The Silent Member
He lived in Mundaloo, and Bill McClosky was his name,
But folks that knew him well had little knowledge of that same;
For he some’ow lost his surname, and he had so much to say —
He was called “The Silent Member” in a mild, sarcastic way.
He could talk on any subject — from the weather and the crops
To astronomy and Euclid, and he never minded stops;
And the lack of a companion didn’t lay him on the shelf,
For he’d stand before a looking-glass and argue with himself.
He would talk for hours on lit’rature, or calves, or art, or wheat;
There was not a bally subject you could say had got him beat;
And when strangers brought up topics that they reckoned he would baulk,
He’d remark, “I never heard of that.” But all the same — he’d talk.
He’d talk at christ’nings by the yard; at weddings by the mile;
And he used to pride himself upon his choice of words and style.
In a funeral procession his remarks would never end
On the qualities and virtues of the dear departed friend.
We got quite used to hearing him, and no one seemed to care —
In fact, no happ’ning seemed complete unless his voice was there.
For close on thirty year he talked, and none could talk him down,
Until one day an agent for insurance struck the town.
Well, we knew The Silent Member, and we knew what he could do,
And it wasn’t very long before we knew the agent, too,
As a crack long-distance talker that was pretty hard to catch;
So we called a hasty meeting and decided on a match.
Of course, we didn’t tell them we were putting up the game;
But we fixed it up between us, and made bets upon the same.
We named a time-keep and a referee to see it through;
Then strolled around, just casual, and introduced the two.
The agent got first off the mark, while our man stood and grinned;
He talked for just one solid hour, then stopped to get his wind.
“Yes; but —” sez Bill; that’s all he said; he couldn’t say no more;
The agent got right in again, and fairly held the floor.
On policies, and bonuses, and premiums, and all that,
He talked and talked until we thought he had our man out flat.
“I think —” Bill got in edgeways, but that there insurance chap
Just filled himself with atmosphere, and took the second lap.
I saw our man was getting dazed, and sort of hypnotized,
And they oughter pulled the agent up right there, as I advised.
“See here —” Bill started, husky; but the agent came again,
And talked right on for four hours good — from six o’clock to ten.
Then Bill began to crumple up, and weaken at the knees,
When all at once he ups and shouts, “Here, give a bloke a breeze!
Just take a pull for half a tick and let me have the floor,
And I’ll take out a policy.” The agent said no more.
The Silent Member swallowed hard, then coughed and cleared his throat,
But not a single word would come — no; not a blessed note.
His face looked something dreadful — such a look of pained dismay;
Then he have us one pathetic glance, and turned, and walked away.
He’s hardly spoken since that day — not more than “Yes” or “No”.
We miss his voice a good bit, too; the town seems rather slow.
He was called “The Silent Member” just sarcastic, I’ll allow;
But since that agent handled him it sort o’ fits him now.
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Later Verses, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1918, pages 107-109
Previously published in:
C. J. Dennis, Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, Melbourne: E. W. Cole, , pages 74-76