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The Roads' End



Old Ben, the pensioner, is going down to die.
Huddled in the mail-car, he turns a wistful eye
On this familiar forest scene, the wooded mountain wall;
And nought could lure him from it save the last stern call.
He has loved it with a fierce love no reason comprehends;
The great gums, the green ways, the rough bush friends.
But doctor says his tough old heart at last has let him down;
So he's off to be 'patched up a bit' in hospital in town.

'Patched up a bit'. . . He'd heard that talk when they took Badger Jack,
And Charlie Clem, and Lame Mick. But none of these came back.
Was it Mick went first? Or Charlie? (Lordy, Lord! How men forget.)
And now they're taking Ben away; and Ben not eighty yet.
The youngest, he, of six old hulks; and three have gone away;
Till now there's only George Jones left, and old Pete Parraday -
His oldest friend, Pete Parraday, who has his dog to mind.
The cruellest break of all, that was - leaving his dog behind.

Old Ben, the pensioner, sits huddled in the car;
And his filmed eyes seek the skyline where the timbered ranges are -
This kind, green place of singing bards, of tree and scrubland dense.
He hears their words of forced good cheer and jovial pretence:
Says old George Jones, 'In hospital you'll get real proper care.'
'An' mind,' says Pete, 'no sparkin' with them pretty nurses there.
Why, man, you'll be a two-year-old when you come back agen.'
'You keep your eye on my ole dawg, an' feed 'im good,' pipes Ben.

Then, 'All aboard!' the mailman shouts 'Now, Ben, mind them old bones!'
A hand-clasp from Pete Parraday, a pat from old George Jones,
And Ben, the pensioner, goes off on his last pilgrimage…
'Broke up reel fast,' growls old George Jones, 'considerin' his age.
Hey! Don't let that dawg foller him! Here, Rover, you behave.'
They watch the sick man turn about, and feebly try to wave.
Swiftly the car speeds round the bend; the echoes die away…
'Me next? Or maybe you, George,' says old Pete Parraday.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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