Sari Bair [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

Sari Bair

So, they’ve struck their streak o’ trouble, an’ they got it in the neck,
An’ there’s more than one ole pal o’ mine ’as ’anded in ’is check;
But Ginger still takes nourishment; ’e’s well, but breathin’ ’ard.
An’ so ’e sends the strength uv it scrawled on a chunk uv card.

“On the day we ’it the transport there wus cheerin’ on the pier,
An’ the girls wus wavin’ hankies as they dropped a partin’ tear,
An’ we felt like little ’eroes as we watched the crowd recede,
Fer we sailed to prove Australia, an’ our boastin’ uv the breed.

“There wus Trent, ex-toff, uv England; there wus Green, ex-pug, uv ’Loo;
There wus me, an’ Craig uv Queensland, wiv ’is ’ulkin’ six-foot-two;
An’ little Smith uv Collin’wood, ’oo ’owled a rag-time air,
On the day we left the Leeuwin, bound nor’-west for Gawd-knows-where.

“On the day we come to Cairo wiv its niggers an’ its din,
To fill our eyes wiv desert sand, our souls wiv Eastern sin,
There wus cursin’ an’ complainin’; we wus ’ungerin’ fer fight —
Little imertation soljers full uv vanity an’ skite.

“Then they worked us — Gawd! they worked us, till we knoo wot drillin’ meant;
Till men begun to feel like men, an’ wasters to repent,
Till we grew to ’ate all Egyp’, an’ its desert, an’ its stinks:
On the days we drilled at Mena in the shadder uv the Sphinx.

“Then Green uv Sydney swore an oath they meant to ’old us tight,
A crowd uv flamin’ ornaments wivout a chance to fight;
But little Smith uv Collin’wood, he whistled ’im a toon,
An’ sez, ‘Aw, take a pull, lad; there’ll be whips o’ stoushin’ soon.’

“Then the waitin’, weary waitin’, while we itched to meet the foe!
But we’d done wiv fancy skitin’ an’ the comic op’ra show.
We wus soljers — finished soljers, an’ we felt it in our veins
On the day we trod the desert on ole Egyp’s sandy plains.

“An’ Trent ’e said it wus a bore, an’ all uv us wus blue,
An’ Craig, the giant, never joked the way ’e used to do.
But little Smith uv Collin’wood ’e ’ummed a little song,
An’ said, ‘You leave it to the ’eads. O now we sha’n’t be long!’

“Then Sari Bair, O Sari Bair, ’twus you wot seen it done,
The day the transports rode yer bay beneath a smilin’ sun.
We boasted much, an’ toasted much; but where yer tide line creeps,
’Twus you, me dainty Sari Bair, that seen us play fer keeps.

“We wus full uv savage skitin’ while they kep’ us on the shelf —
(Now I tell yeh, square an’ ’onest, I wus doubtin’ us meself);
But we proved it, good an’ plenty, that our lads can do an’ dare,
On the day we walloped Abdul o’er the sands o’ Sari Bair.

“Luck wus out wiv Green uv Sydney, where ’e stood at my right ’and,
Fer they plunked ’im on the transport ’fore ’e got a chance to land.
Then I saw ’em kill a feller wot I knoo in Camberwell,
Somethin’ sort o’ went inside me — an’ the rest wus bloody ’ell.

“Thro’ the smoke I seen ’im strivin’, Craig uv Queensland, tall an’ strong,
Like an ’arvester at ’ay-time singin’, swingin’ to the song.
An’ little Smith uv Collin’wood, ’e ’owled a fightin’ tune,
On the day we chased Mahomet over Sari’s sandy dune.

“An’ Sari Bair, O Sari Bair, you seen ’ow it wus done,
The transports dancin’ in yer bay beneath the bonzer sun;
An’ speckled o’er yer gleamin’ shore the little ’uddled ’eaps
That showed at last the Southern breed could play the game fer keeps.

“We found ’im, Craig uv Queensland, stark, ’is ’and still on ’is gun.
We found too many more besides, when that fierce scrap wus done.
An’ little Smith uv Collin’wood, he crooned a mournful air,
The night we planted ’em beneath the sands uv Sari Bair.

“On the day we took the transport there wus cheerin’ on the pier,
An’ we wus little chiner gawds; an’ now we’re sittin’ ’ere,
Wiv the taste uv blood an’ battle on the lips uv ev’ry man
An’ ev’ry man jist ’opin’ fer to end as we began.

“Fer Green is gone, an’ Craig is gone, an’ Gawd! ’ow many more!
Who sleep the sleep at Sari Bair beside that sunny shore!
An’ little Smith uv Collin’wood, a bandage ’round ’is ’ead,
He ’ums a savage song an’ vows quick vengeance fer the dead.

“But Sari Bair, me Sari Bair, the secrets that you ’old
Will shake the ’earts uv Southern men when all the tale is told;
An’ when they git the strength uv it, there’ll never be the need
To call too loud fer fightin’ men among the Southern breed.”



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 45-48

Editor’s notes:
blue = depressed, sad; to have “the blues” is to feel very down or low in spirit

bonzer = (Australian slang) excellent (can also be spelt as “bonza”)

handed in his check = died (also rendered as “handed in his cheque”)

’Loo = (an abbreviation) Waterloo, suburb of Sydney (New South Wales)

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

stoush = fight, brawl (stoush may also mean to hit or punch)

take a pull = pull up, stop, discontinue; take a rest, have an break

whips = a lot, an abundance, a profusion, plenty of

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
’anded (handed)
’is (his)
stoushin’ (stoushing)

[Editor: Changed “on’ is gun” to “on ’is gun”.]

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