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.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 16, 2013 7:43 AM.

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