Smiler Smith: The Legend of a Freak by C.J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
"No; I don't believe in croakers," said McGee of Brady's Bend
   To a writing man in search of rustic lore,
"Tho' the bloke that's allus smilin' samples trouble in the end.
   'Ave I ever told you 'bout Bill Smith afore?
Thought I never.  Tho' I might 'ave done, fer that pertic'ler yarn's
   Quite a favrit one uv mine, becos it shows
All the truth uv that old sayin', 'More yer lives ther more yer larns.'
   ('Ave yer got a plug uv baccer 'bout yer clothes?)

"Now, I s'pose yer've 'eard the cockie's allus growlin', more or less.
   Yer kin 'ardly blame the ones that lives roun' 'ere.
It's a Gawd-fergotten country, an' th'r mostly in a mess;
   Never yet 'ad wot yer'd call a decent year.
On the payin' land the cockie's on the grumble all the same?
   Yes, but there it's just a case uv policy;
So's to keep too many comin' on the land to spoil ther game.
   That's to scare off opposition, don't yer see?

"Well, take this 'ere bloke, Bill Smith, wus wot yer'd call quite oppersite:
   'E was never known to grumble in 'is life;
But was allus on the smilin' racket, mornin', noon, an' night.
   'Owsoever things wus shapin' -- (Len's yer knife.)
So 'e come 'ere with 'is fambly, an' took up a bit uv land --
   That's to say, 'e 'ad a wife an' one small child --
Bein' only lately married -- an' the 'opes 'e 'ad was grand.
   W'en we told 'im that 'e'd starve 'e only smiled.

"An' 'e smiled a trifle wider w'en 'e found the farm 'e'd bought
   Wasn't 'arf up to the 'count the vendor give;
But 'e never threatened lor, nor sued the agent -- as 'e ought;
   Only smiled, an' settled down, an' tried to live.
Course 'is first year wus a failure, an' 'is crop come up that thin
   That 'e turned the poultry on it, fer to scratch.
Sed 'e'd 'ave ter grin an' bear it, an' 'e did -- erspechly grin,
   Like a bloomin' 'eathen image -- (Got a match?)

Then, to make 'is troubles 'arder, 'e'd another mouth to feed --
   An addition to 'is fambly that same year;
But 'e came the 'appy father -- it ud made yer 'eart-strings bleed
   Fer to see the poor chap smile frum ear to ear.
That wus only the beginnin'.  Same ole story ev'ry year:
   Ev'ry season like the one uv w'ich I spoke;
An' 'e kept on 'avin' failures, an' 'is missus 'avin' -- ('Ere!
   Wot durn rotten sorter baccer's this yer smoke?)

"Well, 'is smile become a sorter institootion in a way,
   'Cos around these drouthy parts 'is sort wus rare;
An' to strangers in the district we would point 'im out an' say:
   'There's a freak -- a smilin' cockie over there.'
Ev'ry Sunday, in the chapel, 'e'd sit smilin' in 'is place,
   Like as if 'e never knoo the touch uv sin;
An' w'enever 'ell wus mentioned 'e would nearly split 'is face,
   Seems the more 'e scented trouble more 'e'd grin.

"'E wus allus full uv worry, an' 'e toiled without a spell,
   But the corner uv 'is mouth was never dropped.
So 'e smiled on life, an' death, an' drouth, an' fate, an' fear uv 'ell,
   Fer exactly seven summers, then 'e stopped.
'Ow?  Well, not upon a sudden like, but slowly, by degrees,
   You could see 'is smile was fadin' outer sight:
Sorter frayin' at the edges -- goin' threadbare at the knees --
   Gettin' worn, an' old, an' tattered -- (Got a light?)

"Stan's to reason, you can't wear a thing fer ever an' a day,
   Thout it goin' w'en yer've 'ad it f'r a while.
'Tisn't go'n to larst a lifetime.  'Tain't to be expected -- Ay?
   It wus just the same with this 'ere feller's smile.
Cos 'e allus 'ad it on 'im, night an' day, in shine or rain,
   An' uv course, 'e couldn't 'elp but wear it out;
So 'e lost it, an' it wouldn't stand no patchin' up again,
   'Cos I often seen 'im tryin' -- (Go'n' ter shout?)"

First published in The Critic, 11 April 1903

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 11, 2013 7:26 AM.

Cobbers and Quids by C.J. Dennis was the previous entry in this blog.

Hello Digger! by C.J. Dennis is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en