December 2013 Archives

A New Year's Toast by C.J. Dennis

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Here's to every Aussie fellow,
Who refused to show the yellow
When depression's clammy hand
Cast its shadow o'er the land.

Here's to them who never altered
When the timid feared and faltered,
But with dogged confidence
Backed their nation's sound good sense.

Here's to them who, ne'er reviling,
Took the knock and came up smiling -
Battlers with their steadfast gaze
Fixed ahead on better days.

Aussie cobbers, strong thro' striving,
Chastened by ill-luck are thriving;
Now that better days are near
Here's a prosperous New Year!

First published in The Herald, 31 December 1931

Children of the Sun by C.J. Dennis

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In ideal Christmas holiday weather tens of thousands of Australians are thronging pleasure resorts gathering strength for another year's labor's.

The Children of the Sun are out,
   About the hills and beaches -
The stolid burghers halo and stout,
The tailored sheik, the city lout,
   And plain blokes with their peaches,
And dinkum coves alert and brown;
While over all the sun shines down.

The Children of the Sun are prone
   To sunlight, play and pleasure;
And sober-minded mentors groan
And shake their beads and gravely moan
   O'er all this love of leisure.
This lust for sport and sun they say
Will surely bring its reckoning day.

The Children of the Sun heed not,
  But laugh and gather vigor,
Where summer days shine gold and hot,
They bask in many a sylvan spot
   To meet a new year's rigor.
And who shall say they are not wise?
Strength languishes when pleasure dies.

The Children of the Sun but know
   That while the sun is shining
And glad life beckons they must go;
For souls too long akin to woe
   Lost all thro' much repining.
Rejuvenation bids them hence,
Then who shall cry "Improvidence"?

First published in The Herald, 30 December 1931

What's Coming Up in 2014

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Each year I get to this point and think I've just about done all I can with this blog and its rationale.  The first two years were a bit of a mish-mash but gave a good coverage of various Australian poets.  This past year, 2013, has concentrated on C.J. Dennis and, while some of the poems reprinted have been a bit ropey it did succeed in showing all sides of that poet - I hope.

So I've decided to follow that approach again in 2014 with the variation this year being that I will concentrate on four different poets, all women and all, in my mind, sadly neglected.  The four poets in question will be: Zora Cross (1890-1964), Mabel Forrest (1872-1935), Myra Morris (1893-1966) and Kathleen Dalziel (1881-1969).

I had hoped to confine the scope of the selections to two or maybe three of these but kept running into the odd day or two for which I couldn't find anything to reprint so I expanded things a little and came to the conclusion that four poets was a happy compromise.

This coming year, 2014, will most probably be this blog's last though I seem to have that view every year.  I have a bit of a soft spot for the works of Edward Dyson and W.T. Goodge which might extend this blog for another year - we'll see. In the meantime time I hope you enjoy the poems I've found and will reprint here.

Spoil-Sport by C.J. Dennis

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Fix your mind on Tuesday, lad,
   There's a whole year's work to do.
Although today your mind's on play,
   'Twill soon be up to you.
For holidays must have an end,
So, fix your mind on Tuesday, friend.

I have to sit and think of work,
   Why should you have the fun?
So fix your mind on Tuesday's grind
   And jobs that must be done.
They're piling up while you're away,
Upon this foolish holiday.

Why should I have to sit and toil
   And know not sport nor ease,
And scribble rhymes to suit the times --
   Or not -- just as you please.
While you amid the wind-blown trees
Know all the joy of careless ease? 

Maybe you're in the far blue hills
   Or sporting by the sea;
But all your joy and gladness, boy,
   Mean not a thing to me.
For here with work I'm sorely vexed,
So fix your mind on Tuesday next.

The white gulls wheel above the sea;
   The wavelets lap the shore.
But I don't care, since I'm not there
   The whole thing is a bore.
While I, in pain, am scrawling this
Why should you know untarnished bliss?

So fix your mind on Tuesday, lad,
   It's not so far away.
The days are short when spent in sport,
   Then farewell holiday.
And, oh, what long days when it's done.
Tuesday is near. So cheer up, son!

First published in The Herald, 29 December 1927

A Forest Scene by C.J. Dennis

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As I went down a forest place
   At the closing of the year
To find me peace, and gather grace
   In this green gladness here.
I saw a scene I knew of old,
   In many a year gone by --
A loveliness to have and hold
Here, with the gully waters cold,
   And the bland, blue peeping sky.
And I saw the blue wrens trooping near,
   And I heard the thrushes call,
And found surcease from worldly fear --
   For a peace was over all.
And my mind went back to long ago,
   For here was a scene I knew
Where the gums and ancient tree ferns grow,
And the ever-lasting waters flow,
   And life yields little new.
And I thought of the world -- of the world of men,
   Who ever seek them change,
And haste, and hectic, haste again
   To a goal beyond their range.
And I heard the thrush and the blue wren there
   Fluting their songs of glee --
For them this world was passing fair,
And they found content and gladness there.
   Why came not peace to me?
Then I saw life, as men see life --
   I who am but a man;
And I dreamed of a scene devoid of strife,
   Built on the good God's plan.
And I came me back from that forest place,
   With a dream to have and hold,
Of men with naught but life to face,
Of men grown young in simple grace,
   And the birds and the bush grown old!

First published in The Herald, 28 December 1933

"Bosses Don't Seem Right" by C.J. Dennis

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A Christmas Monologue

The thing's all wrong (I sez to 'im)
Now look, there's this 'ere Monday, Jim,
Comes before Christmas.  Be a toff
An' lest us 'ave the Monday off.
'E 'ums an' 'ars.  An' then he's got
To talk a lot of silly rot
About 'ow business binds a man;
An' 'e don't quite see 'ow 'e can
Afford to give me Monday in,
Seein' he'll lose a lot of tin
Under our capit'listic plan
Which sort of binds a business man
'Lest his competitors was bound
To give the Monday all around.

If but ('e sez) they would agree
To let the trade 'ave Monday free
Then 'e would do it.  There you are!
Shows 'ow Democracy's a bar.
It's competition, don't you see,
That robs a man of liberty.
But, under Socialism . . . Wot?
Now, listen, I ain't talkin' rot.
I know that 'e's me boss.  But look,
Our scheme of Gover'ment's all crook.

Now, under Socialism, see,
If I said, "I want Monday free!"
Why, under right conditions, then,
They'd treat their men like they was men;
An' seein' it was Christmas week,
We would n't 'ave to go an' seek
No favors.  We'd just tell 'em flat:
"We're takin' Monday; an' that's that!"
Wot?  Bosses?  . . .  Well, I s'pose there'd be
This, wot you call, Bureaucracy.

To rule us.  Yes; per'aps there might;
An' as you say, it don't seem right
That they should want to boss a man . . . .
But wot about his Fascist plan?

Now, under that, we'd say, "look 'ere
Us fellers wants this Monday clear."
An', bein' reasonable like,
Blokes would n't 'ave to call a strike
To get their way . . . . Well, I suppose
There's be Dictators -- coves like those
To fed a coot on castor oil
If they decided not to toil
On Monday.  That seems pretty tough,
All systems seems to treat men rough.

First published in The Herald, 27 December 1934

Spatch and Dispatch by C.J. Dennis

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"Spatchcock," said we, with a lordly smile and a self-complacent air.
"Spatchcock," said we, as we licked our lips and bade our guests prepare.
For the feast grew fat by the barnyard door with the high fence all around;
And the peas grew plump, and the cress was green, and the axe was newly ground.
"Spatchcock," said we, "to feed a man as the gods were wont to feed.
On very especial table birds of a very especial breed."

Do the wild things know when Christmas comes in the fullness of the year?
Do they mark the tender cockerels wax as the festival draws near?
Else, why should brown fox count the days, and still restrain his greed?
Till the very day and the very hour when the best shall serve his need?
"Spatchcock," we'd said, "with tater chips, and all browned to a turn!"
How could we know that other eyes were watching from the fern?

"Spatchcock," we'd said, and licked our lips.  Ah, pity those who grieve!
He came with the first grey light of dawn on the morn of Christmas Eve;
And he climbed the fence as a possum climbs.  Hoop-la! and he was o'er;
And once he came, and twice he came, and three times more.
"Spatchcock," we'd gloated greedily. Ah, do not mock our grief!
For who makes wassail heartily on a dish of cold corned beef?

We hadn't the heart for plump green peas, or cress, or tater ships.
But, out somewhere in the secret scrub, brown fox, he licks his lips,
And the runs of six fat cockerels about his lair explain
Our lack of six especial birds of a very especial strain.
But, more than all this vexes us: How should brown fox conceive
That the zero hour for his ruthless raid was the dawn of Christmas Eve?

First published in The Herald, 26 December 1935

The Peace Society by C.J. Dennis

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Now, in the town of Tooralee
They formed a Peace Society;
   And they were noted near and far
   From Hitemup to Nastijar,
The folk of this Society,
For piety - true piety.
   They met and talked from time to time,
   And held all fighting was a crime,
A sin of dark variety
   In ev'ry age and clime.

They scoffed and sneered at War's alarms,
And said that folk who carried arms
   Were to be pitied and despised
   As savage and uncivilised,
Devoid of all humanity
Or sanity - true sanity:
   Seduced from happy, peaceful life
   By bloody hates of gun and knife,
And led by martial vanity
   To savag'ry and strife.

And they declared with ve-he-mence
Against all measures for defence,
   Maintaining that a peaceful pose
   Was quite embarrassing to foes,
And gained for the community
Immunity - immunity.
   They said no foe would ever harm
   The nation that refused to arm,
Nor seize the opportunity
   To raise the dread alarm.

Said they, if nations A and B
Sail battleships upon the sea,
   The day will come when some excuse
   They'll coin to let the War Dogs loose,
And shock with their brutality
Morality - morality.
   While nations, D and E who keep
   No fighting ships upon the deep,
Preserve a strict neutrality,
   And all the blessings reap.

'Twas such a very simple plan.
Quite plain to any thinking man:
   For A and B, you understand,
   Would never seek, by sea or land,
To tackle nations D or E
(In theory - good theory).
   Though A and B might rend the skies
   With cannon shot and battle cries,
With nation D, you see, or E
   No trouble could arise.

The Peace Society soon grew
Quite popular, as such things do,
   Its logic was so clear, you see,
   And Michael Slattery, J.P.,
A well respected resident,
Was president - High President,
   And Mr. Obadiah Lee
   Was Treasurer and Secret'ry -
Another noted resident,
   As peaceful as could be.

But in the town of Tooralee
And in full many towns there be
   A certain rowdy element
   Which causes strife and discontent,
And often falls to bickering
When liquoring - wet liquoring.
   Tim Monagin was such a one;
   When sober he was full of fun,
But when he started shickering
   He fairly took the bun.

Pat Lonagin, another lad
In whom the beer brought out the bad,
   Had long with Monagin a feud
   Which, when in liquor, he pursued.
And folk would cry, "There's Lonagin!
He's on agin - he's on agin!
   For all the day an' half the night
   He's scoured the town in search iv fight.
Shure, if he meets wid Monagin
   'Twill be a dandy sight!"

The Peace Society was pained
To see this wicked feud maintained;
   And Michael Slattery, J.P.,
   Suggested unto Mr. Lee
That they might, with impunity,
In unity - sweet unity -
   Approach the ever-warring pair,
   And reconcile them then and there.
They longed for opportunity,
   Their theories to air.

The opportunity came soon:
For on one summer afternoon
   The President and Secret'ry,
   The Peaceful Slattery and Lee,
Came suddenly on Monagin
And Lonagin - wild Lonagin -
   Engaged in sanguinary war;
   And, as they punched and kicked and tore,
Cried Monagin, "Come on agin!"
   While Lonagin he swore.

The President said just one word,
'Twas all the few spectators heard;
   Then Lonagin he turned from Tim
   To Slattery, and went for him
With fierce assault and battery.
On Slattery - mild Slattery -
   Came Lonagin with all his might
   And landed him with left and right.
'Twould be employing flattery
   To call the thing a fight.

And as for Monagin - well, he
Was busily employed with Lee,
   Who wished, and with a wish immense,
   He'd learnt the art of self-defence.
Blind rage and animosity,
Ferocity - ferocity -
   Beseiged the soul of Mr. Lee.
   He longed to slay his enemy,
Who, 'spite his ebriosity,
   Was fighting mighty free.

They say the Peace Society
Is dead in distant Tooralee.
   When next day they met, the President
   Confined his speech to one comment.
"Takes two to make a fight?" says he.
"Quite right," says he - "quite right," says he.
   "But Peace Societies won't do
   Unless the other chap jines too!
I bid you all good night," says he,
   "As President I'm through."

And as for Mr. Lee, he sought
A rude, uncultured man who taught
   The useful art of self-defence.
   He vaguely hopes that some day hence
He'll get a battle on again
With Monagin, mad Monagin,
   And then - but it were wise to state
   That they that learn the art too late
Are apt to find they're gone again.
   It isn't wise to wait.

The lesson is a simple one;
If you refuse to buy a gun
   You'll meet you Monagin some day
   And cut no figure in the fray,
Despite your notoriety
For piety - deep piety.
   A foe's a foe, howe'er you view
   The matter; and it doesn't do
To join a Peace Society
   Unless he joins it too.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 December 1913

A Bush Christmas by C.J. Dennis

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The sun burns hotly thro' the gums
As down the road old Rogan comes --
   The hatter from the lonely hut
   Beside the track to Woollybutt.
      He likes to spend his Christmas with us here.
He says a man gets sort of strange
Living alone without a change,
   Gets sort of settled in his way;
   And so he comes each Christmas day
To share a bite of tucker and a beer.

Dad and the boys have nought to do,
Except a stray odd job or two.
   Along the fence or in the yard,
   "It ain't a day for workin' hard."
Says Dad.  "One day a year don't matter much."
And then dishevelled, hot and red,
Mum, thro' the doorway puts her head
   And says, "This Christmas cooking, My!
   The sun's near fit for cooking by."
Upon her word she never did see such.

"Your fault," says Dad, "you know it is.
Plum puddin'!  on a day like this,
   And roasted turkeys!  Spare me days,
   I can't get over women's ways.
      In climates such as this the thing's all wrong.
A bit of cold corned beef an' bread
Would do us very well instead."
   Then Rogan said, "You're right; it's hot.
   It makes a feller drink a lot."
      And Dad gets up and says, "Well, come along."

The dinner's served -- full bite and sup.
"Come on," says Mum, "Now all sit up."
   The meal takes on a festive air;
   And even father eats his share
      And passes up his plate to have some more.
He laughs and says it's Christmas time,
"That's cookin', Mum. The stuffin's prime."
   But Rogan pauses once to praise,
   Then eats as tho' he'd starved for days.
      And pitches turkey bones outside the door.

The sun burns hotly thro' the gums,
The chirping of the locusts comes
   Across the paddocks, parched and grey.
   "Whew!" wheezes Father. "What a day!"
      And sheds his vest.  For coats no man had need.
Then Rogan shoves his plate aside
And sighs, as sated men have sighed,
   At many boards in many climes
   On many other Christmas times.
      "By gum!" he says, "That was a slap-up feed!"

Then, with his black pipe well alight,
Old Rogan brings the kids delight
   By telling o'er again his yarns
   Of Christmas tide 'mid English barns
      When he was, long ago, a farmer's boy.
His old eyes glisten as he sees
Half glimpses of old memories,
   Of whitened fields and winter snows,
   And yuletide logs and mistletoes,
   And all that half-forgotten, hallowed joy.

The children listen, mouths agape,
And see a land with no escape
   For biting cold and snow and frost --
   A land to all earth's brightness lost,
      A strange and freakish Christmas land to them.
But Rogan, with his dim old eyes
Grown far away and strangely wise
   Talks on; and pauses but to ask
   "Ain't there a drop more in that cask?"
   And father nods; but Mother says "Ahem!"

The sun slants redly thro' the gums
As quietly the evening comes,
   And Rogan gets his old grey mare,
   That matches well his own grey hair,
      And rides away into the setting sun.
"Ah, well," says Dad.  "I got to say
I never spent a lazier day.
   We ought to get that top fence wired."
   "My!" sighs poor Mum.  "But I am tired!
      An' all that washing up still to be done."

First published in The Herald, 24 December 1931;
and later in
More than a Sentimental Bloke, 1990.

The Singing Soldiers by C.J. Dennis

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"When I'm sittin' in me dug-out wiv me rifle on me knees,
An' a yowlin', 'owlin' chorus comes a-floatin' up the breeze -
   Jist a bit o' 'Bonnie Mary' or 'Long Way to Tipperary' -
Then I know I'm in Australia, took an' planted overseas.
   They've bin up agin it solid since we crossed the flamin' foam;
   But they're singin' - alwiz singin' - since we left the wharf at 'ome.

"O, it's 'On the Mississippi' or 'Me Grey 'Ome in the West.'
If it's death an' 'ell nex' minute they must git it orf their chest.
   'Ere's a snatch o' 'When yer Roamin' - When yer Roamin' in the Gloamin'.'
'Struth!  The first time that I 'eard it, wiv me 'ead on Rosie's breast,
   We wus comin' frum a picnic in a Ferntree Gully train . . .
   But the shrapnel made the music when I 'eard it sung again."

So I gits it straight frum Ginger in 'is letter 'ome to me,
On a dirty scrap o' paper wiv the writin' 'ard to see.
   "Strike!" sez 'e.  "It sounds like skitin'; but they're singin' while they're fightin';
An' they socks it into Abdul to the toon o' 'Nancy Lee'.
   An' I seen a bloke this mornin' wiv 'is arm blown to a rag,
   'Ummin' 'Break the Noos to Mother', w'ile 'e sucked a soothin' fag.

"Now, the British Tommy curses, an' the French does fancy stunts,
An' the Turk 'e 'owls to Aller, an' the Gurkha grins an' grunts;
   But our boys is singin', singin', while the blinded shells is flingin'
Mud an' death inter the trenches in them 'eavens called the Fronts.
   An' I guess their souls keep singin' when they gits the tip to go . . ."
   So I gits it, straight frum Ginger; an', Gawstruth!  'e ort to know.

An' 'is letter gits me thinkin' when I read sich tales as these,
An' I takes a look around me at the paddicks an' the trees;
   When I 'ears the thrushes trillin', when I 'ear the magpies fillin'
All the air frum earth to 'eaven wiv their careless melerdies -
   It's the sunshine uv the country, caught an' turned to bonzer notes;
   It's the sunbeams changed to music pourin' frum a thousand throats.

Can a soljer 'elp 'is singin' when 'e's born in sich a land?
Wiv the sunshine an' the music pourin' out on ev'ry 'and;
   Where the very air is singin', an' each breeze that blows is bringin'
'Armony an' mirth an' music fit to beat the 'blazin' band.
   On the march, an' in the trenches, when a swingin' chorus starts,
   They are pourin' bottled sunshine of their 'Omeland frum their 'earts.

O I've 'eard it, Lord, I've 'eard it since the days when I wus young,
On the beach an' in the bar-room, in the bush I've 'eard it sung;
   "Belle Mahone" an' "Annie Laurie," "Sweet Marie" to "Tobermory,"
Common toons and common voices, but I've 'eard 'em when they rung
   Wiv full, 'appy 'earts be'ind 'em, careless as a thrush's song -
   Wiv me arm around me cliner, an' me notions fur frum wrong.

So they growed wiv 'earts a-singin' since the days uv careless kids;
Beefin' out an 'appy chorus jist when Mother Nacher bids;
   Singin', wiv their notes a-quiver, "Down upon the Swanee River,"
Them's sich times I'd not be sellin' fer a stack uv golden quids.
   An' they're singin', still they're singin', to the sound uv guns an' drums,
   As they sung one golden Springtime underneath the wavin' gums.

When they socked it to the Southland wiv our sunny boys aboard -
Them that stopped a dam torpeder, an' a knock-out punch wus scored;
   Tho' their 'ope o' life grew murky, wiv the ship 'ead over turkey,
Dread o' death an' fear o' drownin' wus jist trifles they ignored.
   They spat out the blarsted ocean, an' they filled 'emselves wiv air,
   An' they passed along the chorus of "Australia will be There".

Yes, they sung it in the water; an' a bloke aboard a ship
Sez 'e knoo they wus Australians be the way they give it lip -
   Sung it to the soothin' motion of the dam devourin' ocean
Like a crowd o' seaside trippers in to 'ave a little dip.
   When I 'card that tale, I tell yeh, straight, I sort o' felt a choke;
   Fer I seemed to 'ear 'em singin', an' I know that sort o' bloke.

Yes, I know 'im; so I seen 'im, barrackin' Eternity.
An' the land that 'e wus born in is the land that mothered me.
   Strike!  I ain't no sniv'lin' blighter; but I own me eyes git brighter
When I see 'em pokin' mullock at the everlastin' sea:
   When I 'ear 'em mockin' terror wiv a merry slab o' mirth,
   'Ell!  I'm proud I bin to gaol in sich a land as give 'em birth!

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

"When I'm sittin' in me dug-out wiv the bullets droppin' near,"
Writes ole Ginger; "an' a chorus smacks me in the flamin' ear:
   P'raps a song that Rickards billed, or p'raps a line o' Waltz Matilder,
Then I feel I'm in Australia, took an' shifted over 'ere.
   Till the music sort o' gits me, an' I lets me top notes roam
   While I treats the gentle foeman to a chunk uv "Ome, Sweet 'Ome'."

They wus singin' on the troopship, they wus singin' in the train;
When they left their land be'ind 'em they wus shoutin' a refrain,
   An' I'll bet they 'ave a chorus, gay an' glad in greetin' for us,
When their bit uv scappin's over, an' they lob back 'ome again. . .
   An' the blokes that ain't returnin' - blokes that's paid the biggest price,
   They go singin', singin', singin' to the Gates uv Paradise.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 December 1915;
and later in
The Moods of Ginger Mick by C.J. Dennis, 1916; 
More Than a Sentimental Bloke, 1990; and
Bugger the Music: Give Us a Poem edited by Keith McKenry, 1998.

Victory is Not an End by C.J. Dennis

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On all sides it is acknowledged that the United Australia Party has scored a triumphant victory in the Federal election.

Victory is not an end.
   When the shout, the cheers have died
May the kindly fates defend
   Victors from enfeebling pride.
While great tasks are yet to do,
   Fault and error yet to mend,
This the strong man ever knew:
   Victory is not an end.

Never has iconoclast
   Gloating over follies killed
Won a triumph that might last,
   Lest his hand moved to rebuild.
Never has a conqueror
   Won true wisdom for a friend,
Lest he conned this lesson o'er:
   Victory is not an end.

They are great in triumph who,
   With the foeman in the dust,
Turn to labors yet to do
   That they may uphold men's trust.
They are wise who, striving yet,
   To the sterner tasks shall bend,
And 'mid clamorings ne'er forget
   Victory is not an end.

First published in The Herald, 22 December 1931

Men by C.J. Dennis

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"I cannot believe," said a London judge, "that the laws regarding a man's wife is the same as for a man's dog or a noisy machine." He was discussing a case in which the neighbours of a man sought to put him in gaol because, in his absence, his wife persistently cried, whined, and moaned.

I sea, "Mrs. B.,--an' I think you'll agree-- 
To call any one dawgs ain't a 'abit with me;
An' no more ain't it been to find likeness atween 
A decent-spoke soul an' a noisy machine. 
No, there's limits, mum, limits, that's puttin' it plain, 
To me 'ablts of speech when I wish to complain."

But I sez, "Mrs. B, if you'll listen to me, 
You'll know that men ain't all they're reckoned to be. 
As for weepin' an' wailin' because they leaves 'ome, 
It ain't been me 'abit; I sez let 'em roam. 
As I sez to my George--an' it's tellln' no lies-- 
When 'e 'angs round the 'ouse 'e is worse'n the flies. 
As for moanin' an' groanin', you'll find it a fack,
The time for sich doin's is when they comes back." 

I sez. "Mrs. B., I am all thirty-three, 
Tho' you'd 'ardly believe it by lookin' at me, 
An' I've studied the men from their 'eads to their toes. 
An' there's none worth yer owlin' as fur as that goes. 
Taint 'owlin' but growlin' you gits out of them. 
As fer dawgs--well, I never was one to condemn."

I sez. "But, Mrs. B., if you listen to me 
You'll give up the 'abit of gin in yer tea.   
For tea's a nice tipple; an' so, ma'am, is gin; 
But to mix 'em together is worsen a sin ... 
Oh, shut up yer yelpin'! Why, dawgs an' machines 
Don't 'arf-way describe wot sich catterwauls means!"

First published in The Herald, 21 December 1936;
and later in
The Queenslander, 6 May 1937.

Those Christmas Shoppers by C.J. Dennis

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Here they come -- the Christmas shoppers!
Harried "Mums" and weary "Poppers" --
   Here they plod on suffering feet.
   All the family complete.
Eager urchin, wide-eyed maiden,
Each with many a parcel laden;
   Lagging, loitering; on once more,
   Into yet another store.
Way, make way for Christmas shoppers!
Bane of tortured traffic "coppers" --
   Dashing out to beat the light;
   Dashing back in sudden fright.
Popper meets a friend, and beckons.
"Won't be long, Mum.  Coupla secon's."
   Mum says, "Well, then, hurry -- thro.
   We've still got a dozen shops to do."
Hurry on, there, Christmas shoppers,
Window gazers, parcel droppers!...
   Popper comes back, looking vague;
   Says this shopping is a plague.
Mum says, "Well!  You ought to grumble."
Pop says, "Sorry," and looks humble.
   Round the corner, on once more,
   Drifting round from store to store.
Pass along, then, Christmas shoppers!
"Look!  Balloons, Mum!  Oo what whoppers!"
   Mum says, "Hurry!  Goodness me,
   I've simply got to have some tea!"
Sign that dull depression's lifting,
Christmas shoppers, see them drifting.
   See them buying.  Dread is done.
   "A Merry Christmas, everyone!"

First published in The Herald, 20 December 1933

The Rise and Growth of Windywoe by C.J. Dennis

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It is stated that many railway lines in the State that have never paid and are considered never likely to pay, will shortly be closed.  They were mostly built out of loan money. - News item.

Long since a roadway used to go
Down to the town of Windywoe,
   And teamsters' waggons on the track
   Carried our trade goods forth and back,
But Joseph Jimpson-Jones Esquire,
The leading light within our shire,
   Proposed a railway line as well.
   The interest?  Pah!  A bagatelle.

Now this same Joseph Jimpson-Jones,
At that time owned -- in fact still owns
   Vast tracts of land about the place.
   He said it was a gave disgrace
That Windywoe possessed no train;
And so he labored might and main
   To pull at certain secret strings
   (In those dark days they did such things.)

The ultimate result was fine,
And Windywoe secured its line;
   And cash from certain public loans
   Bought certain lands from Jimpson-Jones
At certain fancy prices which
Inclined to make him passing rich.
   The interest?  Pah!  What should we acre?
   That was posterity's affair.

Then twice a day the train came down
To wake our slumbrous little town;
   And twice a day the train puffed out
   A pretty sight, which marked, no doubt,
Great progress, tho' I've heard them say
The line was never made to pay.
   'Twas progress, and unwept, unsung,
   The old-time teamsters all went bung.

Time mooched on slowly, year by year,
And motors started to appear
   Upon the road to Windywoe.
   More progress, as of course, you know,
As for the railway, we confess
Its revenues grew less and less.
   The interest?  Well, as you're aware;
   Taxpayers see to that affair.

We owned, in backward days of yore,
One blacksmith's shop, one pub, one store,
   Today we have, as times enlarge,
   One pub, one store and one garage.
There's progress for a little town!
They railway?  Oh, they shut that down.
   The train that used to run is gone...
   Of course, the interest still runs on.

First published in The Herald, 19 December 1934

Tomorrow's Choice by C.J. Dennis

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Tomorrow shall your vote decide
Your land's humility or pride.
And for long years that mark may be
The arbiter of history.

Mayhap no day in all your life
Holds graver choice 'twixt peace and strife,
No action, of design or chance,
Be fraught with more significance.

Not thro' unwise experiment
And days in mad class-warfare spent
Has any nation of the earth 
Won aught of true and lasting worth.

Then set your faith, not in the man
Who by some mystic wizard's plan
Would conjure wealth from nothingness
And money from a printing press.

But glean your wisdom from the years
Whose tale of human hopes and fears
Bears witness no magician's art
Won profit yet by field or mart.

Truth, humor and integrity
These ever shall and yet shall be
The touchstones in which men's sound sense
Shall place the final confidence.

First published in The Herald, 18 December 1931

The Last Sundowner by C.J. Dennis

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He sat upon a fallen log
   And heaved a long, deep sigh.
His gnarled hand fondling his old dog
   As his gaze went to the sky.
"There goes another pane," said he --
   "A soarin', roarin' pest!
They robs a man of privacy,
   An' motor cars of rest."

"Sundownin' ain't the game ut was
   Since men have took to wings;
An' life grows narrer, jist because
   Of plans an' cars an' things.
For the planes have pinched me privit skies
   An' the cars have grabbed me earth
An' all the news by wireless flies;
   So what's sundownin' worth?

"Time was when I could sit me down
   Where man had left no sign,
An' earth an' sky for miles aroun'
   For that one hour was mine.
And I could sit an' think me thorts
   An' watch the sun go west
Without no crazy ingine's snorts
   To break into me rest.

"And as the afternoon grew late
   I'd seek the haunts of men,
An' at some lonely homestead gate
   I'd have sure welcome then;
An' tucker-bags were gladly filled,
   And rest found for my back,
In 'change for bits of news I spilled
   And gossip of the track.

"But now that wireless spreads its lies
   From this and other lands,
They look on me with hard, cold eyes
   An' give with grudgin' hands.
It's them that has to give me news;
   And when I seek some wide,
Once silent scene, planes spoil me views,
   An' cars honk me aside."

He sat upon a fallen log
   And heaved a long, deep sigh:
"We're agein', me an' my ole dog,
  An' old things have to die.
Sundownin's dead; men's minds an' ways
   Is changin' with a jerk.
Seems like I'll have to end me days,
   Travellin'; in search of work."

First published in The Herald, 17 December 1934;
and later in
The Queenslander, 24 January 1935; and
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001.

Rope's End by C.J. Dennis

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The Federal Session is drawing to a close, and Ministers are confident of getting into recess. - Recent news item.

   Ho, the good ship Fusion's 'ove in sight
      Of the 'arbor at Recess,
   She's sailin' slow with 'er 'ull down low,
      An' she's plainly in distress.
   'Er sheets is tore an' 'er gear's askew,
      She's a most unsightly ship;
   Fer she shipped a real ole rough-up crew,
      An' she's 'ad a crazy trip.

         But 'eave dull care
            Right overside,
         Fer the 'arbor's there,
            An' we'll gently ride
         Right into Port Recess.
                     O yes.
         To the safety of Recess.
Fer the cruise wus rough, an' we've 'ad enough
         Of a life on the rollin' sea;
Of the pitchin' an' the tossin', an' the floggin' and the bossin',
         And the threats of mu-tin-nee.

   Ho, the good ship Fusion's comin' in,
      An' 'er main-top gallant's gone;
   But we know she's safe by the wide, glad grin
      On the purser bold, B John.
   But the capting 'e ain't wild wi' glee,
      An' 'is troubles ain't done yet,
   Fer 'e knows 'e's failed in the course 'e sailed,
      An' the owners mus' be met.

         But 'ip 'ooray!
            Fer we 'ardly thort
         When we sailed away
            That we'd land in port.
         An' a cheer for fust-mate Joe!
         'E's a rare ole salt is Joe.
'E seen us thro', fer 'e hazed the crew,
         An' 'e cowed 'em good an' quick.
Fer the lubbers started growlin' when the windy storms wus howlin'
         But Joe he done the trick.

   Ho! the seas wus rough at Finance rock,
      An' we nigh on guv up 'ope:
   Fer the crew went wild; but the capting smiled
      When the fust mate seized a rope.
   With a good rope's-end 'e set to mend
      Their ways wi' a rough, rude shock;
   An' 'e hazed 'em good, as a fust mate should,
      An' we weathered Finance rock.

         O, the seas wus bad,
            An' the crazy crew
         Wus nigh on mad,
            An' the tempest grew,
         An' it looked like Davey Jones;
                     I owns
         I thort of Davey Jones.
But the fust mate 'e smelled mu-ti-nee,
         An' 'e seized a rope's-end tough,
An' 'e druv 'em to their places, with terror on their faces,
         Till they sed they 'ad enough.

   Ho, the good ship Fusion's nigh to port,
      An' it's joy fer ev'ry 'and.
   But the capting 'e sits mournfullee,
      A-watchin' of the land.
   Fer the course 'e took ain't by the book
      As 'is owner told 'im to;
   Fer 'e left the chart to the fust mate's part,
      An' the 'andlin' of the crew.

         But it's 'ip 'ooray!
            Ses the foremast 'and,
         Fer the joyful day
            When we treads the land
         In the harbor of Recess.
                     O yes,
         There's a rest at Port Recess.
An' it's 'ip, 'ip, 'ip! fer the Fusion ship,
         Fer 'er sailin' days is o'er.
She's a 'ulk they're all abusin', an' she's seed 'er last o' cruisin',
         An' she'll put to sea no more. 

First published in The Bulletin, 16 December 1909

The Ridge Road by C.J. Dennis

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After Strezlecki, settlers came,
   Back in the old hard years,
To play a lonely, losing game
'Gainst Gippsland mud and forest flame -
   Tough-hearted pioneers.
A scanty living here to seek,
   They fought a battle dire;
They blazed a trail to Brandy Creek
And travelled fifty miles a week
   On sledges thro' the mire.

They called their inn the "Robin Hood,"
   A welcome refuge then,
Last outpost of good cheer that stood,
Most fitly, by the robber wood
   That filched the strength of men.
And after, on the way they took
   By Warragul and Drouin,
By Gunyah-Gunyah and Balook,
Stood many a home by hill and brook
   Gone, like their hopes, to ruin.

But now who seeks, on pleasure bent,
   The road that tops the ridge
Where once the struggling settlers went
Shall find a land of sleek content
   By bank and sturdy bridge.
And where the men knew the forest's wrath
   Around the Allambee,
By Kurrajong and Mirboo North,
The silver way goes winding forth
   To Yarram and the sea.

First published in The Herald, 15 December 1931

Xmas at Brady's Gap by C.J. Dennis

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Ho, the pleasures uv a cockie's life is as scanty as the rain
   An' it aint the rustic bliss thet some supposes;
Tho' its fur frum hurry-scurry, it's a 'ternal toil and worry,
   'Long a path thet's strewed with cockspur 'stid uv roses.
But once a year, in lonesome Brady's Gap afar away,
   The world takes on a tone a trifle bright,
With the races held in Billy Nolan's paddick Chris'mas day,
   An' the darnce in Brady's barn a Chris'mas night.

'E slings aside the cares uv life, the 'arrers an' the plough,
  A day an' night in joyfulness 'e's swimmin'.
'E grooms 'is faithful neddy, an' 'e togs 'imself out reddy,
   Fer a flutter with the 'orses and the wimmin;
An' ev'ry cove thet owns a moke, thet's gaime to raise a trot,
   An' aint too sore, or lame, 'e brings it up.
You mightn't call 'em racers, but they're pretty even pacers,
  An' the finishes ud lick a Melbun Cup.

Pat Casey, frum the shanty, 'as the right to fix a booth
   In the middle uv the paddick in the sun;
An' fore the fall uv night there's a muchal sorter fight,
   W'en Casey's fightin' beer is gettin' done.
Ther's scraps an' shindies ev'rywhere towards the close uv day,
   Fer ev'ry race is bound to be protested,
Until the flutter's run in the settin' uv the sun,
   An', barring Casey, most uv us is bested.

The coves thet's fairly sober 'as some tucker and a wash,
   An' gets the bits uv paddick off their clothes;
Then 'aving got the ladies, we makes a move to Brady's,
   An' stan's around the barn in sep'rate rows.
So it's start the old accorjin to the chune uv a quadrille,
   An' get the couples paired an' put to rights;
Then the comp'ny pegs away till dawnin' uv the day,
   With intervals between fer drinks and fights.

That's the annual injoyment thet the simple rustics meet,
   In this rain-forsaken land, w'ere joy is scant --
W'ere the cockie has illusions 'e kin raise a crop uv wheat,
   An' th' Almighty 'as convictions thet 'e can't.
It's the only bit uv color in a life thet's dull an' gray,
   It's the single joy we have to keep in sight:
Lookin' forward to the meetin' in the paddick Chris'mas Day,
   An' the darnce in Brady's barn a Chris'mas night.

First published in The Critic, 14 December 1901

When the Crop's Above the Fence by C.J. Dennis

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Have you ever followed harrers, when you couldn't see the team
For the blindin', chokin' dust that clung around you?
Have you ever tackled cleanin' when it's mostly dirt you're screenin'?
Have the rabbits or the locusts ever found you?
Have you ever reaped two bushels, with the price at one-an'-eight?
Did you ever think it worth your while to cart it?
Have you ever finished seedin', when the rain is all you're needin',
An' there never comes a blessed drop to start it?
         Oh, the weariness an' wear
         Of the waitin' an' despair,
When the crop is thin an' spare, an' when the drouthy days commence.
         Then you view the land like Moses,
         As each red-hot evenin' closes:
But it's bloomin' milk and roses when the crop's above the fence!

Have you stood an' watched the weather gather thickly in the west?
Have your spirits rose as skies began to frown?
Have the clouds that promised rain -- cleared, an' come, an' cleared again?
Have your fingers ever itched to tear 'em down?
Have you gone to bunk at evenin', when the clouds nigh touched the earth?
Have you listened for the patter on the roof?
Has the mornin' broken clear, with a hellish atmosphere,
That you swore, by all the gods, was waterproof?
         When you're worn for want o' sleepin',
         An' the weary watch you're keepin';
When the crop is slyly peepin', an' you're crazin' with suspense:
         With the watchin' an' the waitin',
         'Neath a sky like copper-platin'.
Oh, ain't it elevatin' when the crop's above the fence.

Have you ever felt the burden of a weighty over draft,
When your implements an' stock were up the spout,
When a drop of rain would make you, an' a wind from north would break you?
Have you tried to calmly sit an' see it out?
Have you interviewed the manager, an' crawled for all you're worth?
Have you waited his reply, with thoughts that burnt?
Have you ever tried a fake, for the wife an' kiddies' sake?
Has he told you that he's sorry -- but he durn't? 
         Oh, the strainin' an' the strivin',
         An' the plannin' an' contrivin',
When the Bank has took to drivin', a' puts off polite pretense:
         When it takes to plainly statin'
         That it's gettin' tir'd of waitin' --
Tho', it's most accommodatin' when the crop's above the fence.

Have you watched your kiddies graftin' from the time they learned to walk?
Have you told yourself it isn't just nor fair?
Did you note the missus frettin', summer evenin's, when you're settin'
By the slip rails, try'n' to get a breath of air?
Worst of troubles that beset you -- has the rust been in an' e't you?
When you wouldn't cut for hay, altho' 'twas sense.
Then you've had good cause to rue it, as the reaper slithers thro' it,
Bag an acre! tho' it stands above the fence.
         Oh, you dwellers in the city!
         Can you spare one thought of pity
For the cockie and the grit he shows, when heart and mind are tense?
         Tough old battlers all!  Here's to you!
         You were white men as I knew you --
Here's a Merry Chris'mas to you, and a crop above the fence!

First published in The Critic, 13 December 1902

Moonlight by C.J. Dennis

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I love you, dear, o' morn and moon.
   I love your ev'ry mood and guise;
But, neath the soft, enchanting moon,
   Such loveliness the gods must prize.
'Tis then I long to dare and fight
   The world for you, my queen o' night.

We wander in a jewelled bower;
   And, tho' I be your humble slave,
Within that brief, enchanted hour
  I know that I am strong and brave.
'Tis then red war I yearn to make
   And conquer worlds for your sweet sake.

And old romance in splendour comes
   From out the hills to linger nigh;
And in our cause the brave old gums
  Stand sentinel against the sky.
'Tis then I would outrival Mars
   For you -- the sovereign of the stars! 

First published in The Gadfly, 12 December 1906;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

In Spadger's Lane by C.J. Dennis

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Ole Mother Moon 'oo yanks 'er beamin' dile
   Acrost the sky when we've grown sick o' day,
She's like some fat ole Jane 'oo loves to smile
   On all concerned, an' smooth our faults away;
An', like a woman, tries to 'ide again
The sores an' scars crool day 'as made too plain.

To all the earth she gives the soft glad-eye;
   She picks no fav'rits in this world o' men;
She peeps in nooks, where 'appy lovers sigh,
   To make their job more bonzer still; an' then,
O'er Spadger's Lane she waves a podgy 'and,
An' turns the scowlin' slums to Fairyland.

Aw, strike!  I'm gettin' soft in my ole age!
   I'm growin' mushy wiv the passin' years.
Me! that 'as called it weakness to ingage
   In sloppy thorts that coax the pearly tears.
But say, me state o' mind I can't ixplain
When I seen Rose lars' night in Spadger's Lane.

'Twas Spadger's Lane where Ginger Mick 'ung out
   Before 'e took to follerin' the Flag;
The Lane that echoed to 'is drunken shout
   When 'e lobbed 'omeward on a gaudy jag.
Now Spadger's Lane knows Ginger Mick no more,
Fer 'e's become an 'ero at the War.

A flamin' 'ero at the War, that's Mick.
   An' Rose - 'is Rose, is waitin' in the Lane,
Nursin' 'er achin' 'eart, an' lookin' sick
   As she crawls out to work an' 'ome again,
Givin' the bird to blokes 'oo'd be 'er "friend,"
An' prayin', wiv the rest, fer wars to end.

Quite right; I'm growin' sloppy fer a cert;
   But I must git it orf me chest or bust.
So 'ere's a song about a grievin' skirt,
   An' love, an' Ginger Mick, an' maiden trust!
The choky sort o' song that fetches tears
When blokes is full o' sentiment-or beers.

Lars' night, when I sneaks down to taste again
   The sights an' sounds I used to know so well,
The moon wus shinin' over Spadger's Lane,
   Sof'nin' the sorrer where 'er kind light fell:
Sof'nin' an' soothin', like it wus 'er plan
To make ixcuses fer the sins uv man.

Frum shadder inter shadder, up the street,
   A prowlin' moll sneaks by, wiv eyes all 'ate,
Dodgin' some unseen John, 'oo's sure, slow feet
   Comes tappin' after, certin as 'er fate;
In some back crib, a shicker's loud 'owled verse
Stops sudden, wiv a crash, an' then a curse.

Low down, a splotch o' red, where 'angs a blind
   Before the winder uv a Chow caboose,
Shines in the dead black wall, an' frum be'ind,
   Like all the cats o' Chinertown broke loose,
A mad Chow fiddle wails a two-note toon ...
An' then I seen 'er, underneath the moon.

Rosie the Rip they calls 'er int he Lane;
   Fer she wus alwus willin' wiv 'er 'an's,
An' uses 'em to make 'er meanin' plain
   In ways theat Spadger's beauties understan's.
But when ole Ginger played to snare 'er 'eart,
Rosie the Rip wus jist the soft, weak tart.

'Igh in 'er winder she wus leanin' out,
   Swappin' remarks wiv fat ole Mother Moon.
The things around I clean Fergot about -
   Fergot the fiddle an' its crook Chow toon;
I only seen one woman in the light
Achin' to learn 'er forchin frum the night.

Ole Ginger's Rose!  To see 'er sittin' there,
   The moonlight shinin' fair into 'er face,
An' sort o' touchin' gentle on 'er 'air,
   It made me fair fergit the time an' place.
I feels I'm peepin' where I never ought,
An' tries 'arf not to 'ear the words I caught.

One soljer's sweetheart, that wus wot I seen:
   One out o' thousands grievin' thro' the land.
A tart frum Spadger's or a weepin' queen -
   Wot's there between 'em, when yeh understand
She 'olds fer Mick, wiv all 'is ugly chiv,
The best a lovin' woman 'as to give.

The best a woman 'as to give - Aw, 'Struth!
   When war, an' grief, an' trouble's on the land
Sometimes a bloke gits glimpses uv the truth
   An' sweats 'is soul to try an' understand . . .
An' then the World, like some offishus John,
Shoves out a beefy 'and, an' moves 'im on.

So I seen Rose; an' so, on that same night
   I seen a million women grievin' there.
Ole Mother Moon she showed to me a sight
   She sees around the World, most everyw'ere -
Sneakin' beneath the shadder uv the wall
I seen, an' learned, an' understood it all.

An' as I looks at Rosie, dreamin' there,
   'Er 'ead drops on 'er arms . . . I seems to wake;
I sees the moonlight streamin' on 'er 'air;
   I 'ears 'er sobbin' like 'er 'eart ud break.
An' me there, pryin' on 'er misery.
"Gawstruth!" I sez, "This ain't no place fer me!"

On my tip-toes I sneaks the way I came -
   (The crook Chow fiddle ain't done yowlin' yet) -
An' tho' I tells it to me bitter shame -
   I'm gittin' soft as 'ell - me eyes wus wet.
An' that stern John, as I go moochin' by
Serloots me wiv a cold, unfeelin' eye.

The fat ole Mother Moon she's got a 'eart.
   An' so I like to think, when she looks down
Wiv 'er soft gaze upon some weepin tart
   In bonzer gardens or the slums o' town;
She soothes 'em, mother-like, wiv podgy 'ands,
An' makes 'em dream agen uv peaceful lands.

First published in The Bulletin, 11 December 1915;
and later in
The Moods of Ginger Mick by C.J. Dennis, 1916; and
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis, 1988.

The Idolators by C.J. Dennis

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The veil was rent, and mundane Time merged in Eternity;
And I beheld the End of Things.  I heard the Last Decree
Pronounced on all the World that Is, and Was, and Is to Be.

Rank upon rank before the Throne the Nations were arrayed,
And every man since Time began by his own act was weighed;
Till, to the Right, the diffident Elected stood dismayed.

For here the lowly Lazarus, and all his kind and ken --
Repentant knave and serf and slave and humble beggar-men --
In wonder looked from Damned to Throne, then on the Damned again.

Gaunt, tousled creatures of the streets still trembled, half in fear;
Weak women who had "sinned" for love, and common folk were here,
Facing the Lost, yet doubting  still that the Decree was clear.

For on the Left amid the Damned, a thousand million strong,
There stood a band of "righteous" folk -- a very "genteel" throng;
All much surprised and scandalised, and scenting "something wrong."

Here reigned Respectability 'mid virgins sour and chaste;
Prim, haughty dames, whose worldly aims had been in perfect taste,
Shorn of their pride, stood side by side with sweaters leaden-faced.

Strict folk, who ne'er had sinned without due reck'ning of the cost,
Sniffed disapproval and declared the function was a frost,
And vowed the angel-ushers erred in marking them as Lost.

Strange men there were of ev'ry age since Man did first increase,
From Adam on to Babylon, from Persia to Greece,
From Greece and Rome, to England, on till Time was bidden cease.

Courtiers were there, and prince and peer -- ay, even brewery-knights -- 
Preachers and parsons, Pharisees, Gentiles and Israelites,
Pharaohs and Caesars, Emperors and smug suburbanites.

Yea, every canting hypocrite since early Eocene,
In skin and silk and suit of mail and broadcloth stood serene,
Full sure his plight would be set right when the "mistake" was seen.

And, as they gazed, shocked and amazed, upon the chosen side --
On folk ill-clad in rags that had half-clothed them when they died --
Lord God, they're not respectable! Nay, have a care!" they cried.

Then stepped there forth, consumed with wrath, an unctuous alderman;
And, standing out before the Throne, he pompously began --
(In life he built a church, and many "charities" he ran) --

"Most High, the Heavenly Court, and Friends I do not wish to blame
Where blame is not deserved; but I protest it is a shame
That such a state of things exists; and I regret I came.

"I -- I, a pillar of the Church, a famed philanthropist,
Who, on a Sabbath went to chapel thrice, and never missed;
I, rich, respectable, am down on the 'Rejected' list.

"It is absurd, upon my word, when even Royalty
Is bid make way for yon array of rags and misery!
Ay, even vice, to my surprise, in their soiled ranks I see!

"'Tis past a jest; and I protest it is an insult when
That common, motley crew of low, ill-bred, unlettered men
Is set on high, while such as I are herded in this pen!

And, as he closed, the huddled rows of Damned caught up the cry ;
From many million "genteel" throats a shout went to the sky:
"Lord God, they're not respectable! Beware, beware, Most High!"

Close on their shout The Voice rang out, and took them like a flood;
Till king and khan and alderman and prince of royal blood,
And chief and lord and preacher cowered and trembled where they stood.

"Ye knew my life, ye knew my Law, ye mocked with hollow praise;
Ye knelt to me in blasphemy once in the Seven Days;
Then raised an idol in my place and went your idol's ways.

"To this ye turned; for this ye spurned the Man of Galilee;
And in your hearts ye sacrificed to other gods than me;
Nor ceased to crawl to it ye call 'Respectability.'

"And when its Law was not my Law, say, whither did ye lean?
Did ye heed my Word or seek to aid my humble folk and mean?
Ye prayed unto a myth and scorned the lowly Nazarene.

"E'en as ye judged my People here, so are ye judged and weighed;
But the humble mates of Christ the Carpenter today are paid.
My folk they be; I know not ye.  Go, call your god to aid."

And lo, adown the shining stairs, each with a flaming sword,
Avenging hosts of angels came -- yet howled the stricken horde,
"Lord God, they're not respectable!  Be warned in time, O Lord!"

Then yawned agape and greedily a horrid, fiery cleft,
And prince and king and alderman, of pomp and pride bereft,
Went, pressed like herded cattle, till no trace of gloom was left.

Yet, as they fell, the gates of Hell gave back a cry that came --
Now far and faint, a doleful plaint - all muffled through the flame,
"Lord God, they're not respectable!  O, King of Kings, for shame!"

First published in The Bulletin, 10 December 1908;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Suburbia - A Yearn by C.J. Dennis

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O man with a Position, prithee tell,
How is't you mould your sal'ried life so well;
Holding in lofty scorn that lowly mob
Of "Blokes" who earn mere "wages" at a "job".

Knights of Suburbia, whose only care
Is to be counted 'mid the "naicest" there,
Teach me how I, some day, may learn to be
Clothed in drab Respectability.

I cannot muster due respect for those
Who wear the very nicest kind of clothes;
Nor does the Upper House sufficiently
Impress the dull, "right-thinking" part o' me.

Fain would I garb my meekness in a coat
Whose very blackness struck a pious note,
And crease my pants, and aye, with tender care,
Arrange becomingly my plebian hair.

A "Something in the City" would I be,
With due respect for men of Propputy.
Or sooth, if such ambition be too rash,
I'd, as a godlike grocer, groce for cash.

Ah, lead me to some suburb grey and calm!
My very soul craves for a potted palm
In my front porch.  Nay, but it were sublime
To stalk the stealthy slug o' summer-time.

Then would I take some proper girl to wife,
And know the joys of a "well-ordered" life,
Beget suburban daughters who would be
Models of drawing-room propriety.

Ah me, that drawing-room! -- my lady's pride.
With products of Chow-labor side by side.
An upright grand by Bubblestein and Bohrs,
And framed enlargements of our ancestors.

Our arms -- a "what not" rampant on a ground
Of pious drab.  There would we sit around
While Bertha thumped the keys o' balmy eves,
And caterpillars chewed the fuschia leaves.

There would we offer incense, highly toned,
And worship, nightly, FURNITURE enthroned.
There would we -- nay, I may not even hope,
Whose only wash-hand bowl is plugged with soap.

With yellow soap, to caulk a leak obscene --
Whose writing-table once held kerosene.
What does he wot of over-mantels, he
Who keeps tobacco where he should keep tea?

Knight of Suburbia, your daily round,
Treading to morning trains the same old ground,
Is not for me; though I would gladly be
A champion at passing cakes and tea.

O, that the stars had willed it were my fate
To be immoderately moderate;
To sit at eve, 'mid fans and photo frames,
And play at sundry senseless parlor games;

Then, having bathed my soul in revelry,
Put out the cat, and turned the front door key,
Away to rest, by one dim taper's gleam,
To court the vague, unnecessary dream.

First published in The Bulletin, 9 December 1909;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Dilemma by C.J. Dennis

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I do not think I'd care to be a judge,
   And deeply ponder
Whether I should stand "pat" and never budge,
   Or, mayhap, wander,
From old pronouncements, if I deemed the course
   To be expedient,
In that it might some fractious Union force
   To turn obedient.

While the fight raged and argument grew hot
   With sharp divisions,
Should I with opportunists cast my lot
   Or with precisions?
Should I uphold the prestige of my Court
   Nor yield a tittle,
Or, seeking peace, decide to be a sport
   And, hedge a little?

Should I be firm, dispensing law without
Or should I, rather, torn by vexing doubt,
   Make stipulation?
Were I a judge, Hamlet might bother me
   With vague suggestion:
To be Beeby, or not to be Beeby --
   That is the question.

First published in The Herald, 8 December 1927

Note: the "Beeby" of the last verse is Sir Joseph Stevenson Beeby (1869-1942), a judge on the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at the time.

The Purge by C.J. Dennis

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"If I had my way," said Sydney's Lord Mayor this week, "I would shoot 'em all -- all the politicians, Labor and U.A.P.  The party system is bound to come to an end because it is grossly unfair."

Line 'em up at the break o' day and fill 'em full of lead,
Nor trouble to look to the Party brand, for they're all much better off dead.
And gag them tight lest speech attend the grey dawn's reverent hush
For, sheep or goat, they one and all are tarred with the same old brush.
So march 'em out in a huddled horde, the lean ones and the stout,
An' line 'em up by a cold, hard wall, and shout their livers out.

Bung 'em in a leaky boat and shove 'em out to sea,
With a copy of last year's Hansard in the pocket of each M.P.
As they go drifting down the tide I'll watch 'em from afar;
If the sharks don't eat 'em, something will, not so particular.
So where the great clams lurk agape and the octopuses creep,
Carry 'em out in a coffin ship and scuttle her where it's deep.

Take 'em out to a flying field when the day burns bright and clear,
And hurry 'em off in aeroplanes to the utmost stratosphere,
All with a nice gold pass apiece and a diver's leaden boots,
And all attracted by second-hand string to paper parachutes.
Then, as the calm, incurious sky returns each unopposed,
You may all go home to tea, good folk, for the incident is closed.

Ask them all to a banquet spread in the good old Borgian style,
And, as each drains his doctored draft, then, smile -- darn yeh!  Smile!
And, as corrosive sublimate and soothing cyanide
Bring peace at last, no tongue shall wag to tell men how they died.
Then softly, softly, lock the door, and leave the dreaming there;
And we'll play a quick-step going home to show that we don't care.

First published in The Herald, 7 December 1935

The Cop and the Comet by C.J. Dennis

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A Bendigo policeman is said to have discovered a new comet in the southern sky. His claim has been supported by other observers.

On Sunday morn, yer 'anner, while proceedin' on me beat
   In proper execution of me jooty,
I observed defendant comet from me station in the street
   Sez I, "Yer loiterin' wid intint, me beauty."
He was actin' in a manner
   Most suspicious-like an' sly,
An' I sez to him, yer 'anner,
   "Move on, now! Git off that sky!"
But he failed to leave the premises, an' acted in a way
Like he'd designs upon the milk along the Milky Way.

So I went to get a ladder for to apprehend accused;
   But when I returned, he'd vanished with the night.
An' he might have been a burglar or he might have been just boozed;
   But his conduck, to my thinkin', wasn't right.
An' (whisper just between us)
   He frequents celeschil bars
Wid a shady piece named Venus
   An' convicted felon, Mars.
So I'd ask you to convict him in his absence, if 'tis right;
An' I'll try to apprehend him whin he comes tomorra night.

First published in The Herald, 6 December 1927

Surprised by C.J. Dennis

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Dad, don't yeh go fur out to-day,
   Jus' stay around about the place;
The parson's riding out this way,
   So you 'ad best be 'ere, in case.
Poll Smith wus over yesterdee,
   An' top' me then as 'ow she 'ear
That 'e would very likely be
   To call on us if 'e come near.
So you best keep about the 'ouse,
   An' get the -- wot? Oh, do 'ave sense!
Aw, Dad, there' ain't no need to rouse.
   W'y, yeh kin stop an' men' the fence --
It surely wants it bad enough.
   Ther's plenty 'ere fer yeh to do.
Now, don't yeh go an' cut up rough.
   Sich silly talk I never knoo!
W'y, 'e ain't go'n' to eat yeh. Wot?
   Me do the talking'? Yes, o' course;
So when he comes be on the spot,
   An' don't forget to take 'is 'orse.
An' if 'e -- 'Ere, where's Mary gone?
   'Ere, Mary, you best change yer clothes,
An' wear that sash thet you 'ad on
   At Johnson's party. Goodness knows
When I'll 'ave time fer gettin' dressed
   Meself, an' see that things -- where's Bill?
'Ere, you put on yer Sundee best.
   Oh, yes, indeed, me lad, ye will!
An' do take off that dirty rag,
   An' put a collar round yer neck.
Now, father, I ain't goin' to nag,
   But don't 'e look a shameful wreck?
Matilder, get yet 'air in curl.
   Now, don't yeh be impertinent,
An' don't show off too much, me girl.
   Nell, you kin wear yer spotted print.
Be careful uv yer language, Dad,
   An' do yer best ted talk perlite.
Leave out them stories that yeh 'ad
   Las' time 'e come. They wasn't right.
No, I ain't arstin' yeh to sham;
   But when 'e ses, "Now, shall we pray?"
Don't say, "Oh, I don't give a damn,"
   Like las' time. 'Taint the proper way.
O' course, the baby'll be baptised.
   No, Nell; 'e'll just be called the same's
'Is uncle Sam, as I advised.   
   'E don't need no new-fangled names.
There's Bill; 'e ain't been christened yet --
   Stop givin' me back answers, now!
You'll 'ave to be. A little wet
   Won't 'urt. Yeh need it, anyhow,
A boy your age! I'm just ashamed
   The neighbours round about should know
We 'aven't 'ad yeh properly named.
   'Ere! Where's Matilder? Off yeh go,
An' get that front room dusted out.
   An' tie an apron round yer dress
To keep it -- Wot's that row about?
   You've wot? Broke wot? Well, there's a mess
Lor', you beat all I ever see!
   Yeh'll 'ave to wear yer green one now.
An' it's that shabby -- goodness me!
   It's getting' late. I dunno how
I look meself. 'Ere, Bill, you go
   An' 'ave a look along the track.  
Aw, Nell. I ain't got time to sew --
   'Ere, Mary! Bring them 'airpins back!
Well, the idear! A girl your size!
   Indeed, you'll leave it 'angin' down.
Wot next? Nell, where's yer father's ties?
   Oh, drat yer fastnin's, girl! Turn roun'.
Why, 'alf the 'ooks and eyes is gone!
   There's no time now. Jes serves yeh right.
'Ere, Mary, put this pinny on,
   An' get the kitchen fire alight.
An' put that pork -- Ay? What's that, Bill?
   'Ow fur away? What sort uv man?
Did 'e 'ave -- Mary, do be still!
   Wot ribbon? Yes, uv course yeh can.
Now, Bill? Oh, never mind the 'orse!
   What sort uv man is on 'is back?
'Igh collar! Yes, that's 'im, uv course.
   Wot's that? Long coat, an' all in black!
That's 'I'm! Matilder, 'urry up.
   Now, father, put yer pipe away.
An', Nell, where's that best china cup?
   Wot shelf? I can't 'ear wot yeh say.
Oh, Bill! Yer nuff to break one's 'eart!
   See that great 'ole there in yer sock.
Now, are yeh ready, Nell? Look smart;
   'E'll soon be -- Goodness, there's 'is knock!
'Ere, Mary, clear them cards away.
   Now, Dad, take care uv yer replies.
Sh-h! Goodness! Fancy you to-day!
   My word, this is a glad surprise! 

First published in Melbourne Punch, 5 December 1905 

The Censor by C.J. Dennis

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A great deal of criticism is being hurled just now at the talking picture censors both here and in England.                                                       

The Fanciful 

We picture the fellow all jaundiced and yellow, 
   A long and inquisitive nose -- 
A Stiggins in short of the rabidest sort 
   With a prudish Pecksniffian pose; 
And he wriggles and squirms at the mildest of terms 
   And faints at the partially nude, 
A purist, a preacher, a Sunday-school teacher, 
   Who looks upon kissing as rude. 
He's a blurb, he's a snob, who is yearning to rob 
   The earnest producer and mangle the job. 

The Real 

As a matter of fact both in word and in act 
   He is probably what we esteem; 
A man of broad views, which he doesn't confuse 
   With licence where sex is the theme. 
With a normal sane mind of the healthier kind, 
   Mild-mannered, but nobody's fool. 
He is not to be gulled or his commonsense dulled 
   By the blurb of the decadent school. 
In short he's the sort that the normal support, 
   And, privately, probably quite a good sort.

First published in The Herald, 4 December 1929

Our Mine by C.J. Dennis

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There's a mine that can't be floated, up along at Anyplace,
Though ther's certin indications of its richness on the face.
She'd go three ounces sure at depth if she was opened out,
But it ain't a minin' distric', which inclines the folks to doubt.  

But we know it's worth a forchune, fer we've worked it nigh a year,
An' hardly took out tucker stuff - it hasn't run to beer,
But there ain't no valid reason fer to doubt the show is right,
For the leaders they are bonzers, an' ther's tons of ore in sight.

We've panned out fifteen 'weight from stuff a foot below the ground;
An' a mug could get a color fer a half a mile around.
Ther's kaolin an' mundie an' a sort o' chalky clay,
An' ev'ry indication that at depth she's bound to pay.

It was found by Billy Thompson (or, maybe, it was Jack Smith);
An', from the jump, the folks around they christened it "The Myth."
It's the joke about the distric', an' they jeer us in the town.
The advice we get is mainly - "Chuck it up; it got yer down."

But our faith is underminished, an' our hope's as good as new;
Fer the stuff is there - we know it - an' we've had it assayed too!
It ain't no poor man's diggin's; it's the capital we need.
But the ignorance of moneyed men 'ud cause yer heart to bleed.

Ther' was once we thought we had our lips right close to forchune's cup:
A syndikit in town they took an' sent a hexpert up -
A bloomin' bandbox hexpert, with a boxer on 'is head.
He took a look around the show an' "Huh!" was all he said.

He went back and reported to his syndikit below.
I dunno wot he said, but they declined to touch the show.
Them an' the'r precious hexpert, with his theories an' sich!
It don't take no book learnin' fer to see that she is rich.

Ther's the wife - she gets to frettin', an' she ses we're wastin' time;
She ses she's tired o' waitin'; an' Gawd knows, her life ain't prime.
But I'm toilin' fer her hard enough.  An' ain't we got the claim?
Wot do women know o' minin' an' the chances of the game?

I sits by her o' nights an' tries to picter wot'll be
When people comes to reckernise our splendid property.
With our carridges an' horses - an' the folks that sneer an' scoff
'Ull be proud enough to get a nod, when once we float 'er off.

We've drawed up plans an' figgers - calkerlated to a bob
The cost of machinery an' plant to do the job.
An', when you come to think on it, it's curious, somehow,
Ther' ain't no moneyed men around is game to risk a thou.

It seems like a conspiracy was formed to keep us down -
Amongst the minin' hexperts an' the capit'lists in town.
But we ain't took to despairin'.  Ther' will come a time some day,
When folks'll quit the'r chuckin' off, an' then, we'll have a say.

There's a mine that can't be floated, up along at Anywhere;
There are two old, worn prospectors fighting hard against despair -
Patient and pathetic figures, honest and sincere enough,
Toiling on a proven duffer, hardly earning tucker stuff.
And they know 'twould pay for working if someone would foot the bill,
But, somehow, it can't be floated, and it's odds it never will.

First published in The Bulletin, 3 December 1908

A Sabbath Round by C.J. Dennis

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Behold! The very scene's a benediction!
   The earth, the sky, all call to worship here.
Surely men's souls must garner sure conviction
   Of some high Presence in those heavens clear.
Surely no doubter, gazing on such beauty,
   Doubts still the Ruler of the stars and sun.
To see, to wonder is a prayer, a duty --
   Duty well done.

Below soft skies the velvet bent is sweeping
   To glorious vista where the fairways fall;
On high, a singing, soaring lark is keeping
   Tryst with the kindly Giver of it all.
How else could mortal be but humbly prayerful
   Amid these gifts munificently spread.
Yet -- careful, little man! Oh, do be careful!
   Don't lift your head!

Shall men bend low and hearken to dull droning
   In man-made cloisters on a day like this,
The very gifts of Providence disowning,
   Nature ignoring, and foregoing bliss?
Here, truly, is a benison, a glory,
   A wonder and a miracle indeed,
More manifest than any fabled story
   Of olden creed.

Nay, here is sanctuary. White clouds, trailing
   Their tattered fleeces into that great vault,
Make all your sculptured arches unavailing.
   Is to find joy in this a grievous fault?
Is it the wiser to preserve a habit
   Old and outworn, and so neglect it all?
But, wait. The game's important, Mr. Babbit.
   Eye on the ball!

First published in Stead's Review, 2 December 1929

"Wet" by C.J. Dennis

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Not guilty, yer Honor . . . An' givin' me reasons,
I'd like for to plead this 'ere change in the seasons,
   Plus one flamin' goat with a terrible silly
   Great grin on 'is map wot 'ud drive a man dilly

'E lobs in me shop an' -- "Is this enough rain for yeh?"
Honest yer Honor, I'd like to explain for yeh,
   'Twas n't 'is tone, or 'is talk of the weather
   And 'twas n't 'is grin; but the whole lot together.

"This enough rain for yeh?" Stands there inquirin',
As if this 'ere rain's the one thing I'm desirin'.
   "Wet, ain't it?" 'e grins, with 'is mackintosh leakin'
   All over me carpit . . . it's justice I'm seekin' --

Plain justice, yer Honor.  I wonder I'm sober.
You know 'ow it poured thro' the whole of October,
   Then floods in November -- an' this 'eathen image
   Sez, "Rain enough for yeh?"  That started the scrimmage.

"Wet, ain't it?" 'e sez.  Can a man claim I wrongs 'im
Right there in me shop, when I ups an' I dongs 'im?
   For I done al me cash -- as 'e well must remember,
   The coot -- in this 'ere ice-cream joint last September.

Yes, ice-cream, yer Honor.  Cool drinks -- then this weather
An' 'im, an' 'is talk, an' 'is grin all together --
   Well -- a man can stand so much.  I ain't prone to fightin',
   But, if a fine must be, well, make it a light 'un.

First published in The Herald, 1 December 1934

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