Kids [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]


Hi, there, Tommy, get your rifle ! Yes, we know you’re small a trifle,
But you’ve got to leave your marbles, and must learn to hump a gun.
Whilst your Dad is at the races, backing “stiffened” mokes for places,
You must learn to be a soldier — Shoulder arms !
Step lively ! ’Shun !
Brother Bill is playing cricket ; whilst he’s busy at the wicket,
Whilst he’s fooling round in flannels, you must learn to be a Man ;
You’re Australia’s sole defender, though you’re weak and mighty tender,
You must hump Australia’s burden — that’s this nation’s splendid plan !

Uncle Jim is pigeon-shooting, brother Jack is football-rooting —
Hear the cheering and the jeering, whilst you learn your bit of drill.
There’s a row that calls for hoeing ; whilst the “half –time” beers are flowing,
You are “forming fours” and marching — hear the umpire’s whistle shrill !
Brother Bill is bravely batting, making runs along the matting ;
Dad is cursing mokes and bookies, tearing tickets as he goes ;
Whilst the slaughtered pigeons flutter o’er the jerking trap and shutter —
You alone are getting ready for To-morrow’s certain foes !

Bill the mighty, Bill the hero, seems to me to slump to zero —
You’re the only Man Who Matters, though you’re very small and young ;
In these days when peace grows brittle, march the soldiers extra-little —
And I reckon brother William might as well be drowned or hung !
Uncle Jim the pigeon-shooter, brother Jack the football-rooter —
They’re a pair of service-dodgers, ne’er a drill prescribed for them ;
Also, Dad, the pony-backer, he’s a useless sort of slacker,
You’re the only White Australian on the nation’s job pro tem. !

All the rest are dodging service ; very strong to me their nerve is —
“Sports” are they, whose frenzied worship hath no sacramental frill ;
Horse and football, dog and cricket — yea, their altar is the wicket,
And a special sort of halo floats above the sainted Bill!
Whilst the manhood of the nation yells its wrath or approbation,
Whilst the umpire streaks for shelter, only Tommy humps his gun ;
Bill and Jack have got no rifles, can’t be bothered with such trifles —
So the school-kid serves Australia whilst the sands eternal run !

Yea, the cheerful kid goes tramping whilst the football herds are stamping —
He is marching back and forwards whilst his elder brethren play ;
Whilst the kid is marching slicker, Uncle James, the pigeon-sticker,
Murders poultry like a Christian every blessed Saturday !
Dad likewise pursues the ponies — very sad his vesper groan is,
“Never backed a blasted winner,” and his cash supports the Yids ;
Whilst the football fools are braying, seems to me Australia’s saying :
“Since my manhood’s cheap and worthless, I must put my trust in kids !”

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 127-130

Editor’s notes:
bookies = bookmakers; professional betting men who accept bets at racetracks

mokes = a moke is an inferior horse (originally, it was a term for a donkey)

pro tem = for the time being, temporarily; from the Latin phrase “pro tempore”

Yids = a derogatory name for Jewish people; “his cash supports the Yids” would be a reference to the stereotype of past years regarding Jews and financial occupations; however, as a pro-Labor poet, Hervey is likely using the term as an anti-capitalist reference rather than as an anti-Jewish reference

Speak Your Mind