[Editor: This article (including several small pieces of poetry) by C. J. Dennis was published in The Gadfly, 2 January 1907.]
upon the glad new year — with poetic interludes.
(For The Gadfly.)
Dear Friends — Let us meditate upon the season we celebrate. It is the glad New Year! Ah, my dear friends, what does that mean to us—to you and to me? The old year with all its troubles, its gloomy hours, and its crushing disappointments, lies behind us. What has the future in store? What vast possibilities of happiness, of sudden fortune, of great and lasting gladness, lie in front? Who knows? May there not be for us some great joy locked away there in the mysterious future? My friends, be joyful; be optimistic: be hopeful!
What was last year’s sum of life?
Toil and trouble; toil and trouble.
What will this glad year bring forth?
Same most likely—only double.
* * *
And now, my friends, let us be forgiving. It is indeed a fitting season. Let old grudges, old feuds, old hatreds be swept away, and let us, in the beginning of this glad year, place our hands upon our hearts and say, “Lo, we have no enemy in all this wide, wide world! We have forgiven all.” Oh, what charity! What mercy! How humane! How supremely altruistic!
’Tis the season of forgiveness,
Foes that were, become fast friends,
Just a kindly word, a handshake,
“Peace!” And so the trouble ends.
That poor man you smote last April,
Nay, forgive him! Take advice.
But if he offend this season
Better up and biff him twice.
* * *
And girls, dear, dear girls! Will you not resolve to begin the new year loving one another, even as I love you all? Ah, my dears, it is indeed distressing to the heart of a true man (like me) to think that such perfect beings cannot live in harmony one with another. Consider the angels. Do they say spiteful things about one another? I don’t know — yet. Think of the darling kittens — dear little soft things, living and loving in perfect peace. But, pray, oh, pray, forget the cats! And now, dears, be nice. No more spiteful thrusts. No more backbiting. No more pinpricks. No more jealousy. Think of the reward! I will love you even more then.
Sometime in last January
I was mean, and said that Mary
Waddled like a dromedary;
Now I’ll just take back all that.
She’s a dear; so nice and pretty;
Dresses well; she’s smart and witty;
Quite a love — but it’s a pity
She is so stuck up — the cat!
* * *
And the fathers of families; poor old worried, hard-working, bald-headed dads. What of you? Cheer up! There are brighter days in store. Wear a glad look. Stop grunting and grumbling about household expenses. It always comes out all right, you know; so look on the bright side of things this year.
From January unto June,
From June to drear December,
Come bills to meet, ay, all too soon;
And bailiffs! so remember.
* * *
And now, my dear old, scheming, smug-faced business friends. I mean you hoary old humbugs, who preach at a man while you have both hands in his pockets. What are you going to do? Is there no new resolve for you to make for the coming year? Time is money, my friends. Why not strive to save a little more of it? Ah, fie! Yes, you can — you psalm-grinding old hypocrites — you know you can. Why not make a little more this year? Give it away to some deserving charity. What?
On Sunday you go to your chapel or church;
On weekdays you grind for the sake of your greed.
But, think; why should Sunday be left in the lurch?
The better the day, sirs, the better the bleed!
And the children — dear, innocent little cherubs. What shall we do to make this new year more profitable and more happy? Have you ever studied nature, children? Ah, it is indeed a beautiful study, and so im- proving to the mind. Have you ever been out in the beautiful springtime to watch the trees and the flowers and the butterflies and bees and flies and mosquitoes and tadpoles and centipedes and things? Ah, my dear children, go —go and watch the bees flitting from flower to flower. Go out and see the lambkins gambolling on the green sward. Go out and be caressed in a tender place by a nice, natural bull-ant. Then, dear children, you will begin to know nature. Let us make a resolve. “We shall, during the coming year, study nature, and all its mil- lion wonders.” Be good, boys and girls, and when you grow up you will be sorry you didn’t die young.
Ponder on the gentle sluglet
As he glides across the leaf;
Study close the beauteous buglet,
He has charms beyond belief.
Tho’ he lurks in awkward places,
Qualities surpassing man’s
Are the agile, nimble graces
Of the pulex irritans.
* * *
And now, you dear people with “social aspirations” — you hangers-on-to-the-fringe — how far did you crawl up the ladder last year? Do not be disappointed. Put back your shoulders; buy another book on etiquette; and wade in. Remember the old motto: “If at first you don’t succeed, crawl, crawl, crawl again.” You’ll have “social prestige” (whatever that may mean) some day. And remember —
Lives of rich men all remind us
’Tis a noble thing to climb,
And, departing, leave behind us,
Like all slugs, a trail of slime.
* * *
And, Willie-boys, what-o! Was your tailor lenient last year? Keep him buttered, and remember Shakespeare wasn’t quite right when he remarked that “the apparel oft proclaims the man.” He should have said “always.”
Put your shoulder — in a coat, boys;
Keep your foot — in perfect boots.
Never heed the threatening note, boys,
In re paying for your suits.
Shabby clothes proclaim the fool, boys,
And whatever fortune grants,
Ne’er forget this golden rule, boys,
“Keep the creases in your pants.”
* * *
And now, dear friends, a parting word to all. Never let the fear of breaking a resolve frighten you in the making of it. Make it by all means; even if you know you are going to break it the next moment. Resolves are great things. Now, take an egg, you break it, and then where are you? You know the Humpty-Dumpty business — “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” and the rest of it. But resolves are different things. You can break ’em and make ’em and break ’em and make ’em, and so on ad infinitum. And they are always just as good as ever. You don’t want any king’s horses or king’s men. You can do it all by yourselves. Resolves are great institutions; so go on making them. You’ll find out in “the end” that you were wise.
Never quit your stern resolving,
Mending never comes too late;
Year on year, as time, revolving,
Dulls your eye and slows your gait.
Grieve not at the soul’s enslavement,
You’ll be glad when you are dead,
For you’re helping with the pavement
You will some day have to tread.
C. J. Dennis.
The Gadfly (Adelaide, SA), 2 January 1907
[Editor: Added a closing quotation mark after “Keep the creases in your pants.”.]