The High Priest by C.J. Dennis

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[When the sporting editor, whose task it is to "call" an important race, focusses his field glasses on the galloping horses and gets fairly "into his stride," the prattle of the politician talking "against the clock" pales into insignificance.  A clear and quick eye, a thorough familiarity with the different colours and horses and a large share of confidence are only three of the many essential factors to success in this branch of press work. . . From this call all the principal newspapers in Australia secured their particulars of the running, for the details had been telegraphed broadcast over the Commonwealth before the bell rang for the next event. - Daily Paper]
[The Minister of Home affairs is somewhat alarmed at the apathy of young Australians over the acquisition of their votes when they attain their majority - News Item]

Nay, why do foolish politicians strive
   To win a fleeting popularity?
In vain, in vain, they jealously contrive
   To turn the doting Public Eye from Me.
What was this land, this nation, destined for?
   For Art, Trade, Politics?  All out of place.
Behold, I am the Sporting Editor!
            I call the race!

Reviewers, leader writers -- what are they?
   Subs., poets, novelists?  Scribes of a sort --
Mere puny scribbling creatures of a day;
   While I, the people's idol, stand for Sport!
For mark, when inspiration falls on me,
   What recks the public of that nameless band?
I ope' my lips, and wisdom, gushing free,
            O'erflows the land.

I lift my voice, and, lo! an army wakes -
   A mighty host, a hundred thousand strong -
To spread the message; while the nation quakes
   And thunders with the burden of my song:
"Ten lengths from home 'Gray Lad' outstripped 'The Witch,'
   And passed the post by just a short neck, first."
These are the words, the pregnant words, for which
            The land's athirst.

They are the children of my brain, mine own!
   These mighty words for which the people yearn;
The product of my genius alone!
   Would you begrudge the laurels that I earn?
Mark you, yon sturdy native, strong o' limb,
   That leans against the lamp-post o'er the way --
Approach, and learn of my great fame from him.
            Approach and say:-

"Awake!  Arise!  A curse on him who waits!
   Behold, young man, thy country needs thy like;
The yellow hordes are panting at our gates.
   Arouse, young patriot, go forth and strike!
Awake, and cast they reeking 'fag' away!
   Arise, and take the white man's burden up!"
"I'll lay you ten to one, in 'quids,'" he'll say:
            "Wot's won the Cup?"

Behold, the High Priest of the people's creed!
   Proclaim his genius!  The bays!  The bays!
Come, crown the Sporting Editor -- indeed,
   He is familiar with bays -- with grays.
"Ten lengths from home!" How exquisite!  How chaste!
   "'Gray Lad' outstripped 'The Witch'!" What style!  What grace!
Come, beauty, twine a laurel wreath.  Nay, haste!
            He calls the race!

First published in The Gadfly, 16 May 1906;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 16, 2013 7:17 AM.

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