Mr Grabbit Has a Poetic History

C. J. Dennis

Unearthed from my library, this satirical poem by celebrated Australian poet, C.J. Dennis (aka “Den”) was published in his 1913 anthology Backblock Ballads and Other Verses – with its piercing, remarkably relevant political humour, it might stand up proudly today as a live slam performance.

The Martyred Democrat

A Recitation (with directions)

(Begin breezily)
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room, where float the strains of Brahms,
While cultured caterpillars chew the leaves of potted palms –
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room, upon a summer’s day,
The democrats of Toorak met to pass an hour away.
They hearkened to a long address by Mister Grabbit, M.L.C.,
While Senator O’Sweatem passed around the cakes and tea.
And all the brains and beauty of the suburb gathered there,
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room – Miss Fibwell in the chair.

(With increasing interest)
Ay, all the fair and brave were there – the fair in charming hats;
The brave in pale mauve pantaloons and shiny boots, with spats.
But pride of all that gathering, a giant ‘mid the rest,
Was Mr Percy Puttipate, in fancy socks and vest.
Despite his bout of brain-fag, plainly showing in his eyes –
Contracted while inventing something new in nobby ties –
He braved the ills – the draughts and chills, damp tablecloths and mats –
Of Lady Lusher’s drawing-room: this prince of Democrats.

(Resume the breeze)
Upon a silken ottoman sat Willie Dawdlerich,
Who spoke of democratic things to Mabel Bandersnitch;
And likewise there, on couch and chair, with keen, attentive ears,
Sat many sons and daughters of our sturdy pioneers –
Seed of our noble squatter-lords – those democrats of old –
Who held of this fair land of ours as much as each can hold;
Whose motto is, and ever was, despite the traitor’s gab:
‘Australia for Australians – who’ve learned the art of grab.’

Good Mr Grabbit spoke his piece ‘mid glad ‘Heah, heahs’ and claps,
And Willie Dawdlerich declared he was the best of chaps.
Then the lady organizer, dear Miss Fibwell, rose to speak.
A fighter she, tho’ of the sex miscalled by men ‘the weak’.
And, tho’ they hailed her there and then as Queen of Democrats,
They privily agreed that she was something choice in ‘cats’.
She was, in truth, a shade passé a trifle frayed, but still,
She was an earnest Democrat who owned a sturdy will.

(In cultured tones)
‘Deah friends,’ began Miss Fibwell, ‘you – ah – understand ouah league
Is formed to stand against that band of schemers who intrigue –
That horrid band of Socialists who seek to wrest ouah raights,
And, with class legislation straive to plague ouah days and naights.
They claim to be the workers of the land, but Ai maintain
That, tho’ they stand for horny hands, we represent the bwain.
Are not bwain-workers toilers too, who labah without feah?’
(The fashioner of fancy ties: ‘Heah, heah! Quaite raight! Heah, heah!’)

‘They arrogate unto themselves the sacred name of Work;
But still, Ai ask, where is the task that we’ve been known to shirk?
We’re toilahs, ev’ry one of us, altho’ they claim we’re not.’
(The toiler on the ottoman: ‘Bai jove, that’s bally rot!’)
‘Moahovah, friends, to serve theah ends, they’re straiving, maight and main,
To drag down to theah level folk who work with mind and bwain!
They claim we do not earn ouah share, but, Ai maintain we do!’
(The grafter in the fancy socks: ‘They’re beastly rottahs, too!’)

(With rising inflexion)
‘Yes, friends, they’ll drag us down and down, compelling us to live
Just laike themselves – the selfish elves, on what they choose to give!
Nay, moah, they’ll make us weah theah clothes – plain working–clothes, forsooth!
Blue dungarees in place of these …’ ‘Mai Gahd! Is this the truth?

(With fine dramatic force)
A gurgling scream; a sick’ning thud … a flash of fancy socks –
And Percy Puttipate went down, felled like a stricken ox –
Crashed down thro’ cakes and crockery, and lay, ‘mid plate and spoon,
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room one summer afternoon.

(With a rush of emotion)
A scream from Mabel Bandersnitch broke thro’ the ev’ning calm
(The cultured grubs, alone unmoved, still chewed the potted palm).
Strong men turned white with sudden fright; girls fell in faint and swoon
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room that fateful afternoon.

(With tears in the voice)
But Puttipate? … Ah, what of him – that noble Democrat,
As he lay there with glassy stare, upon the Persian mat?
What cares he now for nobby ties, and what for fancy socks,
As he lies prone, with cake and cream smeared on his sunny locks?

(With appropriate mournfulness)
Good Mr Grabbit took his head, O’Sweatem seized his feet,
They bore him to an ambulance that waited in the street.
Poor Mabel Bandersnitch sobbed loud on Dawdlerich’s vest;
And lo, a pall of woe fell over all – Miss Fibwell and the rest.
A settled gloom o’erspread the room, as shades of ev’ning fell,
And, one by one, they left the place till none was left to tell
The tale of that dire tragedy that wrecked the summer calm –
Except the apathetic grubs, who went on chewing palm.

(Suggestive pause, then with fresh interest)
There still be men – low common men – who sneer at Toorak’s ways,
And e’en upon poor Puttipate bestow but grudging praise.
But when you hear the vulgar sneer of some low Labor bore

(With fine dramatic intensity)
Point to that pallid patriot who weltered in his gore!
Point to that daring Democrat, who, with a gurgling scream
And flashing socks, dropped like an ox into the clotted cream!
Point to that hero stricken down for our great Party’s sake,
His sunny locks, his fiery socks mixed up with fancy cake.

(With bitter contempt)
Then lash with scorn the carping wretch who sullies his fair fame,
Who, moved by fear, attempts to smear the lustre of that name.
Great Puttipate! The Democrat! Who perished, all too soon,
In Lady Lusher’s drawing-room, one summer afternoon.

(Finish with a noble gesture, expressing intense scorn, bow gracefully and retire amidst great applause)

C.J. Dennis
‘Backblock Ballads and Other Verses’
1913

The Aridity of the Settler Imagination

Queensland "Climate Science"

On Hearing a “Friend” has Voted for Hanson

You’ve never met a single Muslim
yet automatically you despise them,
your putrid tick for racist Hanson
betrays a guilty, greedy voice within.

What’s the bloody difference
between yours and Toadball’s border defence?
It’s vapid new age love you spout
and you want to keep those Muslims out.

How can I keep loving you
when you’ve embraced her scumbag spew,
imagining Muslims a sub-human race,
high on hate, you’re off your face.

You’re scared of non-European culture
but it’s you who is the savage vulture
picking at this country’s bones,
land thieved by England’s brutal throne.

July 2016, Post Federal Election.

Related Links

Excellent article – How we stopped Pauline Hanson last time:

Howard had toned down his anti-Asian racism in deference to business concerns. But Hanson helped create a climate that enabled him to carry out policies in the interests of the ruling class that meshed happily with his own prejudices and which he would have pursued anyway: the attacks on land rights and native title; the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC); cuts to immigration, especially family reunions; the ramping up of Islamophobia using the pretexts of “border security” and the “war on terror”.

Howard’s attitude to Hanson eventually changed for two reasons. First, he was the target of sustained criticism from sections of the media, the small-l liberal middle class and even some ruling class figures – prominent businesspeople and Liberal politicians like Victorian premier Jeff Kennett – for not taking a stronger stand against Hanson. This was a product of their concern about Australia’s international image. Hanson was receiving a great deal of media attention in Asia, and as with Howard’s anti-Asian comments in 1988, they were worried about the potential damage to Australia’s business interests and ability to play a dominant role in the region.

Second, and probably of greater concern to Howard himself, Hanson began to cohere a movement and set up an organisation, the One Nation party, that posed an electoral threat to the traditional conservative forces.

Mick Armstrong’s detailed, booth by booth analysis of who actually voted for One Nation in the Queensland election further erodes the notion that her support came mainly from the blue collar working class. He found that One Nation’s support was strongest in what had been National Party strongholds in south-east Queensland – polling 43.5 percent of the vote in Barambah, once the electorate of the right wing Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and over 30 percent in 11 other seats in this area, compared with a state-wide average of 22.7 percent. Moreover:

South-east Queensland has a high concentration of small farmers, and numerous small towns with a large number of small businesses – newsagents, petrol stations, real estate agents, pharmacists, accountants, farm equipment suppliers – but very few large workplaces with concentrations of unionised workers.[25]

The general pattern was that Labor did better in the bigger towns but One Nation overwhelmed them in the smaller centres. So the core support for One Nation was the “small town middle class, not – as so many commentators repeat ad nauseam – ‘ignorant’ workers.” Actually, very few blue collar workers defected from Labor to Hanson. Overall, 80 percent of the Hanson vote came from conservative parties and 20 percent from Labor. In addition, while its highest votes were in rural areas, One Nation polled better in affluent middle class areas of Brisbane and the Gold Coast than in poorer working class areas. Armstrong concluded: “It was not the ‘enlightened’ middle class that most strongly rejected Hanson, but unionised, traditional Labor-voting urbanised workers.”

The role of mass protest in the decline of support for Hanson, however, has been understated if not completely ignored. Indeed, there has been no account that I have been able to find of what was one of the most militant and sustained protest movements of recent times. Yet it was an important factor, playing a crucial role in preventing the growth and organisational consolidation of One Nation.

There was widespread opposition to Hanson from the outset. Many in the business community were alarmed by Hanson’s anti-Asian policies – not because they opposed racism, but because it was bad for business. This became clear when the Business Council of Australia, along with the Council of Social Services, religious leaders – and, disgracefully, the ACTU – issued a joint statement which condemned her stance on Asian immigration but ignored her equally vile racism towards Indigenous people. This was no oversight: anti-Aboriginal racism was the basis of the business community’s campaign against native title. Small-l liberals generally saw Hanson as dangerous. But they too were more concerned about the national interest and Australia’s international image than with the impact of racism on immigrant and Indigenous communities. Like Tony Abbott in more recent times, Hanson was considered to be an embarrassment.

But there was also a groundswell of revulsion and opposition from what Robert Manne might call “ordinary people”. From the moment Hanson made her maiden speech, people started mobilising against her. Everywhere she went she had to run the gauntlet of protesters.

Barnyard Frolics

#ErdoganInsultoftheDay :

The US loves Nutanyahoo more than you,
an extra-special relationship despite all you do,
so you’ll have to settle for second-best Merkel
and throwing your detractors into prison hell.

Hypocritical PolliesLudicrously, Germany retains an archaic law criminalising insults against foreign leaders which has enabled the litigious Erdogan to prosecute a German comedian who devised a satirical poem to test the limit of the German law. Eager to placate Turkey in order that it assist staunching the flow of refugees into Germany, Merkel has invoked this farcical anti-democratic law.

Whilst the poem may be very insulting indeed, political leaders getting their knickers in a knot over insults to the extent of imprisoning and prosecuting their lampooners is both sinister and side-splitting. Copping insults on the chin is obligatory for politicians who don’t wish to become global laughing stocks.

‘Among other things, the poem said Erdogan kicks Kurds, smacks Christians, all while watching child pornography. That’s one of the few lines we can repeat on NPR. It also imagines the Turkish president committing acts of bestiality.’

‘Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday authorised a Turkish demand for a German TV comedian to be prosecuted over a crude satirical poem about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a bitter row over free speech.’

‘Since becoming President in August 2014, Mr Erdogan has filed 1,845 court cases against individuals for insulting him.’

So sue me, Turdogan,
I’ll donate scatological verbosity
and poke fun at your litigious pomposity!

The Imperial Bourgeois Rag

Hieronymus Bosch- - '"A Violent Forcing Of The Frog."
Hieronymus Bosch – ‘”A Violent Forcing Of The Frog.”

My principles are lofty,
my politics so cool,
and if you dare to disagree,
I’ll push you in the pool.

I follow only brightest bulbs
who shine the truth for me,
and if you don’t embrace them too,
I’ll string you up a tree.

Ch:
Black and white,
left and right,
walk in bourgeois footsteps
or vanish in the night.

You insignificant naive prawn,
you’re at my beck and call
and if you don’t worship me
I’ll eat you, tail and all.

There’s only one way to look at this
despise me if you must,
and if you fail to follow me
I’ll throw you under the bus.

December 2015.

Partly inspired probably years ago by Red Gum’s classic “Beaumont Rag”

Lovebirds of War

Drowning ArmchairsI’m a liberal trothawk
You’re a vulture neocon –
Let’s get together, sweetheart,
Bomb Syria to kingdom come.
Though we’ve never been to war,
we fight bravely on the net,
Calling leftists ‘Stalinists’
and other smeary epithets.
None can match our western tongues
for running down those reds –
we’ll both be ‘lil Hitchens’,
still carping on our death beds.
Collect a ticket to the front,
we’ll prove our mettle there –
who can run home fastest
to our comfortable armchairs.
Write a mercenary blog post,
have a lovely cup of tea –
It’s so civilised watching
wars we’re abetting on TV!

September 2015