Norman Lindsay was Australian, a prolific artist in a variety of media, a sculptor, novelist and a poet.
One of his best-known children’s stories, “The Magic Pudding”, has a great deal of poetry in it.
So, treat yourself to a few extracts. The narrative is included to give context to the poetry:
Bunyip Bluegum and his Uncle are koalas.
(Use your imagination for the next four sentences)
This is a frontways view of Bunyip Bluegum and his Uncle Wattleberry.
At a glance you can see what a fine, round, splendid fellow Bunyip Bluegum is, without me telling you.
At a second glance you can see that the Uncle is more square than round, and that his face has whiskers on it.
Looked at sideways you can still see what a splendid fellow Bunyip is, though you can only see one of his Uncle’s whiskers.
Observed from behind, however, you completely lose sight of the whiskers, and so fail to realize how immensely important they are. In fact, these very whiskers were the chief cause of Bunyip’s leaving home to see the world, for, as he often said to himself—
“Whiskers alone are bad enough
Attached to faces coarse and rough
But how much greater their offence is
When stuck on Uncles’ countenances.”
The plain truth was that Bunyip and his Uncle lived in a small house in a tree, and there was no room for the whiskers. What was worse, the whiskers were red, and they blew about in the wind, and Uncle Wattleberry would insist on bringing them to the dinnertable with him, where they got in the soup. Bunyip Bluegum was a tidy bear, and he objected to whisker soup, so he was forced to eat his meals outside, which was awkward, and besides, lizards came and borrowed his soup.
His Uncle refused to listen to reason on the subject of his whiskers. It was quite useless giving him hints, such as presents of razors, and scissors, and boxes of matches to burn them off. On such occasions he would remark—
“Shaving may add an air that’s somewhat brisker,
For dignity, commend me to the whisker.”
Or, when more deeply moved, he would exclaim—
“As noble thoughts the inward being grace,
So noble whiskers dignify the face.”
Prayers and entreaties to remove the whiskers being of no avail, Bunyip decided to leave home without more ado. The trouble was that he couldn’t make up his mind whether to be a Traveller or a Swagman. You can’t go about the world being nothing, but if you are a traveller you have to carry a bag, while if you are a swagman you have to carry a swag, and the question is:
Which is the heavier?
At length he decided to put the matter before Egbert Rumpus Bumpus,
the poet, and ask his advice. He found Egbert busy writing poems
on a slate. He was so busy that he only had time to sing out,
“Don’t interrupt the poet, friend,
Until his poem’s at an end,”
and went on writing harder than ever. He wrote all down one side
of the slate and all up the other, and then remarked,
“As there’s no time to finish that,
The time has come to have our chat.
Be quick, my friend, your business state
Before I take another slate.”
“The fact is,” said Bunyip, “I have decided to see the world, and I cannot make up my mind whether to be a Traveller or a Swagman. Which would you advise?”
Then said the Poet—
“As you’ve no bags it’s plain to see
A traveller you cannot be;
And as a swag you haven’t either
You cannot be a swagman neither.
For travellers must carry bags,
And swagmen have to hump their swags
Like bottle-ohs or ragmen.
As you have neither swag nor bag
You must remain a simple wag,
And not a swag- or bagman.”
“Dear me,” said Bunyip Bluegum, “I never thought of that. What must I do in order to see the world without carrying swags or bags?”
The Poet thought deeply, put on his eyeglass, and said impressively—
“Take my advice, don’t carry bags,
For bags are just as bad as swags;
They’re never made to measure.
To see the world, your simple trick
Is but to take a walking-stick
Assume an air of pleasure,
And tell the people near and far
You stroll about because you are
A Gentleman of Leisure.”
“You have solved the problem,” said Bunyip Bluegum, and wringing his friend’s hand, he ran straight home, took his Uncle’s walking-stick, and, assuming an air of pleasure, set off to see the world.
He found a great many things to see, such as dandelions, and ants,and traction engines, and bolting horses, and furniture being removed, besides being kept busy raising his hat, and passing the time of day with people on the road, for he was a very well-bred young fellow, polite in his manners, graceful in his attitudes, and able to converse on a great variety of subjects, having read all the best Australian poets.
(After some time walking, Bunyip realises he is hungry and that he has not thought to bring any food with him.)
As he was indulging in these melancholy reflections he came round a bend in the road, and discovered two people in the very act of having lunch. These people were none other than Bill Barnacle,the sailor, and his friend, Sam Sawnoff, the penguin bold.
Bill was a small man with a large hat, a beard half as large as his hat, and feet half as large as his beard.
Sam Sawnoff’s feet were sitting down and his body was standing up, because his feet were so short and his body so long that he had to do both together.
They had a pudding in a basin, and the smell that arose from it was so delightful that Bunyip Bluegum was quite unable to pass on.
(They invite Bunyip to join them and explain the pudding is a magic pudding, from which one may partake any number of different varieties of pudding, and without it ever diminishing in size. In addition, the pudding has a face, arms and legs, can speak, and is called Albert.
The three begin eating.)
But at length they had to stop, in spite of these encouraging remarks, and as they refused to eat any more, the Puddin’ got out of his basin, remarking—“If you won’t eat any more here’s giving you a run for the sake of exercise,” and he set off so swiftly on a pair of extremely thin legs that Bill had to run like an antelope to catch him up. “My word,” said Bill, when the Puddin’ was brought back. “You have to be as smart as paint to keep this Puddin’ in order. He’s that artful, lawyers couldn’t manage him. Put your hat on, Albert, like a little gentleman,” he added, placing the basin on his head. He took the Puddin’s hand, Sam took the other, and they all set off along the road.
A peculiar thing about the Puddin’ was that, though they had all had a great many slices off him, there was no sign of the place whence the slices had been cut. “That’s where the Magic comes in,” explained Bill. “The more you eats the more you gets. Cut-an’-come-again is his name,an’ cut, an’ come again, is his nature. Me an’ Sam has been eatin’ away at this Puddin’ for years, and there’s not a mark on him.
Perhaps,” he added, “you would like to hear how we came to own this remarkable Puddin’.”
“Nothing would please me more,” said Bunyip Bluegum.
“In that case,” said Bill, “Let her go for a song."
“Ho, the cook of the ‘Saucy Sausage’,
Was a feller called Curry and Rice,
A son of a gun as fat as a tun
With a face as round as a hot cross bun,
Or a barrel, to be precise.
“One winter’s morn we rounds the Horn,
A-rollin’ homeward bound.
We strikes on the ice, goes down in a trice,
And all on board but Curry and Rice
And me an’ Sam is drowned.
“For Sam an’ me an’ the cook, yer see,
We climbs on a lump of ice,
And there in the sleet we suffered a treat
For several months from frozen feet,
With nothin’ at all but ice to eat,
And ice does not suffice.
“And Sam and me we couldn’t agree
With the cook at any price.
We was both as thin as a piece of tin
While that there cook was bustin’ his skin
On nothin’ to eat but ice.
“Says Sam to me, ‘It’s a mystery
More deep than words can utter;
Whatever we do, here’s me an you,
Us both as thin as Irish stoo,
While he’s as fat as butter.
’“But late one night we wakes in fright
To see by a pale blue flare,
That cook has got in a phantom pot
A big plum-duff an’ a rump-steak hot,
And the guzzlin’ wizard is eatin’ the lot,
On top of the iceberg bare.”
“There’s a verse left out here,” said Bill, stopping the song,“owin’ to the difficulty of explainin’ exactly what happened when me and Sam discovered the deceitful nature of that cook. The next verse is as follows:--
“Now Sam an’ me can never agree
What happened to Curry and Rice.
The whole affair is shrouded in doubt,
For the night was dark and the flare went out,
And all we heard was a startled shout,
Though I think meself, in the subsequent rout,
That us bein’ thin, an’ him bein’ stout,
In the middle of pushin’ an’ shovin’ about,
He—MUST HAVE FELL OFF THE ICE.”
“That won’t do, you know,” began the Puddin’, but Sam said hurriedly,“It was very dark, and there’s no sayin’ at this date what happened.”
“Yes there is,” said the Puddin’, “for I had my eye on the whole affair, and it’s my belief that if he hadn’t been so round you’d have never rolled him off the iceberg, for you was both singing out, ‘Yo heave Ho’ for half-an-hour, an’ him trying to hold onto Bill’s beard.”
“In the haste of the moment,” said Bill, “he may have got a bit of a shove, for the ice bein’ slippy, and us bein’ justly enraged, and him bein’ as round as a barrel, he may, as I said, have been too fat to save himself from rollin’ off the iceberg. The point, however, is immaterial to our story, which concerns this Puddin’; and this Puddin’,” said Bill, patting him on the basin,“was the very Puddin’ that Curry and Rice invented on the iceberg.”
“He must have been a very clever cook,” said Bunyip.
“He was, poor feller, he was,” said Bill, greatly affected. “For plum duff or Irish stoo there wasn’t his equal in the land. But enough of these sad subjects. Pausin’ only to explain that me an’ Sam got off the iceberg on a homeward bound chicken coop, landed on Tierra del Fuego, walked to Valparaiso, and so got home, I will proceed to enliven the occasion with ‘The Ballad of the Bo’sun’s Bride’.”