Cleanin’ [poem by C.J. Dennis]

[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.]


The Kings thet lives in palises, they alwis ’ave the’r care
(Keep the blessed winnower agoin’).
Ther’s wealthy men that grumbles at the lot they ’ave to bear
(We’re lucky if we ’ave enough for sowin’)
Fer man was born to grumble frum ’is cradle to ’is grave
(Oh, it’s forty bloomin’ ’undred in the sun!)
About the cash ’e ’as to spend, or wot ’e ’as to save
(W’ell be ’appy when the cleanin’ up is done.)
But all the worries o’ the world is nothin’ else but play
(Some one come an’ keep away the flies!)
To the cussedness of cleanin’ awn a broilin’ summer day
(Ow! the grit is borin’ ’oles into my eyes.)

Fer it’s cleanin’ an’ it’s swearin’
’Cos the drought is awn the crop;
An’ it’s graftin’, an’ its’ tearin’
Till yer nearly fit to drop;
It’s baggin’ up an’ sewin’ frum the early dawn till late;
There’s seven miles to cart it, an’ the prize is — one-an’-eight.

The day of twenty-bushel crops is gawn an’ parst away
(This ’ere life’s as ’ard as any man’s)
They reckon six or seven is a splendid yield to-day
(The cockspur’s playin’ blazis with me ’an’s)
The farm an’ stock is mortgaged to the ’ilt fer all its worth
(Look alive an’ send the thing along);
Why did I see this rain-forsaken country in the North?
(Stop the fake! the screen is going wrong.)
I ought a bin a barrister, or else a city clerk
(I’d a give an ’alf-a-sovereign for a beer!)
Fer this is blessed slavery, although they call it work
(Let ’er go! I got the beggar clear.)

An’ it’s scoopin’ and it’s baggin’,
When the dust is in yer eyes;
An’ it’s growlin’ an’ it’s naggin’,
Fer yer pestered wi’ the flies;
With prickles in yer fingers ye can ’ardly work at all,
An’ the sweat is pourin’ off ye like a bloomin’ waterfall.

Afore I come up ’ere I used to ’ave a bit o’ cash
(Come an’ earn yer livin’ on the land.)
But the seasons an’ the prices they ’ave made an awful ’ash
(Now I’ve run the needle in me ’and.)
I’m owin’ to the doctor, an’ I’m owin’ at the store.
(Wonder wot it’s like to see it rain?)
An’ afore the year is over I’ll be likely ownin’ more
(Pass across the water bag again.)
An’ in a decent season, should it chance to come around
(Ther’ ye go, ye goat, you’ve let it spill!)
I’ll ’ave to go insolvent for a trifle in the pound
(Shut ’er down, the sun’s be’ind the hill.)

An’ it’s trudgin’ ’ome from cleanin’,
When yer fairly flattened out;
An’ ye try to see the meanin’
Why the Lord ’as sent the drought.
For yer legs can ’ardly ’old ye, an’ yer nearly fit to drop,
Oh, it’s dainty work is cleanin’ up a durn three-bushel crop.

C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 66-68

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