The Bucolics by C.J Dennis

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The State Government has refused to provide the £9 a week necessary to keep the National Gallery open during evening hours, which is the only time available for city workers to contemplate its treasure in art.

Ladies and gentlemen: I take this opportunity
To introduce myself and mention that, much as we may deplore the fact, we are essentially an agricultural community
Altho' in our metropolitan centres, millions may live and toil.
Most of us, directly or indirectly, exist by, thro', on and for the soil;
Our outlook is largely directed upon crops, prices, profits and "The Main Chance,"
So that we rarely discover time or opportunity to glance
At the fine arts and higher culture of this and older lands, and gather unto ourselves the satisfaction such contemplation lends
Therefore our guides, philosophers, mentors, leaders, teachers, and friends
Declare that, amongst the toilers of our race,
Such contemplation is utterly out of place.
And (altho' this may seem rather funny)
One cannot definitely enjoy "culchaw" unless one is -- now -- possessed of leisure and money.
To encourage it in the Common People is a vain and profitless thing.
Wherefore, I sing:-

The plough's in the furrow,
   The cow's at the bail;
We delve and we burrow,
   For nought may avail
Save toil thro' the seasons,
   Material joy;
These, these be the reasons
   For all our employ.

The mute Mona Lisa,
   Praxiteles' art,
Such trifles as these are
   Things quite, quite apart.
On, on with life's battle;
   Wring sweat from the brow.
What's culture to cattle?
   What's art to a cow?

To resume, ladies and gentlemen, the more comprehensible form of discourse I had temporarily forsaken,
Is it not possible that our mentors, censors et al. may be sadly mistaken?
Or, stay, is it conceivable that they would lock and bar our halls of art and culture at night
Lest the Common People might,
By some strange chance, absorb so much of the capacity for appreciation that they would, in time, be able to patronise us?
Nay, even to advise us?
On certain aesthetic matters which -- Perish the thought!  For who would have the heart
To vulgarise all Art?
For, consider; how were it possible to feel superior
When none remains any longer who, as one comfortably recognises, is inferior.
And so, for evermore,
Bar, bar and bolt the door
Of our Temple which enshrines works for the edification only of superior mortals,
Lock, lock and double lock those portals!
Hide from vulgar gaze the treasures that therein lurk --
Except, of course, during those hours when the toilers are at work.
Melbourne, my Melbourne!  Never let the souls of thy earthbound people into the rarer regions take wing!
Wherefore, again, I sing:-

The swine's in his wallow,
   Fat porkers are prime;
Then follow, come, follow,
   'Tis lamb-tailin' time!
All golden the butter,
   There's market for meat;
Tho' Mallee men mutter
   Of smut in the wheat.
But "paintin'" and pitcher"?
   (Franz Hals, he was Dutch)
Ah, who grows the richer
   For gawping at such?
A "pitcher" by Carot?
   A "statcher" -- all "nood"?
One fills you with sorrow;
   The other is "rood."
We toil for men's bodies,
   Our minds all a-fog.
What's paintin' to poddies?
   What's art to a hog?

First published in The Herald, 3 October 1935

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 3, 2013 7:30 AM.

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