'Got-a-Fag'

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis 1876 (Auburn) – 1938 (Melbourne)



He was tall and tough and stringy, with the shoulders of an axeman,
Broad and loose, with greenhide muscles, and a hand shaped to the reins;
He was slow of speech and prudent, something of a nature student,
With the eye of one who gazes long across the saltbush plains.

Smith by name, but long forgotten was his legal patronymic,
In a land where every bushman wears some unbaptismal tag;
And, through frequent repetition of a well worn requisition,
'Smith' had long retired in favor of the title, 'Got-a-Fag.'

Not until the war was waging for a month, or may be longer,
Did the tidings reach the station, blest with quite unfrequent mails;
And, though still a steady grafter, Smith grew restless ever after,
And he pondered long o' evenings, seated on the stockyard rails.

Primed with sudden resolution, he arose one summer morning,
Casually mentioned fighting as he deftly rolled his swag;
Then, in accents almost hearty, bade his mate, 'So long, old Party!
Goin' to do some Square-head huntin'.  See you later.  Got a fag?'

Six long, sunburned days in saddle, down through spinifex and saltbush,
Then a two-days' railroad journey landed him at last in town,
Charged with an aggressive feeling, heightened by his forthright dealing
With a shrewd but chastened spieler who had sought to take him down.

'Smart and stern' describes the war-lord who presided at recruiting.
To him slouched an apparition, drawling, 'Boss, I've got a nag -
Risin' four.  Good prad he's counted.  Better shove me in the mounted.
Done a little bit o' shootin' - gun an' rifle.  Got  afag?'

Two months later, drilled and kneaded to a shape approaching martial,
Yet with hints of that lithe looseness discipline can never kill,
With that keen eye grown yet shrewder, and example to the cruder,
Private Smith (and, later, Sergeant) stinted speech and studied drill.

'Smith,' indeed, but briefly served him; for his former appellation
In its aptness seized the fancy of the regimental wag,
When an apoplectic colonel gasped, 'Of all the dashed infernal'....
As this Private Smith saluted, with 'Ribuck, boss!  Got a fag?'

What he thought, or how he marvelled at the familiar customs
Of those ancient and historic lands that met his eyes,
He was never heard to mention; though he voiced one bold contention -
That the absence of wire fences marked a lack of enterprise.

Soon his shrewd resourse, his deftness, won him fame in many places;
Things he did with wire and whipcord moved his Company to brag,
And when aught concerning horses called for knowledge in the forces
Came a hurred, anxious message:  'Hang the vet!  Send Got-a-Fag!'

Then, one morning, he was missing, and a soldier who had seen him
Riding for the foe's entrenchments bade his mates abandon hope.
Calm he seemed, but strangely daring: some weird weapons he was bearing
Built of twisted wire and iron, and a dozen yards of rope.

In the morn a startled sentry, through the early morn-mists peering,
Saw a dozen shackled foemen down the sand dunes slowly drag.
Sore they seemed, and quite dejected, while behind them, cool, collected,
Swearing at a busy sheep-dog, rode their drover, Got-a-Fag.

To the Colonel's tent he drove them, bransishing a stockwhip featly,
Bristly calling, 'Heel 'em, Laddie!'  While the warrior of rank
Sniffed, and then exclaimed with loathing: 'what's this smell of clothing buring?'
Said the drover: 'Got 'em branded: 'A - Broad Arrow,' off-side flank.'

'A,' he drawled, stan's for Australia, an' the Gov'ment brand's in order.
'Crown - G.R.' upon the shoulder marks 'em for the King an' flag.
Roped the blighters same as how we fix the calves on Kinchacowie.
But it's dead slow sorter must'rin',' he concluded.  'Got  afag?'

When the weary war is over, back to his old cattle station,
If luck holds, he'll one day journey, casually dropp his swag,
Drawling, 'Been up yonder - fightin'....Not much doin'....Mostly skitin'....
Gi' me drovin' for excitement...Want rain dreadful....Got a fag?'

But in that historic country, with its store of ancient legend,
When they sit to talk at even, and grey geards begin to wag,
Then among traditions hoary they will count the wondrous story
Of that wild Australian savage known to man as Got-a-Fag.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:38 min read
93

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABXB CDAD EFEF GCHD XAGA GDIC JKEK ADJD XLAL XDXD XMGM GDID JNCN EDXC ACAD XDHD
Closest metre Iambic octameter
Characters 4,150
Words 731
Stanzas 16
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis, better known as C. J. Dennis, was an Australian poet known for his humorous poems, especially "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", published in the early 20th century. Though Dennis's work is less well known today, his 1915 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year, and by 1917 he was the most prosperous poet in Australian history. Together with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, both of whom he had collaborated with, he is often considered among Australia's three most famous poets. While attributed to Lawson by 1911, Dennis later claimed he himself was the 'laureate of the larrikin'. When he died at the age of 61, the Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons suggested he was destined to be remembered as the 'Australian Robert Burns'. more…

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