Union Songs

The New Exhibits

A poem by R.J. Cassidy 1917

"Say, what are these exhibits called?", the monkey asked her mate - 
Those bipeds that the keeper has admitted through the gate,
A longing undeniable the problem to discuss 
Have I - oh, tell me what they are, who come to live with us?" 

"Your question is a poser, and my answer's Humpty Do,
For I likewise am puzzled much", said monkey Number two.
I've eyed them up, I've eyed them down, I've viewed them near and far
But twist me tail if I can guess, what brand of beast they are.

Then went the Ape inquisitive, behind a pile of rocks,
And put her question to a seer, to wit the ancient fox.
"Oh Mr. Fox" the monkey asked, "I come to learn from you,
Particulars concerning those new tenants at the zoo",

The Fox he wunk a knowing wink, peculiarly a seer's,
"Oh they," he said, "are what are called, the rural volunteers."
And curious folk they are at best, the cussedest of all,
God gave them legs and yet how strange, they each prefer to crawl.

God gave them eyes with which to see, but bitter facts remind,
My comprehension stubbornly, that most of them are blind.
God gave them each a brain to use, but this you wouldn't guess,
They get their thinking done for them, by bulging bellies press.

"God gave to them a backbone each (but right against their wish) -
They much prefer to emulate the spineless jelly-fish!
God gave them strength with which to help the weak who call for aid -
It was, I think, the one mistake that ever heaven made!"

I thank you much the monkey said, I felt most strangely queer,
As though impelled to vomiting, whenever they came near.
It isn't fair to our good name, to either fox or ape,
So when the night enfolds the zoo, I'm making my escape.


This poem by R.J. Cassidy was published in "The Worker" - Journal of the Australian Workers Union. Just prior to the 1917 strike, the Railway Construction Workers Union merged with the AWU. Their newspaper had been called "The Navvy"

A comment on a 1917 newspaper report that read:
"A portion of Taronga Park where the new Sydney Zoo is, has been set apart for the volunteers who are down from the country to endeavour to break the strike."

From the "Trains of Treasure" CD, recited by Denis Kevans

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