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The Ballad of the Bondi Bather by C.J Dennis

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There is much consternation among the large number of men who indulge in surf-bathing at Bondi, on account of new regulations to be enforced.  The Waverley Municipal Council has decided that a neck-to-knee costume is to be no longer  sufficient.  A skirt, reaching at least to the knees, has to be added, and arms must be concealed to near the elbows.   Loitering on the beach is also to be prohibited, and all intercourse between bathers and the general public is to be  forbidden.  The penalties for a breach of the regulations will range from 20s. to £25.

A bather down at Bondi was strolling by the sea,
As innocent as any Bondi bather well could be,
Nor deemed it any evil, as it may well be supposed,
That a kneecap was uncovered and a funny-bone exposed.

Nay, who should think it sinful that no skirt concealed the shape?
The bathing clothes were wet and tight with no concealing drape;
But the godly folk of Waverley espied it on the sands,
And the godly folk of Waverley cast up their eyes and hands.

For a bather down at Bondi with a funny-bone exposed
Is a monster of iniquity to whom all heaven's closed.
And a bather down at Bondi with a shameless, naked knee
Is evil to the pious folk of godly Waverley.

And the folk of Waverley espied the bather there,
They locked their womenfolk inside and hastened to the Mayor:
"Alas," they cried, "upon our beach a fiend in human frame.
Ay, all too much in human shape, has put our town to shame!

"He strolls upon the open beach, his funny-bone in sight,
Our womenfolk are all indoors, half fainting from the fright;
Our brave police are after him, they think they have a clue,
For he has shown his humerus, ay, and his kneecap, too."

The good Mayor's brow frowned darkly as he thundered, "Have they brought
And tried for his iniquity before our august court."
"Ay, try him!" yelled the populace, and rushing down the street,
They seized the Bondi bather, whom they wrapped within a sheet.

The good Mayor sat upon the bench, a solemn sight to see.
Upon his face he wore a look of shocked propriety;
But as the bather was unwrapped he cried in great distress,
"Why, you haven't brought a bather; you have brought a batheress!"

Then the populace of Waverley, it turned a fiery red,
The populace of Waverley hung its collective head,
And the voice of Waverley went up attuned to deepest woe.
"Oh, how can we be blamed for it? How were we to know?"

The pious Mayor of Waverley he did not say a word.
The populace of Waverley began to feel absurd.
The blushing Bondi bather, she just hung her pretty head.
Then spake the Mayor, "Let the men all haste indoor," he said.

The modest men of Waverley they hastened from the court.
The godly Mayor stayed behind, altho' he never ought;
Then the Bondi bather murmured, "May I go away and dress?"
And the pious magistrate looked down and blushing, answered, "Yes."

There's a moral to my story, as you surely will have guessed --
You have to move discreetly when you deal with the undressed.
And they never since have raised their heads, the folk of Waverley:
That's the ballad of the bather down at Bondi by the sea.

First published in The Gadfly, 16 October 1907

The Minglers by C.J. Dennis

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What our reporter calls "the unconventional mingling of the sexes" is much more unwholesome than can be any piles of dirty jam and fish tins. - Melbourne AGE on Seaside Camps. 

A sight that gives me much distress
   Is George without his trousers,
Garbed, scantily, in bathing dress
   Proscribed by saintly Wowsers,
And Gerty, gay and forward flirt,
Without the regulation shirt.

Though 'tis a fearsome sight, I ween,
   When jam tins strew the shingle,
It is a far more shocking scene
   When Bert and Benjy mingle
With Maude and Winnie in the wave;
It hurts to see them so behave. 

The melancholy dead marine
   Sown thick along the beaches,
The can that held the late sardine,
   Or potted prawn, or peaches,
Are things of innocence beside
Gay Tom and Topsy in the tide.

I hold by stern morality,
   Despite the worldings' scoffing,
And though it pains my soul to see
   A fish tin in the offing,
'Tis naught beside the things I feel
Whene'er I hear Belinda squeal.

Indeed, this tin that held sardine
   My sad soul sorely vexes.
The fish it harbored might have been
   Unwed, and mixed in sexes!
Good brothers, can you wonder then,
That seaside damsels mix with men?

A pile of picnic scraps, 'tis true,
   Can raise a mild commotion.
But what of John and Jane and Sue
   Mixed in a single ocean?
A sight that stabs me to the heart
Is Billo smoodging with his tart.

But hark, my brothers, yester eve
   I had a wondrous vision.
The sun was just about to leave,
   With his well-known precision,
When I espied upon the sand
A tin with a familiar brand.

And, as I gazed, my limbs grew limp
   And giddiness came o'er me;
For from it stepped a fish-like imp
   That smirked and bowed before me!
His puckered features seemed to be
Awry with spite and devilry.

"Young man," he said, "You're wasting time.
   Why do you sit there mooning?
So brave a youth, just in his prime,
   Should find more joy in spooning.
For see! the ocean hath its pearls.
Go forth and mingle with the girls!"

And from the tins that lay about
   Upon the silver shingle
I heard a wee shrill chorus shout,
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!"
And then I knew each empty tin
Concealed its special imp within.

I know my eye grew wide and bright,
   Despite a life ascetic,
And from the narrow path of right
   I felt a tug magnetic,
That sought to draw me o'er the sand
Out to the siren-haunted strand.

I felt the red blood course anew,
   I felt my pulses tingle;
And still the tiny chorus grew:
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!" ....
Then, from the old, bashed can I saw
A lordly lobster wave a claw.

"Good fellow, have a care!" he said,
   "Stray not from pathways upper!
I am the ghost of one long dead,
   Slain for a sinful supper.
But once good works were done by me
Amongst the sinners of the sea.

"In life I roamed the vasty deep
   Engaged upon a mission
Which was my fellow-fish to keep
   From swimming to perdition.
Now I am dead" (his voice grew thin)
"Alas! they mingle in the tin!

"Beware the blood that bounds and leaps!
   Your sinful feelings throttle.
Beware the imp that leers and peeps
   From out each tin and bottle!
A submarine Chapzander speaks.
Beware when gay Belinda squeaks!"

Lo, as he spoke my blood grew chill,
   The spell no longer bound me,
The impish chorus now was still
   And silence reigned around me.
The ghostly lobster disappeared;
My heart of base desire was cleared.

But, like a man inspired, I saw
   His cause for intervening.
His sad, sweet face, his waving claw
   To me were full of meaning.
Indeed, a sainted fish was he,
A very Wowser of the sea.

You smile, good friend?  But ah, be sure
   'Tis not a theme for scoffing;
For well, too well, I know the lure
   Of fish tins in the offing.
A devil lurks inside each tin
To tempt unwary souls to sin.

And, top this day, I fell a thrill
   'Mid tins upon the shingle;
I seem to hear that chorus shrill:
   "Young man, go forth and mingle!"
And yet, 'tis naught to what I feel
Whene'er I hear Belinda squeal.

First published in The Bulletin, 16 January 1913;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

Surfing Morning by Ruth M. Bedford

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Blue and white the sea is; blue and white the sky;
Softer than the flight of birds the little breezes fly;
The very clouds are flecks of light, the sand is warm and gold,
And you and I this morning are six and five years old!

Take my hand and run with me! Now the waves begin;
Quickly through the shallows -- deeper, deeper in!
The laughing water plays with us, splashes us with spray.
Leaps at us and knocks us down and rolls our years away.

Towering come the great waves -- will you jump or dive?
Are you glad the summer's come -- glad that you're alive?
Happy is the sparkling sea, the sky, the golden sands,
And all the world is given into our young hands.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 February 1925

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Surf Bathing by J. Braham

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How bracing 'tis to breast the billows high
   To plunge beneath the foaming, hissing spray,
To watch the broad expanse 'twixt sea and sky
   Emerging fresh and cool on hottest day:
Delightful, too, to watch the lovely shapes
   Of females splashing, dashing in the brine,
In costume that artistically drapes
   And renders more pronounced the "form divine."
Why not? The men enjoy the bracing dip.
   Their sense of beauty gratified as well.
"Honi soit," etcetera's the tip --
   Life's none too sunny: Do not break the spell.
So let the "carping critics" who declaim
   Mixed bathing is unseemly, gross and wrong
Know where no harm's meant where can be the blame,
   And think before they "cast the stone along."

First published in The Melbourne Punch, 20 January 1908

Author: nothing is known about the author of this poem.

Author reference sites: Austlit.

See also.

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