XV. "A Gallant Gentleman" - The Moods of Ginger Mick - C.J. Dennis, Book, etext

 

The Moods of Ginger Mick

XV. “A Gallant Gentleman”

C.J. Dennis


A MONTH ago the world grew grey fer me;
    A month ago the light went out fer Rose.
To ’er they broke it gentle as might be;
    But fer ’is pal ’twus one uv them swift blows
That stops the ’eart-beat; fer to me it came
Jist, “Killed in Action,” an’ beneath ’is name.

’Ow many times ’ave I sat dreamin’ ’ere
    An’ seen the boys returnin’, gay an’ proud.
I’ve seen the greetin’s, ’eard ’is rousin’ cheer,
    An’ watched ole Mick come stridin’ thro’ the crowd.
’Ow many times ’ave I sat in this chair
An’ seen ’is ’ard chiv grinnin’ over there.

’E’s laughed, an’ told me stories uv the war.
    Changed some ’e looked, but still the same ole Mick,
Keener an’ cleaner than ’e wus before;
    ’E’s took me ’and, an’ said ’e’s in great nick.
Sich wus the dreamin’s uv a fool ’oo tried
To jist crack ’ardy, an’ ’old gloom aside.

An’ now—well, wot’s the odds? I’m only one:
    One out uv many ’oo ’as lost a friend.
Manlike, I’ll bounce again, an’ find me fun;
    But fer Poor Rose it seems the bitter end.
Fer Rose, an’ sich as Rose, when one man dies
It seems the world goes black before their eyes.

Fer Rose, an’ sich as Rose, thro’ orl the world,
    War piles the burdens wiv a ’eavy ’and.
Since bugles called an’ banners were unfurled,
    A sister’ood ’as growed thro’ orl the land—
A ’oly sister’ood that puts aside
Sham things, an’ ’and takes ’and in grief—an’ pride.

Ar, well; if Mick could ’ear me blither now,
    I know jist wot ’e’d say an’ ’ow ’e’d look:
“Aw, cut it out, mate; chuck that silly row!
    There ain’t so sense in takin’ sich things crook.
I’ve took me gamble; an’ there’s none to blame
Becos I drew a blank; it’s in the game.”

A parson cove he broke the noos to Rose—
    A friend uv mine, a bloke wiv snowy ’air,
An’ gentle, soothin’ sort o’ways, ’oo goes
    Thro’ life jist ’umpin’ others’ loads uv care.
Instid uv Mick—jist one rough soljer lad—
Yeh’d think ’e’d lost the dearest friend ’e ’ad.

But ’ow kin blows be sof’n’d sich as that?
    Rose took it as ’er sort must take sich things.
An’ if the jolt uv it ’as knocked me flat,
    Well, ’oo is there to blame ’er if it brings
Black thorts that comes to women when they frets,
An’ makes ’er tork wild tork an’ foolish threats.

An’ then there comes the letter that wus sent
    To give the strength uv Ginger’s passin’ out—
A long, straight letter frum a bloke called Trent;
    ’Tain’t no use tellin’ wot it’s orl about:
There’s things that’s in it I kin see quite clear
Ole Ginger Mick ud be ashamed to ’ear.

Things praisin ’im, that pore ole Mick ud say
    Wus comin’ it too ’ot; fer, spare me days!
I well remember that ’e ’ad a way
    Uv curlin’ up when ’e wus slung bokays.
An’ Trent ’e seems to think that in some way
’E owes Mick somethin’ that ’e can’t repay.

Well, p’raps ’e does, an’ in the note ’e sends
     ’E arsts if Mick ’as people ’e kin find.
Fer Trent’s an English toff wiv swanky friends,
    An’ wants to ’elp wot Ginger’s left be’ind.
’E sez strange things in this ’ere note ’e sends:
“He was a gallant gentleman,” it ends.

A gallant gentleman! Well, I dunno.
    I ’ardly think that Mick ud like that name.
But this ’ere Trent’s a toff, an’ ort to know
    The breedin’ uv the stock frum which ’e came.
Gallant an’ game Mick might ’a’ bin; but then—
Lord! Fancy ’im among the gentlemen!

’E wus a man; that’s good enough fer me,
    ’Oo wus ’is cobber many years before
’E writ it plain fer other blokes to see,
    An’ proved it good an’ pleny at the war.
’E wus a man; an’, by the way ’e died,
’E wus a man ’is friend can claim wiv pride.

The way ’e died . . . Gawd! but it makes me proud
    I ever ’eld ’is ’and, to read that tale.
An’ Trent is one uv that ’igh-steppin’ crowd
    That don’t sling pral’se around be ev’ry mail.
To ’im it seemed some great ’eroic lurk;
But Mick, I know, jist took it wiv ’is work.

No matter wot ’e done. It’s jist a thing
    I knoo ’e’d do if once ’e got the show.
An’ it would never please ’im fer to sling
    Tall tork at ’im jist cos ’e acted so.
“Don’t make a song uv it!” I ’ear ’im growl,
“I’ve done me limit, an’ tossed in the tow’l.”

This little job, ’e knoo—an’ I know well—
    A thousand uv ’is cobbers would ’ave done.
Fer they are soljers; an’ it’s crook to tell
    A tale that marks fer praise a single one.
An’ that’s ’ow Mick would ’ave it, as I know;
An’, as ’e’d ’ave it, so we’ll let it go.

Trent tells ’ow, when they found ’im, near the end,
     ’E starts a fag an’ grins orl bright an’ gay.
An’ when they arsts fer messages to send
    To friends, ’is look goes dreamin’ far away.
“Look after Rose,” ’e sez, “when I move on.
Look after . . . Rose . . . Mafeesh!” An’ ’e wus gone.

“We buried ’im,” sez Trent, “down by the beach.
    We put mimosa on the mound uv sand
Above ’im. ’Twus the nearest thing in reach
    To golden wattle uv ’is native land.
But never wus the fairest wattle wreath
More golden than the ’eart uv ’im beneath.”

An’ so—Mafeesh! as Mick ’ad learned to say.
    ’E’s finished; an’ there’s few ’as marked ’im go.
Only one soljer, outed in the fray,
    ’Oo took ’is gamble, an’ ’oo ’ad ’is show.
There’s few to mourn ’im: an’ the less they leave,
The less uv sorrer, fewer ’earts to grieve.

An’ when I’m feelin’ blue, an’ mopin’ ’ere
    About the pal I’ve lorst; Doreen, my wife,
She come an’ takes my ’and, an’ tells me, “Dear,
    There’d be more cause to mourn a wasted life.
’E proved ’imself a man, an’ ’e’s at rest.”
An’ so, I tries to think sich things is best.

A gallant gentleman . . . Well, let it go.
    They sez they’ve put them words above ’is ’ead,
Out there where lonely graves stretch in a row;
    But Mick ’ell never mind it now ’e’s dead.
An’ where ’e’s gone, when they weigh praise an’ blame,
P’raps gentlemen an’ men is much the same.

They fights; an’ orl the land is filled wiv cheers.
    They dies; an’ ’ere an’ there a ’eart is broke.
An’ when I weighs it orl—the shouts, the tears—
    I sees it’s well Mick wus a lonely bloke.
’E found a game ’e knoo, an’ played it well;
An’ now ’e’s gone. Wot more is there to tell?

A month ago, fer me the world grew grey;
    A month ago the light went out fer Rose;
Becos one common soljer crossed the way,
    Leavin’ a common message as ’e goes.
But ev’ry dyin’ soljer’s ’ope lies there:
“Look after Rose. Mafeesh!” Gawd! It’s a pray’r!

That’s wot it is; an’ when yeh sort it out,
    Shuttin’ yer ears to orl the sounds o’ strife—
The shouts, the cheers, the curses—’oo kin doubt
    The claims uv women; mother, sweet’eart, wife?
An’ ’oos to ’ear our soljers’ dyin’ wish?
An’ ’oo’s to ’eed? . . . “Look after Rose . . . Mafeesh!”


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