Backblock Ballads and Later Verses

The High Priest

C.J. Dennis

NAY, why do foolish politicians strive
    To win a fleeting popularity?
In vain, in vain, they jealously contrive
    To turn the doting Public Eye from Me.
What was this land, this nation, destined for?
    For Art, Trade, Politics?    All out of place.
Behold, I am the Sporting Editor!
                I call the race!

Reviewers, leader writers—what are they?
    Subs., poets, novelists?    Scribes of a sort—
Mere puny scribbling creatures of a day;
    While I, the people’s idol, stand for Sport!
For mark, when inspiration falls on me,
    What recks the public of that nameless band?
I ope’ my lips, and wisdom, gushing free,
                O’erflows the land.

I lift my voice, and, lo! an army wakes—
    A mighty host, a hundred thousand strong—
To spread the message; while the nation quakes
    And thunders with the burden of my song:
Ten lengths from home ‘Gray Lad’ outstripped ‘The Witch,’
    And passed the post by just a short neck, first.

These are the words, the pregnant words, for which
                The land’s athirst.

They are the children of my brain, mine own!
    These mighty words for which the people yearn;
The product of my genius alone!
    Would you begrudge the laurels that I earn?
Mark you, yon sturdy native, strong o’ limb,
    That leans against the lamp-post o’er the way—
Approach, and learn of my great fame from him.
                Approach and say:—

“Awake!    Arise!    A curse on him who waits!
    Behold, young man, thy country needs thy like;
The yellow hordes are panting at our gates.
    Arouse, young patriot, go forth and strike!
Awake, and cast thy reeking ‘fag’ away!
    Arise, and take the white man’s burden up!”
“I’ll lay you ten to one, in ‘quids,’” he’ll say:
                “Wot’s won the Cup?”

Behold, the High Priest of the people’s creed!
    Proclaim his genius!    The bays!    The bays!
Come, crown the Sporting Editor—indeed,
    He is familiar with bays—with grays.
Ten lengths from home!” How exquisite!    How chaste!
    “‘Gray Lad’ outstripped ‘The Witch’!”    What style!    What grace!
Come, beauty, twine a laurel wreath.    Nay, haste!
                He calls the race!

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