The Ballad of Maitland Gaol (1915)

The Ballad of Maitland Gaol
(Direct Action, April 1st 1915)
(A Comic Tragedy Complete in One Month)
(By Our Captive War Correspondent.)
 
(Scene – Govenor’s Office.)
(Govenor, Senior Screw, Student Screws, and Assorted Chaplains Discovered Discussing Good and Welfare in Goal)

Senior Screw:
Far back as memory fondly lingers even as a boy –
To torture and torment dumb things gave me exceeding joy:
To starve the kitten, beat the dog, pinch infants so they wail,
Was my delight. The neighbours said I’d end my days in gaol.
Not yet are those days ended, although for thirty years,
I’ve been in gaol – a living scourge – of human hopes and fears
The lash no longer lashes, true, the “cat” is laid to rest;
‘twould seem a gaoler’s life had lost its one time joyous zest.
I say not so. The heartless jibe – the sneer – the cruel taunt –
Will sear man’s soul as could o whip – will harrier, goad and haunt;
Will make the brave man coward, will render strong men weak,
Make good men bad, and bad men worse, and some men act the sneak.
To kill all joy, to murder mirth – to scowl down every smile –
Who could assert a warder’s life is empty – not worth while?
To me it brings back bohood’s days of dumb things on the rack.
For after all a lag is dumb – he dare not answer back.

Chorus of student screws;
Great Chief you are a gaoler born –
In each man’s side you’ve been a thorn.

Senior Screw:
There never was such spirit that your Senior couldn’t crush –
That he didn’t force to cringe, to wilt, to sag,
Until I met this I Won’t Worry push
Don’t you worry, boys, I’ve one for them – the gag!

Chorus of Assorted Chaplains:
The very thing, of course!
But, dear brother, don’t use force.

First Assistant Chaplain:
-Yes, brethren, last Sabbath I had told our lost sheep
To have faith in the dear Hily Ghost.
These words echoed plainly – they made my flesh creep:
“Would faith produce both tea and toast?”

Second Assistant Chaplain:
And we – we were singing that beautiful hymn –
“How we meet in the sweet by-and-by”
This chorus they sang – it resounded with vim –
“There’ll be pie in the sky when you die.”

Chorus of Assistant Chaplains:
We would this be amended –
That gag rule be suspended
In the case of known, domesticated lags.
And that men who won’t respond
To our junk on the Beyond
Should be furnished with the largest kind of gags.

Enter Inspector of Prisons
Inspector:
I’ve obeyed your urgent summons I am here at your request –
Inform me quickly: what disturbs your rest?

Governor:
You know, dear sir, how loath we are to trouble you –
Its all about those darned I Double W.

Inspector:
Are the vicious, are they bad, or merely lazy?

Governor:
They’re mad, sir, and they’re driving us all crazy!

Inspector:
State your case and be explicit,
As to detail, I’ll not miss it.

Governor:
You know, sir, that singing and laughter’s taboo –
Well they laugh and they sing the live-long day through.
If we keep them together – an all day debate,
If we mix them with others they all agitate.
We set them a task – they dig in all right.
There’s nothing to show when we tally at night.
We put them in solitude – water and bread –
They boast to each other how well they’ve been fed.
Then, when we lock them at night in a cell,
Its cat-call and whistle and yell;
We track a loud whistle right into its lair;
It vanishes – breaks out over there.
Up above, down below, to the left, to the right –
They keep sir, my warders, awake all the night.
Moreover, in church, they drown every hymn
With secular words in voices far from dim.
We don’t let them worship; another fine mess:
Each scoundrelly infidel wants to confess.
At drill when they march, they step with the right –
Salute with the left, in obvious delight;
We show them their fault, put them right, all in vain –
Say their left handed and do it again.
They always forget both their ranks and their numbers –
They’d waken old Job from his calm and his slumbers.
For my best warders they show not the slightest respect;
They are making them all scratch their heads and reflect.
In fact they lack a due sense of proportion,
And look on each screw as a sort of abortion.
I would give a year’s pay for a valid excuse
To turn these barbarians, on and all, loose.

Inspector:
Can you tell ought of the doctrine they teach?
Their attitude if given this Free Speech?

Chief Screw:
I’ve heard ‘em talk of class wars and of bush wars, and of such,
And a French bloke they call Sabbertarge. The rest is Double Dutch!

Chorus of Assistant Chaplains:
The gospel these vandals all seem to profess
Is a crude and ridiculous creed
They would take all the good things we loafers possess
And give them to toilers in need.

Senior Screw:
If I might I’d like to mention,
And bring to your attention, A warder who’s intelligent and travelled.
He should know these I Won’t Workers
As a push of noisy shirkers –
He’s the bloke sir, if you’d like this skein unravelled.

Inspector:
A gaoler who has travelled – why the very man we seek:
You say, too, he’s intelligent: this man must be unique!

(Enter Gaoler Stone-Age.)
Senior Screw:
Advance, Warder Stone-Age – salute!
The other hand, you great, big, soft galoot!

Inspector:
Your chief, sir, tells me that you’ve seen some travel
We’ve a mystery here we’d like you to unravel:
What is it that these bad Free Speachers teach
Explain their gospel to us – what they preach?

Screw Stone-Age:
I has seen a lot of travel, that I has –
In Noo South, likewise in Vic., likewise in Tas..
But I never seen ‘em in a church to preach,
An’ I never listened when they made a speech;
‘Cause I couldn’t understand ‘em, if I did,
As my learnin’ was neglected as a kid.

Inspector:
Cease, oh cease, this blatant chatter,
I would fain clear up this matter.

Senior Screw:
We’ve a man we confined in solitude –
He tells me so many truths that he’s quite rude.

Inspector:
So long as he seems amiable
I deem him indispensable.

(Enter IWW Gaolbird)
Inspector:
I have tried to get the latest information
Regarding you and your great aggregation
I will find out why you fight
If I listen here all night.

IWW:
There is nothing at all in our gospel of mystery,
To the mind of the worker, be it conscious or critical,
But all the great thinkers and teachers of history
Could not make it stick in the mind parasitical.
The parasite thrives on his filchings from workers –
Gives nothing to life but his carcass at birth,
Industrial workers, the world o’er cry “Shirkers!”
“Surrender your spoils! OR get off the earth!”
“Surrender! Slick palterers of mercy and meekness.”
“Pitiful props of a system so frail:’
“Produce! You armed thugs, of its foulness and weakness” –
“Hounding your betters – its victims – in gaol.”
Is it wonder you hate us, you parasite plunderers;
Proclaiming your thefts, by word and by pen?
But why should you gaol us, you ignorant blunderers –
Arresting the truth by the gaoling of men.

To the senior Warder of the Gaol:
Get off the earth! You flatulent bubble you –
Bestialised Bludger for Capital’s Hell!
The World for the Workers! The I double W –
And Freedom of Speech that our truths we may tell!
(Collapse of Senior Warder.)

To Inspector of Prisons:
A smoke, sir, I am grateful, a match may I trouble you?
Come on: you poor screws. Take me home to my cell.
(Exit IWW)

Senior Screw:
I’ll nag him and I’ll rag him, and I’ll scrag him, and I’ll gag him,
I’ll – I’ll – I’ll –

Inspector:
I learn that you have kept him on water and on bread;
That you’ve shut off his lights – confiscated his bed.
That you’ve gone far, too far, there’s no reason to doubt –

Senior Screw:
If I can’t cow the brute, I’ll damn soon throw him out.

Chorus of Assorted Chaplains:
We beseech thee, O Lord, that thou let these men go –
That fill with pure gladness our temple of woe.
From our poor, stricken sinners we have long banished mirth;
These men would remind them of pleasures on earth.
Grant them Free Speech, Dear Lord, and Thou wilt,
That all these real convicts forget not their guilt?

General Chorus:
Amen!  !

(Curtin)