Sunday, March 19, 2006

For Winston

CJ Dennis

As per Winston's request in response to my writeup of Banjo Patterson's "The Man from Ironbark" and Australian poetry....more please!

CJ Denniswas born in Auburn South Australia a stone's throw from where my great-great grandfather owned a wheat and sheep farm in the dry and dusty mid-north of that state. His father was a publican and with my ancestors being tee-totalling Methodists, I'd say they may not have crossed paths that regularly! Again like me CJ Dennis moved from country South Australia to the big smoke in Sydney. Dennis like Paterson, wrote for "The Bulletin" which was a left leaning weekly of the day (at around the time of the newly emerging union movement) chock full of poetry, essays and cartoons.

CJ Dennis has been largely neglected compared to Lawson and Paterson IMHO because he was one to write more about inner city life, rather that the romance of the outback; which has been done to death by advetising agencies and other creators of the Australian cultural myth. Over 80% of the population live in the cities after all, the bush is a nice place to go on weekends in your airconditioned SUV.

This is a poem from "The Sentimnental Bloke" where our hero, a "larrikin" from the inner city of Sydney takes Doreen out on a date to see Romeo and Juliet. One sometimes forgets through rose coloured glasses, that the inner city was once just as bad as our "crime ridden" present!

My favourite line refers to a sword fight with epees, comparing a swordfight with some of the "stoushes" that took place in the inner city.

"Ixcep' they fights wiv skewers 'stid o' bricks.

Translated Except the fight with skewers instead of bricks

Not much has changed since Shakespeare's time compared to CJ Dennis' time which is much unlike today. Some young blokes get in fights, some die, some wake up to goes on.

The dialect may be a little difficult to understand if your from overseas, so any queries, let me know. There's some archaic slang (Australian is a developing language doncha know?) but I can look it up around some educational sites.

The Play

Wot’s in a name?-- she sez . . . An' then she sighs,
An' clasps 'er little 'ands, an' rolls 'er eyes.
"A rose," she sez, "be any other name
Would smell the same.
Oh, w'erefore art you Romeo, young sir?
Chuck yer ole pot, an' change yer moniker!"

Doreen an' me, we bin to see a show--
The swell two-dollar touch. Bong tong, yeh know.
A chair apiece wiv velvit on the seat;
A slap-up treat.
The drarmer's writ be Shakespeare, years ago,
About a barmy goat called Romeo.

"Lady, be yonder moon I swear!" sez 'e.
An' then 'e climbs up on the balkiney;
An' there they smooge a treat, wiv pretty words
Like two love-birds.
I nudge Doreen. She whispers, "Ain't it grand!"
'Er eyes is shining an' I squeeze 'er 'and.

'Wot's in a name?" she sez. 'Struth, I dunno.
Billo is just as good as Romeo.
She may be Juli-er or Juli-et--
'E loves 'er yet.
If she's the tart 'e wants, then she's 'is queen,
Names never count . . . But ar, I like "Doreen!"

A sweeter, dearer sound I never 'eard;
Ther's music 'angs around that little word,
Doreen! . . . But wot was this I starts to say
About the play?
I'm off me beat. But when a bloke's in love
'Is thorts turns 'er way, like a 'omin' dove.

This Romeo 'e's lurkin' wiv a crew--
A dead tough crowd o' crooks--called Montague.
'Is cliner's push--wot's nicknamed Capulet--
They 'as 'em set.
Fair narks they are, jist like them back-street clicks,
Ixcep' they fights wiv skewers 'stid o' bricks.

Wot's in a name? Wot's in a string o' words?
They scraps in ole Verona wiv the'r swords,
An' never give a bloke a stray dog's chance,
An' that's Romance.
But when they deals it out wiv bricks an' boots
In Little Lon., they're low, degraded broots.

Wot's jist plain stoush wiv us, right 'ere to-day,
Is "valler" if yer fur enough away.
Some time, some writer bloke will do the trick
Wiv Ginger Mick, Of Spadger's Lane.
'E'll be a Romeo,
When 'e's bin dead five 'undred years or so.

Fair Juli-et, she gives 'er boy the tip.
Sez she: "Don't sling that crowd o' mine no lip;
An' if you run agin a Capulet,
Jist do a get."
'E swears 'e's done wiv lash; 'e'll chuck it clean.
(Same as I done when I first met Doreen.)

They smooge some more at that. Ar, strike me blue!
It gimme Joes to sit an' watch them two! '
E'd break away an' start to say good-bye,
An' then she'd sigh
"Ow, Ro-me-o!" an' git a strangle-holt,
An' 'ang around 'im like she feared 'e'd bolt.

Nex' day 'e words a gorspil cove about
A secret weddin'; an' they plan it out.
'E spouts a piece about 'ow 'e's bewitched:
Then they git 'itched . . .
Now, 'ere's the place where I fair git the pip!
She's 'is for keeps, an' yet 'e lets 'er slip!

Ar! but 'e makes me sick! A fair gazob!
E's jist the glarsey on the soulful sob,
'E'll sigh and spruik, a’ ‘owl a love-sick vow--
(The silly cow!)
But when 'e's got 'er, spliced an' on the straight
'E crools the pitch, an' tries to kid it's Fate.

Aw! Fate me foot! Instid of slopin' soon
As 'e was wed, off on 'is 'oneymoon,
'Im an' 'is cobber, called Mick Curio,
They 'ave to go
An' mix it wiv that push o' Capulets.
They look fer trouble; an' it's wot they gets.

A tug named Tyball (cousin to the skirt)
Sprags 'em an' makes a start to sling off dirt.
Nex' minnit there's a reel ole ding-dong go—
'Arf round or so.
Mick Curio, 'e gets it in the neck,
"Ar rats!" 'e sez, an' passes in 'is check.

Quite natchril, Romeo gits wet as 'ell.
"It's me or you!" 'e 'owls, an' wiv a yell,
Plunks Tyball through the gizzard wiv 'is sword,
'Ow I ongcored! "Put in the boot!" I sez. "Put in the boot!"
"'Ush!" sez Doreen . . . "Shame!" sez some silly coot.

Then Romeo, 'e dunno wot to do.
The cops gits busy, like they allwiz do,
An' nose around until 'e gits blue funk
An' does a bunk.
They wants 'is tart to wed some other guy.
"Ah, strike!" she sez. "I wish that I could die!"

Now, this 'ere gorspil bloke's a fair shrewd 'ead.
Sez 'e "I'll dope yeh, so they'll think yer dead."
(I tips 'e was a cunnin' sort, wot knoo
A thing or two.)
She takes 'is knock-out drops, up in 'er room:
They think she's snuffed, an' plant 'er in 'er tomb.

Then things gits mixed a treat an' starts to whirl.
'Ere's Romeo comes back an' finds 'is girl
Tucked in 'er little coffing, cold an' stiff,
An' in a jiff,
'E swallows Iysol, throws a fancy fit,
'Ead over turkey, an' 'is soul 'as flit.

Then Juli-et wakes up an' sees 'im there,
Tums on the water-works an' tears 'er 'air,
"Dear love," she sez, "I cannot live alone!"
An' wiv a moan, She grabs 'is pockit knife, an' ends 'er cares . . .
"Peanuts or lollies!" sez a boy upstairs.


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