A Ballad of the Road [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]

A Ballad of the Road

I celebrate the companies — the managers and “pros.”
Who drag around this continent their unsuccessful shows !
The Princess and Her Majesty’s — they matter not to me ;
I cheer the plucky managers who chase prosperity !
The men who haul their scenery around the blessed “smalls” ;
Whose “props” are hustled endlessly in cheap, bush-whacking halls !
A song for all the actor-men — to ease the blessed load,
I sing in good companionship a Ballad of the Road !

The Philistines complacently go back and forth from toil —
The sleek suburban citizens whose peaceful kettles boil.
The shop-man and the Personage whose warehouse in “the Lane”
Is stuffed with rags and fripperies for Maud and Emma Jane !
These harmless blokes diurnally go back and forth from town,
And carry vesper crayfish in receptacles of brown !
But up and down this continent, wherever shows are showed,
I lift for toiling actor-folk this Ballad of the Road.

The footlights gleam at Bendigo — at Bourke and Broken Hill
Perspiring actor-managers hang out the earnest bill!
From Charters Towers to Hamilton, from York to Nymagee,
The patient actor laboureth to earn his £ s. d.
The ghost that walketh fitfully for him hath fearful charms,
Whose red, false whiskers circulate in “Robbery Under Arms” !
For him and Lady Isabel “East Lynne” be dashed and blowed —
I sing this boon companion’s song, this Ballad of the Road !

The flickergraph accursedly pervadeth all the land,
And soured and cursing companies are left upon the strand !
The landlord fiercely clamoureth ; the hall-man wants his rent ;
The goings of the actor-man are like the Arab’s tent!
When cash for fares (no salaries !) is falling steep and low,
A psalm of hope and cheerfulness is needed for the pro !
The uncomplaining actor-man deserves this special Ode,
A rhyme full of good comradeship — a Ballad of the Road!

By coach and rail the companies go north and south and west ;
From Maoriland to Hughenden, to Zeehan and the rest!
They earn their humble salaries, the actors and their wives,
Who toil to please this continent and live grease-painted lives !
There’s Rupert Clarke and Williamson, Hugh Ward and Oscar Asche ;
And each and all most certainly deserve to gather cash !
But when ye sit ’midst Phillistines, where Rupert’s shows are showed,
Pray for the toiling companies the — Pros, upon the Road !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 184-186

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