Backblock Ballads and Later Verses

The Bridge Across the Crick

C.J. Dennis

    JOSEPH Jones and Peter Dawking
        Strove in an election fight;
    And you’d think, to hear them talking,
        Each upheld the people’s right.
Each declared he stood for Progress and against his country’s foes
When he sought their votes at Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

    Peter Dawking, scorning party,
        As an Independent ran;
    Joseph Jones, loud, blatant, hearty,
        Was a solid party man.
But the electors up at Wombat vowed to him alone they’d stick
Who would give his sacred promise for the “bridge across the crick”.

    Bland, unfaithful politicians
        Long had said this bridge should be.
    Some soared on to high positions,
        Some sank to obscurity;
Still the bridge had been denied it by its unrelenting foes—
By the foes of patient Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

    Up at Wombat Peter Dawking
        Held a meeting in the hall,
    And he’d spent an hour in talking
        On the far-flung Empire’s Call,
When a local greybeard, rising, smote him with this verbal brick:
“Are or are yeh not in favour of the bridge across the crick?”

    Peter just ignored the question,
        Proudly patriotic man;
    Understand a mean suggestion
        Men like Peter never can,
Or that free enlightened voters look on all Great Things as rot,
While a Burning Local Question fires each local patriot.

    Joseph Jones, serene and smiling,
        Took all Wombat to his heart.
    “Ah,” he said, his “blood was b’iling”—
        He declared it “made him smart”
To reflect how they’d been swindled; and he cried in ringing tones
“Gentlemen, your bridge is certain if you cast your votes for Jones!”

    Joseph Jones and Peter Dawking
        Strove in an election fight,
    And, when they had finished talking,
        On the great election night
They stood level in the voting, and the hope of friends and foes
Hung upon the box from Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

    Then the Wombat votes were counted;
        Jones, two hundred; Dawking, three!
    Joseph, proud and smiling, mounted
        On a public balcony,
And his friends were shrill with triumph, for that contest, shrewdly run,
In the House gave Jones’s Party a majority of one.

    Jones’s Party—note the sequel—
        Rules that country of the Free,
    And the fight, so nearly equal,
        Swayed the whole land’s destiny.
And the Big Things of the Nation are delayed till Hope grows sick—
Offered up as sacrifices to “the bridge across the crick”.

    Dawking now is sadly fearing
        For the crowd’s intelligence.
    Joseph, skilled in engineering,
        Full of pomp and sly pretence,
Still holds out the pleasing promise of that bridge whene’er he goes
Up to Wombat, patient Wombat, where the Muddy River flows.

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