Beef Tea [poem by C.J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. Most of the poetry of C.J. Dennis is written in the style of the Australian vernacular. See the glossary for explanations of words and phrases.]


Beef Tea

She never magged; she never said no word;
But sat an’ looked at me an’ never stirred.
I could ’a’ bluffed it out if she ’ad been
Fair narked, an’ let me ’ave it wiv ’er tongue;
But silence told me ’ow ’er ’eart wus wrung.
Poor ’urt Doreen!
Gawstruth! I’d sooner fight wiv fifty men
Than git one look like that frum ’er agen!

She never moved; she never spoke no word;
That ’urt look in ’er eyes, like some scared bird:
“’Ere is the man I loved,” it seemed to say.
“’E’s mine, this crawlin’ thing, an’ I’m ’is wife;
Tied up fer good; an’ orl me joy in life
Is chucked away!”
If she ’ad bashed me I’d ’a’ felt no ’urt!
But ’ere she treats me like — like I was dirt.

’Ow is a man to guard agin that look?
Fer other wimmin, when the’r blokes go crook,
An’ lobs ’ome wiv the wages uv a jag,
They smashes things an’ carries on a treat
An’ ’owls an’ scolds an’ wakes the bloomin’ street
Wiv noisy mag.
But ’er — she never speaks; she never stirs . . .
I drops me bundle . . . An’ the game is ’ers.

Jist two months wed! Eight weeks uv married bliss
Wiv my Doreen, an’ now it’s come to this!
Wot wus I thinkin’ uv? Gawd! I ain’t fit
To kiss the place ’er little feet ’as been!
’Er that I called me wife, me own Doreen!
Fond dreams ’as flit;
Love’s done a bunk, an’ joy is up the pole;
An’ shame an’ sorrer’s roostin’ in me soul.

’Twus orl becors uv Ginger Mick — the cow!
(I wish’t I ’ad ’im ’ere to deal wiv now!
I’d pass ’im one, I would! ’E ain’t no man!)
I meets ’im Choosdee ev’nin’ up the town.
“Wot O,” ’e chips me. “Kin yeh keep one down?”
I sez I can.
We ’as a couple; then meets three or four
Flash coves I useter know, an’ ’as some more.

“’Ow are yeh on a little gamble, Kid?”
Sez Ginger Mick. “Lars’ night I’m on four quid.
Come ’round an’ try yer luck at Steeny’s school.”
“No,” sez me conscience. Then I thinks, “Why not?
An’ buy ’er presents if I wins a pot?
A blazin’ fool
I wus. Fer ’arf a mo’ I ’as a fight;
Then conscience skies the wipe . . . Sez I “Orright.”

Ten minutes later I was back once more,
Kip in me ’and, on Steeny Isaac’s floor,
Me luck was in an’ I wus ’eadin’ good.
Yes, back agen amongst the same old crew!
An’ orl the time down in me ’eart I knew
I never should . . .
Nex’ thing I knows it’s after two o’clock —
Two in the mornin’! An’ I’ve done me block!

“Wot odds?” I thinks. “I’m in fer it orright.”
An’ so I stops an’ gambles orl the night;
An’ bribes me conscience wiv the gilt I wins.
But when I comes out in the cold, ’ard dawn.
I know I’ve crooled me pitch; me soul’s in pawn.
My flamin’ sins
They ’its me in a ’eap right where I live:
Fer I ’ave broke the solim vow I give.

She never magged; she never said no word.
An’ when I speaks, it seems she never ’eard.
I could ’a’ sung a nim, I feels so gay!
If she ’ad only roused I might ’a’ smiled.
She jist seems ’urt an’ crushed; not even riled.
I turns away,
An’ yanks me carkis out into the yard,
Like some whipped pup; an’ kicks meself reel ’ard.

An’ then, I sneaks to bed, an’ feels dead crook.
Fer golden quids I couldn’t face that look —
That trouble in the eyes uv my Doreen.
Aw, strike! Wot made me go an’ do this thing?
I feel jist like a chewed up bit of string,
An’ rotten mean!
Fer ’arf an hour I lies there feelin’ cheap;
An’ then I s’pose, I must ’a’ fell asleep. . . .

“’Ere, Kid, drink this” . . . I wakes, an’ lifts me ’ead,
An’ sees ’er standin’ there beside the bed;
A basin in ’er ’ands; an’ in ’er eyes —
(Eyes that wiv unshed tears is shinin’ wet) —
The sort o’ look I never shall forget,
Until I dies.
“’Ere, Kid, drink this,” she sez, an’ smiles at me.
I looks — an’ spare me days! It was beef tea!

Beef tea! She treats me like a hinvaleed!
Me! that ’as caused ’er lovin’ ’eart to bleed.
It ’urts me worse than maggin’ fer a week!
’Er! ’oo ’ad right to turn dead sour on me,
Fergives like that, an’ feeds me wiv beef tea . . .
I tries to speak;
An’ then — I ain’t ashamed o’ wot I did —
I ’ides me face . . . an’ blubbers like a kid.

C. J. Dennis. The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1917 [first published 1915], pages 87-93

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