Recently in Domestic Life Category

Early Morning Tea by C.J. Dennis

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You are growing convalescent
   As pain's fingers are withdrawn;
And you waken in a strange, white room at last;
   Yet your thought is aught but pleasant
In the cold, grey winter dawn,
   As you realise a weakness not yet past.
Then a little sound comes creeping
   From some distant inner shrine,
And you bid farewell to sleeping
   At that trebly welcome sign.

'Tis the tink-clink-tinkle of a teacup,
   From morbid thought imagination stirs;
And with sharp anticipation you await the glad libation --
   The draught of draughts the thrsrting tongue prefers.
And you listen for that soul-uplifting gurgle,
   As from the precious pot you hear them pour
The golden brew you're craving . . .  Then a weak, white hand is waving
   To the white capped Sister smiling at the door.

More than all that Juno's daughter
   Bore to tables of the great,
Sweeter far than all Olympian Hippocrene,
   More than all man's heady water
Is the nectar you await,
   Now to nibble bred-and-butter in between.
Say, can this be stuff man gobbles
   Listlessly some afternoon?
Or, to sound of bells and bobbles,
   Underneath a bright bush moon?

Hear that tink-clink-tinkle of the teacup,
   And the rattle of the spoon against the cup.
Was cup-bearer ever sweeter?  Then you meekly smile to greet her
   And most valiantly struggle to sit up.
So, having quaffed, your head sinks to the pillow,
   And you know contentment, lately past belief,
As, your heavy eyelids closing, once again you fall to dozing
   While you bless all China and the precious leaf.

First published in The Herald, 28 August 1934

Color Schemes by C.J. Dennis

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According to the cables, roofs are now painted in Spain to suit one's political opinions. If a bombing airman does not happen to like the colour of a roof, he drops a bomb on it.

I wonder what the world will be
   In forty years, in fifty years? 
Last night a sad dream came to me 
   To plague my soul. For it appears 
As dreams will do, I built a home 
    Whose roof I stained a pretty brown. 
When over it there happed to soar 
An aeroplane that Russians bore
   And blew the whole thing down. 

I rallied and rebuilt my shack. 
   (I did not care for color schemes) 
And stained the roof an ebon black 
   ('Tis strange how things appear in dreams). 
Then over it a Russian flew 
   And with a high-explosive shell 
My home in smithereens he blew,
He hated that Italian hue 
   So I said "Very well." 

And so, I built another hut 
   Whose roof I stained a ruby red; 
And thought, "Now I have harbour," but 
   Another man flew over head 
And rained his ruin on my home 
   And scattered death till I 
   Had no resource from out the sky 
And not a place to roam.

Eventually, torn with fright, 
   I built me many rooves --- 
Tartan, bright yellow, crimson bright --- 
   But fate met all my moves 
Until, at last, in dull despair 
   A last resort I found --- 
The ultimate resource of man --- 
I hit upon a clever plan 
   And got me underground.

First published in The Herald, 26 May 1937;
and later in
The Queenslander, 17 June 1937.

Mary Jane by C.J. Dennis

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A house maid and a general servant are to broadcast from a London wireless station giving their opinion of mistresses. - Cable

So I sez to 'er, "Followers? Certainly not!
   Why should you suspect I 'ad somebody 'ere?"
An' me notice I give to 'er there on the spot.
   'Er torkin' to me! Why the very idear!
"An' I dunno where yesterday's mutton 'as gone."
   I sez to 'er: "Nor -- wot is more -- do I care."
'Er torking to me of such carryin's on!
   An' that's ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

The next one, I sez to 'er, "Breakages? Wot?
   Why the rotten ole thing came apart in me 'and!"
(An' me notice I give to 'er there on the spot.)
   "An' I never," I sez to 'er, "could understand
The common ole crockery some people keep."
   I sez to 'er, 'aughty, me nose in the air,
"It's wot I ain't used to, nor 'ouses so cheap."
   An' that's ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

An' the next an' the next, an' the one after that,
   An' the next an' the next an' the next;
An' the next an' the next was a crank or a cat,
   Or something or other to make a girl vexed.
An' one who could gabble on end for a week,
   Took reel mean advantage when I paused for air;
An' she gave me my notice before I could speak,
   An' that's 'ow it 'appened I 'ad to leave there.

They're all of a pattern; an' I've knowed a lot,
   For misuses alwiz is misuses still.
Lest you up an' give notice right smart on the spot,
   They'll put it upon you, the best of 'em will.
Glory be! I ain't one to go startin' a row;
   But all of 'em's touchy an' few of 'em's fair.
But I know wot I'll say to the one I got now,
   When it 'append, as will, that I 'ave to leave there.
First published in The Herald, 11 January 1930

Whose Blame? by C.J. Dennis

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Speaking in Sydney yesterday, Mr A. K. Trethowan, M.L.C., said that if idle women would go to the baker for their bread and to the milkman for their milk, and so on, instead of lying in bed waiting for it to be delivered, the cost of living would be greatly reduced.  Cost of distribution ate up enormous profits.

"A woman's work is never done,"
   Said she.
"From dawn to setting of the sun,"
   Said she.
"I toil and moil and work and slave,
And do my best to pinch and save,
And yet you say I don't behave,"
   Said she.

And twenty men in twenty carts
   In that suburban street
Long, long before the daylight starts
Are setting out with cakes and tarts
   And fish and milk and meat
And cauliflowers, beans and bread
What time my lady lies in bed.

"All day I have to live alone,"
   Said she.
"Attending to the door or 'phone,"
   Said she.
"While you go gaily into town
To meet your friends, I want a gown,
A hat!  This life has got me down,"
   Said she.

And twenty men when day is done,
   In that suburban street,
Who have performed the task of one
(If things more orderly were done),
   Drive back along their beat. . .
It seems absurd.  But, all the same,
Is it my lady who's to blame,
For all these economic cares,
Or just man's muddling of affairs?

First published in The Herald, 8 January 1931

Mary Jane by C.J. Dennis

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["On glancing at any morning paper, and comparing the list of 'Persons Wanted' with that of 'Situations Wanted,' one realises how very much greater the demand is than the supply. Especially is this observed with regard to the much discussed domestic servant." - News item.] 

Prithee, hearken to our ditty, 
We are objects for your pity, 
We have scoured the blessed city, 
   We have searched with might and main, 
We are worn and weak and weary, 
And our eyes upon the dreary 
Search grow watery and bleary -- 
   Oh, where are you, Mary Jane! 

Underneath the "Persons Wanted," 
Baits and privileges we've vaunted, 
And the "Registries" we've haunted, 
   Yea, we've haunted them in vain; 
You can have alternate Fridays, 
All the holidays and high days, 
We will borrow, beg, and buy days, 
   Just to give you, Mary Jane. 

Followers within the kitchen 
You can have -- big cops, an' sich, an' 
Anyone you feel like hitchin' 
   To your regal, courtly train; 
All the missus's best bonnets 
You can have, and finger-sonnets 
On our Lipp, or thump upon its 
   Patient keyboard, Mary Jane! 

Oh, the kitchen range is dirty, 
And the "boss" is growing "shirty," 
And there's fully five-and-thirty 
   Smudges on the window pane; 
Plates unwashed and dinners burning, 
While our suit you're coldly spurning, 
Prithee, sweet one, heed our yearning, 
   Oh, where are you, Mary Jane! 

First published in The Gadfly, 5 December 1906

The Cooks that Come and Go by Max A

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Within my boarding-house select,
  There pass along the passage~way
Women in strange apparel decked,
   Who seldom for a fortnight stay,
I see them from the cab descend;
   A perfume gathers as of beer;
Then kitchenward their way they wend ---
   But in a week they reappear.

   They are not hoarders --- oh, dear, no!
   They are the cooks that come and go.

The widow-dame, whose punctual hand
   Each week my hard-earned cash receives,
Smiles on the world with visage bland --
   Except on days when cooky leaves;
Then in the kitchen battle roars,
   And kettles spill, and tongues grow bold,
And broken saucers dot the floors,
   And dinner is a banquet cold.

   No need upon your hash to blow,
   When cook makes up her mind to go!

How many of them I have seen -
   Engaged one week, and gone the next!
Some short and stout, some long and lean,
   Some cheery, some with visage vexed,
Some clean (but these were very few),
   Some sober (these were fewer yet),
Some on whose faces whiskers grew --
   Not one whose face you could forget.

   They pass in weird procession slow
   The cooks --- the cooks who come and go.

Jane was a creature long and hard --
   Bones like a horse, face like an owl;
The butcher saw her in the yard,
   And dropped the meat with awful howl.
The baker viewed her face with fear,
   The milkman wouldn't cross the lane;
I fancy no one shed a tear
   The day the bobby called for Jane.

   She had escaped from Kew, you know;
   That's why poor Janie had to go.

Kate was an Irish matron, who
   Sought for a husband who had fled;
Her eyes were an unholy blue,
   Her hair a most unholy red.
And though she shunned a stranger's stare
   (The kitchen was her constant coop);
We knew the colour of her hair
   From wisps that floated in the soup.

   But hairpins came as well, and so
   We swore that Kate would have to go.

Mord had a voice --- you hardly knew,
   when curses drifted through the air,
Whether it was a cockatoo
   Or Mord, who had begun to swear.
We used to blame that harmless bird,
   And chide him for the oaths he screamed,
Until the scullery-maid averred
   She could not sleep when Mord blasphemed.

   Then Mord, with language very low
   Rejoined the ranks that come and go.

And there were others --- Gwendoline
   (Dry gin was Gwenny's heart's desire);
Gertrude, who drank the kerosene,
   And Ann, who set the house on fire;
Bridget, who stole the boarders' hats,
   Bought gloves and ribbons with the loot;
Bess (with no teeth), and Lize (with rats)
   Were other cooks who "didn't suit."

   They swelled the melancholy row
   Of lady cooks that come and go.

Through servants' agencies galore
   My much-distressed landlady seeks;
Her tale of woe she will out-pour
   (If once she gets a start) for weeks.
But 'tis an ancient tale, indeed;
   You may, if so your wish occurs,
In "Situations Vacant" read
   A thousand tragedies like hers.

   Newspaper columns overflow
   With tales of cooks that come and go.

First published
in Melbourne Punch, 31 May 1906

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Woman at the Washtub by Victor J. Daley

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The Woman at the Washtub,
   She works till fall of night;
With soap and suds and soda
   Her hands are wrinkled white.
Her diamonds are the sparkles
   The copper-fire supplies;
Her opals are the bubbles
   That from the suds arise.

The Woman at the Washtub
   Has lost the charm of youth;
Her hair is rough and homely,
   Her figure is uncouth;
Her temper is like thunder,
   With no one she agrees --
The children of the alley
   They cling around her knees.

The Woman at the Washtub,
   She too had her romance;
There was a time when lightly
   Her feet flew in the dance.
Her feet were silver swallows,
   Her lips were flowers of fire;
Then she was Bright and Early,
   The Blossom of Desire.

O Woman at the Washtub,
   And do you ever dream
Of all your days gone by in
   Your aureole of steam?
From birth till we are dying
   You wash our sordid duds,
O Woman of the Washtub!
   O Sister of the Suds!

One night I saw a vision
   That filled my soul with dread,
I saw a Woman washing
   The grave-clothes of the dead;
The dead were all the living,
   And dry were lakes and meres,
The Woman at the Washtub
   She washed them with her tears.

I saw a line with banners
   Hung forth in proud array --
The banners of all battles
   From Cam to judgment Day.
And they were stiff with slaughter
   And blood, from hem to hem,
And they were red with glory,
   And she was washing them.

"Who comes forth to the judgment,
   And who will doubt my plan?"
"I come forth to the judgment
   And for the Race of Man.
I rocked him in his cradle,
   I washed him for his tomb,
I claim his soul and body,
   And I will share his doom."

First published in The Bulletin, 29 November 1902;
and later in
Wine and Roses by Victor J. Daley, 1911;
The Worker, 23 April 1914;
The Register, 26 May 1925 and 26 June 1928;
Freedom on the Wallaby: Poems of the Australian People edited by Marjorie Pizer, 1953;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007; 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.

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