“I Dips Me Lid” to the Sydney Harbour Bridge [by C. J. Dennis, 1932]

[Editor: A promotional four-page pamphlet which uses a poem, by C. J. Dennis, regarding the finishing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. The poem was specifically written for Berger’s Paints, and incorporates (in three places) the widespread advertising slogan which states that Berger’s paint “keeps on keeping on”.]

“I Dips Me Lid”

to the

Sydney Harbour



C. J. Dennis

Author of
The Sentimental Bloke
Ginger Mick etc.

Copyright regd.

Published by
Lewis Berger & Sons (Australia) Ltd.
Makers of paints, varnishes, enamels, lacquers, and corroders of white lead
Rhodes N.S.W.

“I Dips Me Lid”

Being Further Musings of “The Sentimental Bloke”

By C.J. Dennis.

“Young sir,” ’e sez . . . Like that . . . It made me feel
Romantic like, as if me dream was reel.
’Is dress was fancy, an’ ’is style was grave.
An’ me? I ’ope I know ’ow to be’ave
In ’igh-toned company, for ain’t I been
Instructed careful by me wife, Doreen?
“Sing small,” she sez. An’ that’s jist wot I did.
I sounds me haitches, an’ I dips me lid.

“Young sir,” ’e sez . . . O’ course you understand
’Twus jist a dream. But, on the other ’and,
’E seemed so reel as ’e sat spoutin’ there
Beside me on ole Dame Macquarrie’s Chair,
Lookin’ across the ’arbor while ’e talked —
Seemed sumpthink more that jist a ghost ’oo walked
Out o’ the past . . . “Phillip by name,” ’e said.
A queer ole cock, wif lace, an’ wig on ’ead.

It ’appened this way: I ’ad jist come down,
After long years, to look at Sydney town.
An’ ’struth! Was I knocked endways? Fair su’prised?
I never dreamed! That arch that cut the skies!
The Bridge! I never thort there could ’a’ been —
I never knoo, nor guessed — I never seen . . . .
Well, Sydney’s ’ad some knocks since I been gone,
But strike! This shows she keeps on keepin’ on.

I’d strolled about the town for ’arf a day
Then dragged me carcase round the ’arbor way
To view the Bridge from Dame Macquarrie’s Chair;
Then parks me frame, an’ gits to thinkin’ there —
Thinkin’ of olden days; an’ I suppose
I must ’ave nodded orf into a doze.
Nex’ thing I knoo, ole Phillip come an’ sat
Beside me, friendly like, an’ starts to chat.

“Young sir,” ’e sez. “You, too, in sheer amaze
Look upon this, and hark to other days,
An’ dream of this fair city’s early start,
In which (’e bows) I played my ’umble part —
My ’umble part — a flagpole an’ a tent.”
“Come orf!” sez I. “You was a fine ole gent.
Reel nob. I’ve read about the things you did.
You picked some site.” (’E bows. I dips me lid).

“Young sir,” ’e sez. “I’ve dwelt in spirit ’ere
To watch this city waxin’ year by year:
But yesterday, from a mere staff, a tent,
Wonder on wonder as the swift years went —
A thrivin’ village, then a busy town,
Then, as a stride, a city of renown.
Oh! what a wondrous miracle of growth!
Think you not so?” “Too right,” I sez. “My oath!”

“I’ve watched, young sir,” ’e sez. “An’ I ’ave feared
Sometimes; feared greatly when ill days appeared.
Yet still they fought and wrought. I had small need
To doubt the great heart of this sturdy breed.
Black war has come. Yet, over half a world,
Their sons into that bloody fray they hurled;
And still they triumphed. Still their lodestar shone.”
“Sure thing,” sez I. “They kep’ on keepin’ on.”

“Young sir,” ’e sez. “The tears well in my eyes
When I behold yon arch that cleaves the skies —
That mighty span, triumphant, where we view
My old friend Darwin’s vision now made true:
’There the proud arch, Colossus-like, bestride
Yon glittering stream and bound the chafing tide!

’Twas so he dreamed a few short years agone.
Spoke truly, sir; they keep on keeping on.”

So Phillip spoke ’is piece, fair puffed wif pride.
An’ ’im an’ me dreamed by the ’arbor-side:
I, of the scene before, of years to be,
An’ of the marvels that men yet might see;
’Im, of a lantern gleamin’ thro’ the fog
To light a tent, an’ two men, an’ a dog . . . .
Then both of us, like some queer instinct bids,
Stands up, serloots the Bridge, an’ dips our lids.

60,000 GALLONS
(Made to specifications supplied by
Dr. J. J. C. Bradfield)
were used for the protection of the steel-work of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Berger’s “Keeps on Keeping on”

C. J. Dennis, “I Dips Me Lid” to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Lewis Berger & Sons, Rhodes (N.S.W.), [1932]

[Editor: Corrected “Harbor” to “Harbour” in the title (the title of the pamphlet used the American spelling of “Harbor”, whilst the promotional section at the end used the English spelling of “Harbour”); it is considered that the spelling in the title was an error, as “Harbour” in “Sydney Harbour Bridge” is part of a name, as distinct from a word that may vary according to country or usage; also, the correct spelling is used near the end of the text.]

Update: According to research carried out by Philip Butterss, 20,000 copies of this pamphlet were printed by Lewis Berger & Sons.
(See: Philip Butterss, An Unsentimental Bloke: The Life and Work of C.J. Dennis, Kent Town (SA): Wakefield Press, 2014, p. 192)

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