Cataclysm

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

We curse our lot; we gird at fate;
Like peevish children we complain;
Hope dies, and life grows desperate
Because of ease and pleasures salin.
Because bright fortune fails to smile
And pamper us, as once she used,
But frowns a little for the while,
To bleak despair we are reduced.

Yet, o'er a narrow stretch of sea,
Where lately smiled a city fair,
Falls cataclysmic agony,
And death in horrid shapes is there.
All in an instant men are hurled -
Who knew no foe, who earned no blame -
Out of a peaceful, sunlit world
'Mid shattered homes and seething flame.

Crazed women roam the littered street
Seeking their babes; with sobbing breath
They search grim ruins, there to meet
Fresh, ghastly evidence of death -
Death, creeping death, where men have lain
Trapped 'neath the press of heavy beams
Waiting thro' hours of nameless pain
Such as men know in frightful dreams.

And we complain! . . . Poor timid fools.
Because our luxuries grow less,
Each beats his breast and drones and drools
Of gloom and shattered happiness.
While there, by very earth betrayed,
Forsaken, doomed, men still are men;
And heroism there displayed
Preserves the name of Man again.

There, where the elements conspire
To end a world at one swift stroke.
Stirred by the flame of that grim pyre,
Divinity in Man awoke. . . .
Here, petulant, with tears and blame,
We gird against Fate's mild decree
Who should bow down our heads in shame
And thank our gods for sanctuary.

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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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