The Fool And The Fire

A fool and a bag in a belt of scrub,
Cloudless skies and the still hot days,
And the countryside's in a mad hubbub;
Terror is here and the world's ablaze.
Five thousand sheep went West today,
Bell's home at the crossing and Casey's pub;
And the cause of it all is a world away;
A fool with a bag who passed the scrub.

An oaf with a match in a mile of grass,
Where yesterday the skies shone clear;
But fury leapt where he came to pass;
And now, ten miles away, comes fear.
Men toil and sweat in the reeking smoke
That curling drifts to a sky of brass.
And now black ruin and homeless folk
Are toll to an oaf in a mile of grass.

If the fool be caught can the fool repay?
What is to do but build again,
And hope for the dawn of a better day,
When folly is shorn from the ways of men;
What is to do but hope and pray.
While the scars heal slow in a blackened land,
That the fool shall no more pass this way
With the seeds of terror in his hand.

Look 'ere. I'll bet a 'arf-a-crown
To anythink you like to name (said Bushy Bill),
If country fellers went to town,
An' burnt a few big buildin's down,
An' quids an' quids went up in flame (said Bushy Bill),
Do you suppose, by any chance,
You'd put it down to ignorance.
An' let 'em go their dilly way
To do the trick some other day? (Said Bushy Bill).
No fear. You'd take that crim'nal lot
An' likely lynch 'em on the spot.
Fine sense of property you got (said Bushy Bill).

Yet city coves come up this way,
Shootin' or goin' campin' out (said Bushy Bill).
But are they careful blokes? Not they.
An' when their camp fire gets away
They wonder what it's all about (said Bushy Bill).
They sling their matches round the place,
An' carry on a fair disgrace
Wise coots they are, all in the know,
Who reckons country coves is slow (said Bushy Bill).
But when two hundred thousand quid
Goes up, they dunno wot they did.
They can't think 'ow that green scrub caught
They never knoo. They never thought.
Look 'ere. IT'S TIME YOUS BLOKES WAS TAUGHT (said Bushy Bill).

Let's have a tiny little bush fire.
It's a cold, cold night tonight.
We are sick of this long session
Of the darkness of depression.
And a fire would make things bright.

Just a teeny, weeny little bushfire;
It's easily controlled.
We can sit around and watch it;
If it spreads we'll simply scotch it.
But we must keep out the cold.

Oh, let's have the smallest little bush fire;
It's a fair thing in this storm.
There are plenty here to fight it,
So just strike a match and light it. . . .
Ah! Now we'll all get warm.

Hey! Watch there! The blooming thing is spreading!
Don't let it catch those trees!
Now that clump of scrub has caught it!
Well who ever would have thought it?
There's a change, too, in the breeze.

It was only just a tiny little bushfire,
But it's leaping, roaring now
And we can't hope to defeat it,
Better grab your traps and beat it
For we must get out somehow.

It was only just a harmless little bushfire
But, gosh! How it did burn!
Now the old homestead is blazing.
Well it's certainly amazing;
But a man must live and learn.

Let 'em come, by gum! That's all I say.
Let me see one of 'em up this way,
With their sacks a-back an' their walkin' boots
Low neck, short-panted hikin' coots
Flingin' their fags in the brambles here,
Same as that other one done last year.
He might just once; but he won't no more.
I'll nail his hide to the cow-shed door.

A mile o' fencin' and two good hust
All thro' them an' their lighted butts.
Patronisin'? You're too dead right.
These city fellers is awful bright
Three good huts an' a mile o' fence!
'Tisn't so much me own expense;
Three mile o' forest gone up in smoke!
Well, ain't it enough to nark a bloke?

The worst they done was in ninety-five.
Poor ole Ben Bray, he'd still be alive
It if wasn't for that camp-fire they left.
But a burnt-out-home an' the kids bereft
Of their dad. Yes; that was the toll that day;
An' the fellers what done it miles away.
Oh, there's fools in the forest as well as town.
I ain't lettin' none o' me neighbors down.

There's fools in the forests, as well I knows;
Chancin' a burn when the north wind blows.
An' they oughter be pinched . . . But them city skites,
Suckin' their fags an' strikin' their lights!
Just let me catch 'em! Vindictive? Me?
Ropeable, am I? Well, wouldn't you be
If you suffered the same from their smokin' butts?
Three mile o' fencin' an' four good huts!

Old Town Types No.11

As first I remember him: A red man, and tall,
Great Toll, the blacksmith, filled my childish eye.
At its first crisp, clamorous stroke,
Every morning I awoke
To the ringing of his anvil as the years lagged by.
And, when the season came for them, he made us iron hoops
And iron hooks to trundle them: for children were his joy,
And then down the village street we raced with joyous whoops;
For little things contented us when I was a boy.

A glad giant toiling in his little tin shop
The great swelling arms he had, the great rugged head
There he loomed beside the forge
Calling to his striker, george,
'Smite it, laddie! Smite it while the iron glows red!'
So simply joyous in his strength, he made of life a song;
A straight man, a proper man, on no swift fortune bent,
He went about his heavy tasks humming the whole day long,
Accepting, simply as it came, his great gift of content.

The boasting tales his townsmen told he feigned were half untrue,
And blushed to find his feats of strength had won him wide renown;
Of how, long since, he flung his sledge
Fron Grogan's to the river's edge,
And bore two bags of wheat a-back the whole length of the town;
Of how he raised a mighty beam to save a child from fire
When Simpson's store was gutted in the blaze of 'eighty-six.
'They talk,' said he; 'and tales will grow. But, Lord, 'tain't my desire
For to figure as a hero thro' a brace of silly tricks.'

As last I remember him: A grey man and spare,
Sitting in his sons' garage, now from toil withdrawn,
Calling with a mighty roar,
Startling in a man so hoar,
'Smite it, laddie! Smite it! Lord, the young 'uns lack the brawn!'
But, as the cool of even comes to oust the day-long heat,
He is mindful of 'the missus.' ''Tis the rheumatiz,' he owns.
Then, shoulders back, grey head erect, he toddles down the street
Old Toll, the ex-smith, a brave old bag of bones.

The Corpse That Won'T Lie Still

Aye, call it murder is ye will!
'Tis not the crime I fear.
If his cold curse would but lie still
And silent in its bier,
Then would I be indeed content,
And count it folly to repent.

With these two hands I've slain the knave;
I've watched the red blood drop;
I've rammed him tight into his grave,
And piled the clods atop,
And tramped them down exultingly....
Now back he comes to grin at me.

Once have I slain him in his bed,
Twice by the midnight blaze;
Thrice have I looked upon him dead
All in these seven days.
Yet here, this night, I've seen him stand
And pluck the pen from out my hand.

Nay, never spook nor sprite is he,
But solid flesh and blood,
Who schemes with deep malignity
To stint my livelihood.
And he had vowed a vow my name
Shall never grace the scroll of fame.

My name he bears, my garb he wears,
My pipes he idly smokes;
And, friend-like, he but rarely cares
To praise my sorry jokes.
He spends my money lavishly
With ne'er a thrifty thought for me.

And when my ready cash is gone
He runs me into debt.
Stern duty he will harp upon
When I would fain forget.
But when, through toil, I would be free
He soothes me with rank sophistry.

Whene'er with resolutions stern
I sit me down to work,
And mighty thoughts within me burn,
Then forth comes he to lurk
Here at my elbow, where he clings
And whispers of forbidden things.

So when I woo some lofty theme
Of deep religious tone,
He lures me on to idly dream,
As we sit there alone.
Of girls I have and have not kissed,
Of favors won and chances missed.

He whispers of that tempting book
I have no time to read;
'One peep,' he pleads: 'one hasty look!
Where is the harm, indeed?'
And when I speak of work, and sigh,
''Twill do to-morrow!' is his cry.

And oft - too well I know how oft
Beneath his subtle spell
I fall, and dream of living soft
Who know - aye, none so well
That living soft is but for him
Who earns his ease with labor grim.

Dreams, dreams, and ever idle dreams!
His glowing art I hate!
Yet pleasant for the hour it seems,
His soothing opiate.
And, though I slay him, this I dread:
He oftener alive than dead.

Oh, I have to be so very sure,
No later than last night,
That I had pinned the knave secure,
And I was free to write
Those mighty masterpieces which
To pen my fingers ever itch.

But, with his slouch and lazy leer,
Lo, came back he to-day:
With wheedling lips against mine ear
He tempted me to play
At tennis all the afternoon.
Work and resolve forgot so soon!

Yet, spite his faults, he is, I swear,
A merry knave withal;
And when I have the time to spare
That's seldom, if at all
I'd roam with him 'mid fields and flow'rs
If he'd be still in business hours.

Each morn I bash him on the head
And hide him out of sight.
Full, sure, indeed, that he is dead;
But back he comes each night,
And on the lotus buds we feed
When bread and butter is my need.

Though many ways his death I've planned
And slain him, as I've said,
He takes a lot of killing and
He'll never stay long dead.
And, though, each day i cause his death,
I know he'll live while I have breath.

But let me vow the vow again
The vow I know by heart
And, here and now, with hasty pen,
Stab to some vital part.
And, mocked by his departing laugh,
Rewrite his oft-writ epitaph.

'Here lies the man I should not be
By all stern rules of life.
The man who's plagued and hampered me
All through this mundane strife.
A lazy, loafing knave was he....
But, sooth, he was fine company.'

It's human nature for a bashful bloke
To bottle up, an' hesitate, an' doubt
Till grinnin' Fate plays him some low-down joke;
Then, in excitement, he goes blurtin' out
The tale his sane mind never would impart,
So all the near-by world knows it by heart.

Good luck for me, the near-by world that day,
When I ran sobbin' thro' the scorchin' fern,
Held few to hear the foolish things I say;
No one was there my secret thought to learn,
As I went shoutin' down the mountain spur,
Only the scared birds, an' the trees, an' Her.

In fancy, many men have been thro' Hell,
Tortured by fear, when hope has amost died;
But few have gone thro' that, an' fire as well
To come on Heaven on the other side
With just one angel in it, safe an' well -
A cool, calm angel by the name of Nell.

The day the fire came sweepin' down the hill,
Lickin' the forest up like some mad beast,
We had our work cut out to save the mill;
An', when the wind swung round into the East,
An' blew the roarin' flames along the spur,
Straight for 'The Height,' I gets quick fear for Her.

Flat out I was fightin' all day long
(We saved the mill-shed, but the huts were done)
When some bloke, weak with sprintin' comes along
Comic, it seemed, to me the way he run)
Shoutin' that someone's missin' from 'The Height,'
An' all the forest at the back's alight.

I don't what he thought, an' never cared,
When I grabs at his coat an' starts to yell.
I only know that I was dreadful scared. . . .
In half a minute more, I guessed 'twas Nell.
He tell me when an' where they thought she went,
An' of the useless searchers they had sent.

I never waits for more; but turned an' ran
Straight for the spur, along the scorchin' track.
Behind me, as I went, I hear some man
I think it's Pike - bawlin', 'You fool! Come back!'
What plan was in my mind I cannot tell;
I only know I want to find my Nell.

Next thing I mind, I've left the track, an' turned
Into the blackened scrub - my eyes feel bad -
Above my head the messmate trees still burned.
An' Lord, them awful fancies that I had!
I seen her lyin' there - her face - her hair. . . .
Why, even now, them thoughts give me a scare.

I stumble on. Against a red-hot butt
I burn my hand, but never even swear;
But keep on sayin', 'Make the splitter's hut,
The splitter's hut! Get to the clearin' there.
She's at the splitter's hut; an' if she ain't . . .'
My heart turns over, an' I feel dead faint.

An' as I plug along, I hear some fool
Repeatin' words till they sound like a spell.
'I'm goin' mad,' I thinks. 'Keep cool! Keep cool!'
But still the voice goes on' 'My Nell! My Nell!'
I whips round quick to see who he can be,
This yappin' fool - then realize it's me.

They say I must have gone thro' blazin' ferns.
Perhaps I did; but I don't recollect.
My mind was blank, but, judgin' by my burns,
There's something got to me that took effect.
But once, I know, I saw a flamin' tree
Fall just behind me; but that don't trouble me.

I don't know how the reached the splitter's hut,
I only saw the ragin' fire - an' Nell.
My clothes were torn, my face an' hands were cut,
An' half a dozen times, at least, I fell.
I burst into the clearin' . . . an' I look. . . .
She's sittin' on a log there - with a book!

I seem to cross that clearin' in a stride,
Still sobbin' like a kid: 'My Nell! My nell!'
I was clean mad. But, as I reach her side,
I sort of wake, an' give that song a spell.
But, by her eyes, for all she seemed so cool,
I know she must have heard, an' feel a fool.

'Why, Mister Jim? You do look hot,' says she.
(But still her eyes says oceans more than that).
'Did you come all the way up here for me?'
Coolness? I tell you straight, it knocked me flat.
By rights, she should fall sobbin' in my arms;
But no; there weren't no shrieks an' no alarms.

I pulls myself together with a jerk.
'Oh, just a stroll,' I says. 'Don't mention it.
The mill's half burnt, an' I am out of work;
They missed you so I looked around a bit.'
'Now, that was good of you,' says she, reel bright.
'Wasn't the bush-fire such a splendid sight?'

She looks me up and down. 'Why, Mister Jim,'
She says to me, 'you do look hot, indeed.
If you go strollin' that way for a whim
Whatever would you do in case of need?'
That's what she said. But with her eyes she sent
More than her thanks; an' I was quite content.

I seen her home; or, rather, she seen me,
For I was weak, an' fumbled in my stride.
But, when we reached 'The Height,' I seen that she
Was just in breakin'; an' she went inside. . . .
I stumbles home. 'Well, Jim, lad, anyway,'
I tells myself, 'you've had a fine, full day.

Ow! Wow! Wow!
(Funeral note sustained by flutes, suggesting a long-bodied,
short-legged, large-headed dog in anguish.)
Ow! Wow!
We are the people who make the row;
We are the nation that skites and brags;
Marching the goose-step; waving the falgs.
We talk too much, and we lose our block,
We scheme and spy; we plot, we lie
To blow the whoe world into the sky.
The Kaiser spouts, and the Junkers rave.
Hoch! for the Superman, strong and brave!
But what is the use of a Superman,
With 'frightfulness' for his darling plan,
If he has no cities to burn and loot,
No women to ravish, no babies to shoot?
Shall treaties bind us against our wish?
Rip! Swish!
(Violins: Tearing noise as of scraps of paper being destroyed.)
Now at last shall the whole world learn
Of the cult of the Teuton, strong and stern!
Ho! for the Superman running amok!

Um - ta, um - ta, tiddley - um - tum!
(Uncertain note, as of a German band that has been told to move on.)
Pompety - pom pom - tiddeley - um - tum!
Way for the 'blond beasts!' Here they come!
While big guns thunder the nations' doom.
Room! Room!
Room for the German! A place in the sun!
He'll play the Devil now he's begun!
(Drums: Noise of an exploding cathedral.)
Ho, the gaping wound and the bleeding stump!
Watch the little ones how they jump!
While we shoot and stab, and plunder and grab,
Spurred by a Kaiser's arrogant gab;
While the Glorious Junker
Grows drunker,
And drunker, on blood.
Blood! Blood!
Sword or cannon or fire or flood,
Never shall stay our conquering feet -
On through city and village street -
Feet that savagely, madly tread,
Over the living; over the dead.
Shoot! Shoot!
Burn and pillage and slay and loot!
To the sound of our guns shall the whole world rock!

(Flutes, piccolos and trombones render, respectively, the cries of
children, shrieks of women and groans of tortured non-cambatants.
Violins wail mournfully.)
Shrieks! Shrieks!
Hoch der Kaiser! The whole land reeks
With tales of torture and savage rape,
Of fiends and satyrs in human shape;
Fat hands grabbing where white flesh shrinks;
And murdered age to the red earth sinks.
Kill! Kill!
Now at length shall we gorge our fill,
And all shall bow to the German will!
By the maids we ravish our lust to slake,
By the smoking ruin that mark our wake,
By the blood we spill,and the hearths we blast....
This is The Day! The Day at last!....
Praise to God! On our bended knees,
We render thaks for boons like these.
For God and the Kaiser our cohorts flock!
(Scrap of German hymn-tune interpolated here.)

Ach! Donnerwelter! Himmel! Ach!
(Medley of indescribable noises rendered by full orchestra, symbolic,
partly of a German band that is being severely kicked by an irate householder,
and partly innumerable blutwursts suddenly arrested in mid-career.)
Ach! Ach!
'Dot vos not fair to shoot in der back!'
Who is this that as dared to face
Our hosts unconquered, and, pace by pace,
Presses us backward, and ever back.
Over the blasted, desolate rack?
What of the plans we planned so well?
We looked for victory - this is Hell!
Hold! Hold!
Mark the heaps of our comrades bold;
Look on the corpses of Culture's sons -
Martyrs slain by a savage's guns.
Respite now, in this feast of death!
Time! An Armistice! Give us breath!
Nay? Then we cry to the whole wide world,
Shame on our foe for a plea denied!
Savages! Brutes! Barbarians all!
Here shall we fight with our backs to the wall!

Boom! Boom! Boom!
(Ten more thousands gone to their doom.)
(Bass drums only, for 679,358 bars, symbolising a prolonged artillery war.
Into this there breaks suddenly the frenzied howl of the long-bodied,
short-legged, large-deaded dog already mentioned.)
Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate!
We spit on the British here at our gate!
Foe of humanity! Curst of the world!
On him alone let our hate be hurled!
For his smiling sneers at the Junkers' creed,
For his cold rebuke to a Kaiser's greed;
For his calm disdain of our noble race,
We fling our spite in his scornful face.
Under the sea and high in the air,
Death shall seek for him everywhere;
The lurking death in the submarine,
The swooping death in the air machine,
Alone of them all he had sealed our fate!
Hate! Hate! HATE!
(Prolonged discord, followed by deep, mysterious silence - imposed by censor -
for 793 bars.)

(Deep staccato note as of a bursting blutwurst.)
Ow! Wow! Wow!
(Dying howl of a stricken hound. Silence again for an indefinite number of
bars. Then, in countless bars, saloons, tea-shops, coffee-houses, cafes and
restaurants throughout the British Empire and most of Europe, a sudden, loud,
triumphant chorus, toned by a note of relief, and dominated by 'The Marseillaise'
and 'Tipperary.' A somewhat uncertain but distinctly nasal cheer is heard from
the direction of New York.)

Peace! Peace!
At last the sounds of the big guns cease;
At last the beast is chased to his lair,
And we breathe again of the good, clean air.
The gates have fallen! The Allies win!
And the boys are macrhing about Berlin!
The Kaiser's down; and the story goes
A British Tommy has pulled his nose.
The German eagle has got the pip:
Vive les Allies!...Hooroo!...Hip! Hip!...