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C.J. Dennis

I Dips Me Lid

C.J. Dennis


"Young sir," 'E sez . . . Like that . . .   It made me feel
Romantic like, as if me dream was reel.
    'Is dress was fancy, an' 'is style was grave.
    An' me ? I 'ope I know 'ow to be'ave
In 'igh-toned company, for ain't I been
Instructed careful by me wife, Doreen ?
    " Sing small," she sez.  An' that's iist wot I did.
    I sounds me haitches, an' I dips me lid.

"Young sir," 'e sez . . .   O' course you understand
'Twus jist a dream.  But, on the other 'and,
    'E seemed so reel as 'e sat spoutin' there
    Beside me on ole Dame Macquarie's Chair,
Lookin' across the 'arbor while 'e talked-
Seemed sumpthink more that jist a ghost 'oo walked
    Out o' the past . . . "Phillip by name," 'e said.
    A queer ole cock, wif lace, an' wig on 'ead.

It 'appened this way: I 'ad jist come down,
After long years, to look at Sydney town.
    An' 'struth! Was I knocked endways? Fair su'prised?
    I never dreamed! That arch that cut the skies
The Bridge! I never thort there could 'a' been-
I never knoo, nor guessed - I never seen . . .       .
    Well, Sydney's 'ad some knocks since I been gone,
    But strike! This shows she keeps on keepin' on.

I'd strolled about the town for 'arf a day
Then dragged me carcase round the 'arbor way
    To view the Bridge from Dame Macquarrie's Chair
    Then parks me frame, an' gits to thinkin' there-
Thinkin' of older days; an' I suppose
I must 'ave nodded orf into a doze.
    Nex' thing I knoo, ole Phillip come an' sat
    Beside me, friendly like, an' starts to chat.

"Young sir," 'e sez.  "You, too, in sheer amaze
Look upon this, and hark to other days,
    An' dream of this fair city's early start.
    In which ('e bows) I played my 'umble part-
My 'umble part - a flagpole an' a tent."
"Come orf!" sez I. "You was a fine ole gent.
    Reel nob.  I've read about the things you did.
    You picked some site." ('E bows. I dips me lid).

"Young sir," 'e sez.  "I've dwelt in spirit 'ere
To watch this city waxin' year by year:
    But yesterday, from a mere staff, a tent,
    Wonder on wonder as the swift years went-
A thrivin' village, then a busy town,
Then, as a stride, a city of renown.
    Oh! what a wondrous miracle of growth
    Think you not so?" "Too right," I sez.  "My oath!"

"I've watched, young sir," 'e sez.  "An' I 'ave feared
Sometimes; feared greatly when ill days appeared.
    Yet still they fought and wrought.  I had small need
    To doubt the great heart of this sturdy breed.
Black war has come.  Yet, over half a world,
Their sons into that bloody fray they hurled
    And still they triumphed.  Still their lodestar shone."
    "Sure thing," sez I. " They kep' on keepin' on."

"Young sir," 'e sez.  "The tears well in my eyes
When I behold von arch that cleaves the skies -
    That mighty span, triumphant, where we view
    My old friend Darwin's vision now made true:
'There the proud arch, Colossus-like, bestride
Yon glittering stream and bound the chafing tide!
    'Twas so he dreamed a few short years agone.
    Spoke truly, sir; they keep on keeping on."

So Phillip spoke 'is piece, fair puffed wif pride.
An' 'im an' me dreamed by the 'arbor-side
    I, of the scene before, of years to be,
    An' of the marvels that men yet might see
'Im, of a lantern gleamin' thro' the fog
To light a tent, an' two men, an' a dog . . . .
    Then both of us, like some queer instinct bids,
    Stands up, serloots the Bridge, an' dips our lids.

Published to commemorate the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.

The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture