It Was Never Contemplated [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.]

It Was Never Contemplated.

When old ADAM bit the apple,
And thereafter had to grapple
With hard toil to earn his daily bread by sweat,
There’s no doubt that he protested
That his “rights” had been molested,
And he’s probably protesting strongly yet:
“When this garden was created
It was never contemplated
It was never in the schedule or the plan —
’Twasn’t even dimly hinted
That my living would be stinted,
Or that Work would ever be the lot of man.”

But in spite of protestation
ADAM, with his lone relation,
Was evicted in an arbitrary way,
Even though that resolution
Wasn’t in the Constitution,
And his children have been grafting to this day.
But poor ADAM’S old contention
Has become a stock convention
’Mid the ADAMS of the nations ever since,
’Mid the shufflers and the shirkers,
Crusted Tory anti-workers,
They whom nought but “precedent” can e’er convince.

They’re the ADAMS of the race; they’re the men that clog the pace,
With their backs upon the vanguard and their eyes upon the rear;
Praising loud their point of view, and regarding ought that’s new
With a rabid Tory hatred and a vague old-fashioned fear.
They’re the men of yester-year loitering all needless here,
And meandering around and ’round in aimless, endless rings,
Ever ready to resent acts without a precedent,
Such as were not contemplated in the ancient scheme of things.

“O, it was not contemplated!”
’Tis the cry of the belated,
The complaint of all the Old World’s waterlogged;
’Tis the trade-mark of the Tory;
’Tis the declaration hoary;
’Tis the protest of the busted and the bogged.
Mark, whenever it is uttered —
By the lips of ancients muttered,
There is wisdom lacking here, at any rate
For, when Tories were created
It was never contemplated
That they ever would attempt to contemplate.

There are many things decided,
Quite by precedent unguided.
It was never contemplated, by the way,
When the scheme of things was shaping,
And mankind emerged from aping,
That he’d ever learn to eat three times a day;
Yet, all precedent unheeding,
Even Tories time their feeding,
And are known to be quite regular at meals;
Though in neolithic ages
’Twas laid down by ancient sages
That a man shall eat when so inclined he feels.

He’s the dead weight at the back; he’s the log upon the track;
He’s the man who shouts the warning when the danger’s past and gone;
He’s the prophet of the old by defunct traditions held;
He’s the chap that sits and twaddles while the crowd goes marching on.
He’s the bloke that stands and prates, though he never contemplates,
Of the things uncontemplated in the councils of the dead;
But the nation marches by heedless of his bitter cry —
Marches on and contemplates the vital things away ahead.

In the shaping of a nation
Can we crowd all contemplation —
Can we plan it in a hurried week or so?
Cease your ancient whiskered story
And observe, O gentle Tory,
We are contemplating matters as we go.
E’en to-day we’re contemplating
Matters princip’ly relating
To the shaping of to-morrow’s onward way;
And to-morrow ev’ry grafter
Will be forming plans for after;
But we are not harking back to yesterday.

For the future days arranging;
Seeking, planning, ever changing;
Weeding out the old mistakes of yester-year;
Planting now the seed of new things
March the men who dare and do things,
Opening up the unblazed road without a fear.
And, O mark you, gentle Tory,
We shall judge your measures hoary
By the use in this day’s scheme they represent;
We shall use them if we want them;
If we don’t we shall supplant them,
For we do not care a damn for precedent.

He’s discretion at its worst; he a harbinger reversed;
He’s the obstinate old party who abhors the new and strange.
He’s the man whose ancient eyes ever fail to recognise
That the Law of Man was ever Change, and ever will be Change.
He’s a scoffer at the Law; he’s a blemish and a flaw;
And he whines as did old ADAM when he lost the realms of bliss.
When they shoved him in the cold in the parlous days of old:

“THIS WAS NEVER CONTEMPLATED! YOU’VE NO PRECEDENT FOR THIS!”



Source:
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 145-148

Speak Your Mind

*