Back ter Little Lon [poem by Louis Esson]

[Editor: This poem by Louis Esson was published in Red Gums and Other Verses (1912).]

Back ter Little Lon.

Renie’s left her ’usband — eighteen months aw’y,
In ’er cottage, Renie sadly struggled on —
Left poor Bill lamentin’, wen she went astr’y,
Liker lost sheep stragglin’, back ter Little Lon.

Back ter Little Lon, where the flarin’ bar,
Chinee joint and fish-shop, and the buskers are.
Yappin’ ter the pushes, dodgin’ D. and John,
Back among her cobbers, back ter Little Lon

Bill, ’oo w’z er lumper, found her there one night,
Hooked ’er inter supper for er friendly chat.
Bill w’z struck, gorblime, Renie looked so bright,
With ’er paint an’ powder, feathers in ’er ’at.

Down at Port ’e took ’er ’ouse — Bill w’z never mean —
Booked ’er in er solemn Church as ’is lawful wife;
Sprung er weddin’ blow-out — proud ’e w’z o’ Ren’,
Yet she ’ankered after summut rortier life.

Tired o’ ’ousehold duties, seldom w’z she found
Scrubbin’ floors an’ washin’-up — them w’z fain fergets;
Pale she looked an’ troubled, tho’ she lazed eround,
Sittin’ on ther door-step, puffin’ cigarettes.

Time w’z ’anging ’eavy, wen she tired o’ Bill,
Nuthin’ seemed ter ’appen then — joy, nor even pain:
Once I seen ’er cryin’ o’er ther winder-sill,
Now yer sees ’er, over there, laughin’ down the lane.

Somethin’ seemed to call ’er — ’tw’z ther joy o’ life —
And them ribald alleys lured ’er on and on.
’S’truth, she couldn’t help it, tho’ she w’z ’is wife,
Now she’s on with Dido, back in Little Lon.

Back ter Little Lon, where the blazin’ bar
Lights an’ fights, an’ fish-shops, and her cobbers are.
Yappin’ ter ther pushes, dodgin’ D. and John,
Renie’s dyin’ happy now, back in Little Lon!

Louis Esson, Red Gums and Other Verses, Melbourne: Fraser & Jenkinson, 1912, pages 34-35

Editor’s notes:
Chinee = (slang) Chinese; a Chinese person; something that is Chinese in origin or style (e.g. a “Chinee restaurant”)

cobber = friend, mate

D. = detective

gorblime = an exclamation which expresses surprise (a contraction of the phrase “God blind me”, which is believed to be a shorter version of “May God blind me if it is not so”, or similar phrases, used to assert truthfulness); variations include “cor blimey”, “corblimey”, “gawblimy”, “gawblimey”, “gorblime”, and “gorblimey”

John = police, policeman, derived from “John Hopper” (or “Johnny Hopper”), rhyming slang for copper, i.e. cop (policeman)

joint = a building, place; shop, place of business, restaurant; home, domicile, residence

Little Lon = Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

push = a gang; historically, the term refers to a street gang; may also be used to refer to a group

sprung = (slang) paid

’s’truth = an oath, a contraction of “God’s truth” (also rendered as “Gawstruth” or “Gorstruth”)

yap = talk, chat; especially to talk for a lengthy duration in a constant and annoying manner

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
an’ (and)
’anging (hanging)
’ankered (hankered)
’appen (happen)
astr’y (astray)
’at (hat)
aw’y (away)
’e (he)
’eavy (heavy)
er (a)
’er (her)
eround (around)
inter (into)
’is (his)
liker (like a)
o’ (of)
’oo (who)
’ouse (house)
’ousehold (household)
summut (somewhat)
ter (to)
ther (their)
tho’ (though)
’tw’z (’twas; it was)
’usband (husband)
wen (when)
winder-sill (window-sill)
w’z (was)
yer (you)

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