A Letter to the Front [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Moods of Ginger Mick (1916).]

A Letter to the Front

I ’ave written Mick a letter in reply to one uv ’is,
Where ’e arsts ’ow things is goin’ where the gums an’ wattles is.
So I tries to buck ’im up a bit; to go fer Abdul’s fez;
An’ I ain’t no nob at litrachure; but this is wot I sez:

I suppose you fellers dream, Mick, in between the scraps out there,
Uv the land yeh left be’ind yeh when yeh sailed to do yer share:
Uv Collins Street, or Rundle Street, or Pitt, or George, or Hay,
Uv the land beyond the Murray or along the Castlereagh.
An’ I guess yeh dream of old days an’ the things yeh used to do,
An’ yeh wonder ’ow ’twill strike yeh when yeh’ve seen this business thro’,
An’ yeh try to count yer chances when yeh’ve finished wiv the Turk
An’ swap the gaudy war game fer a spell o’ plain, drab work.

Well, Mick, yeh know jist ’ow it is these early days o’ Spring,
When the gildin’ o’ the wattle chucks a glow on ev’rything.
Them olden days, the golden days that you remember well,
In spite o’ war an’ worry, Mick, are wiv us fer a spell.
Fer the green is on the paddicks, an’ the sap is in the trees,
An’ the bush birds in the gullies sing the ole, sweet melerdies;
An’ we’re ’opin’, as we ’ ’em, that, when next the Springtime comes,
You’ll be wiv us ’ere to listen to that bird tork in the gums.

It’s much the same ole Springtime, Mick, yeh reckerlect uv yore;
Boronier an’ dafferdils and wattle blooms once more
Sling sweetness over city streets, an’ seem to put to shame
The rotten greed an’ butchery that got you on this game —
The same ole sweet September days, an’ much the same ole place;
Yet, there’s a sort o’ somethin’, Mick, upon each passin’ face,
A sort o’ look that’s got me beat; a look that you put there,
The day yeh lobbed upon the beach an’ charged at Sari Bair.

It isn’t that we’re boastin’, lad; we’ve done wiv most o’ that —
The froth, the cheers, the flappin’ flags, the giddy wavin’ ’at.
Sich things is childish memories; we blush to ’ave ’em told,
Fer we ’ave seen our wounded, Mick, an’ it ’as made us old.
We ain’t growed soggy wiv regret, we ain’t swelled out wiv pride;
But we ’ave seen it’s up to us to lay our toys aside.
An’ it wus you that taught us, Mick, we’ve growed too old fer play,
An’ everlastin’ picter shows, an’ goin’ down the Bay.

An’, as a grown man dreams at times uv boy’ood days gone by,
So, when we’re feelin’ crook, I s’pose, we’ll sometimes sit an’ sigh.
But as a clean lad takes the ring wiv mind an’ ’eart serene,
So I am ’opin’ we will fight to make our man’ood clean.
When orl the stoushin’s over, Mick, there’s ’eaps o’ work to do:
An’ in the peaceful scraps to come we’ll still be needin’ you.
We will be needin’ you the more fer wot yeh’ve seen an’ done;
Fer you were born a Builder, lad, an’ we ’ave jist begun.

There’s bin a lot o’ tork, ole mate, uv wot we owe to you,
An’ wot yeh’ve braved an’ done fer us, an’ wot we mean to do.
We’ve ’ailed you boys as ’eroes, Mick, an’ torked uv just reward
When you ’ave done the job yer at an’ slung aside the sword.
I guess it makes yeh think a bit, an’ weigh this gaudy praise;
Fer even ’eroes ’ave to eat, an’ — there is other days:
The days to come when we don’t need no bonzer boys to fight:
When the flamin’s picnic’s over an’ the Leeuwin looms in sight.

Then there’s another fight to fight, an’ you will find it tough
To sling the Kharki clobber fer the plain civilian stuff.
When orl the cheerin’ dies away, an’ ’ero-worship flops,
Yeh’ll ’ave to face the ole tame life — ’ard yakker or ’ard cops,
But, lad, yer land is wantin’ yeh, an’ wantin’ each strong son
To fight the fight that never knows the firin’ uv a gun:
The steady fight, when orl you boys will show wot you are worth,
An’ punch a cow on Yarra Flats or drive a quill in Perth.

The gilt is on the wattle, Mick, young leaves is on the trees,
An’ the bush birds in the gullies swap the ole sweet melerdies,
There’s a good, green land awaitin’ you when you come ’ome again
To swing a pick at Ballarat or ride Yarrowie Plain.
The streets is gay wiv dafferdils — but — haggard in the sun,
A wounded soljer passes; an’ we know ole days is done.
Fer somew’ere down inside us, lad, is somethin’ you put there
The day yeh swung a dirty left, fer us, at Sari Bair.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 85-88

Editor’s notes:
clobber = clothes; accessories, equipment, personal belongings, or supplies (can also mean to strike someone severely; beat, criticize, defeat, or treat harshly)

Leeuwin = Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia, the most south-westerly point of the Australian mainland

left = a punch with the left fist; a left hook

Sari Bair = the Sari Bair ridge, a high position near Anzac Cove, where a major battle was fought in 1915

yakker = work (also spelt “yacka”, “yacker”, “yakka”)

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