In Spadger’s Lane [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Moods of Ginger Mick (1916).]

In Spadger’s Lane

Ole Mother Moon ’oo yanks ’er beamin’ dile
Acrost the sky when we’ve grown sick o’ day,
She’s like some fat ole Jane ’oo loves to smile
On all concerned, an’ smooth our faults away;
An’, like a woman, tries to ’ide again
The sores an’ scars crool day ’as made too plain.

To all the earth she gives the soft glad-eye;
She picks no fav’rits in this world o’ men;
She peeps in nooks, where ’appy lovers sigh,
To make their joy more bonzer still; an’ then,
O’er Spadger’s Lane she waves a podgy ’and,
An’ turns the scowlin’ slums to Fairyland.

Aw, strike! I’m gettin’ soft in my ole age!
I’m growin’ mushy wiv the passin’ years.
Me! that ’as called it weakness to ingage
In sloppy thorts that coax the pearly tears.
But say, me state o’ mind I can’t ixplain
When I seen Rose lars’ night in Spadger’s Lane.

’Twas Spadger’s Lane where Ginger Mick ’ung out
Before ’e took to follerin’ the Flag;
The Lane that echoed to ’is drunken shout
When ’e lobbed ’omeward on a gaudy jag.
Now Spadger’s Lane knows Ginger Mick no more,
Fer ’e’s become an ’ero at the War.

A flamin’ ’ero at the War, that’s Mick.
An’ Rose — ’is Rose, is waitin’ in the Lane,
Nursin’ ’er achin’ ’eart, an’ lookin’ sick
As she crawls out to work an’ ’ome again,
Givin’ the bird to blokes ’oo’d be ’er “friend,”
An’ prayin’, wiv the rest, fer wars to end.

Quite right; I’m growin’ sloppy fer a cert;
But I must git it orf me chest or bust.
So ’ere’s a song about a grievin’ skirt,
An’ love, an’ Ginger Mick, an’ maiden trust!
The choky sort o’ song that fetches tears
When blokes is full o’ sentiment — or beers.

Lars’ night, when I sneaks down to taste again
The sights an’ sounds I used to know so well,
The moon wus shinin’ over Spadger’s Lane,
Sof’nin’ the sorrer where ’er kind light fell;
Sof’nin’ an’ soothin’, like it wus ’er plan
To make ixcuses fer the sins uv man.

Frum shadder inter shadder, up the street,
A prowlin’ moll sneaks by, wiv eyes all ’ate,
Dodgin’ some unseen John, ’oo’s sure, slow feet
Comes tappin’ after, certin as ’er fate;
In some back crib, a shicker’s loud ’owled verse
Stops sudden, wiv a crash, an’ then a curse.

Low down, a splotch o’ red, where ’angs a blind
Before the winder of a Chow caboose,
Shines in the dead black wall, an’ frum be’ind,
Like all the cats o’ Chinertown broke loose,
A mad Chow fiddle wails a two-note toon . . .
An’ then I seen ’er, underneath the moon.

Rosie the Rip they calls ’er in the Lane;
Fer she wus alwiz willin’ wiv ’er ’an’s,
An’ uses ’em to make ’er meanin’ plain
In ways that Spadger’s beauties understan’s.
But when ole Ginger played to snare ’er ’eart,
Rosie the Rip wus jist the soft, weak tart.

’Igh in ’er winder she wus leanin’ out,
Swappin’ remarks wiv fat ole Mother Moon.
The things around I clean fergot about —
Fergot the fiddle an’ its crook Chow toon;
I only seen one woman in the light
Achin’ to learn ’er forchin frum the night.

Ole Ginger’s Rose! To see ’er sittin’ there,
The moonlight shinin’ fair into ’er face,
An’ sort o’ touchin’ gentle on ’er ’air,
It made me fair fergit the time an’ place.
I feels I’m peepin’ where I never ought,
An’ tries ’arf not to ’ear the words I caught.

One soljer’s sweet’eart, that wus wot I seen:
One out o’ thousands grievin’ thro’ the land.
A tart frum Spadger’s or a weepin’ queen —
Wot’s there between ’em, when yeh understand?
She ’olds fer Mick, wiv all ’is ugly chiv,
The best a lovin’ woman ’as to give.

The best a woman ’as to give — Aw, ’Struth!
When war, an’ grief, an’ trouble’s on the land
Sometimes a bloke gits glimpses uv the truth
An’ sweats ’is soul to try an’ understand . . .
An’ then the World, like some offishus John,
Shoves out a beefy ’and, an’ moves ’im on.

So I seen Rose; an’ so, on that same night
I seen a million women grievin’ there.
Ole Mother Moon she showed to me a sight
She sees around the World, most everyw’ere.
Sneakin’ beneath the shadder uv the wall
I seen, an’ learned, an’ understood it all.

An’ as I looks at Rosie, dreamin’ there,
’Er ’ead drops on ’er arms . . . I seems to wake;
I sees the moonlight streamin’ on ’er ’air;
I ’ears ’er sobbin’ like ’er ’eart ud break.
An’ me there, pryin’ on ’er misery.
“Gawstruth!” I sez, “This ain’t no place fer me!”

On my tip-toes I sneaks the way I came —
(The crook Chow fiddle ain’t done yowlin’ yet) —
An’ tho’ I tells it to me bitter shame —
I’m gittin’ soft as ’ell — me eyes wus wet.
An’ that stern John, as I go moochin’ by
Serloots me wiv a cold, unfeelin’ eye.

The fat ole Mother Moon she’s got a ’eart.
An’ so I like to think, when she looks down
Wiv ’er soft gaze upon some weepin’ tart
In bonzer gardens or the slums o’ town;
She soothes ’em, mother-like, wiv podgy ’ands,
An’ makes ’em dream agen uv peaceful lands.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Moods of Ginger Mick, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1916, pages 69-73

Editor’s notes:
bonzer = (Australian slang) excellent (can also be spelt as “bonza”)

cert = a certainty; a certain bet, very sure; something definite; a forgone conclusion

chiv = face (derived from “Chevy Chase”, the name of a popular song, which was used as rhyming slang for “face”, which then became “chivvy”, then “chiv”)

Chow = a Chinese person (may also refer to something that is Chinese in origin or style, e.g. a “Chow restaurant”)

crib = bed; home, place of residence; from “crib”, referring to a bed for a baby or small child (an enclosed bed with high sides)

dial = (slang) face (from the dial, or face, of a clock)

dile = a vernacular spelling of “dial”: (slang) face (from the dial, or face, of a clock)

Gawstruth = an oath, a contraction of “God’s truth” (also rendered as “Gorstruth”, “struth”)

jag = a spree, binge, or period of overindulgence, especially a drunken spree; a state of intoxication arising from the use of alcohol drinks or drugs (may also refer to a sharp point, a barb; to cut, jab, pierce, prick, slash, or stab; to catch fish by using an unbaited hook)

Jane = (slang) woman

John = police, policeman, derived from “John Hopper” (or “Johnny Hopper”), rhyming slang for copper, i.e. cop (policeman)

shicker = a drunk person, i.e. someone who is intoxicated from the effects of alcohol (may also refer to the state of being drunk)

skirt = (slang) woman

strike = an exclamatory oath, used to express astonishment, shock, or surprise; an abbreviation of “Strike me lucky”, “Strike me pink”, “Strike a light”, or similar

’struth = an oath, a contraction of “God’s truth” (also rendered as “Gawstruth” or “Gorstruth”)

tart = a young woman (a contraction of “sweetheart”); it also came to refer to a woman who behaves or dresses in such a way as to be considered sexually provocative (another meaning is: prostitute)

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