Perhaps by C.J. Dennis

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In his Ballarat speech Mr. Deakin had said nothing to which he could be pinned down.  "I hope to see," "I propose if you cannot get on to somebody else," "I suggest," "I would like to see," "I believe it would be advisable" - there were Mr. Deakin's phrases, but not one definite promise had he made on behalf of the Government. - Labor Candidate Frank Anstey (Vic.)

He is a clever politician still
Who never blunders on the blunt "I will."
For, with an eye on the events to come,
Is it not better to remain quite dumb?
Or else, if he must speak, 'tis ever best
To wisely compromise on "I suggest."

Who knows what complications may arise?
For "Coalition" fades, "Alliance" dies,
And even "Fusion's" apt to drift away,
And he may have to turn again some day.
And, in that Fusion where no man may be
Sole leader, better say, "I'd like to see."

What knows he of the complicated game
Of party politics, who would declaim
In manner positive, with "Yes" and "No,"
When he might say, "I'd like to have it so?"
The sweets of office never are for him
Who cannot conjugate the verb "to trim."

There once were happy days, alas, long flown,
When leaders held opinions of their own;
And bravely said "I will," without a jot
Of fear lest one should answer, "I will not."
Those were the days when leaders stood alone,
And half-Prime Ministers were quite unknown.

O, for the right to say, "This shall I do,"
And pow'r and confidence to see it thro'!
But in a Fusion only slightly fused
Such positive expressions are not used;
(For all a modern Fusion e'er allows
Are hints of aspirations, never vows).

In that great game of politics, as played
To-day, no clever man should be dismayed;
For who would thunder foolish "Ayes" and "Noes"
When there's the diplomatic "I propose"?
And, mark, while such expression leaves one free,
It loses nought in affability.

Some show of policy to catch the votes
One has to have; but never burn your boats;
For if that bridge of boats you rashly burn
Who knows how, later on, events may turn?
But, having these, a man may nimbly skip
Back, o'er his "ifs" and "mights" and gain the ship.

He is a foolish politician who
Employs so rash a phrase as "I shall do."
But he who, wisely, never promise makes
Is ne'er foresworn, and never promise breaks.
He never strays into opponents' traps
Who compromises on the safe "perhaps."

First published in The Bulletin, 17 March 1910

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 17, 2013 11:36 AM.

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