The Sentimental Bloke [review, 6 November 1915]

[Editor: A review of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, by C.J. Dennis, from the “Literature: Publications Received” section of The Queenslander, 1915.]

The Sentimental Bloke.

“The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke,” by C.J. Dennis (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).— Gathered together in a well printed, cleverly illustrated, and pleasant to handle little volume, Mr. C. J. Dennis’s “Songs,” most of which appeared originally in the “Bulletin,” will be welcomed by all who take an interest in Australian verse. Like Lowell in “The Biglow Papers,” Mr. Dennis clothes his thoughts in dialect, and he shows that the raiment loses nothing from its homely texture and its unacademical cut. Australian slang — the strange dialect of the streets and the byways where the lessons of the school are disremembered — is his medium of expression. The humour of the “Sentimental Bloke” has an exquisite quality, its sentiment a tenderness, and its philosophy a soundness which compel attention, even when the strange “lingo” puzzles or tends to repel. Those, how ever, who respond to the high impulses, the straight sayings, the patriotic fervour, and the keen edge of the satire of Lowell’s dialect verse will find much to admire and appreciate in Mr. Dennis’s lines. His hero in a sense is a brand snatched from the burning — a Melbourne “tough” transformed into a man by the love of a good woman. With the sentimental bloke to see Doreen, his type of a good woman, was

To love her.
And love but her for ever.

His philosophy is really that of Burns:

To make a happy fireside clime
To weans and wife —
That’s the true pathos and sublime
Of human life.

There is genuine poetry in Mr. Dennis’s verses, and a sensitive appreciation of the beautiful. There are veins of gold running through many of his lines. His quaint description of the eternal battle between Night and Day, in the terms of the prize ring, contains some striking imagery. Vanquished gloriously by the radiant day, night, when the conqueror weakens, “creeps stealthily to gain the ring,” and this is how Mr. Dennis pictures the closing scene:

All faint an’ groggy grows the beaten Day ;
’E staggers drunkenly about the ring ;
An owl ’oots jeerin’ly across the way,
An’ bats come out to mock the fallin’ King.
Now, with a jolt, Night spreads ’im on the floor,
An’ all the west grows ruddy wiv ’is gore.

One quotation may be given to show Mr. Dennis’s wholesome philosophy. It is in the admirable verses, “The Mooch o’ Life”:

An’ ever it ’as taught me, day be day
The one same lesson in the same ole way —
“Look fer yer profits in the ’earts o’ friends,
Fer ’atin’ never paid no dividends.”

Life’s wot yeh makes it, an’ the bloke ’oo tries
To grab the shinin’ stars from out the skies
Goes crook on life, an’ calls the world a cheat,
An’ tramples on the daisies at his feet.

The volume has a comradely “Foreword” by Henry Lawson.

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), Saturday 6 November 1915, page 3

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