Mutton [poem by C.J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913). 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.]

Mutton.

In the middle of the summer, when the town is limp with heat,
And the asphalt of the footpath curls your boots and burns your feet:
When you’re creased and crabbed and sodden, and can hardly raise a crawl,
And the perspiration’s drippin’ in a constant waterfall;
There’s a penetratin’ odor gets abroad and fairly roars;
It will creep in through the keyholes and it sneaks beneath the doors;
And it fills your happy home up from the cellar to the roof,
Until ev’ry other odor holds its breath and stands aloof.

That’s Mutton! Mutton!
Everlastin’ Mutton!
All-pervadin’, never-fadin’ smell of cookin’ sheep.
Into ev’ry room ’twill roam, chasin’ you from house and home,
Mutton flaunted, mutton-haunted, even in your sleep.

You can smell it in the parlor, you can feel it in the hall,
You can HEAR it in the kitchen, where it hugs you like a pall.
Hov’ring o’er your couch at midnight, wafting thro’ your troubled sleep:
First to greet you in the mornin’ when the day begins to peep.
Seek you vainly to evade it in an open-air retreat,
It will rise and upper-cut you, from the gratin’s in the street.
Vain are all your disinfectants, for they fail the woes to drown
Of a mutton-ridden people in a mutton-scented town.

Oh, the irony of hearin’ songs about the home, sweet home;
When you swelter in an oven where the kitchen odors roam.
When each kindly word is wafted on a mutton-scented breeze,
And each sigh stirs up remembrance of a week of hashed-up teas:
Where endearing terms are flavored with a touch of mutton raw,
And you sample last week’s dinner, ev’ry tender breath you draw.
Do you wonder that our home-life isn’t what it ought to be?
Do you know what sets us drinkin’, in our abject misery?

It’s Mutton! Mutton!
Soul-destroyin’ Mutton!
Over-cloudin’, odor-shroudin’ all in life that’s bright;
By a thoughtless movement stirred, chokin’ down a kindly word,
Ever-present, effervescent, mornin’, noon and night.



Source:
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 31-32

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