Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke

C.J. Dennis
During World War I the Australian poet C.J. Dennis published a book of verse titled The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke. It's about a Melbourne "larrikin" named Bill who meets a girl, Doreen, and who gives up his wayward life to become a husband and father.

It was a popular book of verse in its time. In the following stanzas, Bill reflects on what is worthwhile in life:
This ev'nin' I was sittin' wiv Doreen,
Peaceful an' 'appy wiv the day's work done,
Watchin', be'ind the orchard's bonzer green,
The flamin' wonder of the settin' sun.

Another day gone by; another night
Creepin' along to douse Day's golden light;
Another dawning when the night is gone,
To live an' love -- an' so life mooches on.

Times I 'ave thought, when things was goin' crook,
When 'Ope turned nark an' Love forgot to smile,
Of somethin' I once seen in some old book
Where an ole sorehead arsts, "Is life worf w'ile?"

But in that stillness, as the day grows dim,
An' I am sittin' there wiv 'er an' 'im--
My wife, my son! an' strength in me to strive,
I only know -- it's good to be alive!

It seems that back in 1916 it was still the case that a poet would express a spiritual response to nature and a sense of fulfilment in family. These themes are repeated in these lines of the poem:
But when the moon comes creepin' o'er the hill,
An' when the mopoke calls along the creek,
I takes me cup o' joy an' drinks me fill,
An' arsts meself wot better could I seek.

An' ev'ry song I 'ear the thrushes sing
That everlastin' message seems to bring;
An' ev'ry wind that whispers in the trees
Gives me the tip there ain't no joys like these:

Livin' an' loving wand'rin' on yeh way;
Reapin' the 'arvest of a kind deed done;
An' watching in the sundown of yer day,
Yerself again, grown nobler in yer son.

Bill's love of his wife features too in this stanza:

An' I am rich, becos me eyes 'ave seen
The lovelight in the eyes of my Doreen;
An' I am blest, becos me feet 'ave trod
A land 'oo's fields reflect the smile o' God.


  1. Its a shame that Australias poetic tradtion seems doomed to be forgotten.

    Lawson in particular is awesome.

  2. Great to see Australians enthusiastically welcoming our Queen and singing God Save the Queen. It shows that traditionalism is the majority view.

  3. Sorry if this is OT but speaking of WW1 Australian literature let me put in a plug for Somme Mud by E. Lynch

    It's one of the best war memoirs I've ever read.

  4. Great to see Australians enthusiastically welcoming our Queen and singing God Save the Queen. It shows that traditionalism is the majority view.

    Too bad the Queen, like the rest of the royal family, is not a traditionalist but a garden-variety kneee-jerk liberal like the rest of the British political elite. As long as she maintains her privileges, she doesn't give a damn what happens to the average white Briton.

  5. One reason that the poetry of C. J. Dennis, and indeed that of Lawson, mostly stands up so well - all these decades later - is that not a single cent of taxpayers' money went upon subsidising its production. The Howard Government had 11 years in which to abolish the Literature Board and similar swindles; naturally it failed to do anything of the sort, just as it failed to do anything else remotely 'conservative'.

  6. Thanks for this post. Its nice to see these things once in a while amidst the fallout.