[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.]
The Eternal Circle.
Now, a visitor from somewhere right outside this Mundane Ball —
Do not ask me where he came from, for that point’s not clear at all;
For he might have been an angel, or he might have come from Mars,
Or from any of the other of the fixed or unfixed stars.
As regards his mental make-up he was much like you or me;
And he toured about the country, just to see what he could see.
Well, this superhuman person was of most inquiring mind,
And ’twas noted, from his questions, he was very far from blind,
And the striking thing about him was his stern, compelling eye,
That demanded Truth ungarbled when he paused for a reply.
And, despite the mental wriggles of the folk he interviewed,
When they placed the Truth before him she was ab-so-lutely nude.
At our Civilised Society he stared in some amaze,
As he muttered his equivalent for “Gosh!” or “Spare me days!”
For our cherished modes and customs knocked him sideways, so to speak.
“To solve,” said he, “this mystery, now whither shall I seek?
For a sane and sound solution I must question those on high,”
Said this extra-mundane being with the stern, compelling eye.
Now, his methods were intelligent — quite human, I confess,
For he started with our Politics, Religion and the Press.
Thus, he read a morning paper through, intently, ev’ry leaf,
Then hied him out to interview the editor-in-chief;
“They say that Truth lives in a well,” he muttered as he went;
“But her well is not an inkwell, I will lay my last lone cent.”
It chanced he found the editor unguarded and alone
At the office of the paper — ’twas the MORNING MEGAPHONE.
“Now, I take it,” said the visitor, “you represent the Press,
That great Public Educator?” And the pressman murmured, “Yes.”
“Yet in yesterday’s edition I perceived a glaring lie!
How’s this?” He fixed the pressman with his stern, compelling eye.
Then the editor he stammered, and the editor he “hemmed”
And muttered things like “Gracious me!” and likewise, “Well, I’m demned!”
But the lady Truth came tripping, all undressed and unashamed:
“Oh, I own it!” cried the editor. “But how can I be blamed?
There’s our blighted advertisers and our readers — Spare my grief!
But we’ve got to please the public!” moaned the editor-in-chief.
“Now to interview a statesman and consider his reply,”
Said this strange Select Committee with the stern, compelling eye.
And the Honorable Member for Mud Flat he chanced to find
In a noble Spring-street building of a most palatial kind.
And the Honorable Member viewed his visitor with awe,
For he surely had the most compelling eye you ever saw.
“Now, then, tell me,” said the visitor; “you are a man of State,
And you blither on the platform of this Nation grand and great;
Of this noble Land’s great destiny I’ve heard you talking hard,
But, whene’er it comes to voting, it’s the ‘claims’ of your back yard.
Do you represent the Nation, as you often say you do,
Or a hen-roost or a cow-yard, or a parish-pump or two?”
Then the politician stuttered, and the politician stared,
But to voice his patriotic platitudes he felt too scared;
For the lady Truth insisted, and he blurted, “It’s the Votes!
You must blame the dashed electors when you see us turn our coats!
Our constituents control us. You must please remember that.
And we’ve got to please the public!” whined the Member for Mud Flat.
“Now to look into religion,” said the visitor, “I’m told
I may get much information from a Wowser-of-the-Fold.”
And he sought him out a Wowser of the very sternest breed:
“Sweet Charity, they tell me, is the key-note of your creed.
And of mercy for the sinner, and of succor for the weak
From the pulpit, on a Sunday, I have often heard you speak;
Yet Charity is turned to Spite, and Scorn becomes your creed
When they speak of giving bounty to weak Magdalene in need.”
Then the Wowser hesitated, and the Wowser rolled his eyes,
And sought in vain to call to mind some Wowserish replies.
But the lady Truth came peeping, and the Wowser cried, “O, Lor!”
And he hastily drew the blind and softly closed the door.
“She is naked!” gasped the Wowser. “Oh, where are the hussy’s clothes?
If my dear brethren saw me now! Oh, what do you suppose!”
“The Truth!” exclaimed the querist with the stern, compelling eye.
“’Tis my flock!” exclaimed the Wowser. “Oh, I cannot tell a lie!
My flock of virgins sour and chaste, and matrons undeceived,
They would hound me from the pulpit if I said what I believed!
I dote on notoriety! The Truth it must be told.
Oh, I’ve got to please my public!” moaned the Wowser-of-the-Fold.
“Now, this Public; I must nail it,” said the queer inquisitor.
“’Tis the favor of this mighty god they all seem eager for;
And they always strive to please him, and his sentiments express
In their Parliaments and Pulpits and their organs of the Press.
And I’ll get a sure solution if I have the luck to meet —
What is this he’s called? — the Man, or Bloque, or Fellow-in-the-Street.”
A Fellow-in-the-Street was found, and typical was he,
An eager hunter of the thing that men call £. s. d.
He wore a strained expression on his features, dull and flat,
Also bifurcated coat-tails, and a little hard round hat.
His talk was mainly platitudes, when ’twasn’t shop or horse,
And he had some fixed opinions and a bank account, of course.
“Now then, tell me,” said the visitant, “What are you private views
On you Politics, Religion and the Sheet that gives you news?
I have heard a lot about you, and a deal I’d like to know
Of why you work, and what you think, and where you hope to go.
I feel assured that I shall find the Truth in your reply.”
And he fixed the foolish Fellow with his stern, compelling eye.
The Fellow hemmed and hawed a bit, the Fellow looked about,
And the lady Truth smiled sweetly while he murmured, as in doubt,
“Well, re-al-ly, my views upon those things I can’t express.
You must ask our Politicians and the Parsons and the Press.
But as for me — well, candidly, you’ve got me off my beat;
For I don’t know much about it!” said the Fellow-in-the-Street.
“’Tis the Circle!” cried the visitor. “’Tis the same old crazy game
Right through the trackless Milky Way to there from whence I came.
The Earth is round, the Moon is round, and Jupiter and Mars,
Their orbits all, and Saturn’s rings, and countless million stars.
All throughout the constellations I have journeyed, to and fro,
But ev’rything goes round and round no matter where I go.
All the Universe is circles! All one tantalising twirl!
Oh, is there nothing straight or square in all this cosmic whirl?
And with these strange and cryptic words the Being fled afar,
Back to his native hiding-place — his fixed or unfixed star.
Some say his name was “Reason,” other hold ’twas “Intellect”;
But, as for me, I have no views to voice in that respect.
His motives seemed mysterious; I know not how nor why;
I only know he had a stern and most compelling eye.
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, , pages 161-167