The Bleating [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 Bleating.

Lo, I listened to the bleating of the sheep —
Squatters’ sheep —
And I sat me down and pondered long and deep.
And a cloud of gloom came o’er me
At the empty leagues before me —
Yea, I marked the virgin grass-lands’ mighty sweep —
Land that called for cultivation;
Cried aloud for population —
Land that carried trees and fences, grass and sheep.

O, I listened to their bleating on the plain —
Virgin plain —
And I spoke to them with epithets profane.
In the valley, on the hill,
Yet were sheep, and more sheep still.
(Which annoyed me very much, I must explain.
For one sheep may he a blessing,
But a million are depressing.)
And I cursed them, but I knew I cursed in vain.

Lo! and then I fell a-dreaming where I sat
Sadly sat —
Till I didn’t see what I was looking at.
And my dream was most alluring.
Ah ! But, had it been enduring,
What a reckoning it would have been for Fat!
What a blessing for Australia
If my dream — but inter alia,
I’ll explain to you what I am driving at.

Lo! (excuse this weird redundancy of “lo,”
Soulful “lo”;
But I want to be impressive, you must know).
Lo! instead of jumbucks bleating,
I could hear the reaper’s beating;
And I saw abundant milk and honey flow.
I espied snug homesteads dotted
O’er the plain. I also spotted
Towns, with factories and workshops, rise and grow.

Ay, at busy line of commerce filled the place —
Desert place —
And mine eyes beheld a happy populace
Wresting from the land its treasure
Loving work and earning leisure.
Industry and population grew apace.
I could hear the hammers ringing;
Happy housewives blithely singing;
And I read Prosperity in every face.

Then I saw a file of troops go marching past —
Bravely past.
Adown the plain I heard the bugle’s blast.
I beheld the banners streaming,
And I fancied in my dreaming
That our happy country owned an army vast.
As each patriot marched proudly
By, he cried, exulting loudly,
“Fair Australia is safely ours at last!”

Then a large, red man rode up upon a horse,
(Large roan horse),
And spoke to me in strident tones and coarse.
And his discourse was (diluted)
“Wanderers are prosecuted
On this crimson run. Now get!” I got — of course.
As I’ve said, the man was bulky,
And he seemed morose and sulky;
And it just occurred to me he might use force.

But, in spite of him, my dream I still may keep —
Fondly keep.
And from out it sprouts the wisdom that I reap
For the benefit of all men,
But especially of little men.
(Meaning men whose wealth does not exceed one heap.)
Ay, the lesson is before you —
Pray forgive me if I bore you;
But, my brothers, heed the lesson of the sheep!

For, hark ye, hear the bleating of the sheep —
Human sheep!
(O, my brothers, but their sheephood makes me weep!)
Mark ye, how they flock together
After some old, sly bell-wether —
One that Fat finds it convenient to keep;
Watch them how they follow, follow.
See the verbal weeds they swallow,
And the squatter keeps his grass for paying sheep.

O, the squatter has of woolly sheep a lot —
Quite a lot;
But they’re not the only sort of sheep he’s got.
How he profits by their fleeces
And, when price of meat decreases —
Human meat — the butcher, Fat, will take the lot.
O, ye farmers and selectors!
Landless voters! Free electors!
Think, my brothers: are ye sheep, or are ye not?

C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 69-71

Speak Your Mind