[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.]
In “the early eocene” when the mammoth strode, serene,
O’er the tertiary green, monopolising most o’ things;
Rose a creature called a man, with a system and a plan,
Claiming rights, and straight began to organise a host o’ things.
Said the creature, queer of shape — once an anthropoidal ape —
“Things are in a shocking scrape; I’m bent upon improving them.
I am going to expand. There are troubles in the land;
I intend to take a hand reforming or removing them.”
Then a Tory mastodon, fat and fierce to gaze upon,
In whose rheumy eye there shone a light of shocked propriety,
Cried, with indignation vast: “Socialist! Iconoclast!
He’ll disorganise and blast respectable society!”
But the resolute ex-ape moulded matters into shape;
Seeking ever to escape a state of things frustraneous;
And the dear old mastodon — Tory of the ages gone —
Rests his ancient bones upon the strata subterraneous.
In the days when godly men thought their wives — say nine or ten —
Wholly insufficient when they could afford a score or so;
When Solomon (who owned the mines) couldn’t count his concubines;
And all moneyed masculines could boast at least of four or so —
Rose there then, within the land, one who made a strange demand;
This no less — that they should hand all surplus femininity —
Concubine and paramour — round to the deserving poor,
Holding to themselves secure each one a lone affinity.
Then polygamists, with fat quaking, asked, by this and that,
What the Devil was he at? This was stark insanity!
“Fool!” they cried, in shocked surprise, “Are you seeking — dash your eyes! —
To ruin private enterprise to satisfy your vanity?”
And the old monopolists ramped about and shook their fists,
Shouted, hooted, cursed, and hissed. Men of proven piety
Swore at him with language bad. “Socialist!” they yelled. “You’re mad!
Visionary! Why your fad’s an insult to society!”
But those dear old Tory chaps have departed; and, perhaps,
Modern marriage — bar mishaps — now satisfies democracy.
Thus, at last — at least they say — that reformer got his way;
And polygamy to-day revolts the aristocracy.
In the feudal days of yore, a baron — Tory to the core —
Owned a thousand serfs or more; and land? — he had the run of it
For many leagues about. But lo! a foolish, low-born lout
Bewailed his lot, and blurted out he “couldn’t see the fun of it.”
Roared the good old baron then, calling on his serving men;
Clapped the caitiff in a den; and swore with loud impiety.
“Zounds! Gadzooks!” the baron cried, when the rack had been applied.
“A Socialist! ’Tis well he died! A menace to society!”
So on, down throughout the ages, that old Tory person rages.
Note the cry, in all its stages, heard in every latitude.
Though the primal type has gone, hear the same old mastodon
Rave, and snort, and trumpet on the same old Tory platitude.
“Stop the Socialistic fraud! Private Enterprise! Good Lord!
(Let the good news not get abroad.) It’s BLASPHEMY!! IMPIETY!!
It seeks my ‘sacred rights’ to wring from me; my land, gold — everything.
Arrest it! It is menacing respectable society!”
Same old, tough polygamist; same old, fat monopolist;
Greedy eye and grasping fist; air of smug propriety.
Mastodon or merchant robber; feudal lord or Crown-lands jobber —
It’s the same old Tory slobber, same old whine — “Society”.
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, , pages 106-109