Aldermen and Antirrhinum

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

I walked out with an alderman, all on a bright spring day.
He was an august alderman, and much had he to say
Of roads and drains and bridges .... Then, as he pulled up short,
His veins stood out in ridges, his breath fled with a snort.
Then anger aldermanic came as the tempest comes;
His aspect grew satanic, his eyes stuck out like plums;
And, as it rent asunder the ambient atmosphere,
Rolled detonating thunder of civic wrath severe:

'Tear down them antirrhium! Tear down them columbine!
Or else, by gum, we'll fine 'em. We'll mulct in a fine!
I won't have antirrhinum! To Tophet I consign 'em!
Surveyors can't align 'em plumb with our buildin' line!'
(They were begonias truly; but that did not unduly
Affect his wrath unruly. The darn things weren't in line.)
'A blot on civic beauty! The Mayor must do his jooty,
An' have them antirrhinum abolished, or resign!'

Then, as his rage he swallowed, and joined the traffic's stream,
I diffidently followed, and sought to change the theme.
'Think you the vernal season,' quoth I, 'grows subtly sweet?'
Said he: 'That ain't no reason for shovin' in the street
Them bloomin' antirrhinum three inches off the line.
Our officers must fine 'em. It's breakin' Bylaw nine,
Part seven. Schedule thirty. Clause eight in Section A.'
He really seemed quite shirty; and so I sneaked away.)

But still, o'er traffic crashes, I heard his strident tones
'Them antirrhinum clashes with our pretty safety zones!
Calliopsis an' eschscholtzia! In streets where soft trams roll!
It's a pitcher that revolts yeh, if yeh got a civic soul! . . .'
And then his fuming faded; faint and far it died away.
'Pon my word, I felt quite jaded; I'd had a trying day.
And, tho' it seem splenetic, from this truth I may not shrink
Aldermen are NOT aesthetic. Not so very - do you think?

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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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