The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6 (October 2, 1933)
Candidly I am rather proud of this penname of mine. To use an overworked word, it appears to “intrigue” people. I have already related how one of our country readers thought it was a new brand of tooth paste. A few days ago a friend declared positively that Shibli Bagarag was Irish for “What's Yours?” To keep the ball rolling, as it were, “Beck Grange” has composed a poem about it. Here it is:—
Among the names in fiction, sir,
Where pseudonyms abound.
There's only one among them all
I can't get tongue around.
The more I try, the more I'm sure
That I have struck a snag—
The nom de plume that puzzles me
Is Shibli Bagarag!
One can't tell who is who, sir, when
There is no clue to sex,
My brains grow addled with the strain,
'Twould tougher heads perplex.
I cannot sleep: I'm feeling old,
My body starts to sag;
The wind that howls the whole night through
Screams Shibli Bagarag!
One likes to know a something, sir,
Of him or her who writes.
But ‘Struth, one can't guess who dwells on
Those literary heights.
Maybe it is a maiden fair,
Or toothless, wizened hag,
A lonely soul who hides behind
hat Shibli Bagarag!
The words are so outrageous, for
They make no bally sense:
They're veiled in such obscurity,
Or else I'm getting dense.
In New Zealand it's the only thing
That gives my nerves a jag,
And makes me rise and curse the name
Of Shibli Bagarag!
Perhaps the eccentricity
Of genius it shows;
Or maybe what the Chinese say
For “Damn it all” —who knows?
At any rate, the “Notes” are quite
A feature of the “Mag.”
So here's to you who taunt my days
With Shibli Bagarag.
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I was told the other day that Thomas Bracken, author of the world-famous poem “Not Understood,” was the first canvasser of the “N.Z. Tablet.” He “worked” the stores, hotels and tents of the diggings with payable results.
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It happened several years ago, but it's worth while re-telling here. A bankrupt Maori was being examined by his creditors, when, during a lull in the proceedings, a reporter whispered into his ear that if he had any money he must turn it on for the crowd. Hori promptly dredged up half-a-crown from his pocket, and, satisfied that it was bankruptcy court etiquette, proudly tossed the coin over to-the Official Assignee, saying: “Py korry, we now ko ofter to te ‘Crown and Anchor’ and trink te health of te crettitors.”
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Full of appreciation of the hospitality and helpful interest of writers and artists in Sydney, Mr. Cecil Steere, a promising young New Zealand short story writer, returned to this country recently. He told me that all the writers he met extended to him the glad hand of welcome and crammed into his month's holiday more good cheer and practical advice than he could have gained elsewhere in a year. His enthusiasm took me back a score of years, when I made my first visit to Sydney, and the same fine spirit of friendly help was shown to me by Australian journalists. The generous spirit still lives, and may it burn ever brighter.
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One of the most interesting items in my collection of first numbers of New Zealand periodicals is “N.Z. Punch,” dated April 7th, 1888. This little weekly was modelled on the lines of London “Punch,” even to the cover design, which was an adaptation of Dicky Doyle's famous cover plate, except that Punch is seen facing his readers instead of appearing de profil; Toby is on the left of the picture, and his place on the right is occupied by a lady with helmet, palette and brush, representative of New Zealand. The make-up is very similar to the London “Punch” of the period. The political artist, “Mac,” moulded his style closely on that of Sir John Tenniel. In my copy, the cartoonist page 59 depicts two figures lamenting, on either side of a headstone, on which are the words: “In Memoriam of Volius Wogul. All A Loan Let me R.I.P.” One of the figures is Sir Robert Stout attired as Hamlet, and the other, Henry Smith, as Horatio. The allusion will be apparent, perhaps, to students of New Zealand politics. Like the traditional Scotsman, they joked “wi’ difficulty” in those days. Puns prodominate. People made puns then, and paranomasia flourished. Here is a sample: “An orchestra composed wholly of ladies is travelling Vienna. What'll women do next? Vi-ennathing.”
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The N.S.W. Bookstall Co., Sydney, have published an interesting monthly entitled “Book News.” It deals with all the current book publishing developments on the other side of the Tasman.
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I was interested in an article I read in a London Literary Journal recently on “Tim Pippin's Adventures in Giant Land.” Were I a millionaire I would present a copy of “Tim Pippin” to every boy and girl in New Zealand, for I think it is the finest book ever written about the realms of giants and witches. But the sad part about the business is that I am not a millionaire, and even were I one I could not, apparently, secure a copy of the wonderful book. The copy of my boyhood days is gone— I believe it was thumbed to oblivion, just as effectively as a body is cremated, by a succession of youthful readers. The London writer has made a similar complaint, and adds that he has searched for years to secure another copy, but without success. He described the volume as about quarto size, in red cloth, and with a picture of a witch rising from the waters of a noisome pool, stamped on the cover. I'm prepared to wager that he is wrong about the cover picture, for the illustration stamped indelibly on my mind is that of Tim Pippin mounted on his charger, with trusty blade and all complete, hurdling over the recumbent figure of a giant. The witch picture appears in the inside. However, I would not seek to quarrel with a writer, favoured, like myself, in his boyhood, with literary nourishment of the Tim Pippin brand. “Tim Pippin” was written by “Roland Quiz,” and was wonderfully illustrated by John Proctor, an artist who, it seems to me, was born for the express purpose of illustrating the marvellous world of fairydom that emanated from the superimaginative mind of “Roland Quiz.”
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