The Call of Stoush [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Call of Stoush

Wot price ole Ginger Mick? ’E’s done a break —
Gone to the flamin’ war to stoush the foe.
Wus it fer glory, or a woman’s sake?
Ar, arst me somethin’ easy! I dunno.
’Is Kharki clobber set ’im off a treat,
That’s all I know; ’is motive’s got me beat.

Ole Mick e’s trainin’ up in Cairo now;
An’ all the cops in Spadger’s Lane is sad.
They miss ’is music in the midnight row
Wot time the pushes mix it good an’ glad.
Fer ’e wus one o’ them, you understand,
Wot “soils the soshul life uv this fair land.”

A peb wus Mick; a leery bloke wus ’e,
Low down, an’ given to the brimmin’ cup;
The sort o’ chap that coves like you an’ me,
Don’t mix wiv, ’cos of our strick bringin’s-up.
An’ ’e wus sich becos unseein’ Fate
Lobbed ’im in life a ’undred years too late.

’E wus a man uv vierlence, wus Mick,
Coarse wiv ’is speech an’ in ’is manner low,
Slick wiv ’is ’ands, an’ ’andy wiv a brick
When bricks wus needful to defeat a foe.
An’ now ’e’s gone an’ mizzled to the war,
An’ some blokes ’as the nerve to arst “Wot for?”

Wot for? Gawstruth! ’E wus no patriot
That sits an’ brays advice in days uv strife;
’E never flapped no flags nor sich like rot;
’E never sung “Gawsave” in all ’is life.
’E wus dispised be them that make sich noise;
But now — O strike! — ’e’s “one uv our brave boys.”

’E’s one uv our brave boys, all right, all right.
’Is early trainin’ down in Spadger’s Lane
Done ’im no ’arm fer this ’ere orl-in fight;
’Is loss o’ culcher is ’is country’s gain.
’Im wiv ’is carst-ir’n chiv an’ leery ways —
An’ swell tarts ’eavin’ ’im sweet words o’ praise.

Why did ’e go? ’E ’ad a decent job,
’Is tart an’ ’im they could ’a’ made it right.
Why does a wild bull fight to guard the mob?
Why does a bloomin’ bull-ant look fer fight?
Why does a rooster scrap an’ flap an’ crow?
’E went becos ’e dam well ’ad to go.

’E never spouted no ’igh-soundin’ stuff
About stern jooty an’ ’is country’s call;
But, in ’is way, ’e ’eard it right enough
A-callin’ like the shout uv “On the Ball!”
Wot time the footer brings the clicks great joy,
An’ Saints er Carlton roughs it up wiv ’Roy.

The call wot came to cave-men in the days
When rocks wus stylish in the scrappin’ line;
The call wot knights ’eard in the minstrel’s lays,
That sent ’em in tin soots to Palerstine;
The call wot draws all fighters to the fray
It come to Mick, an’ Mick ’e must obey.

The Call uv Stoush! . . . It’s older than the ’ills.
Lovin’ an’ fightin’ — there’s no more to tell
Concernin’ men. An’ when that feelin’ thrills
The blood uv them ’oo’s fathers mixed it well,
They ’ave to ’eed it — bein’ ’ow they’re built —
As traders ’ave to ’eed the clink uv gilt.

An’ them whose gilt ’as stuffed ’em stiff wiv pride
An’ ’aughty scorn uv blokes like Ginger Mick —
I sez to them, put sich crook thorts aside,
An’ don’t lay on the patronage too thick.
Orl men is brothers when it comes to lash
An’ ’aughty scorn an’ Culcher does their dash.

War ain’t no giddy garden feete — it’s war:
A game that calls up love an’ ’atred both.
An’ them that shudders at the sight o’ gore,
An’ shrinks to ’ear a drunken soljer’s oath,
Must ’ide be’ind the man wot ’eaves the bricks,
An’ thank their Gawd for all their Ginger Micks.

Becos ’e never ’ad the chance to find
The glory o’ the world by land an’ sea,
Becos the beauty ’idin’ in ’is mind
Was not writ plain fer blokes like you an’ me,
They calls ’im crook; but in ’im I ’ave found
Wot makes a man a man the world around.

Be’ind that dile uv ’is, as ’ard as sin,
Wus strange, soft thorts that never yet showed out;
An’ down in Spadger’s Lane, in dirt an’ din,
’E dreamed sich dreams as poits sing about.
’E’s ’ad ’is visions uv the Bonzer Tart;
An’ stoushed some coot to ease ’is swellin’ ’eart.

Lovin’ an’ fightin’ . . . when the tale is told,
That’s all there is to it; an’ in their way
Them brave an’ noble ’ero blokes uv old
Wus Ginger Micks — the crook ’uns uv their day.
Jist let the Call uv Stoush give ’im ’is chance
An’ Ginger Mick’s the ’ero of Romance.

So Ginger Mick ’e’s mizzled to the war;
Joy in ’is ’eart, an’ wild dreams in ’is brain;
Gawd ’elp the foe that ’e goes gunnin’ for
If tales is true they tell in Spadger’s Lane —
Tales that ud fairly freeze the gentle ’earts
Uv them ’oo knits ’is socks — the Culchered Tarts.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 29-33

Editor’s notes:
Carlton = Carlton Football Club (named after the Melbourne suburb of Carlton), an Australian Rules football team

chiv = face (derived from “Chevy Chase”, the name of a popular song, which was used as rhyming slang for “face”, which then became “chivvy”, then “chiv”)

click = a clique, i.e. a gang

cove = man, chap, fellow

crook = bad, unpleasant, unsatisfactory (may also mean: ill, sick, unwell; injured; crooked, dishonest; a criminal; a cheat, a fraud; angry, irritable, to lose one’s temper, e.g. to go crook at someone)

dial = (slang) face (from the dial, or face, of a clock)

footer = (slang) football

Gawsave = “God save”; in the context of music, a reference to the national anthem “God save the King/Queen”

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

gilt = (slang) money; gilt also refers to gold or something that has a thin layer or covering of gold, or of something that looks like gold, or has the colour of gold

lash = (slang) violence, fighting

peb = a pebble; a larrikin, a flash fellow; an animal or a person who is hard to control

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

’Roy = an abbreviation of Fitzroy; in the context of football, a reference to the Fitzroy Football Club (named after the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy), an Australian Rules football team

Saints = South Melbourne Football Club (known as the “Saints”), an Australian Rules football team

scrap = fight, brawl

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

tart = a young woman (a contraction of “sweetheart”); it also came to refer to a woman who behaves or dresses in such a way as to be considered sexually provocative (another meaning is: prostitute)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
dile (dial)
poit (poet)
soot (suit)

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