The Woes of Bill by C.J. Dennis

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Although there are 75 members in the House of Representatives, still owing to the lack of a working majority on either side, the passing of any effective legislation will be difficult, not to say impossible, under the present system of Party Government. - Political item

Once upon a recent even, as I lay in fitful slumber,
Weaving dreams and seeing visions vague and utterly absurd,
Suddenly I seemed to waken, somewhat scared and rather shaken,
For I thought my name was mentioned, coupled with - "a certain word."

'Twas the Adjective that roused me, sanguinary and familiar,
That embellishes the diction of my fellow countrymen,
When they do commune together in regard to crops or weather -
Such a word as never, never shall defile this pious pen.

Sitting, upright on my pillow, filled with weird, uncanny feelings,
Once again I heard, distinctly someone calling on my name.
And I gazed around me vainly as a voice exclaimed quite plainly:
"Strike me up a blessed wattle if it ain't a blessed shame!"

"'Tis some idiotic joker, 't's some festive friend," I muttered,
Gazing toward my chamber window where the moonlight faintly gleamed
Then, before my bedroom curtain, I beheld a shape uncertain,
Something vague and dim and doubtful, slowly taking form it seemed.

Then, all obvious before me stood a figure most familiar,
Clad in bushman's boots and breeches and a colored cotton shirt.
Said he: "No, yer eyes don't fail yer: Here's yer cobber, BILL AUSTRALIER,
An' I've come to ask you plainly if this game ain't blessed dirt!"

"Pardon.  BILL," said I politely; "but I hardly get your meaning."
"Strewth!" said BILL.  "Dead crook, I call it!" But I stayed him with a smile.
"By your leave, my worthy bloke, we'll drop these oaths and terms colloquial,
And just talk the matter over in a peaceful, friendly style."

BILL choked back a warm expletive - for my smile was most engaging -
And, upon my invitation, sat beside me on the bed.
And, omitting decorations - fancy oaths and execrations -
That his woeful story garnished, I shall tell you what he said.

"Now my name is BILL AUSTRALIER, just plain BILL without no trimmin's,
And you'll tumble that I'm ownin' quite a tidy bit o' land;
Land that needs a bit o' workin'; an' there ain't no time for shirkin',
An' there ain't no call for loafers on the job I got on hand.

"My selection is extensive; right from sea to sea it stretches;
An' I'm needin' willin' grafters for the toil there is to do:
So some blokes called politicians speaks for overseers' positions,
An' I hands 'em out the billets, thinkin' they would see things through.

"'Strewth!  They ain't signed on 10 minutes 'fore they downs their tools in anger,
An', without no word o' warnin', started fightin' tooth an' nail.
An' I yelled till I grew husky, an' me face with rage went dusky,
But me most expensive language wasn't of the least avail.

"Tell yeh,  I was fair bewildered till a bloke gives me the office,
Puts me wise about them factions an' this Party Guv'ment lurk.
Seems, if one side takes to toilin', then the other aims at spoilin'
Ev'ry blessed job they tackle. An' the blighters calls it WORK!

"So I puts it to 'em plainly.  Sez I: 'This here Party scrappin'
In the time for which I'm payin' ain't a fair thing, anyway!'
An, I calmly asks 'em whether they can't work in peace together,
An' consider me a trifle, seein' as I find the pay.

"But it weren't no use o' torkin', they just howls and fights the harder,
Leaves me pressin' jobs to languish while they plays their party games;
Till one push turns out the stronger; then I don't chip in no longer,
For they done a bit o' graftin' while the others calls 'em names.

"Now, this year their contracts finished, so I gives 'em all the bullet,
Sacks the lot an' advertises for fresh men; an' when they came,
With near even sides, by Heaven! 38 to 37.
They remarks: 'The job be jiggered!  We're too close to play the Game.'

"Game!  What game?  Of all the blighters!" - (Here BILL'S language grew tremendous.
I have never heard a vision curse so much in all my life.)
"Five an' seventy I'm payin' for to work, an' here's them sayin'
That the sides is too near equal an' 'twould only lead to strife!

"Strike me - !"  (BILL again, in anger, aired his vast vocabulary,
Using words against his "workmen" stronger than the law allows;
And his ultimate expletive! - Fain would I remain secretive,
But I may not.  In his anger.  BILL described them as FAIR COWS!)

"Fair dashed Cows!  That's wot I call 'em.  An' I want your straight opinion. 
Am I boss of this selection that extends from sea to sea?
Here's these blinded politicians hangin' on to them positions!
An' I want the dead, straight griffen: Are they workin' points on me?"

"BILL," said I - and tears were streaming down my whiskers as I answered -
"Precedent, and rule, and custom cannot be ignored, you know.
This Great System was imported by our fathers" (Here BILL snorted) 
"From the dear old Mother Country, and we cannot let it go."

"Wot!" yelled BILL.  "Still more imported pests upon the job to plague me!
Like the rabbits an' the foxes, burrs an' thistles, an' the rest.
Must I ever curse in anguish? Must my Big Jobs ever languish?
Can't I clear me blamed selection of this Party Guv'ment pest?"

"BILL!" I sobbed, choked with emotion - then in wonder gazed about me;
Marked the moonlight, white and ghostly, faintly gleaming through the pane:
Saw mine old familiar trousers - (Pardon this allusion, Wowsers) -
Hanging on the bedpost sadly.  But I searched for BILL - in vain.

Gone had he from out my chamber.  Yet I sat and pondered deeply
Through that chilly winter even; and I ponder deeply still.
Evidence I've none to show men; but, I ask, was it an omen?
Did it presage good or evil, that strange vanishing of BILL?

First published in The Bulletin, 3 July 1913

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 3, 2013 7:23 AM.

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