The Clerk by C.J. Dennis

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For pure self-sacrificing philanthropy, commend me to the city clerk who votes the Labor ticket!  Being a clerk myself I speak feelingly, and when I hear of a fellow-clerk, voting that way I resent it as an act of treachery against his own class. - "City Clerk," Collins-street, in Melbourne AGE.

The unsoiled hand, the sleek, black coat,
   The senile, ledger-haunted hours,
The knowledge that my freeman's vote
   Is humbly cast to please "the powers,"
A futile spite against the mass,
   A small, weak hate of Labor's side,
These privileges of Our Class
    I cherish with a puny pride.

The sycophancy of the snob,
   The day-long cringe, the life-long fear
That I may lose a steady job -
   That "job genteel" I hold so dear -
These be the splendid attributes
   Of one who yearns to emulate
His master; and all work-soiled brutes
   Regards with mean, reflected hate.

Not mine the arrogance of wealth,
   No pride in honest labor mine;
But while I still hold life and health
   My pet ambition is to shine
A small, pale star that faintly glows
   In Fat's impressive firmament,
The while I earn mere food and clothes,
   And help the boss to cent. per cent.

Ambition?  E'en my timid soul
   Dreams of a day when I shall rule;
When I may heckle and control
   The trembling slaves of desk and stool;
When I shall be of Fat myself
   Who now but dangles at his skirt.
A magnate!  Armed with pow'r and pelf.
   Meet recompense for eating dirt.

I mark the lowly toiler rage.
   "Resist!" he cries.  "Resist! Unite!"
The while I sue for patronage -
   A deferential parasite.
Then to my aid comes Pride of Class,
   I take my stand beside the Boss.
I earn his praise! .... Although, alas,
   His gain, mayhap, will be my loss.

For who would risk a master's ire - 
   That deity who rules my life,
That god who may, in vengeance dire,
   Snatch happiness from 'child' and wife?
"Rights!" shout the horny-handed. "Rights!"
   The dolts defy the pow'rs that be.
While I watch through the restless nights
   And tremble for my salary.

Oh. what rash madness moves these clods?
   E'en my own fellow serfs, alas,
Speak treason 'gainst the money-gods
   And turn black traitors to Our Class.
Our Class!  That genteel, cultured band,
   Well-dressed, respectable, elite -- 
The servile mind, the soft white hand --
   Patrician class of Collins~street!

Cohorts of Collins-street, arise!
   O legions, wake in Finders-land!
Let each pale hero recognise
   His class, and fight with might and main.
Fight for the master sturdily!
   What though his profit be our loss?
And let our watchword ever be,
   Or Class! OUR BILLET, and OUR BOSS!

The sleek, black coat, the unsoiled hand,
   The proud assertion of the worm.
Behold the Class!  Oh, noble band!
   Mild, desk-worn yoemen of "The Firm."
With swagger of the over-dressed.
   With meekness of the underpaid,
They flout the plaint of the oppressed,
   And stare at Liberty, afraid.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 June 1911

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 1, 2013 8:38 AM.

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