This week has ended up being a fairly ‘crook’ week for my family with the sudden death of a dearly loved uncle.
Although he died peacefully at home in his favourite armchair at the ripe old age of 80, the suddenness of it all has left us reeling. My aunt died of cancer ten years ago; they were a deeply devoted couple and we honestly didn’t expect my uncle to live much past that.
Each year since has, therefore, been a bonus for all of us.
This week we have been absorbed by memories and the idea of legacy. How do you remember and honour a life?
Uncle Bryan (and his wife) were both primary school teachers for most of their working lives. At his service, one of his former students (who is now a teacher herself) spoke very eloquently about the long-lasting influence that a great teacher can have on the minds and hearts of young children.
I was also a teacher for 18 years, partly due to the influence of my aunt and uncle in my younger years.
I love maths to this day, because of the brilliant way Uncle Bryan was able to explain the rules and to make it sound like fun. When someone asks me how I am, I always reply “well thank you” (not ”good”) as Uncle Bryan was a stickler for proper language protocols. He always made these ‘lessons’ fun with silly one-liners and puns.
My aunt and uncle put me onto some great books throughout my childhood, especially Australian authors. Uncle Bryan always read out loud to his classes, even, or especially to his senior classes. I was delighted, once I had started teaching myself, to give Uncle Bryan Ian Serralier’s ‘The Silver Sword‘ which he hadn’t come across before. This became one of his favourite stories to read aloud to his Year 6 classes during the last decade of his teaching career.
Uncle Bryan also loved the old bush poets.
He regularly recited bits from Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson’s works.
One of his favourites though, was C. J. Dennis, which would come as no surprise if you had ever heard Uncle Bryan’s sense of humour in full flight!
Like C. J. Dennis, Uncle Bryan’s humour was broad Australian – full of rhyming slang, puns and nonsense words. He regularly recited the Triantiwontigongolope with glee, trying to get us to pronounce it as quickly as he!
Thanks to Uncle Bryan, two Dennis poems were a part of my teaching repertoire – A Bush Christmas and Hist! (for the classes that were up for a little fright!)
It seems only fitting today, to finish up with the last chapter from The Songs of A Sentimental Bloke.
If you’re able to work your way through the old-style broad Aussie accent, this chapter pretty much sums up Uncle Bryan’s philosophy to life, death and love.
XIV. THE MOOCH O’ LIFE
This ev'nin' I was sittin' wiv Doreen,
Peaceful an' 'appy wiv the day's work done,
Watchin', be'ind the orchard's bonzer green,
The flamin' wonder of the settin' sun.
Another day gone by; another night
Creepin' along to douse Day's golden light;
Another dawning when the night is gone,
To live an' love -- an' so life mooches on.
Times I 'ave thought, when things was goin' crook,
When 'Ope turned nark an' Love forgot to smile,
Of somethin' I once seen in some old book
Where an ole sorehead arsts, "Is life worf w'ile?"
But in that stillness, as the day grows dim,
An' I am sittin' there wiv 'er an' 'im--
My wife, my son! an' strength in me to strive,
I only know -- it's good to be alive!
Yeh live, yeh love, yeh learn; an' when yeh come
To square the ledger in some thortful hour,
The everlastin' answer to the sum
Must allus be, "Where's sense in gittin' sour?"
Fer when yeh've come to weigh the good an' bad --
The gladness wiv the sadness you 'ave 'ad --
Then 'im 'oo's faith in 'uman goodness fails
Fergits to put 'is liver in the scales.
Livin' an' loving learnin' day be day;
Pausin' a minute in the barmy strife
To find that 'elpin' others on the way
Is gold coined fer your profit -- sich is life.
I've studied books wiv yearnings to improve,
To 'eave meself out of me lowly groove,
An' 'ere is orl the change I ever got:
"'Ark at yer 'eart, an' you kin learn the lot."
I gives it in -- that wisdom o' the mind --
I wasn't built to play no lofty part.
Orl such is welkim to the joys they find;
I only know the wisdom o' the 'eart.
An' ever it 'as taught me, day be day,
The one same lesson in the same ole way:
"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
Fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
Life's wot yeh make it; an' the bloke 'oo tries
To grab the shinin' stars frum out the skies
Goes crook on life, an' calls the world a cheat,
An' tramples on the daisies at 'is feet.
But when the moon comes creepin' o'er the hill,
An' when the mopoke calls along the creek,
I takes me cup o' joy an' drinks me fill,
An' arsts meself wot better could I seek.
An' ev'ry song I 'ear the thrushes sing
That everlastin' message seems to bring;
An' ev'ry wind that whispers in the trees
Gives me the tip there ain't no joys like these:
Livin' an' loving wand'rin' on yeh way;
Reapin' the 'arvest of a kind deed done;
An' watching in the sundown of yer day,
Yerself again, grown nobler in yer son.
Knowin' that ev'ry coin o' kindness spent
Bears interest in yer 'eart at cent per cent;
Measurin' wisdom by the peace it brings
To simple minds that values simple things.
An' when I take a look along the way
That I 'ave trod, it seems the man knows best,
Who's met wiv slabs of sorrer in 'is day,
When 'e is truly rich an' truly blest.
An' I am rich, becos me eyes 'ave seen
The lovelight in the eyes of my Doreen;
An' I am blest, becos me feet 'ave trod
A land 'oo's fields reflect the smile o' God.
Livin' an' lovin'; learnin' to fergive
The deeds an' words of some un'appy bloke
Who's missed the bus -- so 'ave I come to live,
An' take the 'ole mad world as 'arf a joke.
Sittin' at ev'nin' in this sunset-land,
Wiv 'Er in all the World to 'old me 'and,
A son, to bear me name when I am gone....
Livin' an' lovin' -- so life mooches on.
- Bill @The Australian Legend has a lovely biographical post about C. J. Dennis and his own associations with the poet.
- and Sue @Whispering Gums has reviewed a biography of Dennis, The Life and Work of C J Dennis by Phillip Butterss.
6 thoughts on “C. J. Dennis ‘To live and love’”
Your uncle's influence on your teaching is a lovely legacy to have, Brona. I'm sorry to hear that \”things was goin' crook\” (what a great bit of poetry that is).
Isn't it tho' ? Thanks for your thoughts Vicki
Thanks. I knew (of) “Hist! Hark!”, I didn’t realise it was written by Dennis. You live and learn, especially by browsing blogs 😃 [neil@kallaroo, using my WordPress nom-de-plume]
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Curiously Neil, ‘you live and learn’ was one of Uncle Bryan’s favourite sayings too 🙂