Rose of Spadgers


C.J. Dennis

I’VE crawled; I’ve eaten dirt; I’ve lied a treat;
I’ve dodged the cops an’ led a double life;
I’ve readied up wild tales to tell me wife,
W’ich afterwards I’ve ’ad to take an’ eat
Red raw. Aw, I been goin’ it to beat
A big massed band: mixin’ with sin an’ strife,
Gettin’ me bellers punchered with a knife
An’ all but endin’ up in Russell Street.

I’ve mixed it—with the blessin’ uv the church—
Down there in Spadgers, fightin’ mad, an’ blind
With ’oly rage. I’ve ’ad full leaf to smirch
Me tongue with sich rude words as come to mind,
Becos I ’ated leavin’ in the lurch
Wot Ginger Mick, me cobber, left be’ind.

Don’t git me wrong. I never went an’ planned
No gory all-in scraps or double deals.
But one thing follered on another ’eels,
Jist like they do in life, until I land
Flop in the soup—surprised, you understand,
But not averse; jist like a feller feels
’Oo reaches fer the water-jug at meals
An’ finds a dinkum gargle in ’is ’and.

Su’prised but not averse. That puts it right
An’, if Fate ’as these things all fixed before,
Well, wot’s a bloke to do, to ’oo a fight
Was not unwelkim in the days of yore?
Pertickler when ’e knows ’is cause is right
An’ ’as a gorspil spritiker to ongcore.

Regardin’ morils, I was on a cert;
Fer if I’d missed the step an’ fell frum grace
By rudely pushin’ in me brother’s face
Without no just ixcuse, it might uv ’urt.
But this Spike Wegg—the narsty little squirt!—
Collected ’is becos ther’ was no trace
Uv virchoo in the cow. ’Is aims was base
When ’e laid out to tempt a honest skirt.

An’ so me arm was strong becoz me cause
Was on the square, an’ I don’t ’esitate.
The parson bloke, ’e sez all moril laws
They justified me act . . . . But, anyrate,
Before I crools this yarn we better pause
Till I gives you the dope an’ git it straight.

Now, Ginger Mick, me cobber, went to war,
An’ on Gallipoli, ’e wandered West.
Per’aps, less said about ’is life the best;
It was ’is death that shoved along ’is score.
But that tale’s old; an’ Ginger ain’t no more.
’E done ’is bit an’ faded, like the rest
’Oo fought an’ fell an’ left wot they loved best
In ’opes they’d be dealt fair by pals of yore.

An’ all Mick left was Rose. “Look after Rose.
Mafeesh!” ’e sez when ’e was on the brink.
An’ there was thousan’s like ’im, I suppose.
I ain’t no moralizer fer to think
Wot others ort to do; I only knows
I ’ad me job, frum w’ich I durstn’t shrink.

Unless you ’ave a beat down Spadgers way
I don’t ixpect you ever met with Rose.
She don’t move in yer circle, I suppose,
Or call to bite a bun upon yer Day.
An’ if yeh got a intro, I dare say
Yeh’d take it snifty an’ turn up yer nose.
Now that we don’t need Micks to fight our foes
Them an’ their Roses ’as to fade away.

They ’ave to simmer down an’ not ubtrude,
Now we are safe an’ finished with the war.
We don’t intend to be unkind or rude
Or crayfish on the things we said before
Uv our brave boys. An’, as fer gratichood,
Well, there’s a Guv’mint, ain’t there? Wot’s it for?

But Mick buzzed orf too quick to wed a bride
An’ leave a widder doo fer Guv’mint aid.
Spite uv ole Spadgers, Rose was still a maid;
An’ spite uv Spadgers, she still ’as ’er pride
That wouldn’t let ’er whimper if she tried,
Or profit by ’er misery, an’ trade
On Mick’s departin’ an’ the noise it made.
I know ’er. An’ I know she’d sooner died.

I know ’er. But to them that never knows,
An’ never tries to know the ’earts an’ ways
Uv common folk, there wus n’t much to Rose
That called fer any speshul loud ’Oorays—
Nothin’ ’eroic. She’s jist “one uv those”—
One uv the ruck that don’t attract our gaze.

I guess you was n’t born down Spadgers way,
Or spent yer child’ood in the gutter there
Jist runnin’ wild, or dragged up be the ’air
Till you was fit to earn a bit of pay
By honest toil or—any other way.
You never ’ad to battle to keep square,
Or learn, first ’and, uv every trap an’ snare
That life ’as waitin’ for yeh day by day.

But I ’ave read about a flower that grows
Once in a while upon a ’eap uv muck.
It ain’t the flower’s own choosin’, I suppose,
An’ bein’ sweet an’ pure is jist its luck.
There’s ’uman blooms I’ve knowed the like uv those,
Strugglin’ in weeds; an’ ’struth! I like their pluck.

Don’t make no error. I ain’t givin’ Rose
The ’igh-bred manners uv some soshul queen.
She were n’t no shrinkin’, simperin’, girleen,
With modest glances droopin’ to ’er toes.
She’d smash a prowlin’ male acrost the nose
As quick as any tart I ever seen.
But, bli’me, she was straight an’ she was clean,
As more than one mauled lady-killer knows.

Straight as a die! An’ jist as clean an’ sweet
An’ thorny as the bloom ’oose name she bears.
To cling on to ’er virchoo weren’t no feat
With ’er; she simply kep’ it unawares
An’ natchril, like people trust their feet,
An’ don’t turn silly ’and-springs on the stairs.

That’s ’ow Mick found, an’ left ’er—straight an’ clean.
She seen the good in ’im long years before
’E proved it good an’ plenty at the war.
She loved an’ mothered ’im becos she seen
The big, softhearted boy ’e’d alwiz been
Be’ind ’is leery ways an’ fightin’ jor,
An’ all ’is little mix-ups with the Lor.
She knoo ’e weren’t the man to treat ’er mean.

They was a proper match. But Mick, ’e goes
An’ slips ’is wind, there, on Gallipoli;
Jist pausin’ to remark, “Look after Rose.”
An’, if them partin’ words weren’t meant fer me,
Well, I’m the gay angora, I suppose,
In this divertin’ slab uv ’istory.

It ain’t no soft romance, with pale pink bows,
This common little tale I ’ave to tell
Concernin’ common on folk, an’ wot befell
When me an’ my ole parson cobber goes
An’ does our bit in lookin’ after Rose.
The Church admits I done my part reel well;
An’ there won’t be no need to ring a bell
Or call the cops in when the langwidge flows.

So, ’ere’s a go. If my remarks is plain
An’ short uv frills, they soots me tale; an’ so,
I ’opes the rood boorjosie will refrain
Frum vulger chuckin’-orf; fer well I know
Ladies an’ gentlemen uv Spadgers Lane
Won’t fail to un’erstand. So, ’ere’s a go.


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