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.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 30, 2013 6:50 AM.

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