Wot Won the Larst? [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 1926]

[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]

Wot Won the Larst?

The tea-bell tinkles on the evening air,
The smells of soup and steak and eggs arise;
The punter flops into his usual chair
And imprecates his luck and someone’s eyes.
’Tis Saturday and half the sporting mob
Have left before the last race clears the course,
And those amongst the heads who’ve saved a bob
Discuss the hopes and handicaps of Horse.
Horse is the A and Z of all their lives,
And as their keen fangs punish their repast,
They ask each laggard sportsman who arrives —
“Wot won the larst?”

“Wot won the larst?” The living world stands still,
The social sun and stars fall in their flight;
The hash-house waitress, clobbered up to kill,
Gets scarce an answer to her sweet “Good-night.”
The punter pauses with his mouth agape,
A dozen peas well balanced on his knife,
As it some name his destinies will shape,
Some finish mean a rich, luxurious life.
But no one round the room has heard the news
At which a multitude will stand aghast,
And no one answers o’er the strengthy stews —
“Wot won the larst?”

The soup has disappeared and entrees come
Like shooting stars that meteors precede;
And joints give way to puddings plain and plum
And other dishes in a deiner feed.
Even the winsome waitress cannot coax
A smile from palpitating punters who
At other times are known as “bonzer blokes,”
Who shout her to the pitchers or the Zoo,
He’s missed his laundry and his usual shave,
All thoughts of women to the winds are cast;
His soul is centred on that issue grave —
“Wot won the larst?”

Red war rolled over Europe, and a part
Of Asia and of Egypt heard the guns,
But this particular punter had no heart
For triumphs over Turks and over Huns.
’Twas true he shared allotments now and then
With girls whose goo-goo eyes were glad and gay,
And always lent his lovely fountain pen
To resting barmaids drawing soldiers’ pay.
But though the Hun Fleet rots in Scapa Flow,
And Britain’s banner fluttered at the mast
He’s quite content if you will let him know —
“Wot won the larst?”

Did’st ever pause and ponder, masters mine,
Upon the av’rage punter on this earth,
His gutter-snipe physique of that design
Which even in the mug arouses mirth?
Has confidential whisper and his wink,
His furtive handing round of stable wires,
His half-reluctant line-up for a drink,
His knowledge of all geldings, dams and sires?
Before him common liars dim and droop,
To him the gaze of questioners is cast
When someone asks above the smell of soup —
“Wot won the larst?”

“Wot won the Iarst?” We hear it in the train
From weedy little wights whose cigarettes
Recall a badly-disinfected drain,
And whose whole life is horses, odds and bets,
He doesn’t care if kings and kaisers sip
The dregs of exile or a poisoned herb,
As long as he can sling a furtive tip
And mingle with the cadgers on the kerb
For unto him who loafs upon this land
In all the world there is no vic’try vast,
As that which prompts a punter to demand —
“Wot won the larst?”

Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 44-45

Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 18 May 1919, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
A and Z = the beginning and the end

bob = a shilling (twelve pence); after the decimalisation of the Australian currency in 1966, the monetary equivalent of a shilling was ten cents (“a couple of bob” referred to twenty cents specifically, or to a small amount of money in general, as in “can you lend me a couple of bob?”)

bonzer = (Australian slang) excellent (can also be spelt as “bonza”)

cadger = someone who seeks to obtain something without paying for it; someone who seeks to “cadge” something, i.e. beg, sponge, or borrow (especially with no intent to repay); may also refer to an itinerant dealer, a pedlar (someone who peddles products), someone with no fixed place of business who hawks or peddles products

clobber = clothes

deiner = (also spelt “deener”) a shilling

hash-house = a cheap eating establishment, diner, or inexpensive restaurant (such as may serve hash, i.e. a dish of chopped up meat and vegetables, which may consist of leftover meat and vegetables cooked in gravy)

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”)

repast = a meal; food; to feed; the time of eating a meal; the act of taking food

wight = a creature, a living sentient being, especially a human being; in German, it can refer to a small person or dwarf; in fantasy literature, it can refer to undead or wraith-like creatures

Vernacular spellings:
larst (last)
pitchers (pictures)
wot (what)

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