[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913) and Backblock Ballads and Later Verses (1918).]
The High Priest
Nay, why do foolish politicians strive
To win a fleeting popularity?
In vain, in vain, they jealously contrive
To turn the doting Public Eye from Me.
What was this land, this nation, destined for?
For Art, Trade, Politics? All out of place.
Behold, I am the Sporting Editor!
I call the race!
Reviewers, leader writers — what are they?
Subs., poets, novelists? Scribes of a sort —
Mere puny scribbling creatures of a day;
While I, the people’s idol, stand for Sport!
For mark, when inspiration falls on me,
What recks the public of that nameless band?
I ope my lips, and wisdom, gushing free,
O’erflows the land.
I lift my voice, and, lo! an army wakes —
A mighty host, a hundred thousand strong —
To spread the message; while the nation quakes
And thunders with the burden of my song:
“Ten lengths from home ‘Grey Lad’ outstripped The Witch,
And passed the post, by just a short neck, first.”
These are the words, the pregnant words, for which
The land’s athirst.
They are the children of my brain, mine own! —
These mighty words for which the people yearn;
The product of my genius alone!
Would you begrudge the laurels that I earn?
Mark you, yon sturdy native, strong o’ limb,
That leans against the lamp-post o’er the way —
Approach, and learn of my great fame from him.
Approach and say: —
“Awake! Arise! A curse on him who waits!
Behold, young man, thy country needs thy like;
The foeman’s hordes are panting at our gates.
Arouse, young patriot, go forth and strike!
Awake, and cast they reeking fag away!
Arise, and take the white man’s burden up!”
I’ll lay you ten to one in quids he’ll say:
“Wot’s won the Cup?”
Behold, the High Priest of the people’s creed!
Proclaim his genius loud! The bays! The bays!
Come, crown the Sporting Editor — indeed,
He is quite intimate with bays — and grays.
“Ten lengths from home!” How exquisite! How chaste!
“Gray Lad outstripped The Witch!” What style! What grace!
Come, Beauty, twine a laurel wreath! Nay, haste!
He calls the race!
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 114-116
Previously published in:
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, Melbourne: E. W. Cole, , pages 180-181
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