War [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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


’E sez to me, “Wot’s orl this flamin’ war?
The papers torks uv nothin’ else but scraps.
An’ wot’s ole England got snake-’eaded for?
An’ wot’s the strength uv callin’ out our chaps?”
’E sez to me, “Struth! Don’t she rule the sea?
Wot does she want wiv us?” ’e sez to me.

Ole Ginger Mick is loadin’ up ’is truck
One mornin’ in the markit feelin’ sore.
’E sez to me, “Well, mate, I’ve done me luck;
An’ Rose is arstin’, ‘Wot about this war?’
I’m gone a tenner at the two-up school;
The game is crook, an’ Rose is turnin’ cool.”

’E sez to me, “’Ow is it fer a beer?”
I tips ’im ’ow I’ve told me wife, Doreen,
That when I comes down to the markit ’ere
I dodges pubs, an’ chucks the tipple, clean.
Wiv ’er an’ kid alone up on the farm
She’s full uv fancies that I’ll come to ’arm.

“’Enpecked!” ’e sez. An’ then, “Ar, I dunno.
I wouldn’t mind if I wus in yer place.
I’ve ‘arf a mind to give cold tea a go.
It’s no game, pourin’ snake-juice in yer face.
But, lad, I ’ave to, wiv the thirst I got.
I’m goin’ over now to stop a pot.”

’E goes acrost to find a pint a ’ome;
An’ meets a pal an’ keeps another down.
Ten minutes later, when ’e starts to roam
Back to the markit, wiv an ugly frown,
’E sprags a soljer bloke ’oo’s passin’ by,
An’ sez ’e’d like to dot ’im in the eye.

“Your sort,” sez Mick, “don’t know yer silly mind!
They lead yeh like a sheep; it’s time yeh woke —
The ’eads is makin’ piles out uv your kind!”
“Aw, git yer ’ead read!” sez the soljer bloke.
’Struth! ’e wus willin’ wus that Kharki chap;
I ’ad me work cut out to stop a scrap.

An’ as the soljer fades acrost the street,
Mick strikes a light an’ sits down on ’is truck,
An’ chews ‘is fag — a sign ’is nerve is beat —
An’ swears a bit, an’ sez ’e’s done ’is luck.
’E grouches there ten minutes, maybe more,
Then sez quite sudden, “Blarst the flamin’ war!

Jist then a motor car goes glidin’ by
Wiv two fat toffs be’ind two fat cigars.
Mick twigs ’em frum the corner uv ’is eye.
“I ’ope,” ’e sez, “the ’Uns don’t git my cars.
Me di’mon’s, too, don’t let me sleep a wink . . .
Ar, ’Struth! I’d fight fer that sort — I don’t think.”

’E sits there while I ’arness up me prad,
Chewin’ ’is fag an’ starin’ at the ground.
I tumbles that ’e’s got the joes reel bad,
An’ don’t say nothin’ till ’e comes around.
’E sez ’is luck’s a nark, an’ swears some more,
An’ then: “Wot is the strength uv this ’ere war?”

I tells ’im wot I read about the ’Uns,
An’ wot they done in Beljum an’ in France,
Wiv drivin’ Janes an’ kids before their guns,
An’ never givin’ blokes a stray dawg’s chance;
An’ ’ow they think they’ve got the whole world beat.
Sez ’e, “I’ll crack the first Dutch cow I meet!”

Mick listens, while I tells ’im ’ow they starts
Be burnin’ pore coves ’omes an’ killin’ kids,
An’ comin’ it reel crook wiv decent tarts,
An’ fightin’ foul, as orl the rules forbids,
Leavin’ a string uv stiff-uns in their track.
Sez Mick, “The dirty cows! They wants a crack!”

’E chews it over solid fer a bit,
Workin’ ’is copper-top a double shift.
I don’t need specs to see that ’e wus ’it
Be somethin’ more than Rosie’s little rift.
“If they’d done that,” ’e sez, “out ’ere — Ar, rats!
Why don’t ole England belt ’em in the slats?”

Then Mick gits up an’ starts another fag.
“Ar, well,” ’e sez, “it’s no affair uv mine,
If I don’t work they’d pinch me on the vag;
But I’m not keen to fight so toffs kin dine
On pickled olives . . . Blarst the flamin’ war!
I ain’t got nothin’ worth the fightin’ for.

“So long,” ’e sez. “I got ter trade me stock;
An’ when yeh ’ear I’ve took a soljer’s job
I give yeh leave to say I’ve done me block
An’ got a flock uv weevils in me knob.”
An’ then, orf-’anded-like, ’e arsts me: “Say,
Wot are they slingin’ soljers fer their pay?”

I tells ’im; an’ ’e sez to me, “So long.
Some day this rabbit trade will git me beat.”
An’ Ginger Mick shoves thro’ the markit throng,
An’ gits ’is barrer out into the street.
An’, as ’e goes, I ’ears ’is gentle roar:
Rabbee! Wile Rabbee! . . . Blarst the flamin’ war!”

C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 23-26

Editor’s notes:
copper-top = a person with red hair

crack = (slang) hit, punch (especially a punch to the head), bash

fag = cigarette

Hun = Germans (“Hun” could be used in a singular sense to refer to an individual German, as well as in a collective sense to refer to the German military or to Germans in general) (similar to the usage of “Fritz”)

Jane = (slang) woman

joes, the = feeling sad, low in spirit, depressed (“the joes” are also known as “the blues”)

knob = (slang) head

nark = annoy, irritate, upset (can also refer to: an informer, especially a police informer; stool pigeon, spy; an annoying person; to thwart or upset someone’s plans)

prad = (slang) horse (from the Dutch “paard”, meaning “horse”)

scrap = fight, brawl

stiff-un = dead person

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

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)

tenner = five pound note (Imperial currency); ten pounds (£10)

two-up = a gambling game in which two coins are tossed (or spun) into the air, from a flat piece of wood, and bets are made on the outcome, as to whether the coins will land heads up, tails up, or one of each

two-up school = a gathering or place where the gambling game of “two-up” is played

vag = an abbreviation of “vagrancy”

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
rabbee (rabbit)
’Un (Hun)
wile (wild)

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