Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The critic Swanks lay snug:" from C.J. Dennis' "The Glugs of Gosh," 1915


The Australians know a thing or two about getting politics in a twist. In 1914, the year before "The Glugs of Gosh" was written, there was a government shake-up, a subsequent government stand-off about a minimum wage for workers, and a "double dissolution" election (a second call for a new government) in the Australian Senate when a breakaway group of Conservatives rejected their own leader's argument for union participation for government employees -- twice.

The debate threw government into confusion while yet another election was held. Luckily, World War One broke out in August and united the country behind the Queen in Britain's war effort.

Anyone for more super congress politics?

from "The Glugs of Gosh"
by C.J. Dennis

Come mourn with me for the land of Gosh,
Oh, weep with me for the luckless Glugs
Of the land of Gosh, where the sad seas wash
The patient shores, and the great King Splosh
His sodden sorrow hugs;
Where the fair Queen Tush weeps all the day,
And the Swank, the Swank, the naughty Swank,
The haughty Swank holds sway --
The most mendacious, ostentatious,
Spacious Swank holds sway.

'Tis sorrow-swathed, as I know full well,
And garbed in gloom and the weeds of woe,
And vague, so far, is the tale I tell;
But bear with me for the briefest spell,
And surely shall ye know
Of the land of Gosh, and Tush, and Splosh,
And Stodge, the Swank, the foolish Swank,
The mulish Swank of Gosh --
The meretricious, avaricious,
Vicious Swank of Gosh. ...

His brain is dull, and his mind is dense,
And his lack of saving wit complete;
But most amazingly immense
Is his inane self-confidence
And his innate conceit.
But every Glug, and great King Splosh
Bowed to Sir Stodge, the fuddled Swank,
The muddled Swank of Gosh -
The engineering, peeping, peering,
Sneering Swank of Gosh. ...

In Gosh, sad Gosh, where the Lord Swank lives,
He holds high rank, and he has much pelf;
And all the well-paid posts he gives
Unto his fawning relatives,
As foolish as himself.
In offices and courts and boards
Are Swanks, and Swanks, ten dozen Swanks,
And cousin Swanks in hordes -
Inept and musty, dry and dusty,
Rusty Swanks in hordes.

They lurk in every Gov'ment lair,
'Mid docket dull and dusty file,
Solemnly squat in an easy chair,
Penning a minute of rare hot air
In departmental style.
In every office, on every floor
Are Swanks, and Swanks, distracting Swanks,
And Acting-Swanks a score,
And coldly distant, sub-assistant
Under-Swanks galore. ...

In peaceful days when the countryside
Poured wealth to Gosh, and the skies were blue,
The great King Splosh no fault espied,
And seemed entirely satisfied
With Swanks who muddled thro'.
But when they fell on seasons bad,
Oh, then the Swanks, the bustled Swanks,
The hustled Swanks went mad -
The minute-writing, nation-blighting,
Skiting Swanks went mad. ...

Now, trouble came to the land of Gosh:
The fear of battle, and anxious days;
And the Swanks were called to the great King Splosh,
Who said that their system would not wash,
And ordered other ways.
Then the Lord High Swank stretched forth a paw,
And penned a minute re the law,
And the Swanks, the Swanks, the other Swanks,
The brother Swanks said, "Haw!"
These keen, resourceful, unremorseful,
Forceful Swanks said, "Haw!"

Then Splosh, the king, in a royal rage,
He smote his throne as he thundered, "Bosh!
In the whole wide land is there not one sage
With a cool, clear brain, who'll straight engage
To sweep the Swanks from Gosh?"
But the Lord High Stodge, from where he stood,
Cried, "Barley! . . . Guard your livelihood!"
And, quick as light, the teeming Swanks,
The scheming Swanks touched wood.
Sages, plainly, labour vainly
When the Swanks touch wood. ...

Then roared the King with a rage intense,
"Oh, who can cope with their magic tricks?"
But the Lord High Swank skipped nimbly hence,
And hid him safe behind the fence
Of Regulation VI.
And under Section Four Eight Oh
The Swanks, the Swanks, dim forms of Swanks,
The swarms of Swanks lay low -
These most tenacious, perspicacious,
Spacious Swanks lay low. ...

Cried the King of Gosh, "They shall not escape!
Am I set at naught by a crazed buffoon?"
But in fifty fathoms of thin red tape
The Lord Swank swaddled his portly shape,
Like a large, insane cocoon.
Then round and round and round and round.
The Swanks, the Swanks, the whirling Swanks,
The twirling Swanks they wound -
The swathed and swaddled, molly-coddled
Swanks inanely wound. ...

So trouble stayed in the land of Gosh;
And the futile Glugs could only gape,
While the Lord High Swank still ruled King Splosh
With laws of blither and rules of bosh,
From out his lair of tape.
And in cocoons that mocked the Glug
The Swanks, the Swanks, the under-Swanks,
The dunder Swanks lay snug.
These most politic, parasitic,
Critic Swanks lay snug.

Then mourn with me for a luckless land,
Oh, weep with me for the slaves of tape!
Where the Lord High Swank still held command,
And wrote new rules in a fair round hand,
And the Glugs saw no escape;
Where tape entwined all Gluggish things,
And the Swank, the Swank, the grievous Swank,
The devious Swank pulled strings -
The perspicacious, contumacious
Swank held all the strings.

The Glugs of Gosh by Clarence J. Dennis was first serialized in "The Bulletin" magazine, Australia, in 1915. This excerpt is from Chapter Seven, "The Swanks of Gosh." The whole poem of 13 chapters was published in book form in 1917; the most recent edition of the book was published in 1990. There is speculation that James Joyce may have read the book prior to writingFinnegans Wake.

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