A Bush Christmas – Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

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 

Fro 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 dropp 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.’

A Ballad Of Freedom – Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

Now Mr. Jeremiah Bane 

He owned a warehouse in The Lane, 

An edifice of goodly size, 

Where, with keen private enterprise, 

He sold imported napery 

And drapery – and drapery. 

His singlets and his socks were sent 

Out over half the continent; 

In clothing for the nursery 

And mercery – and mercery 

He plied a most extensive trade, 

And quite enormous prodfits made, 

And barracked, with much fervency, 

For foreign-trade – described as ‘Free.’ 

He said, 

Indeed, 

It was 

His creed. 

The trade described as Free. 
And this good man was known to fame 

For charity; indeed, his name 

Shone often in the daily press. 

When needy folk were in distress 

He aided – (with publicity) 

Mendicity – mendicity. 

And though much cash he thuswise spared 

There still were people who declared 

His act of private charity 

A rarity – a rarity. 

Donations, duly advertised, 

From business point of view, he prized; 

But ‘good by stealth’ he ne’er could see 

Was any use to such as he. 

But still, 

The press, 

With much 

Success, 

Declared his hand was free. 
Now Mr. Bane’s employees were 

Wont to address the boss as ‘Sir,’ 

To show him most intense respect; 

And there were few who would neglect 

To couple with civility 

Humility – humility. 

They dressed in cheap but pretty clothes, 

And ev’ry man turned up his nose 

And scorned familiarity 

Or parity – or parity 

With ill-dressed toilers who ‘combined.’ 

They thought proceedings of that kind 

Were of a very ‘low’ degree, 

For they were ‘cultured,’ don’t you see. 

‘Tis true 

Their pay 

Was mean, 

But they 

Felt proud to be so free. 
Though they were vilely underpaid 

They were too proud – or else afraid 

To advertise the fact abroad 

Or see to get a Wages Board. 

Besides their meek servility, 

Gentility – gentility 

Forbade so rash an act; but still 

One man there was – (his name was Bill) 

Who vowed their fool propensity 

Was density – was density 

An unenlightened state of mind, 

A lack of wit that made them blind. 

‘You’re but a lot of worms,’ said he. 

‘If you were men you’d clearly see 

Until 

You band 

And make 

A stand 

You never can be free.’ 
And ev’ry day this person, Bill, 

Conversed with them of unions till 

They owned his arguments were true, 

And one by one waxed eager to 

Embrace an opportunity 

For unity – for unity. 

They talked about a Wages Board 

Which, formerly, they had abhorred, 

And girded at their slavery 

With bravery – with bravery. 

Each man began to feel ‘The Firm’ 

No longer owned it for its worm; 

Their independence they could see 

Achieved by simple unity; 

Forgot 

Their clothes 

And mixed 

With those 

Who battle to be free. 
When Mr. Bane one morning heard 

About his thing he cried, ‘Absurd! 

They’ll never get my clerks to horde 

With those who seek the Wages Board, 

And lose respectability! 

Futility! – Futility! 

My clerks are gentlemen who’d scorn 

To mingle with the lowly born. 

Such bosh I’ve never heard!’ said he. 

‘Absurd!’ said he – ‘Absurd!’ said he. 

‘As for their pay, they’re quite content 

They’ve never asked an extra cent! 

And in 

The morn 

They’ll mark 

Their scorn, 

And show you they are free.’ 
And on the morrow Mr. Bane 

Called them together to ‘explain’: 

‘I have a small petition here 

But first, I wish to make it clear,’ 

Said he, with simple gravity 

And suavity – and suavity, 

‘That no man here is asked to sign.’ 

(His voice was gentle and benign) 

‘I trust to your humanity 

And sanity – and sanity 

To guide you; but I feel quite sure 

That Wages Boards you can’t endure. 

I leave it all to you,’ said he. 

‘It makes no difference to me. 

My views 

Are known, 

But still, 

I’ve shown 

Your choice in this is free.’ 
The staff it looked at Mr. Bane, 

And in his eye it read, quite plain, 

‘Neath that expression so benign, 

The fate of him who did not sign 

A vision of futurity 

Obscurity – obscurity 

A dearth of work – in short, the sack. 

They knew that he who answered back 

Would earn, by his temerity, 

Severity – severity. 

So one and all, with shaky pen, 

Signed this refusal to be men…. 

But surely, as you must agree, 

Their choice was free as it could be, 

They said 

The Board 

They all 

Abhorred, 

Preferring to be free. 
Still Mr. Bane grows fat and sleek, 

And still, at thirty bob a week, 

His clerks slave on from morn till night, 

No hope of better things in sight. 

But Bane, with much benignity 

And dignity – and dignity, 

When talk of Wages Board is heard, 

Declares the notion is absurd: 

‘My clerks with prompt celerity 

And verity – and verity 

Refused the thing with one accord. 

The clerks themselves don’t want the Board! 

It is preposterous,’ says he, 

‘To force it on who don’t agree 

And still 

His men 

With brain 

And pen 

To fatten him are free.