Rate this poem:(0.00 / 0 votes)

The Hoary Precedent

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

Mr. Pericles, M.P.,
In four-sixty-nine B.C.,
Outed Cimon at a general election;
Premier Cimon, thuswise ex-ed,
Was quite naturally vexed,
And he made an angry speech in this connection;
He remarked, in peroration, as he grabbed his coat and hat,
'You're a Socialist, you rotter! You'd no precedent for that!'
Mr. Pericles is dead
Thoroughly, I've heard it said
And his words and acts may now be safely quoted
By our statesmen eminent,
Who on mouldy precedent
(If it's old enough and dead enough) have doted.
For precedent, I'd have you note, is most peculiar stuff;
It's absolutely useless if it isn't dead enough.

In my youth I ever held
Grave respect for all the eld,
And I found in history a strong attraction.
So, whene'er a scheme I planned,
Eagerly the tomes I scanned
That I might find precedent for ev'ry action.
Yet, despite my zealous labour, and the piles of books I read,
In the things that truly mattered I seemed not to forge ahead.

As I nursed my bulging brow,
Said I, 'This is wrong somehow.
Precedent, as we all know, is something holy
Something we should not neglect
To regard with great respect,
And I feel I'm safe in following it solely.
But had we done it from the start - I grasp, at least, this much
We would still be munching apples that we didn't oughter touch.

'Well, this problem is immense!'
In my experience
I reflected. 'How have we progressed, I wonder?'
Then the obvious reply
Hit me squarely in the eye:
It is by ignoring precedent, by thunder!
'Tis men who fix the precedents that lead the nations on
And not the folk who pin their faith to leaders dead and gone.

Mr. Pericles, M.P.,
You're the sort of man for me
(Though I understand you are a Dago alien):
'Spite your moral character,
O'er the Styx I greet you, sir,
You're the sort we need to-day in things Australian.
For we're moved to ask the question of our statesmen now and then:
'Does this job of fixing precedents belong to ancient men?'

Mr. Pericles, deceased,
'Spite his deadness, has increased
My respect for all the world's originators.
If we must have precedents,
My ideal he represents,
For I'm done with copyists and imitators.
And, after this, my reference is Pericles, M.P.,
He acted without precedent; that's precedent for me.

Font size:

Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:06 min read

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…

All Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis poems | Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis Books

FAVORITE (1 fan)

Discuss this Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis poem with the community:



    Find a translation for this poem in other languages:

    Select another language:

    • - Select -
    • 简体中文 (Chinese - Simplified)
    • 繁體中文 (Chinese - Traditional)
    • Español (Spanish)
    • Esperanto (Esperanto)
    • 日本語 (Japanese)
    • Português (Portuguese)
    • Deutsch (German)
    • العربية (Arabic)
    • Français (French)
    • Русский (Russian)
    • ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)
    • 한국어 (Korean)
    • עברית (Hebrew)
    • Gaeilge (Irish)
    • Українська (Ukrainian)
    • اردو (Urdu)
    • Magyar (Hungarian)
    • मानक हिन्दी (Hindi)
    • Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Italiano (Italian)
    • தமிழ் (Tamil)
    • Türkçe (Turkish)
    • తెలుగు (Telugu)
    • ภาษาไทย (Thai)
    • Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)
    • Čeština (Czech)
    • Polski (Polish)
    • Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)
    • Românește (Romanian)
    • Nederlands (Dutch)
    • Ελληνικά (Greek)
    • Latinum (Latin)
    • Svenska (Swedish)
    • Dansk (Danish)
    • Suomi (Finnish)
    • فارسی (Persian)
    • ייִדיש (Yiddish)
    • հայերեն (Armenian)
    • Norsk (Norwegian)
    • English (English)


    Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:


    "The Hoary Precedent" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 27 Jun 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/6670/the-hoary-precedent>.

    Become a member!

    Join our community of poets and poetry lovers to share your work and offer feedback and encouragement to writers all over the world!

    More poems by

    Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis


    June 2022

    Poetry Contest

    Enter our monthly contest for the chance to win cash prizes and gain recognition for your talent.

    Browse Poetry.com


    Are you a poetry master?

    How may lines and syllables are in a Japanese Waka poem?
    • A. 31 syllables in five lines
    • B. 15 syllables in 7 lines
    • C. 50 syllables in 7 lines
    • D. 30 syllables in every other line