Just as street art can sometimes be more meaningful than straight art, for me at least, so Australian bush ballads can be more entertaining than John Donne, Gerard Manley Hopkins and (yes, Noel), Chaucer. Sort of like O Brother, Where Art Thou? with Banjo Paterson, Henry Lawson and John O’Brien instead of the Soggy Bottom Boys. And not just Oz bush ballads . . . there’s also the poems of Robert Service, Rudyard Kipling, ballads by Oscar Wilde and Edgar Alan Poe . . .
Some of those in the next few months.
Today, a poem by John O’Grady (1907-1981), aka Nino Culotta, who is best known for writing They’re a Weird Mob. It’s not from the days of the Banjo and Henry Lawson but still a bit of fun with your coffee . . .
Tumba Bloody Rumba
I was down the Riverina, knockin' 'round the towns a bit,
And occasionally resting with a schooner in me mitt,
And on one of these occasions, when the bar was pretty full
And the local blokes were arguin' assorted kind of bull,
I heard a conversation, most peculiar in its way.
It's only in Australia you would hear a joker say:
"Howya bloody been, ya drongo, haven't seen ya fer a week,
And yer mate was lookin' for ya when ya come in from the creek.
'E was lookin' up at Ryan's, and around at bloody Joe's,
And even at the Royal, where 'e bloody NEVER goes".
And the other bloke says "Seen 'im? Owed 'im half a bloody quid.
Forgot to give it back to him, but now I bloody did -
Could've used the thing me bloody self. Been off the bloody booze,
Up at Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga-bloody-roos."
Now the bar was pretty quiet, and everybody heard
The peculiar integration of this adjectival word,
But no-one there was laughing, and me - I wasn't game,
So I just sits back and lets them think I spoke the bloody same.
Then someone else was interested to know just what he got,
How many kanga-bloody-roos he went and bloody shot,
And the shooting bloke says "Things are crook -
the drought's too bloody tough.
I got forty-two by seven, and that's good e-bloody-nough."
And, as this polite rejoinder seemed to satisfy the mob,
Everyone stopped listening and got on with the job,
Which was drinkin' beer, and arguin', and talkin' of the heat,
Of boggin' in the bitumen in the middle of the street,
But as for me, I'm here to say the interesting piece of news
Was Tumba-bloody-rumba shootin' kanga bloody-roos.
- John O'Grady