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The Dinkum Aussie Block by C.J Dennis

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A caricaturist who paid so much attention to Mr Bruce's spats when he was in Australia must feel chastened today.  Mr Bruce has been selected by the noted artist, Edmond Kapp, to represent us in the British Museum and in the National Gallery, as owner of a striking head, characteristic of the best Australian type.

What have we missed?  Now he returns no more
We are left with but our blindness to deplore,
But, concentrating on his spats instead,
Missed all the lure of that impressive head.
Caricaturists, gazing at his feet,
Drew little else, and deemed the sketch complete;
Likewise cartoonists, whose gaunt fingers crept
Unconsciously to limn him as they slept.
And we poor Aussies of the rough hewn "dile,"
Think to salve our vanity the while,
Who said: "Though we've a gargoyle for a face,
At least 'tis typical of our strong race" --
Where are we now?  Where is our last excuse
For owning features so unlike a Bruce?
The Bruce, round whom admiring artists flock
Because he owns the dinkum Aussie block.
He kept his block; and keeping it became
A classic type to spread his country's fame.
While we poor groundlings, with our eyes cast down,
Saw only feet to bolster his renown.
Could we not raise our eyes?  And now, bereft
Of pride, we've but this consolation left;
Still humble members we -- plain as we are --
Of that proud race that claims him avatar.

First published in The Herald, 11 October 1933

The Gloomy Victorian by C.J. Dennis

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A learned judge found occasion to refer recently to what he called "the gloomy psychology of Victorians."

Where is this glum Victorian -
   This man of mien forlorn -
Fit butt for some historian 
   To heap with heavy scorn?
I've sought him up an down the street
   Thro' labyrinthine ways,
Wherever men and maidens meet;
By road or rail, or on two feet
   I've searched for him for days.
I've looked for him where business cares
   Weigh down on every rank,
Seeking to catch him unawares
In tears upon the office stairs;
   Yet ever drew a blank
I've sought him in the hinterland
   On Sunny Saturdays.
He smiled a while and waved his hand
   Amid his draughts and drays,
And said, "Excuse me: I must catch
This bus to see a football match,"
   And gaily went his ways. 
In palaces and picture shows
Where e'er a soul for solace goes
I've hunted him; and goodness knows
   He seemed too gay by half;
And neither consciousness of sin
Nor sorrow kept his gladness in;
For, truth to tell, his silly grin
   Fled only for a laugh.

Where is this glum Victorian --
   Man of the brooding eye?
His story, tho' a hoary 'un
   I've failed to verify.
I've sought him on the sandy beach,
Mid shining sheik and perfect peach;
   But he was never there.
I've sought him in the gleaming bush
Mid many a merry hiking push,
   And moaned in my despair.
I've sought him him on the sunlit course
Doing his dough on some slow horse,
   And glimpsed a gloomy note.
But swiftly, moved by some queer force,
He grinned, and backed without remorse
   Another hairy goat ....
Then hopeless, haggard and distraught,
   I met a ragged man
And pitifully him besought
To tell me where he might be caught,
   This glum Victorian.
He looked me up, he looked me down
And, tho' he seemed a sorry clown,
A merry smile replaced his frown
   As thus to me he spoke:
"So far, I ain't met such 'tis true,"
Said he; "but, by the looks of you,
   I reckon you're the bloke."

First published in The Herald, 2 June 1934

To a Fair Australian by Douglas B. W. Sladen

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I wonder what home folks would think
   Who saw you sitting there
In that delightful maze of pink
  By some French dressmaker,
Toying a slender foot --- size 2, --
   In broidered silk encased,
In and out of the last Court shoe
   That took Parisian taste?

The first time they took stock of you
   They'd note the union rare --
Complexion of the warmer hue
   With crown of pale gold hair;
'Twas this Italian masters loved
   On canvas to pourtray,
And some such witchery that moved
   The king Cophetua:

While the refinement of your face
   And the unconscious knack,
The careless captivating grace
   With which you're leaning back,
Could not be bettered if you were
   The daughter of a peer,
Or long-descended commoner
   In the same social sphere.

There's not a fairer in Mayfair,
   Or better bred or drest
In the galaxy gathered there
   Of England's loveliest.
You look so dainty, so complete,
   So far from common folk,
As if you'd never crossed the street
   Without a Raleigh's cloak.

And yet I've seen you --- often too ---
   On a half-broken horse
Pressing an old man kangaroo
   O'er fence and watercourse;
Galloping hard 'twixt low-branched trees,
   Mid burrows and ant-heaps,
Pulling the colt up from his knees,
   Or putting him at leaps.

And if they knew the simple things
   With which you're gratified,
And saw your hearty welcomings
   And freedom from false pride,
They'd never dream that you command
   All money can acquire,
And occupy a block of land
   As large as Lincolnshire.

I wish I'd Millais' art to trace
   You as you're sitting there,
With your bright summer-tinted face
   And golden crown of hair!
To catch the sweet simplicity
   And gallant confidence
That mingle in your frank blue eye
   And argue innocence.

I like to see your elegance
   And fashionableness;
To see Australia meet France
   Not blushing at her dress;
And like to think that, when at rest,
   And lounging as you please,
You can face England's haughtiest,
   And not look ill at ease.

Innocence need not be uncouth,
   And Nature's not ill drest;
Nor is it any crime for youth
   To try to look her best.
It pleases most when wealth and grace,
   Accomplished and ornate,
Seek not with coldness to efface
   The pleasure they create.

First published in The Queenslander, 11 February 1882

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Australian by Arthur H. Adams

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Once more this Autumn-earth is ripe,
Parturient of another type.

While with the Past old nations merge
His foot is on the Future's verge;

They watch him, as they huddle pent,
Striding a spacious continent,

Above the level deserts marge
Looming in his aloofness large.

No flower with fragile sweetness graced --
A lank weed wrestling with the waste.

Pallid of face and gaunt of limb,  
The sweetness withered out of him.

Sombre, indomitable, wan,
The juices dried, the glad youth gone.

A little weary from his birth;
His laugh the spectre of a mirth.

Bitter beneath a bitter sky,
To Nature he has no reply.

Wanton, perhaps, and cruel. Yes,
Is not his sun more merciless?

Joy his such niggard dole to give,
He laughs, a child, glad just to live.

So drab and neutral in his day
He gleans a splendour in the grey.

And from his life's monotony
He lifts a subtle melody.

When earth so poor a banquet makes
His pleasures at a gulp he takes.

The feast is his to the last crumb;
Drink while he can, the drought will come.

His heart a sudden tropic flower,
He loves and loathes within an hour.

Yet you who by the pools abide,
Judge not the man who swerves aside.

He sees beyond your hazy fears;
He roads the desert of th eyears.

Rearing his cities in the sand,
He builds where even God has banned.

With green a continent he crowns,
And stars a wilderness with towns.

His gyves of steel the great plain wears;
With roads the distances he snares.

A child given a world for toy,
To build a nation, or destroy.

His childish features frozen stern,
A nation's task he has to learn.

From feeble tribes to federate
One splendid, peace-encompassed State.

What if there be no goal to reach?
The road lies open, dawns beseech!

Enough that he lay down his load
A little further on the road.

So, toward undreamt-of destinies
He slouches down the centuries!

First published in The Bulletin, 17 June 1899;
and later in
Maoriland: and Other Verses by Arthur H. Adams, 1899;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Poet's Discovery: Nineteenth Century Australia in Verse edited by Richard Douglas Jordan and Peter Pierce, 1990;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

The Lovable Characters by Henry Lawson

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I long for the streets but the Lord knoweth best,
   For there I am never a saint;
There are lovable characters out in the West,
   with humour heroic and quaint;
And, be it Up Country, or be it Out Back,
   When I shall have gone to my Home,
I trust to be buried 'twixt River and Track
   Where my lovable characters roam.
There are lovable characters drag through the scrub,
   Where the Optimist ever prevails;
There are lovable characters hang round the pub,
   There are lovable jokers at sales
Where the auctioneer's one of the lovable wags
   (Maybe from his "order" estranged),
And the beer is on tap, and the pigs in the bags
  Of the purchasing cockies are changed.

There are lovable characters out in the West,
   Of fifty hot summers, or more,
Who could not be proved, when it came to the test,
   Too old to be sent to the war;
They were all forty-five and were orphans, they said,
   With no one to keep them, or keep;
And mostly in France, with the world's bravest dead,
   Those lovable characters sleep.

I long for the streets but the Lord knoweth best,
   For there I am never a saint;
There are lovable characters out in the West,
   with humour heroic and quaint;
And, be it Up Country, or be it Out Back,
   When I shall have gone to my Home,
I trust to be buried 'twixt River and Track
   Where my lovable characters roam.

First published in The Bulletin, 8 February 1917 ;
and later in
A Fantasy of Man: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1901-22 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

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