A Psalm of Resignation [poem by Joseph Furphy]

[Editor: This poem by Joseph Furphy was published in The Poems of Joseph Furphy (1916).]

A Psalm of Resignation.

In spite of his imposing plea,
A freeman whom the truth makes free
Is often fairly up a tree,
And marvels why it should be thus.
Then reasoning in his tin-pot way
That honesty can never pay,
He loses faith, as well he may;
Yet he has simply Miss’d the ’Bus.

Concerning noodles who profess
By moral rules to gauge success:
Their thinking tackle’s in a mess,
And they are wrong to Tartarus.
Don’t say the worthiest lead the van.
That gag is deader than Queen Anne.
If it were straight, no honest man
Need grieve that he had Miss’d the ’Bus.

All are alike in Satan’s grip,
If we accept your Shakespeare’s tip,
Who hints, per Hamlet, that the whip
Is earned by every one of us.
Which is absurd (as Euclid says),
For all have good and evil traits,
Though some go smoothly all their days,
And some are doom’d to Miss the ’Bus.

Even the Yiddish Sage confess’d
He had to give this problem best,
Namely, to find desert express’d
In terms of Need and Overplus.
He saw not damper to the wise,
Nor gonce to men of enterprise,
But Buckley’s prospect of a rise
For anyone who Miss’d the ’Bus.

What agencies manipulate
This economic drafting-gate
Through which we pass to find our fate,
It would be futile to discuss;
But any man with half an eye
Can see that mysteries underlie
The great “Whaffor”? — the age-long, “Why”? —
Required by those who Miss the ’Bus.

Some swell-coves, narrow’d by their luck,
In Evolution’s rut are stuck,
Like that wool-bearing reptile-duck
Which bushmen term the platterpuss;
Whilst in our class we often find
A stubborn attitude of mind
Attending the demnition grind
Dealt out to those who Miss the ’Bus.

“Read Samuel Smiles, you dreaming flats!”
Say thrift-apostles, through their hats;
But wearily we answer, “Rats!
It’s not worth while to make a fuss,
Preach us no Self-made Merchant’s creed —
Columbia’s Curse — which holds, indeed,
That we should loot our fellow-weed,
And help him but to Miss the ’Bus.”

Again, we could “arise! awake!”
And whoop with 40-devil, brake;
But no improvement should we make,
No more than doth the hairy Russ.
If we decline to act the goat,
But sanely think, resolve, and VOTE,
Then doubtless we shall keep afloat,
And Johnny need not Miss the ’Bus.

This seems to summarise our case.
I hope we carry it with grace,
Acknowledging in Fate’s embrace
The nelson of an octopus.
And when the Last Conveyance comes,
Neither the swell who pots the plums,
Nor we who fossick round for crumbs,
Shall be allowed to Miss the ’Bus.

K. B. [Kate Baker] (editor), The Poems of Joseph Furphy, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Co., 1916, pages 17-18

Editor’s notes:
best = (as in the phrase “give it best”, or similar) to give up, give it away, abandon, cease to operate, withdraw from a situation

Buckley’s = “Buckley’s chance”, i.e. little or no chance (a reference to the convict William Buckley who disappeared into the bush and was presumed dead; although he did reappear some years later, after having spent a long time living amongst the Aborigines)

’bus = omnibus; a long enclosed vehicle, used for public transport; unlike modern buses, omnibuses were horse-drawn contraptions

cove = man, chap, fellow

demnition = a euphemism for “damnation”

gonce = (Australian slang) money (also spelt “gons”)

Last Conveyance = in the context of death, the vehicle or entity which transports the dead to the afterlife

Russ = Russians (may also refer to something that is Russian in origin or style)

Samuel Smiles = a Scottish author (1812-1904), best known for his book Self-Help (1859)

swell = “a swell” is someone who is fashionably dressed or socially prominent

Tartarus = Hell; in Greek mythology, an abyss situated far below Hades, where evildoers were imprisoned (Tartarus was also the name of a Greek god of the Underworld)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
platterpuss (platypus)

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