Poem – Macbreath

A Tragedy as Played at Ryde**
Macbreath Mr Henley
Macpuff Mr Terry
The Ghost

ACT I

TIME: The day before the election
SCENE: A Drummoyne tram running past a lunatic asylum.
All present are Reform Leaguers and supporters of Macbreath.
They seat themselves in the compartment.

MACBREATH: Here, I’ll sit in the midst.
Be large in mirth. Anon we’ll all be fitted
With Parliamentary seats.
(Voter approaches the door.)
There’s blood upon thy face.

VOTER: ‘Tis Thompsons’s, then.

MACBREATH: Is he thrown out? How neatly we beguiled
The guileless Thompson. Did he sign a pledge agreeing to retire?

VOTER: Aye, that he did.

MACBREATH: Not so did I!
Not on the doubtful hazard of a vote
By Ryde electors, cherry-pickers, oafs,
That drive their market carts at dread of night
And sleep all day. Not on the jaundiced choice
Of folks who daily run their half a mile
Just after breakfast, when the steamer hoots
Her warning to the laggard, not on these
Relied Macbreath, for if these rustics’ choice
Had fall’n on Thompson, I should still have claimed
A conference. But hold! Is Thompson out?

VOTER: My lord, his name is mud. That I did for him
I paid my shilling and I cast my vote.

MACBREATH: Thou art the best of all the shilling voters.
Prithee, be near me on election day
To see me smite Macpuff, and now we shan’t
Be long,
(Ghost of Thompson appears.)
What’s this? A vision!
Thou canst not say I did it! Never shake
Thy gory locks at me. Run for some other seat,
Let the woods hide thee. Prithee, chase thyself!
(The ghost of Thompson disappears, and Macbreath revives himself
with a great effort.)
Leaguers all,
Mine own especial comrades of Reform,
All amateurs and no professionals,
So many worthy candidates I see,
Alas that there are only ninety seats.
Still, let us take them all, and Joe Carruthers,
Ashton, and Jimmy Hogue, and all the rest,
Will have to look for work! Oh, joyous day,
To-morrow’s poll will make me M.L.A.

ACT II

TIME: Election day.
SCENE: Macbreath’s committee rooms.

MACBREATH: Bring me no more reports: let them all fly;
Till Labour’s platform to Kyabram come
I cannot taint with fear. How go the votes?

Enter first voter

FIRST VOTER: May it please my Lord,
The cherry-pickers’ vote is two to one
Towards Macpuff: and all our voters say
The ghost of Thompson sits in every booth,
And talks of pledges.

MACBREATH: What a polished liar!
And yet the dead can vote! (Strikes him.)
What if it should be!
(Ghost of Thompson appears to him suddenly.)

GHOST: The Pledge! The Pledge!

MACBREATH: I say I never signed the gory pledge.
(Ghost disappears. Enter a Messenger.)
Thou com’st to use thy tongue. Thy story quickly!

MESSENGER: Gracious, my Lord,
I should report that which I know I saw,
But know not how to do it.

MACBREATH: Well! say, on!

MESSENGER: As I did stand my watch in Parliament
I saw the Labour platform come across
And join Kyabram, Loans were overthrown,
The numbers were reduced, extravagance
Is put an end to by McGowan’s vote.

MACBREATH: The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got’st thou this fish yarn?

MESSENGER: There’s nearly forty,

MACBREATH: Thieves, fool?

MESSENGER: No, members, will be frozen out of work!

MACBREATH: Aye, runs the story so! Well, well, ’tis sudden!
These are the uses of the politician,
A few brief sittings and another contest;
He hardly gets to know th’ billiard tables
Before he’s out . . .

(Alarums and Harbour excursions; enter Macpuff
at the head of a Picnic Party.)

MACPUFF: Now, yield thee, tyrant!
By that fourth party which I once did form,
I’ll take thee to a picnic, there to live
On windfall oranges!

MACBREATH: . . . Nay, rather death!
Death before picnic! Lay on Macpuff,
And damned be he who first cries Hold, enough!
(They fight. Macbreath is struck on the back of the head
by some blue metal from Pennant Hills Quarry. He falls. The referee
counts, ‘One, two, three, eight, nine, ten, out!’)

MACPUFF: Kind voters all, and worthy gentlemen,
Who rallied to my flag today, and made me
Member for Thompson, from my soul I thank you.
There needs no trumpet blast, for I can blow
Like any trombone. Prithee, let us go!
Thanks to you all who shared this glorious day,
Whom I invite to dance at Chowder Bay!

Poem – Any Other Time

ALL of us play our very best game—
Any other time.
Golf or billiards, it’s all the same—
Any other time.
Lose a match and you always say,
“Just my luck! I was ‘off’ to-day!
I could have beaten him quite half-way—
Any other time!”

After a fiver you ought to go—
Any other time.
Every man that you ask says “Oh,
Any other time.
Lend you a fiver! I’d lend you two,
But I’m overdrawn and my bills are due,
Wish you’d ask me—now, mind you do—
Any other time!”

Fellows will ask you out to dine—
Any other time.
“Not to-night, for we’re twenty-nine —
Any other time.
Not to-morrow, for cook’s on strike,
Not next day, I’ll be out on the bike —
Just drop in whenever you like —
Any other time!”

Seasick passengers like the sea—
Any other time.
“Something . . I ate . . disagreed . . with me!
Any other time
Ocean-trav’lling is . . simply bliss,
Must be my . . liver . . has gone amiss . .
Why, I would . . laugh . . at a sea . . like this—
Any other time.”

Most of us mean to be better men—
Any other time:
Regular upright characters then—
Any other time.
Yet somehow as the years go by
Still we gamble and drink and lie,
When it comes to the last we’ll want to die—
Any other time!

Poem – The Lost Drink

I had spent the night in the watch-house —
My head was the size of three —
So I went and asked the chemist
To fix up a drink for me;
And he brewed it from various bottles
With soda and plenty of ice,
With something that smelt like lemon,
And something that seemed like spice.
It fell on my parching palate
Like the dew on a sunbaked plain,
And my system began to flourish
Like the grass in the soft spring rain;
It wandered throughout my being,
Suffusing my soul with rest,
And I felt as I “scoffed” that liquid
That life had a new-found zest.

I have been on the razzle-dazzle
Full many a time since then
But I never could get the chemist
To brew me that drink again.
He says he’s forgotten the notion —
‘Twas only by chance it came —
He’s tried me with various liquids
But oh! they are not the same.

We have sought, but we sought it vainly,
That one lost drink divine;
We have sampled his various bottles,
But somehow they don’t combine:
Yet I know when I cross the River
And stand on the Golden Shore
I shall meet with an angel chemist
To brew me that drink once more.

Poem – Our Mat

It came from the prison this morning,
Close-twisted, neat-lettered, and flat;
It lies the hall doorway adorning,
A very good style of a mat.

Prison-made! how the spirit is moven
As we think of its story of dread —
What wiles of the wicked are woven
And spun in its intricate thread!

The letters are new, neat and nobby,
Suggesting a masterly hand —
Was it Sikes, who half-murdered the bobby,
That put the neat D on the “and”?

Some banker found guilty of laches —
It’s always called laches, you know —
Had Holt any hand in those Hs?
Did Bertrand illumine that O?

That T has a look of the gallows,
That A’s a triangle, I guess;
Was it one of the Mount Rennie fellows
Who twisted the strands of the S?

Was it made by some “highly connected”,
Who is doing his spell “on his head”,
Or some wretched woman detected
In stealing her children some bread?

Does it speak of a bitter repentance
For the crime that so easily came?
Of the wearisome length of the sentence,
Of the sin, and the sorrow, and shame?

A mat! I should call it a sermon
On sin, to all sinners addressed;
It would take a keen judge to determine
Whether writer or reader is best.

Though the doorway be hard as a pavestone,
I rather would use it than that —
I’d as soon wipe my boots on a gravestone,
As I would on that Darlinghurst mat!

Poem – Driver Smith

Twas Driver Smith of Battery A was anxious to see a fight;
He thought of the Transvaal all the day, he thought of it all the night —
“Well, if the battery’s left behind, I’ll go to the war,” says he,
“I’ll go a-driving and ambulance in the ranks of the A.M.C.
“I’m fairly sick of these here parades — it’s want of a change that kills —
A-charging the Randwick Rifle Range and aiming at Surry Hills.
And I think if I go with the ambulance I’m certain to find a show,
For they have to send the Medical men wherever the troops can go.

“Wherever the rifle bullets flash and the Maxims raise a din,
It’s here you’ll find the Medical men a-raking the wounded in —
A-raking ’em in like human flies — and a driver smart like me
Will find some scope for his extra skill in the ranks of the A.M.C.”

So Driver Smith he went to war a-cracking his driver’s whip,
From ambulance to collecting base they showed him his regular trip.
And he said to the boys that were marching past, as he gave his whip a crack,
“You’ll walk yourselves to the fight,” says he — “Lord spare me, I’ll drive you back.”

Now the fight went on in the Transvaal hills for the half of a day or more,
And Driver Smith he worked his trip — all aboard for the seat of war!
He took his load from the stretcher men and hurried ’em homeward fast
Till he heard a sound that he knew full well — a battery rolling past.

He heard the clink of the leading chains and the roll of the guns behind —
He heard the crack of the drivers’ whips, and he says to ’em, “Strike me blind,
I’ll miss me trip with this ambulance, although I don’t care to shirk,
But I’ll take the car off the line today and follow the guns at work.”

Then up the Battery Colonel came a-cursing ’em black in the face.
“Sit down and shift ‘e,, you drivers there, and gallop ’em into place.”
So off the Battery rolled and swung, a-going a merry dance,
And holding his own with the leading gun goes Smith with his ambulance.

They opened fire on the mountain side, a-peppering by and large,
When over the hill above their flank the Boers came down at the charge;
They rushed the guns with a daring rush, a-volleying left and right,
And Driver Smith and his ambulance moved up to the edge of the fight.

The gunners stuck to their guns like men, and fought as the wild cats fight,
For a Battery man don’t leave his gun with ever a hope in sight;
But the bullets sang and the Mausers cracked and the Battery men gave away,
Till Driver Smith with his ambulance drove into the thick of the fray.

He saw the head of the Transvaal troop a-thundering to and fro,
A hard old face with a monkey beard — a face that he seemed to know;
“Now who’s that leader?” said Driver Smith. “I’ve seen him before today.
Why, bless my heart, but it’s Kruger’s self,” and he jumped for him straight away.

He collared old Kruger round the waist and hustled him into the van.
It wasn’t according to stretcher drill for raising a wounded man;
But he forced him in and said, “All aboard, we’re off for a little ride,
And you’ll have the car to yourself,” says he, “I reckon we’re full inside.”

He wheeled his team on the mountain side and set ’em a merry pace,
A-galloping over the rocks and stones, and a lot of the Boers gave chase;
Bur Driver Smith had a fairish start, and he said to the Boers, “Good-day,
You have Buckley’s chance for to catch a man that was trained in Battery A.”

He drove his team to the hospital bed and said to the P.M.O.,
“Beg pardon, sir, but I missed the trip, mistaking the way to go;
And Kruger came to the ambulance and asked could we spare a bed,
So I fetched him here, and we’ll take him home to show for a bob a head.”

So the word went round to the English troops to say they need fight no more,
For Driver Smith with his ambulance had ended the blooming war.
And in London now at the music halls he’s starring it every night,
And drawing a hundred pounds a week to tell how he won the fight.

Poem – Hard Luck

I left the course, and by my side
There walked a ruined tout —
A hungry creature, evil-eyed,
Who poured this story out.
“You see,” he said, “there came a swell
To Kensington today,
And, if I picked the winners well,
A crown at least he’s pay.

“I picked three winners straight, I did;
I filled his purse with pelf,
And then he gave me half-a-quid
To back one for myself.

“A half-a-quid to me he cast —
I wanted it indeed;
So help me Bob, for two days past
I haven’t had a feed.

“But still I thought my luck was in,
I couldn’t go astray —
I put it all on Little Min,
And lost it straightaway.

“I haven’t got a bite or bed,
I’m absolutely stuck;
So keep this lesson in your head:
Don’t over-trust your luck!”

The folks went homeward, near and far,
The tout, oh! where is he?
Ask where the empty boilers are
Beside the Circular Quay.

Poem – The Flying Gang

I served my time, in the days gone by,
In the railway’s clash and clang,
And I worked my way to the end, and I
Was the head of the “Flying Gang”.
‘Twas a chosen band that was kept at hand
In case of an urgent need;
Was it south or north, we were started forth
And away at our utmost speed.
If word reached town that a bridge was down,
The imperious summons rang —
“Come out with the pilot engine sharp,
And away with the flying gang.”
Then a piercing scream and a rush of steam
As the engine moved ahead;
With measured beat by the slum and street
Of the busy town we fled,
By the uplands bright and the homesteads white,
With the rush of the western gale —
And the pilot swayed with the pace we made
As she rocked on the ringing rail.
And the country children clapped their hands
As the engine’s echoes rang,
But their elders said: “There is work ahead
When they send for the flying gang.”

Then across the miles of the saltbush plain
That gleamed with the morning dew,
Where the grasses waved like the ripening grain
The pilot engine flew —
A fiery rush in the open bush
Where the grade marks seemed to fly,
And the order sped on the wires ahead,
The pilot must go by.
The Governor’s special must stand aside,
And the fast express go hang;
Let your orders be that the line is free
For the boys in the flying gang.