The Builders [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918).]

The Builders

Behold, I built a fowlhouse in my yard!
Two months ago the great work was begun,
And every eventide I labored hard,
What time my daily office grind was done.
’Tis to my industry a monument,
The fowls, my wife and I are well content.

Indeed, I built a fowlhouse. Gods forbid —
Although I made it, floor and roof and wall —
That I should boast about this thing I did.
I mention it most modestly withal.
Just these two hands, this brain were all I had.
I built it on my own, and I am glad.

And, as I toiled at eve, my wife would come,
The candle, nails and divers tools to hold;
And when I swore because I hit my thumb
She did not hang the contract up to scold,
Nor move a vote of censure, and maintain
The thing should be pulled down and built again.

She is my helpmate, both in name and deed;
Nor does she deem it policy to nag.
And when she saw my wounded finger bleed
She bound it up, most tenderly, with rag.
Thus, for one end, did both of us conspire —
To have a fowlhouse was our joint desire.

And, when I went about my work in town,
No secret vision filled my day with dread
That she would pull the whole contraption down
And start a building of her own instead.
I knew, indeed, she would take care to leave
Unharmed my handiwork of yester eve.

You’ll note — if you’re at all intelligent —
Our system was simplicity itself:
We wanted something, that was evident,
To wit, a fowlhouse, perches, and a shelf
For nests. I got some timber, tools and nails,
And set to work. This method seldom fails.

And when I’d done, and saw it stand complete,
With triumph was I most absurdly filled.
A tiny thing, enclosing ten square feet,
That any deft suburbanite might build —
Yet was my soul with satisfaction seized;
And, on the whole, I think the fowls were pleased.

Now that my hens are well and snugly housed,
And given cosy nests in which to lay,
It seems their gratitude has been aroused;
Our egg supply increases day by day.
And yet, I vow, when I their house designed
No sordid thought of eggs was in my mind.

Maybe I seem a trifle too inclined
To brag about a very simple feat.
Yet strange ideas crowd into my mind
When I sit down to scan my morning sheet,
And read of other builders who should be
Goliaths in comparison with me.

Their mighty undertakings, I’ve no doubt —
Vast railway lines that span a continent,
And other matters that I read about —
Are apt to cause much wordy argument.
Yet I, who calmly built a house for fowls,
Can feel contempt for these unseemly howls.

For when they move to build, unholy shouts
Go up to Heaven from opponent throats;
The Ins are ever brawling with the Outs;
And both are scheming sordidly for votes.
They build not as true builders, such as I,
Who build for love, and scorn the trade they ply.

Thank God, my wife and I are well content
In doing things to win a modest name
Without the aid of Party Government
And all the meanness of that paltry Game.
Honest endeavor, and some boards and nails,
Pride in our work — this method seldom fails.

I am so diffident, I hardly care
To give advice to statesmen evident,
And yet, on this occasion, shall I dare
To offer them some small encouragement:
Let them forego their wrangles, curses, howls,
And strive to build a little place for fowls.

’Tis sheer presumption, surely, to compare
Myself with statesmen in high honor decked;
Yet do I feel emboldened to declare
That I am more deserving of respect.
They, by their brawls, a mighty work have marred;
I built an honest fowlhouse in my yard.

C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 19-22

Editor’s notes:
divers = a number of items (all of which are not necessarily different, they may all be identical, i.e. distinct from “diverse”), several, sundry, various; “divers” is also an archaic spelling variant of “diverse” (a number of items which are different to each other, a wide range of various types)

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