[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 Royal Hat.
Now a hat is a hat, and a head is a head,
And there’s “reason in most things,” as someone has said,
And a joke is a joke; but, I give you a word,
This roofing of kings is becoming absurd.
In days neolithic, when clothing was rare,
And a troglodyte’s wardrobe comprised mainly hair,
When a nose-bone and anklet were reckoned “the thing,”
The cave-men elected a kind of a king.
Then trouble arose; for the bloke in the street
Didn’t bow to the king when they happened to meet;
For when a king’s hairiness sums up his clobber,
A loyalist hardly knows when he should slobber.
This king set to work, with a serious frown,
And in less than six months he’d invented the Crown —
A mere wreath of rushes, not much of a thing,
But it published the fact that the wearer was king.
Now, I put it to you, as a man to a man
There was reason and sense in that troglodyte’s plan;
For, as he remarked, “’Tisn’t much of a fit,
But ’twill help to proclaim to the crowd I am It.”
But he didn’t call round him his dukes and his lords,
His cousins and aunts, and relations in hordes,
His troglodyte bishops to buther and rave;
No, he just shoved it on in his own private cave.
But the king who came next was a vain sort of man
(And this is just where all the trouble began).
He was fond of a “function” and eager for show;
And he sowed all the seeds of the nonsense we know.
It started like that; and the foolishness grew
From inviting a friendly and intimate few,
Till the time when the whole blinded nation was bid on
The day when the king had to get his new lid on.
With a babble the rabble goes forth to the Fog,
Forgetting the rent, and forsaking the dog;
They are rushing to London and all because — Why?
To see a crown cocked o’er the boss-prince’s eye!
From its innermost heart to its outermost spot
The whole bloomin’ Empire has gone off its dot.
For to count “any class” you must be in the swim,
And shout with the crowd at the hatting, “That’s ’im!
“That’s ’is ’ighness the King with the large golden hat —
It’s worth twice the money to see ’im like that!”
And every old person “of note” will be there,
Who can dodge the collector and rake up the fare.
Barons and bishops and boodlers in hordes,
The earliest earls and the lordliest lords,
Nabobs and niggers from India’s strand
And the juiciest Jews that they raise on the Rand.
Marshals and marquises, brewers in sheaves,
Admirals, aldermen, stock-exchange thieves,
And the duckiest duchesses, gorgeously gowned,
Will flock into London to see the King crowned.
Princes and Premiers from over the seas
Will jostle the Rajahs and Labor M.P.’s;
The peerage and beerage will crowd in the Stand,
With squatters and rotters who libel their land.
And, when you consider the crowd and the time,
Yu expect them to burst into babyish rhyme:
“With a rumpity-bump, and a pit-a-pit-pat,
To see an archbishop put on the king’s hat.”
But I put it to you, as a friend to a friend:
What the deuce is the use of it all in the end
For you’d think, once he’s under his gorgeous cover,
There ought to be something to show when it’s over.
But, save you! he don’t wear the thing in the street,
To signify something to coves he may meet;
He wraps it in wadding and puts it away,
And wears a plain billycock tile every day!
And when all the blither and blather is o’er,
The rustle and bustle, the rush and the roar,
Then, this is what calls for hilarious laughter:
He’s just as much monarch before it as after!
The bills and the bailiffs come round as before,
And buzz-flies will buzz in the springtime once more,
It doesn’t make milkers or mining shares rise,
Or cure indigestion or specks ’fore the eyes.
The welkin may ring with the national glee,
(You’ll know, though I don’t, what the welkin may be).
And the “thin crimson thread of our kinship” may twang;
But that ain’t improvin’ the birthrate a hang.
So, I put it to you, as a cobber to cobber:
Do you see the sense of this silly old slobber?
Take any old head, and take any old hat,
Shove one on the other and — what’s there in that?
For a hat is a hat, and a head is a head,
And a joke is a joke, as I’ve previously said;
But a farce is a farce, and, I give you my word,
This roofing of kings is becoming absurd.
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, , pages 129-132