[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913). Most of the poetry of C.J. Dennis is written in the style of the Australian vernacular. See the Glossary for explanations of words and phrases.]
A Ballad of Elderly Kids.
Now this is the ballad of Jeremy Jones,
And likewise of Bobadil Brown,
Of the Snooks and the Snaggers and Macs and Malones,
And Diggle and Daggle and Down.
In fact, ’tis a song of a fatuous throng,
Which embraces “the man in the street,”
And the bloke on the ’bus, and a crowd more of us,
And a lot of the people we meet.
Yes, this is the story of Jack and of Jill,
Whose surnames are Snawley or Smith,
And of Public Opinion and National Will,
And samples of Popular Myth.
For Jeremy Jones, as a very small boy,
Was encouraged to struggle for pelf,
And to strive very hard in his own little yard,
But never to think for himself.
Then, Hi-diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
Come, sing us a nursery rhyme.
For, in spite of our whiskers, we elderly friskers
Are kiddes the most of our time.
So this is the song of the juvenile throng,
And its aunts and its big brother Bill,
Its uncles and cousins, and sisters in dozens,
Louisa and ’Liza and Lill.
Now, Jeremy Jones was exceedingly “loyal,”
And when any procession went by,
He’d cheer very loud with the rest of the crowd,
Though he honestly couldn’t tell why.
He was taught that his “rulers” toiled hard for his sake,
And promoted the “general good”;
That to meddle with “customs” was quite a mistake,
And Jones didn’t see why he should.
To gird at the “Order of Things as they Are,”
He was told, was the act of a fool.
He was taught, in effect, to regard with respect
Ev’ry’ “Precedent,” “Practice” and “Rule,”
And if we deserted the “Usual Plan”
He believed that the nation would fall.
So Jones became known as a “right-thinking man,”
Which meant that he didn’t at all.
Oh, Little Miss Muffett, she sat on a tuffet,
But fled from a spider in fright;
For no one had told her that if she was bolder,
She might have asserted her right.
Ho, rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub,
On a sea of political doubt;
And they argue together concerning the weather,
But never attempt to get out.
They made him a grocer when Jerry left school,
And a very good grocer was he;
And a dunce he was not, for he knew quite a lot
Of such matters as treacle and tea.
But the making of nations, and things so immense,
He considered beyond his control.
He was busy on week-days at saving his pence,
And on Sundays at saving his soul.
But politics Jones did not wholly neglect!
He subscribed to a paper, THE SAGE;
And every morn, with becoming respect,
He scanned its political page.
He believed what was said in each leader he read,
For a “right-thinking person” was he,
Who was shocked at their vices, who growled of the prices
Of sugar or treacle or tea.
Oh, Little Jack Horner sits in a corner,
A look of delight in his eye,
At the sight of a plum on the end of his thumb,
While there’s somebody sneaking his pie.
Then, ride a cock hoss to Banbury Cross —
Though the Lord only knows why we do.
But there’s precedent for it, and those who ignore it
We class as an ignorant crew.
So Jeremy Jones he meanders through life,
Behaving as Grandmother bids;
And so do his very respectable wife
And extremely conventional kids.
Their bosses can trust ’em, for habit and custom
They’ve learnt in the regular school;
And they call him “right-thinking,” while privately winking
And setting him down as a fool.
Convention’s his master; he vows that disaster
Will swiftly encompass its foes.
He thinks Evolution a Labor delusion,
And “Progress” a “something’ that grows.
He’s one of the many — a credulous zany —
The leadable, bleedable type —
Who looks upon “Time” — instructed by Granny —
As something that rarely is ripe.
Oh, Goosey, goose gander, where do you wander?
Only, kind sir, where I’m told;
For my master has said I must go where I’m led,
And to contradict him would be bold.
And Little Bo-peep she lost her sheep.
It’s the Socialist’s fault, she’ll insist.
But leave her to grieve, for she’ll never believe
That a Meat Trust could ever exist.
Then this is the ballad of elderly kids,
Of Jeremy Jones and his kind,
Of Bobadil Brown, and Daggle and Down,
And the crowd with the juvenile mind.
Oh, this is a song of the National Will,
Of the Snooks, and the Snaggers, and Smiths,
Their aunts and their cousins, and big brother Bill,
Convention and Popular Myths.
A sad little song of the fatuous throng,
A string of sedate little rhymes,
Concerning the crowd who consider it wrong
To collide with the “trend of the times.”
A song about Us, who are missing the ’bus,
While we trifle and toy with pretence.
For we play very hard in our own little yard,
But we seldom look over the fence.
Then Hi-diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle —
We’re never concerned with the cause.
Let’s giggle and sing for the Trust and the Ring
Are really our old Santa Claus.
Effects may surprise us, but Granny’ll advise us;
We’ll never behave as she bids.
Ho, grocers and drapers, let’s stick to the papers;
We’re all of us elderly kids.
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, , pages 156-159
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