The Game [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Game

“Ho! the sky’s as blue as blazes an’ the sun is shinin’ bright,
An’ the dicky birds is singin’ over’ead,
An’ I’m ’ummin’, softly ’ummin’, w’ile I’m achin’ fer a fight,
An’ the chance to fill some blighter full o’ lead.
An’ the big guns they are boomin’, an’ the shells is screamin’ past,
But I’m corperil — lance-corperil, an’ found me game at last!”

I ixpects a note frum Ginger, fer the time wus gettin’ ripe,
An’ I gits one thick wiv merry ’owls uv glee,
Fer they’ve gone an’ made ’im corperil — they’ve given ’im a stripe,
An’ yeh’d think, to see ’is note, it wus V.C.
Fer ’e chortles like a nipper wiv a bran’ noo Noer’s Ark
Since Forchin she ’as smiled on ’im, an’ life’s no more a nark.

“Ho! the sky along the ’ill-tops, it is smudged wiv cannon smoke,
An’ the shells along the front is comin’ fast,
But the ’eads ’ave ’ad the savvy fer to reckernise a bloke,
An’ permotion’s gettin’ common-sense at last.
An’ they picked me fer me manners, w’ich wus snouted over ’ome,
But I’ve learned to be a soljer since I crossed the ragin’ foam.

“They ’ave picked me ’cos they trust me; an’ it’s got me where I live,
An’ it’s put me on me metal, square an’ all.
I wusn’t in the runnin’ once when blokes ’ad trust to give,
But over ’ere I answers to the call.
So some shrewd ’ead ’e marked me well, an’ when the time wus ripe,
’E took a chance on Ginger Mick, an’ I ’ave snared me stripe.

“I know wot I wus born fer now, an’ soljerin’s me game,
That’s no furphy; but I never guessed it once;
Fer when I ’it things up at ’ome they said I wus to blame,
An’ foolish beaks they sent me up fer munce.
But ’ere — well, things is different to wot sich things wus then,
Fer me game is playin’ soljers, an’ me lurk is ’andlin’ men.

“Me game is ’andlin’ men, orl right, I seen it in the parst
When I used to ’ead the pushes in the Lane.
An’ ev’ry bloke among ’em then done everythin’ I arst,
Fer I never failed to make me meanin’ plain.
Disturbers uv the peace we wus them days, but now I know
We wus aimin’ to be soljers, but we never ’ad a show.

“We never ’ad no discipline, that’s wot we wanted bad,
It’s discipline that gives the push its might.
But wot a time we could ’ave give the coppers if we ’ad,
Lord! We’d ’ave capchered Melbourne in a night.
When I think uv things that might ’ave been I sometimes sit an’ grin,
Fer I might be King uv Footscray if we’d ’ad more discipline.

“I’ve got a push to ’andle now wot makes a soljer proud.
Yeh ort to see the boys uv my ole squad.
The willin’est, the cheeriest, don’-care-a-damest crowd
An’ the toughest ever seen outside o’ quod.
I reckon that they gimme ’em becos they wus so meek,
But they know me, an’ they understan’ the lingo that I speak.

“So I’m a little corperil, wiv pretties on me arm,
But yeh’d never guess it fer to see me now,
Fer me valet ’e’s been careless an’ me trooso’s come to ’arm,
An’ me pants want creasin’ badly I’ll allow.
But to see me squad in action is a cure fer sandy blight,
They are shy on table manners, but they’ve notions ’ow ter fight.

“There’s a little picnic promised that ’as long been overdoo,
An’ we’re waitin’ fer the order to advance;
An’ me bones is fairly achin’ fer to see my boys bung thro’,
Fer I know they’re dancin’ mad to git the chance.
An’ there’s some’ll sure be missin’ when we git into the game;
But if they lorst their corperil ’twould be a cryin’ shame.

“We can’t afford no corperils. But, some’ow, I dunno,
I got a nervis feelin’ in me chest,
That this ’ere bit uv fancy work might be me final go
An’ I won’t be ’ome to dinner wiv the rest.
It’s rot; but it keeps comin’ back, that lonely kind o’ mood
That fills me up wiv mushy thorts that don’t do any good.

“When it’s gettin’ near to evenin’ an’ the guns is slowin’ down
I fergits the playful ’abits uv our foes,
An’ finds meself a-thinkin’ thorts uv good ole Melbourne town,
An’ dreamin’ dilly dreams about ole Rose.
O’ course I’ll see me girl again, an’ give a clean, square deal,
When I come smilin’ ‘ome again . . . But that ain’t ’ow I feel.

“I feel . . . I dunno ’ow I feel. I feel that things is done.
I seem t’ve ’it the limit in some way.
Per’aps I’m orf me pannikin wiv sittin’ in the sun,
But I jist wrote to Rose the other day.
An’ I wrote ’er sort o’ mournful ’cos — I dunno ’ow it seems . . .
Ar, I’m a gay galoot to go an’ ’ave these dilly dreams!

“Wot price the bran’ noo corperil, wiv sof’nin’ uv the ’eart!
If my pet lambs thort me a turtle dove
I’d ’ave to be reel stern wiv ’em, an’ make another start
To git ’em where I got ’em jist wiv love . . .
But don’t fergit, if you or your Doreen sees Rose about,
Jist tell ’er that I’m well an’ strong, an’ sure uv winnin’ out.

“Ho! the sky’s as blue as blazes, an’ the sun is shinin’ still,
An’ the dicky bird is perchin’ on the twig,
An’ the guns is pop, pop, poppin’ frum the trenches on the ’ill,
An’ I’m lookin’ bonny in me non-com’s rig.
An’ when yer writin’ me again — don’t think I want ter skite —
But don’t fergit the ‘Corperil’; an’ mind yeh spells it right.”




Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 109-113

Editor’s notes:
beak = judge, magistrate

dilly = daft, silly, foolish, half-witted, odd

foam = ocean; sea

furphy = rumour

galoot = someone (usually a male) who is foolish, stupid, awkward, or clumsy; can be used in an affectionate manner, such as “ya daft galoot”

nark = someone who is annoying, irritating, impolite; a whinger, a spoil-sport

nipper = a young child, especially a young boy (from young pups nipping at ankles; similar to the term “ankle biter”)

non-com = non-commissioned officer (e.g. a lance-corporal, corporal, sergeant)

pannikin = a small metal pan, or a small metal cup

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

quod = a slang term for jail (gaol) or prison; from a reference to the prison quadrangle, or quad (also spelt as “quod”), where prisoners are exercised

V.C. = Victoria Cross: a medal awarded for conspicuous acts of bravery in wartime (it is the highest military decoration which can be awarded in the military forces of the British Commonwealth)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
munce (months)
Noer’s Ark (Noah’s Ark)

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