Monday, June 6, 2011

Ye Shall Occupy the Land

    It's amazing what you can find at the Lifeline Bookfest. I happened to turn up a 1925 publication called, Island Films, reminiscences of "German New Guinea", by Capt. James Lyng. He had taken part in the initial Australian occupation of the island of New Britain during the First World War, and was thus able to shine light on a period of history of which the average Australian knows nothing.
     For some reason, he chose to describe his adventures under the name of Captain Jones, and on pages 96-98 he prints a poem attributed to a Private Andrews in Rabaul. It is one of those items which are never likely to enter the register of the English classics but, nevertheless, it deserves not to remain completely forgotten. So, with this in mind, I shall transcribe it here. Please note that it is not politically correct.

Ye Shall Occupy the Land

I wish to speak to-night, kind friends, on this world and the next,
And as it's going to be a sermon, I must first announce my text.
You will find it in the Bible, in those noble words and grand,
"And the Lord said unto Moses ye shall occupy the land."
Now the man who just supposes that these words were meant for Moses,
His great ignorance discloses, as I think you'll all agree.
For it means, although unwritten, that our foeman must be smitten.
We must occupy New Britain from the mountains to the sea.

Did we buy the place and book it? Did the Germans meekly hook it?
No, we bravely came and took it in obedience to command;
And now we're just complying with our text, at least we're trying,
We're engaged in occupying. "Ye shall occupy the land."

Now, who has not heard the story, how we cut our path to glory,
Over pastures green and gory, over sea and over land?
Was there ever sight more thrilling, were there every men more willing?
So you see we're just fulfilling the old Biblical command.

From the time we first did spot it, till we ultimately got it
You could make an I and dot it, and we took it on our ace.
If we love, or if we hate it, now we're here, don't underrate it,
Soon we'll have to populate it, if we want to hold the place.

My old head this puts some care on (How I wish 'twould put some hair on)
But as Moses said to Aaron, "Let each soldier play his part."
Is there here one doubting Thomas? Friends, just listen to the promise,
It will ne'er be taken from us if we only make a start.

Our O.C. has bravely led us, and our country's clothed and fed us,
Will our chaplain now please wed us, and we'll each select a wife,
Ev'n as Eve once lived with Adam in the days when fig leaves clad 'em
As his most devoted madam. Let us live the simple life.

For the sands of time are sinking, and it's time we started thinking.
Black and white will soon be linking. Oh! what will the harvest be?
Let our love begin to kindle, for our numbers must not dwindle,
Be the product brown or brindle, there must be posterity.

Now this pressing question clamorous opens up a subject glamorous,
What did Cain when he felt amorous, after taking Abel's life?
We don't read he into quod went, but unshorn, likewise unshod went,
Out into the land of Nod went, where he found a coloured wife.

Thus the tribes of Ham and Shem too, had their origin in them, too.
Can't we do the same, ahem, too? shall we merely occupy?
Waste no time in vain palavers, plant your coconuts and guavas,
Up, and don your lavalavas, marry quick and multiply.

Do not think this scheme foolhardy, we Australians are too tardy,
Let us all at least crack hardy, and some settlement devise;
Some are butchers, some are bakers, O.C. stiffs, and undertakers,
As for me, give me ten acres, and we'll all be Lu-luais.

Then these isles of the equator, blest by an all wise creator,
Will in future become greater than the wisest can foresee.
In a century all traces will be gone, of flat nosed faces,
And a race of real hard cases will decide their destiny.
    There, I warned you that it was not politically correct. However, you can't call it racist, because Private Andrews was specifically advocating miscegenation. The author then comments, not without some sadness, that this is the way of the world: that the males of the culturally advanced races push aside those of the less advanced. But, it is pleasing to note that it failed to turn out quite like that. A century has almost passed, and "flat nosed faces" still predominate in New Britain. But Private Andrews' advice was not completely neglected. Many Australians who set up plantations there did take native wives, thus contributing to both the gene pool and the economy.