Washing Day [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Doreen (1917).]

Washing Day

The little gipsy vi’lits, they wus peepin’ thro’ the green
As she come walkin’ in the grass, me little wife, Doreen.
The sun shone on the sassafras, where thrushes sung a bar.
— The ’ope an’ worry uv our lives wus yelling fer ’is Mar. —
I watched ’er comin’ down the green; the sun wus on ’her ’air —
Jist the woman that I marri’d, when me luck wus ’eading fair.

I seen ’er walkin’ in the sun that lit our little farm.
She ’ad three clothes-pegs in ’er mouth, an’ washin’ on ’er arm —
Three clothes-pegs, fer I counted ’em, an’ watched ’er as she come.
“The stove-wood’s low,” she mumbles, “an’ young Bill ’as cut ’is thumb,”
Now, it weren’t no giddy love-speech, but it seemed to take me straight
Back to the time I kissed ’er first beside ’er mother’s gate.

Six years ’uv wedded life we’ve ’ad, an’ still me dreams is sweet . . .
Aw, them bonzer little vi’lits, they wus smilin’ round me feet.
An’ wots a bit uv stove-wood count, wiv paddicks grinnin’ green,
When a bloke gits on to dreamin’ uv the old days an’ Doreen —
The days I thort I snared a saint; but since I’ve understood
I ’ave wed a dinkum woman, which is fifty times as good.

I ’ave wed a dinkum woman, an’ she’s give me eyes to see.
Oh, I ain’t been mollycoddled, an’ there ain’t no fluff on me!
But days when I wus down an’ out she seemd so ’igh above;
An’ a saint is made fer worship, but a woman’s made fer love.
An’ a bloke is growin’ richer as sich things ’e comes to know . . .
(She pegs another sheet an’ sez, “The stove-wood’s gettin’ low.”)

A bloke ’e learns a lot uv things in six years wiv a tart;
But thrushes in the sassafras ain’t singin’ like me ’eart.
’Tis the thrushes ’oo ’ave tort me in their choonful sort o’ way
That it’s best to take things singin’ as yeh meet ’em day be day.
Fer I wed a reel, live woman, wiv a woman’s ’appy knack
Uv torkin’ reason inside out an’ logic front to back.

An’ I like it. ’Struth I like it! Fer a wax doll in a ’ome,
She’d give a man the flamin’ pip an’ longin’s fer to roam.
Aw, I ain’t no silk-sock sonkie ’oo ab’ors the rood an’ rough;
Fer, city-born an’ gutter-bred, me schoolin’ it wus tough.
An’ I like the dinkum woman ’oo . . . (She jerks the clothes-prop, so,
An’ sez, so sweet an’ dangerous, “The stove-wood’s gittin’ low.”)

See, I’ve studied men in cities, an’ I’ve studied ’em out ’ere;
I’ve seen ’em ’ard thro’ piety an’ seen ’em kind thro’ beer.
I’ve seen the meanest doin’ deeds to make the angels smile,
An’ watched the proudest playin’ games that crooks ’ud reckon vile.
I’ve studied ’em in bunches an’ I’ve read ’em one be one,
An’ there isn’t much between ’em when the ’ole thing’s said an’ done.

An’ I’ve sort o’ studied wimmin — fer I’ve met a tidy few —
An’ there’s times, when I wus younger, when I kids meself I knew.
But ’im ’oo ’opes to count the stars or measure up the sea,
’E kin ’ave a shot at woman, fer she’s fairly flummoxed me . . .
(“I’ll ’ave to ’ave some wood,” she sez, and sez it most perlite
An’ secret to a pair uv socks; an’ jams a peg in, tight.)

Now, a woman, she’s a woman. I ’ave fixed that fer a cert.
They’re jist as like as rows uv peas from ’at to ’em uv skirt.
An’ then, they’re all so different, yeh find, before yeh’ve done,
The more yeh know uv all of ’em the less yeh know uv one.
An’ then, the more yeh know uv one . . . (She gives ’er ’air a touch:
“The stove-wood’s nearly done,” she sez. “Not that it matters much.”)

The little gipsy vi’lits, they wus smilin’ round me feet.
An’ this dreamin’ dilly day-dreams on a Summer day wus sweet.
I ’eaves me frame frum orf the fence, an’ grabs me little axe;
But, when I’m ’arf way to the shed, she stops me in me tracks.
“Yer lunch is ready. That ole wood kin wait a while.”
Strike! I’m marri’d to a woman . . . But she never seen me smile.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, Doreen, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1917, pages 3-7

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