A Prophetic Pome [poem by Grant Hervey, 18 January 1903]

[Editor: A poem by Grant Hervey, published in his “Cuts and Carvings” column in The Sunday Times (Perth, WA).]

A Prophetic Pome.

I dreamt last night was the twenty-sixth, and John Forrest had just said, “Lo !
Let my scheme arise on its two hind feet ; let my noble reservoir flow !”
And they turned the taps, two working chaps, and all hands craned to see
The waters pour the landscape o’er when the scheme proceeded to gee !

But the scheme was tired, and said “be damned” or words of that careless kind,
And Bigjohn reeled like a fainting girl, and fell on a rock behind.
And it seemed to me that a certain glee filled the soul of Walter James
When the scheme refused to be bossed or abused, or called unscriptural names.

“My blanky scheme,’’ Sir John, had said, “will go like a shot from the first —
No more shall ye dwell in a blasted land of dust and damnation and thirst !”
But the scheme got wild, and it darkly smiled as it listened unto Bigjohn,
And it said in its sleeve, “Ah — hum, I believe we’ll see about that anon !”

And in truth it saw and refused to flow at the word of the personage
Who had boasted his scheme as a miracle for a tiresome, endless age ;
Oh, it winked at him, in a humor grim and eke at the waiting crowd,
And down in a grief, nigh past belief, Sir John’s proud head was bowed !

“Will no one see what hails the thing ?” the statesman shrieked at last,
And tacked to his words an adjective and a fiery, oathsome blast !
Oh, Bilyne turned pale as a daisy, frail and “Yes-No” shuddered to hear
The great man loose such ribald abuse upon the atmosphere.

Then all hand turned to the reservoir and endeavored to make it gee,
But the scheme was wild as a two-year colt and refused to bend its knee.
All Groperdom from Piesse to Bomb implored the thing to work,
And Piggy North arose in wrath when it continued to shirk.

Then George Reid tried his hand at the game, and lied for an hour in vain,
While the Dry Pup wept by his master’s side sad the pair’s tears fell like rain.
Then our Malachi observed he would try with Codwalloper’s help to make
The scheme flow down and provide the town with an elegant harbor and lake.

But the scheme said “No, there is but one man to whom I shall docile be,
He is writing a pome for The Bulletin now in terms of blasphemy.
He sits on a chair with ink on his hair in the officelet of THE SUN,
If you give him a beer and fetch him here then p’haps I shall downward run.”

Then arose Bigjohn and bade them go and fetch the needed scribe,
Who sat afar with his waistcoat off inscribing a diatribe.
Then lo they came, those men of fame, and stated earnestly
That the scheme refused, to be bossed or abused by any man other than ME !

And they drove me then to the Reservoir Hill, and I stood on the schemelet’s bank,
In front of the crowd, from the Eastern side and the Groper’s Tory rank.
And I said, “Flow down to the thirsty town, O Scheme, or I’ll blast you hence
With a pomelet wild, that will leave you piled, in a heap on Hell’s back fence.”

Then, lo and behold, the waters rolled and rumbled adown to the plain,
And Bigjohn pranced and his eyeballs danced as he dragged out much champagne !
And when night grew dim we sat on the rim of the mighty Scheme and drank,
Bigjohn and Me in ecstasy in front of the Groper rank !

* * * *

It is only a dream, but in case the Scheme should refuse downward to flow,
Then summon this scribe from his diatribe, and he’ll make the darn thing go !
In a tilted chair, with ink in his hair, will you find him patiently
Awaiting command to lend a hand and make the Great Scheme Gee.

The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), Sunday 18 January 1903, page 12

Editor’s notes:
Bilyne = presumably a contraction of “Bill Lyne”, referring to Sir William John Lyne, who was Premier of New South Wales (1899-1901), he then went into federal politics (1901-1913) and held several cabinet posts (at the time of this poem, he was Minister for Home Affairs)

George Reid = Sir George Reid, New South Wales parliamentarian 1880-1901, federal parliamentarian 1901-1909, and the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904-1905); he was referred to as “Yes-No Reid” as he had been a supporter of the movement pushing for the federation of the Australian colonies, but when it came to the first referendum for federation he took an equivocal stance, neither supporting or opposing the vote, although he later campaigned for a “Yes” vote at the second referendum for federation

Groperdom = a reference to Western Australia, from the slang term for Western Australians as “sandgropers” (a term arising from the vast sandy deserts of Western Australia; also, “sandgroper” is the name of a burrowing insect found in Western Australia, belonging to the Cylindrachetidae family)

John Forrest = a Western Australian explorer and politician; he was the first Premier of Western Australia (1890-1901), he then went into federal politics (1901-1918) and held several cabinet posts, especially that of federal treasurer (at the time of this poem, he was Minister for Defence)

Yes-No = George Reid

[Editor: Corrected “ecstacy” to “ecstasy”.]

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