell no longer bound me,
The impish chorus now was still
   And silence reigned around me.
The ghostly lobster disappeared;
My heart of base desire was cleared.

But, like a man inspired, I saw
   His cause for intervening.
His sad, sweet face, his waving claw
   To me were full of meaning.
Indeed, a sainted fish was he,
A very Wowser of the sea.

You smile, good friend?  But ah, be sure
   'Tis not a theme for scoffing;
For well, too well, I know the lure
   Of fish tins in the offing.
A devil lurks inside each tin
To tempt unwary souls to sin.

And, top this day, I fell a thrill
   'Mid tins upon the shingle;
I seem to hear that chorus shrill:
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!"
And yet, 'tis naught to what I feel
Whene'er I hear Belinda squeal.

First published in The Bulletin, 16 January 1913;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

Youth Revisited by C. J. Dennis

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Can this be the old town of wheat-teams and saddle-hacks,
   Of Ted Toll's smithy, with the anvil ringing clear,
Of stacks in the station yard, and stockmen, and farming hands,
   Of bow-legged bound'ry riders coming in for beer --
This strange, new, brisk town of sweet-shops and petrol pumps --
   Petrol pumps with motor cars dashing up and down?
Yet there stands the old church, the bluestone baker's shop,
   And the queer, shrunken houses of my old home town.

What has become of him -- Little Johnny Parkinson?
   Little Johnny Parkinson out upon a bust --
The long red beard of him, the red-rimmed eyes of him;
   Red from the harvest field and winnower dust.
Five foot two of him -- Little Johnny Parkinson,
   Driving in his wheat team, down the dusty street;
Red beard, red eyes, red bandana neckerchief -
   Little Johnny Parkinson, who took his whiskey neat.

What has become of him -- Big Jack Herringford?
   Big Jack Herringford, champion of the stacks,
Where the lumpers, laboring, climbed the crazy wooden ways --
   One, two, three hundred pounds upon their backs.
Big Jack Herringford, soft-hearted Hercules,
   Went to the West land and won a fortune there.
Was the gold a benison to Big Jack Herringford?
   Does anybody know, or does anybody care?

What has become of him -- Black Tom Boliver?
   Black Tom, Dude Tom, of the shearing shed -
The bold, black eyes of him, the well-oiled curls of him,
   The cabbage-tree hat well back upon his head.
What has become of them, all the men I used to know?
   Only one I recognise of all men there;
But one has a smile for me -- schoolmate Jimmy Tomlinson --
   Laughing Jimmy Tomlinson, with snow-white hair.

First published in The Herald, 15 January 1934

In a Forest Garden: North Wind by C. J. Dennis

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Dawn came this morning ominous and grim.
   The circle of the sun rose bloated where,
Seen thro' the scudding cloud, its angry rim
   Burned dull and copper hued -- a sullen glare.
   The stale and lifeless air
Made no least little stir 'mid leaf and limb
Of great trees brooding round this garden trim;
   A listening fear seemed there.
Listening and waiting.  Then a far, faint roar
   Spread from the furthrest hills.  A sudden breeze
Swelling in volume thro' the forest tore
   Until it seemed the tossing, tortured trees
   Writhed in fierce agonies.
The crashing trunks sounded as guns in war,
And tumult reigned, as of some rockbound shore
   Defying angry seas.
Waning to wax again with gathered power,
   All day it raged, and leapt from hill to hill,
Shouting its wrath ... Now, with a healing shower,
   Quiet comes down, and all seems strangely still.
   The wind has had its will
With riven loveliness of shrub and flower;
But round the torn storm-scarred monarchs tower
   Unconquerable still.

First published in The Herald, 14 January 1933

A Warning to Ladies by C. J. Dennis

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They were within measurable distance of a terrific political struggle in Australia, and should lose no time in preparing for the battle.  On every side they had evidence of the activity of the Labor-cum-Socialist party. . .What they stood against was the Socialism that was menacing Australia. - A lady at a meeting of the Wimmin's National League, Melbourne.

Deah Ladies, - Let me wawn you, theah are feahful taimes to come,
And a most ter-ific strugge is at hand;
            And we have no taime to speah
            If we wish to do ouah sheah -
To defend, like Joan of Awk, ouah native land.
Foah a really frightful monstah is preparing to devouah
All that's uppah-clauss and propah and quaite naice;
            And if we should be behaind
            In the battle aye shall faind
All ouah priveleges vanish in a traice.

O, it makes me shuddah, ladies, when Ai ventuah to reflect
On the ravages this monstah contemplates.
            He will break up all ouah homes,
            And where'er the creatuah roams,
We'll be sundered from ouah lawful Tory mates.
We'll be tawn from ouah poah husbands in a most fe-rocious way,
O, deah ladies, can you realise ouah lot?
            For the monstah has his eye
            On the Sacred Marriage Tie;
And he'll eat up all the babes we haven't got.

And remembah, deahest ladies, all ouah comfort now depends
On destroying this wild Socialistic beast.
            Ouah sassiety diversions
            Would be vulgah mob excursions
If we pandered to the monstah in the least.
He is bent on confiscating all the houses, land and wealth
Of ouah husbands, and ouah brothahs, and ouah friends.
            He is jealous of his bettahs,
            And he calls ouah men-folk sweatahs,
He'll do anything to gain his awful ends.

He's vulgah and unchivalrous this feahful Labah thing.
He is teaching all ouah servants to despise us.
            He would drag us to his level,
            And he'd send to the - ah - devil
All the luxuries with which his toil supplies us.
He harps upon equality when, as of course you know,
And as all the very naicest people know,
            It would simply mean disaster
            To imagine ev'ry master
Quaite as ignorant as workers or as "low."

O, smaite the Socialistic monstah!  Smaite him hard, mai deahs!
O, gathah up youah skirts and join the fray.
Pray, do not shirk the battle, or, with wailing and with teahs,
You'll regret youah negligence on polling day,
We must teach the vulgah working class their raight position here;
We must keep them in their places; we must faight them without fear,
            Or there'll be a bittah wail, mai deahs,
            If Socialists prevail, mai deahs,
And all "raight thinking" people and the "naicest" disappear.

First published in The Bulletin, 13 January 1910

Wanderers Lost by C. J. Dennis

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Oh, we are the phantoms of rovers lost --
   See how the mocking mirages play!
Men who have ventured and paid the cost.
   Lone, waiting women, 'tis vain to pray!
We died unshriven, as rovers die,
And no man knows where our white bones lie.
   Black birds gather when rovers stray,
   Out where the mocking mirages play.

A maiden has waited a long year thro'.
   Mark where a crow from the northward flies!
"Ah, can he be false that had sworn so true?"
   They say that a wanderer woos with lies.
A maiden has waited and counted the days,
Since a lover went roving the northward ways.
   What do they profit -- unheeded sighs?
   Mark where a crow from the northward flies!

Out in the desert a still thing lies.
   Westward the sun is sinking low.
Who is to mourn when a rover dies?
   Hark!  'Tis the caw of a sated crow.
Who is to tell of a mad'ning thirst --
Of a lonely death in a land accurst?
   Merciful God!  Is she ne'er to know?
   (Hark to the caw of a sated crow.)

Oh, we are the legion that never came back --
   Ever have rovers to count the cost.
Men who went out on the waterless track.
   Curst is the plain that was ne'er recross'd!
Restless to roam o'er the desert our doom,
Till our end shall be known and our bones find a tomb.
   Mourn for the souls of wanderers lost,
   Ever have rovers to count the cost.

First published in The Critic, 12 January 1905

Mary Jane by C.J. Dennis

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A house maid and a general servant are to broadcast from a London wireless station giving their opinion of mistresses. - Cable

So I sez to 'er, "Followers? Certainly not!
   Why should you suspect I 'ad somebody 'ere?"
An' me notice I give to 'er there on the spot.
   'Er torkin' to me! Why the very idear!
"An' I dunno where yesterday's mutton 'as gone."
   I sez to 'er: "Nor -- wot is more -- do I care."
'Er torking to me of such carryin's on!
   An' that's ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

The next one, I sez to 'er, "Breakages? Wot?
   Why the rotten ole thing came apart in me 'and!"
(An' me notice I give to 'er there on the spot.)
   "An' I never," I sez to 'er, "could understand
The common ole crockery some people keep."
   I sez to 'er, 'aughty, me nose in the air,
"It's wot I ain't used to, nor 'ouses so cheap."
   An' that's ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

An' the next an' the next, an' the one after that,
   An' the next an' the next an' the next;
An' the next an' the next was a crank or a cat,
   Or something or other to make a girl vexed.
An' one who could gabble on end for a week,
   Took reel mean advantage when I paused for air;
An' she gave me my notice before I could speak,
   An' that's 'ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

They're all of a pattern; an' I've knowed a lot,
   For misuses alwiz is misuses still.
Lest you up an' give notice right smart on the spot,
   They'll put it upon you, the best of 'em will.
Glory be! I ain't one to go startin' a row;
   But all of 'em's touchy an' few of 'em's fair.
But I know wot I'll say to the one I got now,
   When it 'append, as will, that I 'ave to leave there.
First published in The Herald, 11 January 1930

The Hangman by C.J. Dennis

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[Alec. Taylor, a Naval Reserve man, has been appointed to the post of public hangman rendered vacant by the death of Mr. Billington.  He is of a humorous disposition, and made an application for the position on a previous occasion. - English newspaper.]

Hark to the sound of my tuneful lay,
   Sing hey for the merry hangman!
I looked for a billet and found it to-day,
   Sing hey for the merry hangman!
I've tried for the job for years and years;
I'm not a fellow of squeamish fears,
And I damped the earth with my grateful tears
   When I got the job as a hangman.

Hark to the song I'm singing to you,
   The cheerful song of the hangman,
Who never was dull and never looked blue,
   The jolly old public hangman;
For if I put in my spoke, you see,
Adjusting the rope real joking-lee
The criminal will murmur choking-lee:
   "What a jolly old chap for a hangman!"

Hearken awhile to the song I sing,
   Hurrah for the merry hangman!
Who laughs aloud as the corpses swing
   At the touch of the cheery hangman;
For what is the use of looking sad
And making the convict feel it bad?
Better be merry and make him glad
   To be hanged by the jolly old hangman.

This is the end of my joyful song,
   Three cheers for the merry hangman!
Who winks his eye as he says good-bye
   To the man who's hanged by the hangman.
Oh, I often think as I lie in bed
What joy it must be to be led, led, led,
And hanged by the neck till you're dead, dead, dead,
   At the hands of a cheerful hangman.

First published in The Critic, 10 January 1906

Summer Sanctuary by C.J. Dennis

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Not upon the crowded beaches
   Where the sun beats fierce and hot;
Not upon the river reaches
   In a shady silvan spot;
But in some deep mountain valley,
   'Mid the sassafras and fern,
Here's the place where I would dally
   When the suns of Summer burn.

Here the sifted sunlight dappling
   Carpets with translucent green,
Flecks and flirts on fern and sapling,
   Where the cold stream peeps between.
"Here," you muse, "since time's beginning,
   Foot of man has never known;
Mine the joy first to be winning
   All this beauty for my own."

"Here," you muse, "is safe seclusion
   Known alone to bee and bird,
From the rude unsought intrusion
   Of the common human herd." . . .
Then a lipstick grossly gleaming,
   And a half-smoked fag you see;
And you waken from your dreaming
   As a shrill voice yells "Coo-ee!"

First published in The Herald, 9 January 1932;
and later in 
More Than a Sentimental Bloke edited by John Derum, 1990.

Whose Blame? by C.J. Dennis

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Speaking in Sydney yesterday, Mr A. K. Trethowan, M.L.C., said that if idle women would go to the baker for their bread and to the milkman for their milk, and so on, instead of lying in bed waiting for it to be delivered, the cost of living would be greatly reduced.  Cost of distribution ate up enormous profits.

"A woman's work is never done,"
   Said she.
"From dawn to setting of the sun,"
   Said she.
"I toil and moil and work and slave,
And do my best to pinch and save,
And yet you say I don't behave,"
   Said she.

And twenty men in twenty carts
   In that suburban street
Long, long before the daylight starts
Are setting out with cakes and tarts
   And fish and milk and meat
And cauliflowers, beans and bread
What time my lady lies in bed.

"All day I have to live alone,"
   Said she.
"Attending to the door or 'phone,"
   Said she.
"While you go gaily into town
To meet your friends, I want a gown,
A hat!  This life has got me down,"
   Said she.

And twenty men when day is done,
   In that suburban street,
Who have performed the task of one
(If things more orderly were done),
   Drive back along their beat. . .
It seems absurd.  But, all the same,
Is it my lady who's to blame,
For all these economic cares,
Or just man's muddling of affairs?

First published in The Herald, 8 January 1931

The Disagreeable Musician by C.J. Dennis

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'E wouldn't play the flute; the sulky cow.
   An', after all the trouble that we took
To try an' cheer,'is spirits up some'ow,
   'E jes' sat there an' slung a glarsy look
To orl the crowd.  The diserbligin' coot!
'E wouldn't play the flute.

After we'd done our gilt in on the spread --
   Fish from the Dago joint, an' bottled beer,
An' froot, an' 'am, an' saverloys an' bread --
   'E wouldn't eat.  Jes' shook 'is silly 'ead.
An' though we begged 'im for some choonful toot,
'E wouldn't play the flute.

I puts it to yeh: Wuz we actin' fair?
   Wot more could neighbors do to cheer a bloke?
We knoo they 'e 'ad troubles fer to bear,
   An' jes called in to 'ave a friendly joke.
An', though we tempted 'im with 'am an' froot,
'E wouldn't play the flute.

There wuz Flash Liz, an' me, an' Ginger Mick.
   An' Mother Gumphy frum the corner store.
An' Bill the Rabbit-o, an' Dirty Dick,
   An' Nan the Nark, an' 'arf a dozzing more.
But strike!  It seemed the comp'ny didn't soot!
'E wouldn't play the flute.

I want yer dead straight griffen.  Wuz we right?
   Wuz it unneighborly to look 'im up
An' 'ave a little beano on the quite?....
   Fer Grief an' 'im wuz cobbers on that night.
But there 'e sat, like 's if 'e'd taken root,
An' wouldn't play the flute.

We sung a song er two to give 'im 'eart,
   'An' jes' to show yeh wot a nark 'e wuz,
'E wouldn't sing. 'E wouldn't take no part.
   'E wouldn't eat no matter wot we does.
'E wouldn't drink, 'e wouldn't touch the froot.
Or play 'is flamin' flute.

A blimed wet blankit at our little feast.
   Thet's wot 'e wuz.  'E jes sat there an' stared
Straight out afore 'im. Wouldn't take the least
   Account o' wot we did. 'E'd never cared
If we wuz rooned wif buyin' fish an' froot.
'E wouldn't play the flute.

Aw, it wuz crook!  I swear I never seen
   So mean a coot.  An' 'e could play a treat --
Play like a blinded angel, for 'e'd been
   A star pufformer -- played afore the Queen!
An', though 'e knoo we knoo of 'is repute,
'E wouldn't play the flute.

We knoo 'e'd been a bonzer in 'is day
   Afore 'e struck the slum in Scrooge's Lane.
I've orfen 'eard it said 'e useter play
   In some swell orchestrer fer fancy pay.
An' there 'e sat, in 'is ole shabby soot,
An' wouldn't play the flute.

We knoo 'e'd struck tough luck an' drifted down --
   'Im an' 'is missis -- till they come to live
On 'arf o' nothink in our part o' town.
   It weren't no fault of ours that they wuz driv
Frum bad to worse, till they wuz destichoot.
'E wouldn't play the flute.

'E wouldn't play.  Jes shook 'is silly 'ead.
   We done our best to cheer 'im, fer we knoo
'Is wife wuz lyin' in the nex' room, dead.
   Died 'cause of sooicide, the neighbors said.
But, spite of all we done, the selfish brute,
'E wouldn't play the flute.

First published in The Bulletin, 7 January 1915

The Pendulum by C.J. Dennis

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Speaking at Wesley Church on Sunday, Mr. Gullett, M.H.R., said that renewed prosperity would follow Australia's present troubles.  The first essential to early recovery was faith in Australia and a cessation of political squabbling.

There was never a time in this world so glad
   But it changed at last to gloom;
There was never a time in this world too bad
   For the light somewhere to loom.
There was never a day, however bright,
But found its end in the fading light;
There was never a night too dark and drear
For the dawn on the hilltop to appear.

Tick -- tock.  Tick -- tock.
Oh, the universe is a mighty clock,
   And the world is ruled by rhythm.
And the bad years go, and the good years come
To the swing of the gods' great pendulum;
And, whether we like the game or no,
We puny mortals here below
   Must swing the whole way with 'em.

Long have we striven since earth began,
   And the dawn of brotherhood,
To seek from the skies some mystic plan
   For mankind's lasting good;
But to and fro - to and fro -
With the swinging rhythm we have to go;
While the voice of Destiny wisely saith:
"Strive on; all's well if ye hold to faith."

Tick -- tock.  Tick -- tock.
This universe is a mighty clock
   With us to the pendulum clinging;
And we make complaint, or we shout with glee,
Blaming or praising the times that be.
But why grow gloomy?  For, after all,
Whether we rise or whether we fall,
  We have got to keep on swinging. 

First published in The Herald, 6 January 1931

A Letter from England by C. J. Dennis

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Dear Boy --

As it appears to us old fogeys --
   If you'll excuse the term that we adopt --
You and your battery of bowling bogeys
   Seem to have come a rather nasty flop.
Psychology, you know, and moral suasion,
   And all these fine nuances of the game
Appear to us, at least on this occasion,
   To have been, so to speak, a trifle tame.
We would not be too hard; we know your task is
   Sterner than we supposed when you set out
Avoiding criticism, all we ask is.
   Please drop "shock tactics" and cut "stunting" out.
Try to avoid a batting ace with roots on,
   Like Don's, to keep him at the crease, old chap;
Use only bowlers who can keep their boots on,
   And, please, please don't count too much on that cap.
If you think it would make your prospects brighter
   And help the boys to bring those Ashes back,
We'll waive that rule about the player-writer
   So that you may consider using Jack.
Take his advice, my boy; he knows the Aussie
   And all his tricks.  So, trusting you will be
On this day fortnight in a better "possie,"
   Your ever hopeful Auntie,

First published in The Herald, 5 January 1933

Note: The "Don" in verse two is, of course, Don Bradman.  The "M.C.C." is, presumably, the Marylebone Cricket Club.

The Preferential Push by C. J. Dennis

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The Christmas adjournment found Mr. Wood still suspended - Sydney paper.

Now, I calls it a fair knock out,
   An' I puts it to you as a bloke
(Said Peter the Pug),
An' I ain't no mug,
   But it's gettin' too much of a joke.
'Ere's one o' that M.P. push,
   A bloke with the moniker Wood
Gits 'eaved from the 'Ouse
'Cos 'e happened to rouse;
   An' they won't let 'im back till 'e's good.

No, they won't 'ave 'im back in the 'Ouse --
   In the 'Ouse where their feelins' is 'urt,
But this bloke they'll acquit,
If 'e smoodges a bit,
   An' I ses that this pref'rince is dirt!

'Cos w'y? -- An' I puts it to you
   As a bloke 'oo 'as battled a treat --
There's a lor when they rouse
An' go crook in the 'Ouse,
   An' a lor fer the chap in the street.
Whenever I go on a tear --
   (An' I owns to me seasons of lash) --
An' lands in the jug,
Fer chiackin' a mug,
   Well, it's quod, if I'm short of the cash.

Now this 'coot as was chucked on 'is neck
   'E wus wunct at the 'ead o' the p'leece --
The boss o' the cops --
O' the blessed John 'Ops,
   As is 'ere fer preservin' the peace.
An' frum 'is persition o' power
   'E sooled all 'is Johns on to us,
An' when we wus copped
Well, the lor never stopped
   Till the Beaks 'ad a say in the fuss.

Meself an' a  cobber o' mine,
   We gets on a bit of a jag,
W'ich ends in a row
With a eatin'-house Chow
   An', o' course, in a mo' it wus lag.
We spends a 'ole night in the cells,
   Nex' mornin' we faces "the Chair,"
Who gives us a look
Like a rabbit gone crook,
   An' calls us "a ruffianly pair."

"Insultin' be'avior" it wus;
   Fer we never dealt stoush to the Chow.
(The perticuler word
As the cop said 'e 'eard
   Wasn't used, I kin swear, in that row.)
So, when we wus arst fer to plead,
   I looks at the beak where 'e sat,
An' I ses to the Lor,
"Sir, we bofe will wifdror
   An' erpolergise full to Ah Fat."

Well, the Johns nearly fell in a fit,
   An' the Bench 'e went pink to 'is ears,
An' 'e looks at me stern.
"Now I move we adjourn,"
   I remarks, "fer a couple o' years.
Fer I 'ave to git back to me job,
   An' late sittin's," I ses, "is no joke."
"'Old yer tongue!" ses the beak;
"Thirty bob or a week!"....
   An' we bofe took it out -- bein' broke.

Now, this is me point -- (an' I 'old
   That the game isn't all on the square) --
This cove they calls Wood
'As it all to the good
   When 'e slings orf 'is mag at the Chair.
'E'll say as 'e didn't mean 'arf;
   'E's sorry; an' that ends the row.
But me and me pard,
We does seving days 'ard
   Jes' fer givin' back chat to a Chow!

An' a push is a push all the time,
   In the 'Ouse or in Woolloomooloo.
But us blokes 'as to learn,
'Oo speaks out of our turn,
   There's a stretch fer "insultin'" to do.
As fer Wood -- well, the game isn't fair;
   Fer this Liberal push 'as a pull;
They kin tork an'....Well, struth!
In me innercent youth
   I respected the Lor; but I'm full!

An' I'd like to get inter the 'Ouse --
   In the 'Ouse where "insultin'" is cheap;
Where it's stoush on the nod,
Wif no subsekint quod.
   It's a place as ud soot me a 'eap.

First published in The Bulletin, 4 January 1912

What's in a Name? by C. J. Dennis

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The advertisement regarding the South Australian welcome to Mrs. Harrison Lee, the temperance advocate, stated that among the speakers would be "T. Price Esq., M.P."

In years agone there carved in stone,
   Quite close to Adelaide,
An honest man of honest birth,
   Who called a spade a spade;
A Laborite -- a Democrat,
   With brain as cool as ice,
A working man in overalls --
  "Plain Mister Thomas Price."

But now there sits immaculate,
   At functions one and all,
The same strong man who wore of late
   The mason's overall;
And when they looked a speaker out
   To welcome Mrs. Lee,
Instead of Tommy Price they got,
   "T. Price, Esquire, M.P.".

First published in The Critic, 3 January 1906

Note: Thomas (Tom) Price (1852-1909) was elected to the Lower House of the South Australian Parliament in 1893, and was Premier of South Australia from 1905 until his death in 1909. 

Farewell Romance by C. J. Dennis

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[Dr. Grinker, a specialist on nervous and mental ailments, of the Chicago Medical School, says that we should abolish indiscriminate marriages, forget that hallucination called love, and choose our life partners as a cattleman chooses his stock. - News item]

Help us, Hymen!  Cupid! Venus!
   Can this awful news be true?
Has this monster come between us
   All your teaching to undo?

Grinker!  Gods defend us!  Grinker!
   Venus!  What is this all about?
A professor?  Scholar?  Thinker?
   Pah!  Come, Cupid, knock him out.

Grinker!  Oh, Olympia's dwellers!
   What a name, and what a creed!
No more love; but, buyers, sellers.
   Picking out the "stock" we need.

What of sighs and tender glances?
   What of blush and downcast eye?
What of fragrant, sweet romances?
   What of kisses on the sly?

What of, "George, this is so sudden!"
   What of, "Darling, answer 'Yes'!"
Such things are enough to madden --
   (Shocking rhyme, I must confess).

Gone, all gone, because of Grinker,
   Gone the wooing, gone the sigh;
Never more "dear girl" we'll think her,
   But a head of "stock" to buy.

Cupid, lay aside your quiver,
  Hang a sign and drop a tear.
(Ugh!  The prospect makes us shiver).
   "Mr. Cupid, Auctioneer!"

First published in The Gadfly, 2 January 1907

One Happy Man by C. J. Dennis

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Today I met a happy man
   Greeting the glad new year.
About his face the sunbeams ran
And danced, as straightaway he began
   To laugh with right good cheer.
His garb was mean, tho' neat and clean;
   No scarf, no hat had he.
He seemed indeed to be in need
  And touched by poverty.

"Good friend," said I, "why do you laugh
   And chortle in the sun,
When we've a bitter cut to quaff.
With profits down to less than half
   And gloom for every one?
Know you that these are troublous days,
   And life a stern affair,
And all must tread uncertain ways,
   Haunted by grim despair?"

The merry rogue looked up at me,
   And grinned from ear to ear.
"Why should I not be glad?" said he,
"And strive to greet right merrily
   The birth of this glad year?"
"Because," said I - and frowned again -
   "Of losses grave and great
That you and I and other men
   Have had to bear of late.

"Think well," I said; "the times are grave,
   And we may lose yet more.
We must give thought on how to save . . . "
He lifted up his head and gave
   A long, loud, merry roar.
"I'd like," said he, when he had pause,
   "To share your gloomy views.
But I don't care a whit, because
   I've not a thing to lose!"

First published in The Herald, 1 January 1931

Author reference sites: C.J. DennisAustlitAustralian Dictionary of BiographyAustralian Poetry Library

See also.  

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