He wears a yellow hat and buttoned boots,
Four more upon his coat-flap and his sleeve;
His linen from his laundryman he loots,
By racing whoppers he has learned to weave.
Invariably he’s slim and ferret-faced,
And hollow-chested through eternal fags.
His spindle-leggy-ness is plainly traced
Beyond the trivial texture of his bags.
He calls most persons “peas” and women “janes,”
Rarely with maidens mashful he’ll consort,
He has no time for love or leafy lanes,
Or rendezvous where sighing swains resort.
He cares not so that he remains —
His place is on the footpath or the kerb,
Dodging the Johns that duty up and down;
He spits the vimful and vermillion verb,
The adjective obscene and nasty noun.
He works perhaps by day, and p’r’aps he don’t,
His younger brother classes him as king;
When chatted as to toil his word is won’t
As long as some poor simpleton will sling.
When he has twenty bob he’s “up to cash,”
When he is down and out his “weight is short.”
A bank-roll unto him the Oscar Ashe,
A swindle is to him a “joke,” a “wrought.”
He is that contradiction flash —
His scorn is lofty for the working man,
The hefty bloke who toils in wood and wheat,
The sort whose sweat secures his bed and scran,
Warmth in the winter, coolness in the heat.
“A lizard from the land” he calls the coves
Who come to town with tenners in their kicks,
While he and such as he in dingo droves
Have, if you turned them downside upwards — nix!
They dine in cafes, he at coffee stalls,
They sleep in linen, he beneath a rug;
They see the picture-shows and the music-halls
He thinks a shilling gall’ry brief — a “slug”;
He who has work and wage he calls —
You see him at his best in billiard halls
When he is silvery with some borrowed bobs,
Straining his suit time-payment as he sprawls
The table which of decent nap he robs.
He pauses in the middle of a shot
To tell you how The Magsman mucked it out,
And argues when the pink you want to pot
How Glanders never had the race in doubt.
The only ones who listen to his yap
Are knickered boys who cannot there resort,
Unless he slips them in beneath the lap
And then of course disowns them when they’re caught.
You’ll never see within a scrap —
His most pathetic period of the day
When race results are posted on the pubs,
His cigarette-soaked visage, thin and grey,
Seeking the same old borrowings cadge and subs.
He gets his gospel from a gutter gun,
Who tells him how to pick a mug at sight,
Not understanding he himself is one
Born every minute of the day and night.
He bustles through the crowd that bows its head
To brumby battles on a racecourse fought,
Although upon the race he’s not a red,
Racing and race-men are his only thought.
Alas that lizards long have fed —
Sometimes he may reform, and sometimes not,
For once a waster, often thence a weed,
Sometimes a John Hop sour puts on his pot
And steers him to the toil he seems to need.
Sometimes he takes a tumble late in life
And weds a barmaid or a laundress strong,
And reads in bed what time his weary wife
Over the washtub sings a soapy song.
Eftsoons he takes a truncheon to his Jill
For which they yank him to a callous court,
And in the “Strewth” a column long they fill
Concerning what the neighbors heard and thought;
But in the nick or not he’s still —
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 50-51
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 19 June 1921, p. 4
bag = suit; from the rhyming slang, “bag of fruit”
bob = a shilling (twelve pence); after the decimalisation of the Australian currency in 1966, the monetary equivalent of a shilling was ten cents (“a couple of bob” referred to twenty cents specifically, or to a small amount of money in general, as in “can you lend me a couple of bob?”); twenty shillings were equivalent to one pound
fag = cigarette
John = cop, derived from “John Hopper”, rhyming slang for copper, i.e. cop (policeman)
John Hop = “John Hopper”, rhyming slang for copper, i.e. cop (policeman)
mash = kiss, canoodle; to flirt with, to court (also may refer to a lover or sweetheart)
nick = jail, gaol
nix = nothing, zero (from the German “nichts”, meaning nothing); no; a rejection; to disagree, prohibit, or reject (also, in German mythology, a water being, sometimes described as a demon or monster, which is half-human and half-fish)
“Strewth” = in the context of Australian newspapers, a reference to the “Truth” newspaper, which had a reputation for publishing salacious stories, including those from criminal courts and divorce courts
[Editor: Inserted an extended dash (—) after “have fed”, in line with the endings of the other stanzas.]