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Title:  Poetical Works of Henry Lawson
Author: Henry Lawson
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Language: English
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Poetical Works of Henry Lawson

Illustrated with paintings by Australian artists

by
Henry Lawson

Transcriber’s Note: I found twenty-one printings of this book, from 1925 - 1990. In many, changes were made ranging from slight changes in punctuation to removing verses. Where possible, I used the poems as printed in previous books, magazines or newspapers, ignoring later editing.

CONTENTS

Preface
Introduction
The Sliprails And The Spur
The Star Of Australasia
Faces In The Street
The Wander-Light
The Roaring Days
The Vagabond
Since Then
Sweeney
The Blue Mountains
Past Carin’
Sydney-Side
Dan The Wreck
Jack Dunn Of Nevertire
Ports Of The Open Sea
Taking His Chance
To Jim
The Lights Of Cobb And Co.
Middleton’s Rouseabout
One-Hundred-And-Three
Bertha
On The Night Train
The Shearing-Shed
The Glass On The Bar
Reedy River
A New John Bull
Ballad Of The Rouseabout
Andy’s Gone With Cattle
Bill
Mallacoota Bar
When Your Pants Begin To Go
The Teams
When The World Was Wide
The Light On The Wreck
The Great Grey Plain
Scots of the Riverina
Out Back
The Drover’s Sweetheart
The Southerly Buster
Written Afterwards
England Yet
Ballad of the Drover
After All
Black Bonnet
The Vanguard
My Army, O My Army!
Rain In The Mountains
Talbragar
The Shakedown On The Floor
Peter Anderson And Co.
The Song And The Sigh
Trooper Campbell
The Route March
Ballad Of The Elder Son
Knocked Up
The Never-Never Land
The Jolly Dead March
Kiss in the Ring
For’ard
To an old Mate
Says You
Andy’s Return
Song of the old Bullock-Driver
I’m a Rebel Too
Song of the Darling River
The Good Samaritan
To Hannah
Shearers
The Army of the Rear
New-Chum Jackeroos
The Cambaroora Star
The Water-Lily
Tracks that Lie by India
New Life, New Love
May Night on the Mountains
The Captains
A Voice from the City
Cameron’s Heart
Genoa
Eureka
Knocking Around
The Bush Fire
The Drunkard’s Vision
Dons of Spain
The Cattledog’s Death
Second Class wait Here
The Outside Track
The Storm That is to Come
Men We Might Have Been
Booth’s Drum
Mount Bukaroo
Bourke
Sticking to Bill
Drums of Battersea
The Wreck of the Derry Castle
Ruth
To my Cultured Critics
Pigeon Toes
The Battling Days
The Fire at Ross’s Farm
The Shame of Going Back
Farewell to the Bushmen
Break O’ Day
Cross-Roads
Men Who Come Behind
Riding Round the Lines
The Christ of the Never
A Prouder Man Than You
From the Bush
The Separation
Cherry-Tree Inn
Foreign Lands
Passing of Scotty
The Mountain Splitter
The Three Kings
Rovers
The Bush Girl
Marshall’s Mate
The Old Jimmy Woodser
Waratah and Wattle
Australian Engineers
Eurunderee
Do You Think that I Do Not Know
The Ghost
The Last Review
The Old Bark School
Paroo River
Billy’s Square Affair
The Boss-Over-the-Board
Robbie’s Statue
Tambaroora Jim
Rejected
O’Hara, J.P.
Bill and Jim Fall Out
Ballad of Mabel Clare
The Strangers’ Friend
The Captain of the Push
Corny Bill
Mary Called him Mister
Up the Country
Days When We Went Swimming
Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!
Rise Ye! Rise Ye!
Song of Old Joe Swallow         
Here’s Luck
With Dickens
Professional Wanderers
Saint Peter
A Word to Texas Jack
Down the River
The City Bushman
Trouble on the Selection
The Fourth Cook
The Old Head Nurse
Jack Cornstalk
Write it Down for Me
When the Army Prays for Watty
After the War
As Good as New
The King, The Queen and I
The Shearer’s Dream
Foreign Engineers
The Free-Selector’s Daughter
The Shanty on the Rise
Poets of the Tomb
Grog-An’-Grumble Steeplechase
Hawkers
Bursting of the Boom
The Greenhand Rouseabout
His Majesty’s Garden Spade
Sign of the Old Black Eye
Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers
Song of the Back to Front
Because of her Father’s Blood
When There’s Trouble on Your Mind
My Literary Friend
Dogs of War
But What’s the Use
Song of General Sick-and-Tiredness

 

Preface

The death of Henry Lawson marked the close of the period in Australian literature which began with Henry Kendall. While living, Lawson had many imitators, but no peers; with his death we turned a page to which there can be no additions. He belonged to a past of struggle, pain, and triumph, when the country was in the making. Others will use those days to give their work background of colour and romance; but there can be none to walk where he walked, none to see with his eyes.

To say that Henry Lawson has now become a classic is to miss the real meaning of the man. The true student can never ignore his work, but his appeal is infinitely wider. With every decade that appeal must increase; for, reading Lawson, our children’s children will hear the living voice of those who laid the foundations of all they prize and love.

About Henry Lawson the man, as distinct from the poet, a tradition will grow up which may leave the future wondering. All that is bizarre and grotesque, culled from the half-memories of those who knew him least, will make an embroidery of literary gossip which may envelop him in a mystery as interesting as it is unreal. Little things will be dragged from their hiding, big things warped from their setting, and made to subserve the meaner issues of some controversy about his doings and his ways. To this the memory of all great men is subject; too often the prophet’s ragged robe is more interesting to slight minds than the message he spoke. But Lawson will outlive it all. When the last word of praise or dispraise is spoken, men will turn to his work and find the real man there, the brother-soul with the vision, the brother-heart with the passion of goodwill for his kind.

This edition of his poems brings them within easy reach of every Australian reader; and I think the man who has gone from us could seek no fairer memorial in the hearts of his people than the knowledge that his words are being read and re-read by those who with every reading love him more.

     David McKee Wright
           March 1925

 

Introduction

WHEN James Cook lifted the veil that had long masked the terra incognita of the south, a fresh breeze of adventure blew across the souls of Englishmen. Here for conquest were virgin lands—lands with no history, no legend of achievement or shame—and needing for their conquest no sword, but only strong hearts and an enduring purpose. Men might have seen in their dreams a wider, sweeter England rising as by magic over far oceans, free of fettering old-world traditions, a source of light and leading to all. To claim that such a vision has been realized would be as yet too much; but the foundations have been laid. The wide spaces of the Australian continent are developing a race British in fibre and texture, yet unlike the peoples of Britain in every mere external. It is hard to discern the heights to which this race may attain in the brave days yet to be; but a nation in the making is always an object of supreme interest. Processes that in the days of the Heptarchy moulded Kent and Yorkshire are even now moulding Tasmania and Queensland. It was inevitable that such a race in the making, such a land in the shaping, should find its singer; and that, the singer found, his music should be different from that of all others.

Henry Lawson is the first articulate voice of the real Australia. Other singers in plenty the southern continent knows and has known men and women following bravely in the broad pathway where Byron strode and Wordsworth loitered; but one alone has found the heart of the new land, its rugged strength, its impatience of old restraints, its hopes and fears and despairs, its irreverence and grim humour, and the tenderness and courage that underlie them all. Lawson is never exquisite as are our greater lyrists. The axemarks show in his work everywhere. But he is sincere and strong and true; and the living beauty in that sincerity and strength and truth grips us more than any delicate craftsmanship. His laughter is as genuine as that of the wind and the sea; he weeps as Australians of the bush weep, with dry eyes and a hard curving mouth. He knows men and women—his men and women. In the world’s loneliest places he has grasped hard hands alive with heroic meaning; in crowded cities, where the shames of older nations have overflowed into the new, he has felt the throb of emotions too fine for civilization’s sordid setting. In Lawson, too, there is a splendid scorn the scorn of the Things-that-Are and always as he looks into the eyes of his world, seeking the best in the worst, his indignation biases against the shams and the shows that have been brought across the seas to hold Liberty from her purpose. Lawson has lived his people’s life, seen with their eyes, felt throb for throb with them in pain and joy; and he sets it all to a rugged music of his own that goes straight to the heart.

When in April, 1915, Australians made the historic landing at Gaba Tepe, the unexpectant world saw young soldiers from a peaceful Commonwealth bearing themselves in the stress of war like veterans of the older fighting nations. The spectacle arrested and surprised. But Lawson had sung of these things more than twenty years before. Nothing that Australians did in Gallipoli, or later in the fields of France, was new or strange to those who remembered the bugle note of his early poems. With prophetic insight he had dreamed a people’s dream had felt in that soldier-heart of his early manhood the tremor of a coming tempest, though the world skies were then clear and had foreknown with every fibre of his being the way in which men of the bush and the mountain and plain would respond to the battle-call.

What of the man who has done and felt these things? He lives his life in Australia still—a life very close to ours, yet remote and lonely as that of genius is wont to be. London called to him, and he left us for a while, but came back more Australian than when he went away. You meet him in the street and are arrested by his eyes. Are there such eyes anywhere else under such a forehead? He has the softened speech of the deaf, but the eyes speak always more than the voice; and the grasp of his hand is brotherly. A sense of great sympathy and human kindliness is always about him. You will not talk much with Lawson, but you will not lightly forget your first meeting. A child will understand him better than a busy city man, for the child understands the eternal language of the heart written in the eye; and Australia, strong-thewed pioneer though she be, has enough of the child left in her to understand her son.

Henry Lawson was born in a tent on the Grenfell gold field in 1867. His father was a Norse sailor who became a digger; his mother came of a Kentish family of gipsy blood and tradition. Henry spent his boyhood on old mining fields, and on a selection his father had taken up. Later, he came to Sydney and learned coach painting, attended a night school, dabbled in spiritualism, and was caught in the wave of socialism. Very early his verses attracted attention. He was the voice of a new movement; the ringing, surging rebellion of his song echoed the unrest of the eighties and nineties, years full of great labour strikes and the breaking up of old political parties. Then he wandered far into the interior of Australia—his fame growing all the while—saw and shared the rude strenuous life of his brothers in a dozen varieties of toil, crossed over to New Zealand, and added to the tang of the gum leaves something of the salt of the great Southern Ocean. He has lived the life that he sings and seen the places of which he writes; there is not a word in all his work which is not instantly recognized by his readers as honest Australian. The drover, the stockman, the shearer, the rider far on the skyline, the girl waiting at the sliprails, the big bush funeral, the coach with flashing lamps passing at night along the ranges, the man to whom home is a bitter memory and his future a long despair, the troops marching to the beat of the drum, the coasting vessel struggling through blinding south-westerly gales, the great grey plain, the wilderness of the Never-Never—in long procession the pictures pass, and every picture is a true one because Henry Lawson has been there to see with the eyes of his heart.

At twenty-one, Lawson was probably the most remarkable writer of verse in Australia. Some critics of those days thought his genius prematurely developed, and likely to flame up strongly and fade away swiftly. Lawson disappointed their predictions. He remained; he continued to write; he gathered grip and force as the years went by. The dates of original publication attached to each poem in this collection will enable the reader to follow the author’s progress. They cover a wide range of years. Before he had reached his twenty-first birthday, Lawson, keenly alive to all the movements about him in Sydney, found one political faction discussing a closer imperialism of a rather mechanical pattern, while another cried for an equally machine-made socialism. He listened to the outpourings of oratory one night, and, remembering the growth of wealth and luxury on the one hand and the increasing squalor of the city slums on the other, went home and wrote “Faces in the Street”—a notable achievement that brought him immediate local fame. Seven years afterwards, still with the passionate hope of a purifying revolution in his heart, he saw “The Star of Australasia” rise through tumult and battle smoke and foretold, in lines that surge and sweep, the storm that was to break down divisions between rich and poor, and to call to life a great nationhood through a baptism of blood. At forty-eight he sang of “My Army, O My Army”, the struggling “Vanguard” always suffering in the trenches of civilization that others might go on to victory. Never was the view of the final triumph obscured; but the means by which it might be attained seemed more clouded in doubt as the years went by. Then, when he had completed his full half-century of life, the poet’s vision cleared. At fifty he wrote “England Yet”, a song of pride in a greater nationality, wider and more embracing than the old Australia of his dreams. Here is natural progression of thought—a mind growing with the years, a hope enlarging with the great movements of the race.

In simpler and homelier themes the continual widening of his sympathy is equally marked. “The Drover’s Sweetheart”, with its sob of delight in the last stanza, was written at twenty-two. Ten years afterwards he penned the tenderest and most perfect of all his poems, “The Sliprails and the Spur”. Dear old “Black Bonnet”—a picture as true as it is sweet in all years and all places—first tripped to church in his verse when he was forty- nine; at fifty, “Scots of the Riverina” showed that he had not lost his power of dealing with the tragedy that underlies life’s commonplace. The reader may trace a similar growth of sympathy for the men and women whom civilization condemns, or who have come to be regarded as “down and out.” He saw “Sweeney” with battered humorous face and empty bottle in 1891; “Past Carin’ ”, with its completeness of heartbreak, was written in 1899; and the grim realism of “One-Hundred-and-Three”, which must stand among Lawson’s greatest efforts, appeared in 1908. Always there is growth, apparent from year to year and decade to decade. The verses vary greatly in merit and manner, but the thought and feeling behind them move on into wider places. Lawson fulfilled his first promise and did something more.

Of Lawson’s place in literature it is idle to speak. Something of what Burns did for Scotland, something of what Kipling did for India, he has done for Australia; but he is not in the least like either Kipling or Burns. Judged as verse, his work has nearly always a certain crudity; fudged by the higher standard of poetry, it is often greatest when the crudity is most apparent. In the coming chances and changes it is daring to predict immortality for any writer. The world is being remade in fire and pain; in that remaking every standard of achievement may be altered utterly from those to which we have been accustomed; but if permanency is to be looked for anywhere, it is in vital, red-blooded work such as Lawson’s—work that came so straight from the heart that it must always find a heart to respond to it. All Australia is there, painted with a big brush in the colours in which its people see it.

          D. M. W.
                September, 1918

 

 

The Sliprails and the Spur

The colours of the setting sun
    Withdrew across the Western land—
He raised the sliprails, one by one,
    And shot them home with trembling hand;
Her brown hands clung—her face grew pale—
    Ah! quivering chin and eyes that brim!—
One quick, fierce kiss across the rail,
    And, “Good-bye, Mary!” “Good-bye, Jim!”

Oh, he rides hard to race the pain
    Who rides from love, who rides from home;
But he rides slowly home again,
     Whose heart has learnt to love and roam.

A hand upon the horse’s mane,
    And one foot in the stirrup set,
And, stooping back to kiss again,
    With “Good-bye, Mary! don’t you fret!
When I come back”—he laughed for her—
    “We do not know how soon ’twill be;
I’ll whistle as I round the spur—
    You let the sliprails down for me.”

She gasped for sudden loss of hope,
    As, with a backward wave to her,
He cantered down the grassy slope
    And swiftly round the darkening spur.
Black-pencilled panels standing high,
    And darkness fading into stars,
And blurring fast against the sky,
    A faint white form beside the bars.

And often at the set of sun,
    In winter bleak and summer brown,
She’d steal across the little run,
    And shyly let the sliprails down.
And listen there when darkness shut
    The nearer spur in silence deep,
And when they called her from the hut
    Steal home and cry herself to sleep.

And he rides hard to dull the pain
    Who rides from one that loves him best. . .
And he rides slowly back again,
    Whose restless heart must rove for rest.

 

The Star of Australasia

We boast no more of our bloodless flag, that rose from a nation’s slime;
Better a shred of a deep-dyed rag from the storms of the olden time.
From grander clouds in our peaceful skies than ever were there before
I tell you the Star of the South shall rise—in the lurid clouds of war.
It ever must be while blood is warm and the sons of men increase;
For ever the nations rose in storm, to rot in a deadly peace.
There’ll come a point that we will not yield, no matter if right or wrong;
And man will fight on the battle-field while passion and pride are strong—
So long as he will not kiss the rod, and his stubborn spirit sours—
And the scorn of Nature and curse of God are heavy on peace like ours.

* * * * * * *

There are boys out there by the western creeks, who hurry away from school
To climb the sides of the breezy peaks or dive in the shaded pool,
Who’ll stick to their guns when the mountains quake to the tread of a mighty war,
And fight for Right or a Grand Mistake as men never fought before;
When the peaks are scarred and the sea-walls crack till the furthest hills vibrate,
And the world for a while goes rolling back in a storm of love and hate.

* * * * * * *

There are boys to-day in the city slum and the home of wealth and pride
Who’ll have one home when the storm is come, and fight for it side by side,
Who’ll hold the cliffs against armoured hells that batter a coastal town,
Or grimly die in a hail of shells when the walls come crashing down.
And many a pink-white baby girl, the queen of her home to-day,
Will see the wings of the tempest whirl the mist of our dawn away—
Will live to shudder and stop her ears to the thud of the distant gun,
And know the sorrow that has no tears when a battle is lost and won—
As a mother or wife in the years to come will kneel, wild-eyed and white,
And pray to God in her darkened home for the “men in the fort to-night.”

* * * * * * *

But, oh! if the cavalry charge again as they did when the world was wide,
’Twill be grand in the ranks of a thousand men in that glorious race to ride,
And strike for all that is true and strong, for all that is grand and brave,
And all that ever shall be, so long as man has a soul to save.
He must lift the saddle, and close his “wings”, and shut his angels out,
And steel his heart for the end of things, who’d ride with a stockman scout,
When the race they ride on the battle track, and the waning distance hums,
And the shelled sky shrieks or the rifles crack like stockwhips amongst the gums—
And the straight is reached and the field is gapped and the hoof-torn sward grows red
With the blood of those who are handicapped with iron and steel and lead;
And the gaps are filled, though unseen by eyes, with the spirit and with the shades
Of the world-wide rebel dead who’ll rise and rush with the Bush Brigades.

* * * * * * *

All creeds and trades will have soldiers there—give every class its due—
And there’ll be many a clerk to spare for the pride of the jackeroo.
They’ll fight for honour and fight for love, and a few will fight for gold,
For the devil below and for God above, as our fathers fought of old;
And some half-blind with exultant tears, and some stiff-lipped, stern-eyed,
For the pride of a thousand after-years and the old eternal pride;
The soul of the world they will feel and see in the chase and the grim retreat—
They’ll know the glory of victory—and the grandeur of defeat.
The South will wake to a mighty change ere a hundred years are done
With arsenals west of the mountain range and every spur its gun.
And many a rickety son of a gun, on the tides of the future tossed,
Will tell how battles were really won that History says were lost,
Will trace the field with his pipe, and shirk the facts that are hard to explain,
As grey old mates of the diggings work the old ground over again—
How “This was our centre, and this a redoubt, and that was a scrub in the rear,
And this was the point where the Guards held out, and the enemy’s lines were here.”

* * * * * * *

They’ll tell the tales of the nights before and the tales of the ship and fort
Till the sons of Australia take to war as their fathers took to sport,
Till their breath comes deep and their eyes grow bright at the tales of our chivalry
And every boy will want to fight, no matter what the cause may be—
When the children run to the doors and cry: “Oh, mother, the troops are come!”
And every heart in the town leaps high at the first loud thud of the drum.
They’ll know, apart from its mystic charm, what music is at last,
When, proud as a boy with a broken arm, the regiment marches past.
And the veriest wreck in the drink-fiend’s clutch, no matter how low or mean,
Will feel, when he hears the march, a touch of the man that he might have been.
And fools, when the fiends of war are out and the city skies aflame,
Will have something better to talk about than an absent woman’s shame,
Will have something nobler to do by far than jest at a friend’s expense,
Or blacken a name in a public bar or over a backyard fence.
And this we learn from the libelled past, though its methods were somewhat rude—
A Nation’s born where the shells fall fast, or its lease of life renewed.
We in part atone for the ghoulish strife, and the crimes of the peace we boast,
And the better part of a people’s life in the storm comes uppermost.

The self-same spirit that drives the man to the depths of drink and crime
Will do the deeds in the heroes’ van that live till the end of time.
The living death in the lonely bush, the greed of the selfish town,
And even the creed of the outlawed push is chivalry—upside down.
’Twill be while ever our blood is hot, while ever the world goes wrong,
The nations rise in a war, to rot in a peace that lasts too long.
And southern Nation and southern state, aroused from their dream of ease,
Must sign in the Book of Eternal Fate their stormy histories.

 

Faces in the Street

They lie, the men who tell us, for reasons of their own,
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
                        Drifting past, drifting past,
                        To the beat of weary feet —
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
                        Drifting on, drifting on,
                        To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street —
                        Flowing in, flowing in,
                        To the beat of hurried feet —
Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

The human river dwindles when ’tis past the hour of eight,
Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street —
                        Grinding body, grinding soul,
                        Yielding scarce enough to eat —
Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street
Tells of the city’s unemployed upon his weary beat —
                        Drifting round, drifting round,
                        To the tread of listless feet —
Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.

And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street —
                        Ebbing out, ebbing out,
                        To the drag of tired feet,
While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.

And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day’s sad end is seen,
For while the short “large hours” toward the longer “small hours” lean,
With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street —
                        Sinking down, sinking down,
                        Battered wreck by tempests beat —
A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.

But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street —
                        Rotting out, rotting out,
                        For the lack of air and meat —
In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.

I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon’s slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
                        The wrong things and the bad things
                        And the sad things that we meet
In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.

I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me — the shadows of those faces in the street,
                        Flitting by, flitting by,
                        Flitting by with noiseless feet,
And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.

Once I cried: “Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.”
And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city’s street,
And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
                        Coming near, coming near,
                        To a drum’s dull distant beat,
’Twas Despair’s conscripted army that was marching down the street.

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street—
                        Pouring on, pouring on,
                        To a drum’s loud threatening beat,
And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.

And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
But not until a city feels Red Revolution’s feet
Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street —
                        The dreadful everlasting strife
                        For scarcely clothes and meat
In that pent track of living death — the city’s cruel street.

 

The Wander-Light

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways,
And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low;
I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not,
And restless and lost on a road that I know.

    And they heard the tent-poles clatter,
        And the fly in twain was torn—
    ’Twas the soiled rag of a tatter
        Of the tent where I was born.
    Does it matter? Which is stranger—
        Brick or stone or calico?—
    There was one born in a manger
        Nineteen hundred years ago?

And my beds were camp beds and tramp beds and damp beds,
And my beds were dry beds on drought-stricken ground,
Hard beds and soft beds, and wide beds and narrow—
For my beds were strange beds the wide world round.

    And the old hag seemed to ponder
        With her grey head nodding slow—
    “He will dream, and he will wander
        Where but few would think to go.
    He will flee the haunts of tailors,
        He will cross the ocean wide,
    For his fathers, they were sailors—
        All on his good father’s side.”

I rest not, ’tis best not, the world is a wide one—
And, caged for a moment, I pace to and fro;
I see things and dree things and plan while I’m sleeping,
I wander for ever and dream as I go.

    And the old hag she was troubled
        As she bent above the bed;
    “He will dream things and he’ll see things
        To come true when he is dead.
    He will see things all too plainly,
        And his fellows will deride,
    For his mothers they were gipsies—
        All on his good mother’s side.”

And my dreams are strange dreams, are day dreams, are grey dreams,
And my dreams are wild dreams, and old dreams and new;
They haunt me and daunt me with fears of the morrow—
My brothers they doubt me—but my dreams come true.

 

The Roaring Days

The night too quickly passes
    And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
    And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
    Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
    All through the roaring days!

Then stately ships came sailing
    From every harbour’s mouth,
And sought the Land of Promise
    That beaconed in the South;
Then southward streamed their streamers
    And swelled their canvas full
To speed the wildest dreamers
    E’er borne in vessel’s hull.

Their shining Eldorado,
    Beneath the southern skies,
Was day and night for ever
    Before their eager eyes.
The brooding bush, awakened,
    Was stirred in wild unrest,
And all the year a human stream
    Went pouring to the West.

The rough bush roads re-echoed
    The bar-room’s noisy din,
When troops of stalwart horsemen
    Dismounted at the inn.
And oft the hearty greetings
    And hearty clasp of hands
Would tell of sudden meetings
    Of friends from other lands.

And when the cheery camp-fire
    Explored the bush with gleams,
The camping-grounds were crowded
    With caravans of teams;
Then home the jests were driven,
    And good old songs were sung,
And choruses were given
    The strength of heart and lung.

Oft when the camps were dreaming,
    And fires began to pale,
Through rugged ranges gleaming
    Swept on the Royal Mail.
Behind six foaming horses,
    And lit by flashing lamps,
Old Cobb and Co., in royal state,
    Went dashing past the camps.

Oh, who would paint a goldfield,
    And paint the picture right,
As old Adventure saw it
    In early morning’s light?
The yellow mounds of mullock
    With spots of red and white,
The scattered quartz that glistened
    Like diamonds in light;

The azure line of ridges,
    The bush of darkest green,
The little homes of calico
    That dotted all the scene.
The flat straw hats, with ribands,
    That old engravings show—
The dress that still reminds us
    Of sailors, long ago.

I hear the fall of timber
    From distant flats and fells,
The pealing of the anvils
    As clear as little bells,
The rattle of the cradle,
    The clack of windlass-boles,
The flutter of the crimson flags
    Above the golden holes.

Ah, then their hearts were bolder,
    And if Dame Fortune frowned
Their swags they’d lightly shoulder
    And tramp to other ground.
Oh, they were lion-hearted
    Who gave our country birth!
Stout sons, of stoutest fathers born,
    From all the lands on earth!


Those golden days are vanished,
    And altered is the scene;
The diggings are deserted,
    The camping-grounds are green;
The flaunting flag of progress
    Is in the West unfurled,
The mighty bush with iron rails
    Is tethered to the world.

The Vagabond

White handkerchiefs wave from the short black pier
    As we glide to the grand old sea—
But the song of my heart is for none to hear
    If one of them waves for me.
A roving, roaming life is mine,
    Ever by field or flood—
For not far back in my father’s line
    Was a dash of the Gipsy blood.

Flax and tussock and fern,
    Gum and mulga and sand,
Reef and palm—but my fancies turn
    Ever away from land;
Strange wild cities in ancient state,
    Range and river and tree,
Snow and ice. But my star of fate
    Is ever across the sea.

A god-like ride on a thundering sea,
    When all but the stars are blind—
A desperate race from Eternity
    With a gale-and-a-half behind.
A jovial spree in the cabin at night,
    A song on the rolling deck,
A lark ashore with the ships in sight,
    Till—a wreck goes down with a wreck.

A smoke and a yarn on the deck by day,
    When life is a waking dream,
And care and trouble so far away
    That out of your life they seem.
A roving spirit in sympathy,
    Who has travelled the whole world o’er—
My heart forgets, in a week at sea,
    The trouble of years on shore.

A rolling stone!—’tis a saw for slaves—
    Philosophy false as old—
Wear out or break ’neath the feet of knaves,
    Or rot in your bed of mould!
But I’d rather trust to the darkest skies
    And the wildest seas that roar,
Or die, where the stars of Nations rise,
    In the stormy clouds of war.

Cleave to your country, home, and friends,
    Die in a sordid strife—
You can count your friends on your finger ends
    In the critical hours of life.
Sacrifice all for the family’s sake,
    Bow to their selfish rule!
Slave till your big soft heart they break—
    The heart of the “family fool.”

I’ve never a love that can sting my pride,
    Nor a friend to prove untrue;
For I leave my love ere the turning tide,
    And my friends are all too new.
The curse of the Powers on a peace like ours,
    With its greed and its treachery—
A stranger’s hand, and a stranger-land,
    And the rest of the world for me!

But why be bitter? The world is cold
    To one with a frozen heart;
New friends are often so like the old,
    They seem of the Past a part—
As a better part of the past appears,
    When enemies, parted long,
Are come together in kinder years,
    With their better nature strong.

I had a friend, ere my first ship sailed,
    A friend that I never deserved—
For the selfish strain in my blood prevailed
    As soon as my turn was served.
And the memory haunts my heart with shame—
    Or, rather, the pride that’s there;
In different guises, but soul the same,
    I meet him everywhere.

I had a chum. When the times were tight
    We starved in Australian scrubs;
We froze together in parks at night,
    And laughed together in pubs.
And I often hear a laugh like his
    From a sense of humour keen,
And catch a glimpse in a passing phiz
    Of his broad, good-humoured grin.

And I had a love—’twas a love to prize—
    But I never went back again . . .
I have seen the light of her kind grey eyes
    In many a face since then.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The sailors say ’twill be rough to-night,
    As they fasten the hatches down,
The south is black, and the bar is white,
    And the drifting smoke is brown.
The gold has gone from the western haze,
    The sea-birds circle and swarm—
But we shall have plenty of sunny days,
    And little enough of storm.

The hill is hiding the short black pier,
    As the last white signal’s seen;
The points run in, and the houses veer,
    And the great bluff stands between.
So darkness swallows each far white speck
    On many a wharf and quay;
The night comes down on a restless deck,—
    Grim cliffs—and—The Open Sea!

 

Since Then

I met Jack Ellis in town to-day—
    Jack Ellis—my old mate, Jack.
Ten years ago, from the Castlereagh,
We carried our swags together away
    To the Never-Again, Out Back.

But times have altered since those old days,
    And the times have changed the men.
Ah, well! there’s little to blame or praise—
Jack Ellis and I have tramped long ways
    On different tracks since then.

His hat was battered, his coat was green,
    The toes of his boots were through,
But the pride was his! It was I felt mean—
I wished that my collar was not so clean,
    Nor the clothes I wore so new.

He saw me first, and he knew ’twas I—
    The holiday swell he met.
Why have we no faith in each other? Ah, why?—
He made as though he would pass me by,
    For he thought that I might forget.

He ought to have known me better than that,
    By the tracks we tramped far out—
The sweltering scrub and the blazing flat,
When the heat came down through each old felt hat
    In the hell-born western drought.

* * * * * * *

He took my hand in a distant way
    (I thought how we parted last),
And we seemed like men who have nought to say
And who meet—“Good-day”, and who part—“Good-day,”
    Who never have shared the past.

I asked him in for a drink with me—
    Jack Ellis—my old mate, Jack—
But his manner no longer was careless and free,
He followed, but not with the grin that he
    Wore always in days Out Back.

I tried to live in the past once more—
    Or the present and past combine,
But the days between I could not ignore—
I couldn’t help notice the clothes he wore,
    And he couldn’t but notice mine.

He placed his glass on the polished bar,
    And he wouldn’t fill up again;
For he is prouder than most men are—
Jack Ellis and I have tramped too far
    On different tracks since then.

He said that he had a mate to meet,
    And “I’ll see you again,” said he,
Then he hurried away through the crowded street,
And the rattle of buses and scrape of feet
    Seemed suddenly loud to me.

 

Sweeney

It was somewhere in September, and the sun was going down,
When I came, in search of copy, to a Darling-River town;
“Come-and-Have-a-Drink” we’ll call it—’tis a fitting name, I think—
And ’twas raining, for a wonder, up at Come-and-Have-a-Drink.

Underneath the pub verandah I was resting on a bunk
When a stranger rose before me, and he said that he was drunk;
He apologised for speaking; there was no offence, he swore;
But he somehow seemed to fancy that he’d seen my face before.

“No erfence,’ he said. I told him that he needn’t mention it,
For I might have met him somewhere; I had travelled round a bit,
And I knew a lot of fellows in the Bush and in the streets—
But a fellow can’t remember all the fellows that he meets.

Very old and thin and dirty were the garments that he wore,
Just a shirt and pair of trousers, and a boot, and nothing more;
He was wringing-wet, and really in a sad and sinful plight,
And his hat was in his left hand, and a bottle in his right.

He agreed: “Yer can’t remember all the chaps yer chance to meet,”
And he said his name was Sweeney—people lived in Sussex-street.
He was campin’ in a stable, but he swore that he was right,
“Only for the blanky horses walkin’ over him all night.”

He’d apparently been fighting, for his face was black-and-blue,
And he looked as though the horses had been treading on him, too;
But an honest, genial twinkle in the eye that wasn’t hurt
Seemed to hint of something better, spite of drink and rags and dirt.

It appeared that he mistook me for a long-lost mate of his—
One of whom I was the image, both in figure and in phiz—
(He’d have had a letter from him if the chap were living still,
For they’d carried swags together from the Gulf to Broken Hill.)

Sweeney yarned awhile and hinted that his folks were doing well,
And he told me that his father kept the Southern Cross Hotel;
And I wondered if his absence was regarded as a loss
When he left the elder Sweeney—landlord of the Southern Cross.

He was born in Parramatta, and he said, with humour grim,
That he’d like to see the city ere the liquor finished him,
But he couldn’t raise the money. He was damned if he could think
What the Government was doing. Here he offered me a drink.

I declined—’twas self-denial—and I lectured him on booze,
Using all the hackneyed arguments that preachers mostly use;
Things I’d heard in temperance lectures (I was young and rather green),
And I ended by referring to the man he might have been.

Then a wise expression struggled with the bruises on his face,
Though his argument had scarcely any bearing on the case:
“What’s the good o’ keepin’ sober? Fellers rise and fellers fall;
What I might have been and wasn’t doesn’t trouble me at all.”

But he couldn’t stay to argue, for his beer was nearly gone.
He was glad, he said, to meet me, and he’d see me later on;
He guessed he’d have to go and get his bottle filled again,
And he gave a lurch and vanished in the darkness and the rain.

* * * * * * * * * * *

And of afternoons in cities, when the rain is on the land,
Visions come to me of Sweeney with his bottle in his hand,
With the stormy night behind him, and the pub verandah-post—
And I wonder why he haunts me more than any other ghost.

I suppose he’s tramping somewhere where the bushmen carry swags,
Dragging round the western stations with his empty tucker-bags;
And I fancy that, of evenings, when the track is growing dim,
What he “might have been and wasn’t” comes along and troubles him.

 

The Blue Mountains

Above the ashes straight and tall,
    Through ferns with moisture dripping
I climb beneath the sandstone wall,
    My feet on mosses slipping.

Like ramparts round the valley’s edge
    The tinted cliffs are standing,
With many a broken wall and ledge,
    And many a rocky landing.

And round about their rugged feet
    Deep ferny dells are hidden
In shadowed depths, whence dust and heat
    Are banished and forbidden.

The stream that, crooning to itself,
    Comes down a tireless rover,
Flows calmly to the rocky shelf,
    And there leaps bravely over.

Now pouring down, now lost in spray
    When mountain breezes sally,
The water strikes the rock midway,
    And leaps into the valley.

* * * * * * * * *

Now in the west the colours change,
    The blue with crimson blending;
Behind the far Dividing Range,
    The sun is fast descending.

And mellowed day comes o’er the place,
    And softens ragged edges;
The rising moon’s great placid face
    Looks gravely o’er the ledges.

 

Past Carin’

Now up and down the sidling brown
    The great black crows are flyin’,
And down below the spur, I know,
    Another milker’s dyin’;
The crops have withered from the ground,
    The tank’s clay bed is glarin’,
But from my heart no tear nor sound,
    For I have gone past carin’—
            Past worryin’ or carin’—
            Past feelin’ aught or carin’;
            But from my heart no tear nor sound,
            For I have gone past carin’.

Through Death and Trouble, turn about,
    Through hopeless desolation,
Through flood and fever, fire and drought,
    And slavery and starvation;
Through childbirth, sickness, hurt, and blight,
    And nervousness an’ scarin’,
Through bein’ left alone at night,
    I’ve got to be past carin’.
            Past botherin’ or carin’,
            Past feelin’ and past carin’;
            Through city cheats and neighbours’ spite,
            I’ve come to be past carin’.

Our first child took, in days like these,
    A cruel week in dyin’,
All day upon her father’s knees,
    Or on my poor breast lyin’;
The tears we shed—the prayers we said
    Were awful, wild—despairin’!
I’ve pulled three through, and buried two
    Since then—and I’m past carin’.
            I’ve grown to be past carin’,
            Past lookin’ up and carin’;
            I’ve pulled three through and buried two
            Since then, and I’m past carin’.

’Twas ten years first, then came the worst,
    All for a dusty clearin’,
I thought, I thought my heart would burst
    When first my man went shearin’;
He’s drovin’ in the great North-west,
    I don’t know how he’s farin’;
For I, the one that loved him best,
    Have grown to be past carin’.
            I’ve grown to be past carin’
            Past waitin’ and past wearin’;
            The girl that waited long ago,
            Has lived to be past carin’.

My eyes are dry, I cannot cry,
    I’ve got no heart for breakin’,
But where it was, in days gone by,
    A dull and empty achin’.
My last boy ran away from me—
    I know my temper’s wearin’—
But now I only wish to be
    Beyond all signs of carin’.
            Past wearyin’ or carin’,
            Past feelin’ and despairin’;
            And now I only wish to be
            Beyond all signs of carin’.

 

Sydney-Side

Where’s the steward?—Bar-room steward? Berth? Oh, any berth will do—
I have left a three-pound billet just to come along with you.
Brighter shines the Star of Rovers on a world that’s growing wide,
But I think I’d give a kingdom for a glimpse of Sydney-Side.

Run of rocky shelves at sunrise, with their base on ocean’s bed;
Homes of Coogee, homes of Bondi, and the lighthouse on South Head;
For in loneliness and hardship—and with just a touch of pride—
Has my heart been taught to whisper, “You belong to Sydney-Side.”

Oh, there never dawned a morning, in the long and lonely days,
But I thought I saw the ferries streaming out across the bays—
And as fresh and fair in fancy did the picture rise again
As the sunrise flushed the city from Woollahra to Balmain;

And the sunny water frothing round the liners black and red,
And the coastal schooners working by the loom of Bradley’s Head;
And the whistles and the sirens that re-echo far and wide—
All the life and light and beauty that belong to Sydney-Side.

And the dreary cloud-line never veiled the end of one day more,
But the City set in jewels rose before me from “The Shore.”
Round the sea-world shine the beacons of a thousand ports o’ call,
But the harbour-lights of Sydney are the grandest of them all!

Toiling out beyond Coolgardie—heart and back and spirit broke,
Where the Rover’s star gleams redly in the desert by the soak—
“But” says one mate to the other, “Brace your lip and do not fret,
We will laugh on trains and ’buses—Sydney’s in the same place yet.”

Working in the South in winter, to the waist in dripping fern,
Where the local spirit hungers for each “saxpence” that you earn—
We can stand it for a season, for our world is growing wide,
And they all are friends and strangers who belong to Sydney-Side.

“T’other-siders! T’other-siders!” Yet we wake the dusty dead;
It ’twas we that send the backward province fifty years ahead;
We it is that trim Australia—making narrow country wide—
Yet we’re always T’other-siders till we sail for Sydney-side.

 

Dan, the Wreck

Tall, and stout, and solid-looking,
    Yet a wreck;
None would think Death’s finger’s hooking
    Him from deck.
Cause of half the fun that’s started—
    Hard-case Dan—
Isn’t like a broken-hearted,
    Ruined man.

Walking-coat from tail to throat is
    Frayed and greened—
Like a man whose other coat is
    Being cleaned;
Gone for ever round the edging
    Past repair—
Waistcoat pockets frayed with dredging
    After “sprats” no longer there.

Wearing summer boots in June, or
    Slippers worn and old—
Like a man whose other shoon are
    Getting soled.
Pants? They’re far from being recent—
    But, perhaps, I’d better not—
Says they are the only decent
    Pair he’s got.

And his hat, I am afraid, is
    Troubling him—
Past all lifting to the ladies
    By the brim.
But, although he’d hardly strike a
    Girl, would Dan,
Yet he wears his wreckage like a
    Gentleman!

Once—no matter how the rest dressed—
    Up or down—
Once, they say, he was the best-dressed
    Man in town.
Must have been before I knew him—
    Now you’d scarcely care to meet
And be noticed talking to him
    In the street.

Drink the cause, and dissipation,
    That is clear—
Maybe friend or kind relation
    Cause of beer.
And the talking fool, who never
    Reads or thinks,
Says, from hearsay: “Yes, he’s clever;
    But, you know, he drinks.”

Where he lives, or how, or wherefore
    No one knows;
Lost his real friends, and therefore
    Lost his foes.
Had, no doubt, his own romances—
    Met his fate;
Tortured, doubtless, by the chances
    And the luck that comes too late.

Now and then his boots are polished,
    Collar clean,
And the worst grease stains abolished
    By ammonia or benzine:
Hints of some attempt to shove him
    From the taps,
Or of someone left to love him—
    Sister, p’r’aps.

After all, he is a grafter,
    Earns his cheer—
Keeps the room in roars of laughter
    When he gets outside a beer.
Yarns that would fall flat from others
    He can tell;
How he spent his stuff, my brothers,
    You know well.

Manner puts a man in mind of
    Old club balls and evening dress,
Ugly with a handsome kind of
    Ugliness.
One of those we say of, grimly,
    At the morgue—or mean hotel
Where they hold the inquests dimly:
    “He looked well!”

* * * * * * * * * *

I may be—so goes a rumour—
    Bad as Dan;
But I have not got the humour
    Of the man;
Nor the sight—well, deem it blindness,
    As the general public do—
And the love of human kindness,
    Or the grit to see it through!

 

Jack Dunn of Nevertire

It chanced upon the very day we’d got the shearing done,
A buggy brought a stranger to the West-o’-Sunday Run;
He had a round and jolly face, and he was sleek and stout,
He drove right up between the huts and called the super out.
We chaps were smoking after tea, and heard the swell enquire
For one as travelled by the name of “Dunn of Nevertire.”
    Jack Dunn of Nevertire,
    Poor Dunn of Nevertire;
There wasn’t one of us but knew Jack Dunn of Nevertire.

“Jack Dunn of Nevertire,” he said; “I was a mate of his;
And now it’s twenty years since I set eyes upon his phiz.
There is no whiter man than Jack—no straighter south the line,
There is no hand in all the land I’d sooner grip in mine;
To help a mate in trouble Jack would go through flood and fire.
Great Scott! and don’t you know the name of Dunn of Nevertire?
    Big Dunn of Nevertire,
    Long Jack from Nevertire;
He stuck to me through thick and thin, Jack Dunn of Nevertire.

“I did a wild and foolish thing while Jack and I were mates,
And I disgraced my guv’nor’s name, an’ wished to try the States.
My lamps were turned to Yankee Land, for I’d some people there,
And I was right when someone sent the money for my fare;
I thought ’twas Dad until I took the trouble to enquire,
And found that he who sent the stuff was Dunn of Nevertire,
    Jack Dunn of Nevertire,
    Soft Dunn of Nevertire;
He’d won some money on a race—Jack Dunn of Nevertire.

“Now I’ve returned, by Liverpool, a swell of Yankee brand,
To reckon, guess, and kalkilate, ’n’ wake my native land;
There is no better land, I swear, in all the wide world round—
I smelt the bush a month before we touched King George’s Sound!
And now I’ve come to settle down, the top of my desire
Is just to meet a mate o’ mine called ‘Dunn of Nevertire’.
    Was raised at Nevertire—
    The town of Nevertire;
He humped his bluey by the name of ‘Dunn of Nevertire’.

“I’ve heard he’s poor, and if he is, a proud old fool is he;
But, spite of that, I’ll find a way to fix the old gum-tree.
I’ve bought a station in the North—the best that could be had;
I want a man to pick the stock—I want a super bad;
I want no bully-brute to boss—no crawling, sneaking liar—
My station super’s name shall be ‘Jack Dunn of Nevertire’!
    Straight Dunn of Nevertire,
    Old Dunn of Nevertire;
I guess he’s known up Queensland way—Jack Dunn of Nevertire.”

The super said, while to his face a strange expression came:
“I think I’ve seen the man you want, I think I know the name;
Had he a jolly kind of face, a free and careless way,
Gray eyes that always seem’d to smile, and hair just turning gray—
Clean-shaved, except a light moustache, long-limbed, an’ tough as wire?”
That’s him! that’s Dunn!” the stranger roared, “Jack Dunn of Nevertire!”
    John Dunn of Nevertire,
    Jack D. from Nevertire,
They said I’d find him here, the cuss!—Jack Dunn of Nevertire.

“I’d know his walk,” the stranger cried, “though sobered, I’ll allow.”
“I doubt it much,” the boss replied, “he don’t walk that way now.”
“Perhaps he don’t!” the stranger said, “for years were hard on Jack;
But, if he were a mile away, I swear I’d know his back.”
“I doubt it much,” the super said, and sadly puffed his briar,
“I guess he wears a pair of wings—Jack Dunn of Nevertire;
    Jack Dunn of Nevertire,
    Brave Dunn of Nevertire,
He caught a fever nursing me, Jack Dunn of Nevertire.”

We took the stranger round to where a gum-tree stood alone,
And in the grass beside the trunk he saw a granite stone;
The names of Dunn and Nevertire were plainly written there—
“I’m all broke up,” the stranger said, in sorrow and despair,
“I guess he has a wider run, the man that I require;
He’s got a river-frontage now, Jack Dunn of Nevertire;
    Straight Dunn of Nevertire,
    White Jack from Nevertire,
I guess Saint Peter knew the name of ‘Dunn of Nevertire.’”

 

Ports Of The Open Sea

Down here where the ships loom large in
    The gloom when the sea-storms veer,
Down here on the south-west margin
    Of the western hemisphere,
Where the might of a world-wide ocean
    Round the youngest land rolls free—
Storm-bound from the World’s commotion,
    Lie the Ports of the Open Sea.

By the bluff where the grey sand reaches
    To the kerb of the spray-swept street,
By the sweep of the black sand beaches
    From the main-road travellers’ feet.
By the heights like a work Titanic,
    Begun ere the gods’ work ceased,
By a bluff-lined coast volcanic
    Lie the Ports of the wild South-east.

By the steeps of the snow-capped ranges,
    By the scarped and terraced hills—
Far away from the swift life-changes,
    From the wear of the strife that kills—
Where the land in the spring seems younger
    Than a land of the Earth might be—
Oh! the hearts of the rovers hunger
    For the Ports of the Open Sea.

But the captains watch and hearken
    For a sign of the South Sea wrath—
Let the face of the South-east darken,
    And they turn to the ocean path.
Ay, the sea-boats dare not linger,
    Whatever the cargo be;
When the South-east lifts a finger
    By the Ports of the Open Sea.

Down South by the bleak Bluff faring,
    North where the Three Kings wait,
The storms of the South-east daring,
    They race through the foam-tossed strait;
Astern, where a white-winged roamer
    Found death in the temptest’s roar,
The wash of the foam-flaked comber
    Runs green to the black-ribbed shore.

For the South-east lands are dread lands
    To the sailor high in the shrouds,
Where the low clouds loom like headlands,
    And the black bluffs blur like clouds.
When the breakers rage to windward
    And the lights are masked a-lee,
And the sunken rocks run inward
    To a Port of the Open Sea.

But oh! for the South-east weather—
    The sweep of the three-days’ gale—
When, far through the flax and heather,
    The spindrift drives like hail.
Glory to man’s creations
    That drive where the gale grows gruff,
When the homes of the sea-coast stations
    Flash white from the darkening bluff!

When the swell of the South-east rouses
    The wrath of the Maori sprite,
And the brown folk flee their houses
    To crouch in the flax by night,
And wait as they long have waited—
    In fear as the brown folk be—
The wave of destruction fated
    For the Ports of the Open Sea.

* * * * *

Grey cloud to the mountain bases,
    Wild boughs in their rush and sweep;
The rounded hills in their places
    With tussocks like flying sheep;
The storm-bird alone and soaring
    O’er grasses and fern and tree;
And the beaches of boulder roaring
    The Hymn of the Open Sea.

Taking His Chance

They stood by the door of the Inn on the Rise;
May Carney looked up in the bushranger’s eyes:
“Oh! why did you come?—it was mad of you, Jack;
You know that the troopers are out on your track.”
A laugh and a shake of his obstinate head—
“I wanted a dance, and I’ll chance it,” he said.

Some twenty-odd bushmen had come to the ball,
But Jack from his youth had been known to them all,
And bushmen are soft where a woman is fair,
So the love of May Carney protected him there;
And all the short evening—it seems like romance—
She danced with a bushranger taking his chance.

’Twas midnight—the dancers stood suddenly still,
For hoofs had been heard on the side of the hill!
Ben Duggan, the drover, along the hillside
Came riding as only a bushman can ride.
He sprang from his horse, to the dancers he sped—
“The troopers are down in the gully!” he said.

Quite close to the homestead the troopers were seen.
“Clear out and ride hard for the ranges, Jack Dean!
Be quick!” said May Carney—her hand on her heart—
“We’ll bluff them awhile, and ’twill give you a start.”
He lingered a moment—to kiss her, of course—
Then ran to the trees where he’d hobbled his horse.

She ran to the gate, and the troopers were there—
The jingle of hobbles came faint on the air—
Then loudly she screamed: it was only to drown
The treacherous clatter of slip-rails let down.
But troopers are sharp, and she saw at a glance
That someone was taking a desperate chance.

They chased, and they shouted, “Surrender, Jack Dean!”
They called him three times in the name of the Queen.
Then came from the darkness the clicking of locks;
The crack of the rifles was heard in the rocks!
A shriek and a shout, and a rush of pale men—
And there lay the bushranger, chancing it then.

The sergeant dismounted and knelt on the sod—
“Your bushranging’s over—make peace, Jack, with God!”
The bushranger laughed—not a word he replied,
But turned to the girl who knelt down by his side.
He gazed in her eyes as she lifted his head:
“Just kiss me—my girl—and—I’ll—chance it,” he said.

 

To Jim

I gaze upon my son once more,
    With eyes and heart that tire,
As solemnly he stands before
    The screen drawn round the fire;
With hands behind clasped hand in hand,
    Now loosely and now fast—
Just as his fathers used to stand
    For generations past.

A fair and slight and childish form,
    And big brown thoughtful eyes—
God help him, for a life of storm
    And stress before him lies.
A wanderer and a gipsy wild,
    I’ve learnt the world and know,
For I was such another child—
    Ah, many years ago!

But in those dreamy eyes of him
    There is no hint of doubt—
I wish that you could tell me, Jim,
    The things you dream about.
You are a child of field and flood,
    For with the Gipsy strain
A strong Norwegian sailor’s blood
    Runs red through every vein.

Dream on, my son, that all is true
    And things not what they seem—
Twill be a bitter day when you
    Are wakened from your dream,
Be true, and slander never stings,
    Be straight, and all may frown—
You’ll have the strength to grapple things
    That dragged your father down.

These lines I write with bitter tears
    And failing heart and hand,
But you will read in after years,
    And you will understand:
You’ll hear the slander of the crowd,
    They’ll whisper tales of shame,
But days will come when you’ll be proud
    To bear your father’s name.

 

The Lights of Cobb and Co.

Fire lighted; on the table a meal for sleepy men;
A lantern in the stable; a jingle now and then;
The mail coach looming darkly by light of moon and star;
The growl of sleepy voices; a candle in the bar;
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom—the shout of “All aboard!”
“Tchk-tchk! Git-up!” “Hold fast, there!” and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.

Old coaching towns already decaying for their sins;
Uncounted “Half -Way Houses,” and scores of “Ten Mile Inns;”
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a “Digger’s Rest;”
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe—
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.

The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone,
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky—each other’s hopes we share—
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trot of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go—
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.

We take a bright girl actress through western dusts and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To stir our hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache—
(Ah! when she thinks again of these her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With “Auld Lang Syne” in chorus through roaring camps they go—
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.

Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidlings sweep,
A flash on shrouded waggons, on water ghastly white;
Weird bush and scattered remnants of “rushes in the night:”
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!
But on the bank to westward a broad and cheerful glow—
New camps extend across the plains new routes for Cobb and Co.!

Swift scramble up the siding where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit—then breakneck down the pinch;
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Past haunted half-way houses—where convicts made the bricks—
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go;
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co!

 

Middleton’s Rouseabout

Tall and freckled and sandy,
    Face of a country lout;
This was the picture of Andy,
    Middleton’s Rouseabout.

Type of a coming nation,
    In the land of cattle and sheep;
Worked on Middleton’s station,
    Pound a week and his keep;

On Middleton’s wide dominions
    Plied the stockwhip and shears;
Hadn’t any opinions,
    Hadn’t any “idears”.

Swiftly the years went over,
    Liquor and drought prevailed;
Middleton went as a drover
    After his station had failed.

Type of a careless nation,
    Men who are soon played out,
Middleton was:—and his station
    Was bought by the Rouseabout.

Flourishing beard and sandy,
    Tall and robust and stout;
This is the picture of Andy,
    Middleton’s Rouseabout.

Now on his own dominions
    Works with his overseers;
Hasn’t any opinions,
    Hasn’t any idears.

 

One-Hundred-and-Three

With the frame of a man, and the face of a boy, and a manner strangely wild,
And the great, wide, wondering, innocent eyes of a silent-suffering child;
With his hideous dress and his heavy boots, he drags to Eternity—
And the Warder says, in a softened tone: “Catch step, One-Hundred-and-Three.”

’Tis a ghastly parody of drill—or a travesty of work—
But One-Hundred-and-Three, he catches step with a start, a shuffle and jerk.
He is silenced and starved and “drilled” in goal—and a waster’s son was he,
His sins were written before he was born—(Keep step, One-Hundred-and-Three!)

They shut a man in the four-by-eight, with a six-inch slit for air,
Twenty-three hours of the twenty-four, to brood on his virtues there.
The dead stone walls and the iron door close in like iron bands
On eyes that had followed the distant haze out there on the Level Lands.

Bread and water and hominy, and a scrag of meat and a spud,
A Bible and thin flat Book of Rules, to cool a strong man’s blood;
They take the spoon from the cell at night—and a stranger would think it odd;
But a man might sharpen it on the floor, and go to his own Great God.

One-Hundred-and-Three, it is hard to believe that you saddled your horse at dawn,
And strolled through the bush with a girl at eve, or lolled with her on the lawn.
There were picnic parties in sunny bays, and ships on the shining sea;
There were foreign ports in the glorious days—(Hold up, One-Hundred-and-Three!)

A man came out at exercise time from one of the cells to-day:
’Twas the ghastly spectre of one I knew, and I thought he was far away;
We dared not speak, but he signed “Farewell—fare—well,” and I knew by this
And the number stamped on his clothes (not sewn) that a heavy sentence was his.

Where five men do the work of a boy, with warders not to see—
It is sad and bad and uselessly mad, it is ugly as it can be,
From the flower-beds shaped to fit the gaol, in circle and line absurd,
To the gilded weathercock on the church, agape like a strangled bird—

Agape like a strangled bird in the sun, and I wonder what he could see—
The Fleet come in, and the Fleet go out? (Hold up, One-Hundred-and-Three!)
The glorious sea, and the bays and Bush, and the distant mountains blue—
(Keep step, keep step, One-Hundred-and-Three, for my heart is halting too)

The great, round church with its volume of sound, where we dare not turn our eyes—
They take us there from our separate hells to sing of Paradise;
The High Church service swells and swells where the tinted Christs look down—
It is easy to see who is weary and faint and weareth the thorny crown.

Though every creed hath its Certain Hope, yet here, in hopless doubt,
Despairing prisoners faint in church, and the warders carry them out.
There are swift-made signs that are not to God as they march us hellward then;
It is hard to believe that we knelt as boys to “For ever and ever, Amen.”

They double-lock at four o’clock; the warders leave their keys,
And the Governor strolls with a friend at eve through his stone conservatories;
Their window-slits are like idiot mouths, with square stone chins adrop,
And the weatherstains for the dribble, and the dead flat foreheads atop.

Rules, regulations—Red Tape and rules; all and alike they bind:
Under separate treatment place the deaf; in the dark cell shut the blind!
And somewhere down in his sandstone tomb, with never a word to save,
One-Hundred-and-Three is keeping step, as he’ll keep it to his grave.

The press is printing its smug, smug lies, and paying its shameful debt—
It speaks of the comforts that prisoners have, and “holidays” prisoners get.
The visitors come with their smug, smug smiles through the gaol on a working day,
And the public hears with its large, large ears what “Authorities” have to say.

They lay their fingers on well-hosed walls, and they tread on the polished floor;
They peep in the generous, shining cans with their ration Number Four.
And the visitors go with their smug, smug smiles; the reporters’ work is done;
Stand up! my men, who have done your time on Ration Number One!

He shall be buried alive without meat, for a day and a night unheard,
If he speak to a fellow-corpse—who died for want of a word.
He shall be punished, and he shall be starved, and he shall in darkness rot,
He shall be murdered body and soul—and God said, “Thou shalt not!”

I’ve seen the remand-yard men go forth by the subway out of the yard—
And I’ve seen them come in with a foolish grin and a sentence of Three Years Hard.
They send a half-starved man to the Court, where the hearts of men they carve—
Then feed him up in the hospital to give him the strength to starve.

You get the gaol-dust in your throat, in your skin the dead gaol-white;
You get the gaol-whine in your voice and in every letter you write.
And in your eyes comes the bright gaol-light—not the glare of the world’s distraught,
Not the hunted look, nor the guilty look, but the awful look of the Caught.

The brute is a brute, and a kind man kind, and the strong heart does not fail—
A crawler’s a crawler everywhere, but a man is a man in gaol;
For the kindness of man to man is great when penned in a sandstone pen—
The public call us the “criminal class.” but the warders call us “the men.”

We crave for sunlight, we crave for meat, we crave for the Might-have Been,
But the cruellest thing in the walls of a gaol is the craving for nicotine.
Yet the spirit of Christ is in every place where the soul of a man can dwell—
It comes like tobacco in prison, or like news to the separate cell.

The champagne lady comes home from the course in charge of the criminal swell—
They carry her in from the motor car to the lift in the Grand Hotel;
But armed with the savage Habituals Act they are waiting for you and me—
And drunkards in judgment on drunkards sit, (Keep step, One-Hundred-and-Three!)

The clever scoundrels are all outside, and the moneyless mugs in gaol—
Men do twelve months for a mad wife’s lies or Life for a strumpet’s tale.
If the people knew what the warders know, and felt as the prisoners feel—
If the people knew, they would storm their gaols as they stormed the old Bastile.

Warders and prisoners all alike in a dead rot, dry and slow—
The author must not write for his own, and the tailor must not sew.
The billet-bound officers dare not speak and discharged men dare not tell,
Though many and many an innocent man must brood in this barren hell.

Ay! clang the spoon on the iron floor, and shove in the bread with your toe,
And shut with a bang the iron door, and clank the bolt—just so;
But One-Hundred-and-Three is near the End when the clonking gaol-bell sounds—
He cannot swallow the milk they send when the doctor has gone his rounds.

.     .     .     .     .

They have smuggled him out to the hospital with no one to tell the tale,
But it’s little the doctors and nurses can do for the patient from Starvinghurst Gaol.
The blanket and screen are ready to draw. . . .There are footsteps light and free—
And the angels are whispering over his bed: “Keep step, One-Hundred-and-Three!”

 

Bertha

Wide solemn eyes that question me,
    Wee hand that pats my head—
Where only two have stroked before,
    And both of them are dead.
“Ah, poo-ah Daddy mine,” she says,
    With wondrous sympathy—
Oh, baby girl, you don’t know how
    You break the heart in me!

Let friends and kinsfolk work their worst,
    And the world say what it will,
Your baby arms go round my neck—
    I’m your own Daddy still!
And you kiss me and I kiss you,
    Fresh kisses frank and free—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
    You break the heart in me!

When I was good I dreamed that when
    The snow showed in my hair,
A household angel in her teens
    Would flit about my chair,
To comfort me as I grew old;
    But that shall never be—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
    You break the heart in me!

But one shall love me while I live
    And soothe my troubled head,
And never hear an unkind word
    Of me when I am dead.
Her eyes shall light to hear my name
    Howe’er disgraced it be—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
    You break the heart in me!

 

On The Night Train

Have you seen the bush by moonlight, from the train, go running by,
Here a patch of glassy water; there a glimpse of mystic sky?
Have you heard the still voice calling, yet so warm, and yet so cold:
“I’m the Mother-Bush that bore you! Come to me when you are old”?

Did you see the Bush below you sweeping darkly to the Range,
All unchanged and all unchanging, yet so very old and strange!
Did you hear the Bush a-calling, when your heart was young and bold:
“I’m the Mother-bush that nursed you; Come to me when you are old”?)

Through the long, vociferous cutting as the night train swiftly sped,
Did you hear the grey Bush calling from the pine-ridge overhead:
“You have seen the seas and cities – all seems done and all seems told;
I’m the Mother-Bush that loves you – come to me now you are old”?

 

The Shearing-Shed

“The ladies are coming,” the super says
    To the shearers sweltering there,
And “the ladies” means in the shearing shed:
    “Don’t cut ’em too bad. Don’t swear.”
The ghost of a pause in the shed’s rough heart,
    And lower is bowed each head;
And nothing is heard, save a whispered word,
    And the roar of the shearing-shed.

The tall, shy rouser has lost his wits;
    And his limbs are all astray;
He leaves a fleece on the shearing-board,
    And his broom in the shearer’s way.
There’s a curse in store for that jackaroo
    As down by the wall he slants—
And the ringer bends with his legs askew
    And wishes he’d “patched them pants.”

They are girls from the city. Our hearts rebel
    As we squint at their dainty feet.
And they gush and say in a girly way
    That “the dear little lambs” are “sweet.”
And Bill, the ringer, who’d scorn the use
    Of a childish word like “damn,”
Would give a pound that his tongue were loose
    As he tackles a lively lamb.

Swift thoughts of homes in the coastal towns—
    Or rivers and waving grass—
And a weight on our hearts that we cannot define
    That comes as the ladies pass;
But the rouser ventures a nervous dig
    With his thumb in the next man’s back;
And Bogan says to his pen-mate: “Twig
    The style of the last un, Jack.”

Jack Moonlight gives her a careless glance—
    Then he catches his breath with pain—
His strong hand shakes and the sunbeams dance
    As he bends to his work again.
But he’s well disguised in a bristling beard,
    Bronzed skin, and his shearer’s dress;
And whatever he knew or hoped or feared
    Were hard for his mates to guess.

Jack Moonlight, wiping his broad, white brow,
    Explains, with a doleful smile:
“A stitch in the side,” and “I’m all right now”—
    But he leans on the beam awhile,
And gazes out in the blazing noon
    On the clearing, brown and bare . . . .
She has come and gone, like a breath of June,
    In December’s heat and glare.

 

The Glass on the Bar

Three bushmen one morning rode up to an inn,
And one of them called for the drinks with a grin;
They’d only returned from a trip to the North,
And, eager to greet them, the landlord came forth.
He absently poured out a glass of Three Star.
And set down that drink with the rest of the bar.

“There, that is for Harry,” he said, “and it’s queer,
’Tis the very same glass that he drank from last year;
His name’s on the glass, you can read it like print,
He scratched it himself with an old piece of flint;
I remember his drink—it was always Three Star”—
And the landlord looked out through the door of the bar.

He looked at the horses, and counted but three:
“You were always together—where’s Harry?” cried he.
Oh, sadly they looked at the glass as they said,
“You may put it away, for our old mate is dead;”
But one, gazing out o’er the ridges afar,
Said, “We owe him a shout—leave the glass on the bar.”

They thought of the far-away grave on the plain,
They thought of the comrade who came not again,
They lifted their glasses, and sadly they said:
“We drink to the name of the mate who is dead.”
And the sunlight streamed in, and a light like a star
Seemed to glow in the depth of the glass on the bar.

And still in that shanty a tumbler is seen,
It stands by the clock, ever polished and clean;
And often the strangers will read as they pass
The name of a bushman engraved on the glass;
And though on the shelf but a dozen there are,
That glass never stands with the rest on the bar.

 

Reedy River

Ten miles down Reedy River
    A pool of water lies,
And all the year it mirrors
    The changes in the skies,
And in that pool’s broad bosom
    Is room for all the stars;
Its bed of sand has drifted
    O’er countless rocky bars.

Around the lower edges
    There waves a bed of reeds,
Where water rats are hidden
    And where the wild duck breeds;
And grassy slopes rise gently
    To ridges long and low,
Where groves of wattle flourish
    And native bluebells grow.

Beneath the granite ridges
    The eye may just discern
Where Rocky Creek emerges
    From deep green banks of fern;
And standing tall between them,
    The grassy sheoaks cool
The hard, blue-tinted waters
    Before they reach the pool.

Ten miles down Reedy River
    One Sunday afternoon,
I rode with Mary Campbell
    To that broad, bright lagoon;
We left our horses grazing
    Till shadows climbed the peak,
And strolled beneath the sheoaks
    On the banks of Rocky Creek.

Then home along the river
    That night we rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
    To Mary Campbell’s face;
And I pleaded for my future
    All thro’ that moonlight ride,
Until our weary horses
    Drew closer side by side.

Ten miles from Ryan’s crossing
    And five below the peak,
I built a little homestead
    On the banks of Rocky Creek;
I cleared the land and fenced it
    And ploughed the rich red loam;
And my first crop was golden
    When I brought Mary home.

* * * * * * * * *

Now still down Reedy River
    The grassy sheoaks sigh,
And the waterholes still mirror
    The pictures in the sky;
The golden sand is drifting
    Across the rocky bars;
And over all for ever
    Go sun and moon and stars.

But of the hut I builded
    There are no traces now.
And many rains have levelled
    The furrows of my plough;
The glad bright days have vanished;
    For sombre branches wave
And the wattle-blossoms golden
    Above my Mary’s grave.

 

A New John Bull

A tall, slight, English gentleman,
    With an eyeglass to his eye;
He mostly says “Good-bai” to you,
    When he means to say “Good-bye”;
He shakes hands like a ladies’ man,
    For all the world to see—
But they know, in Corners of the World.
    No ladies’ man is he.

A tall, slight English gentleman,
    Who hates to soil his hands;
He takes his mother’s drawing-room
    To most outlandish lands;
And when, through hells we dream not of
    His battery prevails,
He cleans the grime of gunpowder
    And polishes his nails.

He’s what our blokes in Egypt call
    “A decent sort o’ cove.”
And if the Pyramids should fall?
    He’d merely say “Bai Jove!”
And if the stones should block his path
    For one too boring day,
He’d call on Sergeant Whatsisname
    To clear those things away!

A quiet English gentleman,
    Frequents the Empire’s rim,
Where sweating sons of ebony
    Would go to Hell for him.
And if he chances to get winged,
    Or smashed up rather worse,
He’s quite apologetic to
    The doctor and the nurse.

A silent English gentleman—
    Though sometimes he says “Haw.”
But should a monkey in its cage
    Appeal to British Law
And justice on some bullying ape,
    He’d listen most polite,
And do his very best to set
    The monkey’s grievance right.

A thoroughbred whose ancestry
    Goes back to ages dim;
No labourer on his wide estates
    Need fear to speak to him.
Although he never showed a sign
    Of aught save sympathy,
He was the only gentleman
    That shamed the lout in me.

 

Ballad of the Rouseabout

A rouseabout of rouseabouts, from any land—or none—
I bear a nick-name of the Bush, and I’m—a woman’s son;
I came from where I camped last night, and, at the day-dawn glow,
I’ll rub the darkness from my eyes, roll up my swag, and go.

Some take the track for bitter pride, some for no pride at all—
(But to us all the world is wide when driven to the wall)
Some take the track for gain in life, some take the track for loss—
And some of us take up the swag as Christ took up the Cross.

Some take the track for faith in men—some take the track for doubt—
Some flee a squalid home to work their own salvation out.
Some dared not see a mother’s tears nor meet a father’s face—
Born of good Christian families some leap, head-long, from Grace.

Oh we are men who fought and rose, or fell from many grades;
Some born to lie, and some to pray, we’re men of many trades;
We’re men whose fathers were and are of high and low degree—
The sea was open to us, and we sailed across the sea.

We’re haunted by the Past at times—and this is very bad,
Because we drink till horrors come, lest, sober, we go mad.
We judge not and we are not judged—’tis our philosophy;
There’s something wrong with every ship that sails upon the sea.

From shearing shed to shearing shed we tramp to make a cheque—
Jack Cornstalk and the Ne’er-do-well—the Tar-boy and the Wreck.
We know the tucker tracks that feed—or leave one in the lurch—
The “Burgoo” (Presbyterian) track—the “Murphy” (Roman Church).

I’ve humped my swag to Bawley Plain, and further out and on;
I’ve boiled my billy by the Gulf, and boiled it by the Swan;
I’ve thirsted in dry lignum swamps, and thirsted on the sand,
And eked the fire with camel dung in Never-Never Land.

I’ve tramped, and camped, and “shore” and drunk with many mates Out Back—
And every one to me is Jack because the first was Jack—
A lifer sneaked from gaol at home—(the straightest mate I met)—
A ratty Russian Nihilist—a British Baronet!

A rouseabout of rouseabouts, above—beneath regard,
I know how soft is this old world, and I have learnt, how hard—
I learned what college had to teach, and in the school of men
By camp-fires I have learned, or, say, unlearned it all again.

We hold him true who’s true to one however false he be
(There’s something wrong with every ship that lies beside the quay);
We lend and borrow, laugh and joke, and when the past is drowned,
We sit upon our swags and smoke and watch the world go round.

 

Andy’s Gone With Cattle

Our Andy’s gone with cattle now—
    Our hearts are out of order—
With Drought he’s gone to battle now
    Across the Queensland border.

He’s left us in dejection now;
    Our hearts with him are roving;
It’s dull on this selection now,
    Since Andy went a-droving.

Who now shall wear the cheerful face
    In times when things are slackest?
And who shall whistle round the place
    When Fortune frowns her blackest?

Oh, who shall cheek the squatter now
    When he comes round us snarling?
His tongue is growing hotter now
    Since Andy cross’d the Darling.

Oh, may the showers in torrents fall,
    And all the tanks run over;
And may the grass grow green and tall
    In pathways of the drover;

And may good angels send the rain
    On desert stretches sandy;
And when the summer comes again
    God grant ’twill bring us Andy.

 

Bill

He shall live to the end of this mad, old world, he has lived since the world began,
He never has done any good for himself, but was good to every man.
He never has done any good for himself, and I’m sure that he never will;
He drinks and he swears, and he fights at times, and his name is mostly Bill.

He carried a freezing mate to his cave, and nursed him, for all I know,
When Europe was mostly a sheet of ice, thousands of years ago.
He has stuck to many a mate since then, he is with us everywhere still—
He loves and gambles when he is young, and the girls stick up for Bill.

He has rowed to a wreck, when the life-boat failed, with Jim in a crazy boat;
He has given his lifebelt many a time, and sunk that another might float.
He has “stood ’em off” while others escaped, when the niggers rushed from the hill.
And rescue parties who came too late have found what was left of Bill.

He has thirsted on deserts that others might drink, he has given lest others should lack.
He has staggered half-blinded through fire or drought with a sick man on his back.
He is first to the rescue in tunnel or shaft, from Bulli to Broken Hill,
When the water breaks in or the fire breaks out, a leader of men is Bill!

He wears no Humane Society’s badge for the fearful deaths he braved;
He seems ashamed of the good he did, and ashamed of the lives he saved.
If you chance to know of a noble deed he has done, you had best keep still;
If you chance to know of a kindly act, you mustn’t let on to Bill.

He is fierce at a wrong, he is firm in right, he is kind to the weak and mild;
He will slave all day and sit up all night by the side of a neighbour’s child.
For a woman in trouble he’d lay down his life, nor think as another man will;
He’s a man all through, and no other man’s wife has ever been worse for Bill.

He is good for the noblest sacrifice, he can do what few men can;
He will break his heart that the girl he loves may marry a better man.
There’s many a mother and wife to-night whose heart and eyes will fill
When she thinks of the days of the long-ago when she well might have stuck to Bill.

Maybe he’s in trouble or hard up now, and travelling far for work,
Or fighting a dead past down to-night in a lone camp west of Bourke.
When he’s happy and flush, take your sorrow to him and borrow as much as you will;
But when he’s in trouble or stony-broke, you never will hear from Bill.

And when, because of its million sins, this earth is cracked like a shell,
He will stand by a mate at the Judgment Seat!—and comfort him down in—Well,—
I haven’t much sentiment left to waste, but let cynics sneer as they will,
Perhaps God will fix up the world again for the sake of the likes of Bill.

 

Mallacoota Bar

We tried to get over the Bar to-day,
    To-day on the morning tide:
But whether I go, or whether I stay
    Let Fate and the Bar decide;
But my Love—New Love—with your eyes of grey,
    The weary world is wide!

We kedged her in and we poled her back
    In time from the ebbing tide,
For the sky was grey, and the rocks were black,
    And the rollers broke outside.
And it’s oh, my Love, but the lines are slack,
    And the weary world is wide.

We’d try to get over the Bar to-night,
    To-night on the higher tide;
But the moon is dull that last night was bright
    And the world is dark outside.
Oh, Love—New Love!—why your face so white,
    And the weary world so wide?

We tried to get over the Bar to-day,
    To-morrow we’ll try again—
Oh, Love! New Love of the grey eyes, say,
    Is the strife of man in vain?
The glass might lie, and the needle stray,
    But the path of love is plain!

When over the Bar, there is no return
    In the time of the autumn gales—
But whether the sea or the bush it be,
    The heart of a man prevails—
Oh, Love! New Love, will you watch the sea
    Where your Bushman sailor sails?

 

When Your Pants Begin To Go

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrow, and on speaking terms with Care,
But as yet you’re unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
But they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
Yet, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

You are none the less a hero if you elevate your chin
When you feel the pavement wearing through the leather, sock and skin;
You are rather more heroic than are ordinary folk
If you scorn to fish for pity under cover of a joke;
You will face the doubtful glances of the people that you know;
But—of course, you’re bound to face them when your pants begin to go.

If, when flush, you took your pleasure—failed to make a god of Pelf—
Some will say that for your troubles you can only thank yourself;
Some will swear you’ll die a beggar, but you only laugh at that
While your garments hang together and you wear a decent hat;
You may laugh at their predictions while your soles are wearing through—
But a man’s an awful coward when his pants are going too!

Though the present and the future may be anything but bright,
It is best to tell the fellows that you’re getting on all right.
And a man prefers to say it—’tis a manly lie to tell,
For the folks may be persuaded that you’re doing very well;
But it’s hard to be a hero, and it’s hard to wear a grin,
When your most important garment is in places very thin.

Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best,
Then your sorrows won’t run over in the presence of the rest;
There’s a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine,
He’ll declare your coat is tidy, and he’ll say: “Just look at mine!”
Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesn’t show,
And he’ll swear it can’t be noticed when your pants begin to go.

Brother mine, and of misfortune! times are hard, but do not fret,
Keep your courage up and struggle, and we’ll laugh at these things yet.
Though there is no corn in Egypt, surely Africa has some—
Keep your smile in working order for the better days to come!
We shall often laugh together at the hard times that we know,
And get measured by the tailor when our pants begin to go.

 

The Teams

A cloud of dust on the long, white road,
    And the teams go creeping on
Inch by inch with the weary load;
And by the power of the green-hide goad
    The distant goal is won.

With eyes half-shut to the blinding dust,
    And necks to the yokes bent low,
The beasts are pulling as bullocks must;
And the shining tires might almost rust
    While the spokes are turning slow.

With face half-hid by a broad-brimmed hat,
    That shades from the heat’s white waves,
And shouldered whip, with its green-hide plait,
The driver plods with a gait like that
    Of his weary, patient slaves.

He wipes his brow, for the day is hot,
    And spits to the left with spite;
He shouts at Bally, and flicks at Scot,
And raises dust from the back of Spot,
    And spits to the dusty right.

He’ll sometimes pause as a thing of form
    In front of a settler’s door,
And ask for a drink, and remark “It’s warm,”
Or say "There’s signs of a thunderstorm;”
    But he seldom utters more.

The rains are heavy on roads like these
    And, fronting his lonely home,
For days together the settler sees
The waggons bogged to the axletrees,
    Or ploughing the sodden loam.

And then, when the roads are at their worst,
    The bushman’s children hear
The cruel blows of the whips reversed
While bullocks pull as their hearts would burst,
    And bellow with pain and fear.

And thus—with glimpses of home and rest—
    Are the long, long journeys done;
And thus—’tis a thankless life at the best!—
Is Distance fought in the mighty West,
    And the lonely battle won.

 

When the World was Wide

The world is narrow and ways are short, and our lives are dull and slow,
For little is new where the crowds resort, and less where the wanderers go;
Greater or smaller, the same old things we see by the dull roadside—
And tired of all is the spirit that sings of the days when the world was wide.

When the North was hale in the march of Time, and the South and the West were new,
And the gorgeous East was a pantomime, as it seemed in our boyhood’s view;
When Spain was first on the waves of change, and proud in the ranks of pride.
And all was wonderful, new and strange in the days when the world was wide.

Then a man could fight if his heart were bold, and win if his faith were true—
Were it love, or honour, or power, or gold, or all that our hearts pursue;
Could live to the world for the family name, or die for the family pride,
Could fly from sorrow, and wrong and shame in the days when the world was wide.

They roved away in the ships that sailed ere science controlled the main,
When the strong, brave heart of a man prevailed as ’twill never prevail again;
They knew not whither, nor much they cared—let Fate or the winds decide—
The worst of the Great Unknown they dared in the days when the world was wide.

They raised new stars on the silent sea that filled their hearts with awe;
They came to many a strange countree and marvellous sights they saw.
The villagers gaped at the tales they told, and old eyes glistened with pride—
When barbarous cities were paved with gold in the days when the world was wide.

’Twas honest metal and honest wood, in the days of the Outward Bound,
When men were gallant and ships were good—roaming the wide world round.
The gods could envy a leader then when “Follow me, lads!” he cried—
They faced each other and fought like men in the days when the world was wide!

They tried to live as a freeman should—they were happier men than we,
In the glorious days of wine and blood, when Liberty crossed the sea;
’Twas a comrade true or a foeman then, and a trusty sword well-tried—
They faced each other and fought like men in the days when the world was wide.

The good ship bound for the Southern Seas when the beacon was Ballarat,
With a “Ship ahoy!” on the freshening breeze, “Where bound?” and “What ship’s that?”—
The emigrant train to New Mexico—the rush to the Lachlan-side—
Ah! faint is the echo of Westward Ho! from the days when the world was wide.

South, East, and West in advance of Time—and far in advance of Thought—
Brave men they were with a faith sublime—and is it for this they fought?
And is it for this damned life we praise the god-like spirit that died
At Eureka Stockade in the Roaring Days with the days when the world was wide?

* * * * * * *

With its dull, brown days of a-shilling-an-hour the dreary year drags round:
Is this the result of Old England’s power?—the bourne of the Outward Bound?
Is this the sequel of Westward Ho!—of the days of Whate’er Betide?
The heart of the rebel makes answer “No! We’ll fight till the world grows wide!”

The world shall yet be a wider world—for the tokens are manifest;
East and North shall the wrongs be hurled that followed us South and West.
The march of Freedom is North by the Dawn! Follow, whate’er betide!
Sons of the Exiles, march! March on! March till the world grows wide!

 

The Light on the Wreck

Out there by the rocks, at the end of the bank,
In the mouth of the river, the Wanderer sank.
She is resting where meet the blue water and green,
And only her masts and her funnel are seen;
And you see, when is fading the sunset’s last fleck,
On her foremast a lantern—a light on a wreck.

’Tis a light on a wreck, warning ships to beware
Of the drowned iron hull of the Wanderer there;
And the ships that come in and go out in the night
Keep a careful lookout for the Wanderer’s light.
There are rules for the harbour and rules for the wave;
But all captains steer clear of a ship in her grave.

And the stories of strong lives that ended in wrecks
Might be likened to lights over derelict decks;
Like the light where, in sight of the streets of the town,
In the mouth of the channel the Wanderer went down.
Keep a watch from the desk, as they watch from the deck;
Keep a watch from your home for the light on the wreck.

But the lights on the wrecks since creation began
Have been shining in vain for the vagabond clan.
They will never take warning, they will not beware,
For they hold for their watchwords, “What matter?” “What care?”
And they sail without compass, they sail without check,
Till they steer to their grave ’neath a light on a wreck.

 

The Great Grey Plain

Out west, where the stars are brightest,
    Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead gleam whitest
    And the sun on a desert glows—
Yet within the selfish kingdom
    Where man starves man for gain,
Where white men tramp for existence—
    Wide lies the Great Grey Plain.

No break in its awful horizon,
    No blur in the dazzling haze,
Save where by the bordering timber
    The fierce, white heat-waves blaze,
And out where the tank-heap rises
    Or looms when the sunlights wane,
Till it seems like a distant mountain
    Low down on the Great Grey Plain.

From the camp, while the rich man’s dreaming,
    Come the “traveller” and his mate,
In the ghastly daybreak seeming
    Like a swagman’s ghost out late;
And the horseman blurs in the distance,
    While still the stars remain,
A low, faint dust-cloud haunting
    His track on the Great Grey Plain.

And all day long from before them
    The mirage smokes away—
That daylight ghost of an ocean
    Creeps close behind all day
With an evil, snake-like motion,
    As the waves of a madman’s brain:
’Tis a phantom not like water
    Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

There’s a run on the Western limit
    Where a man lives like a beast,
And a shanty in the mulga
    That stretches to the East;
And the hopeless men who carry
    Their swags and tramp in pain—
The footmen must not tarry
    Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

Out West, where the stars are brightest,
    Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead seem whitest,
    And the sun on a desert glows—
Out back in the hungry distance
    That brave hearts dare in vain—
Where swagmen tramp for existence—
    There lies the Great Grey Plain.

 

Scots of the Riverina

The boy cleared out to the city from his home at the harvest time—
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned,
And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife’s back was turned.

A year went past and another. There were calls from the firing-line;
They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai—
They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.

The boy came home on his “final,” and the township’s bonfire burned.
His mother’s arms were about him; but the old man’s back was turned.
The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand—
A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.

The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai;
But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk—
There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his household went to the kirk.

The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned;
And the old man died at the table when the old wife’s back was turned.
Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair
Outspread o’er the open Bible and a name re-written there.

 

Out Back

The old year went, and the new returned, in the withering weeks of drought.
The cheque was spent that the shearer earned, and the sheds were all cut out;
The publican’s words were short and few, and the publican’s looks were black—
And the time had come, as the shearer knew, to carry his swag Out Back.

For time means tucker, and tramp you must, where the scrubs and plains are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the dust and heat—when summer is on the track—
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, they carry their swags Out Back.

He tramped away from the shanty there, when the days were long and hot.
With never a soul to know or care if he died on the track or not.
The poor of the city have friends in woe, no matter how much they lack,
But only God and the swagmen know how a poor man fares Out Back.

He begged his way on the parched Paroo and the Warrego tracks once more,
And lived like a dog, as the swagmen do, till the Western stations shore:
But men were many, and sheds were full, for work in the town was slack—
The traveller never got hands in wool, though he tramped for a year Out Back.

In stifling noons when his back was wrung by its load, and the air seemed dead,
And the water warmed in the bag that hung to his aching arm like lead.
Or in times of flood, when plains were seas, and the scrubs were cold and black,
He ploughed in mud to his trembling knees, and paid for his sins Out Back.

And dirty and careless and old he wore, as his lamp of hope grew dim;
He tramped for years till the swag he bore seemed part of himself to him.
As a bullock drags in the sandy ruts, he followed the dreary track,
With never a thought but to reach the huts when the sun went down Out Back.

It chanced one day when the north wind blew in his face like a furnace-breath,
He left the track for a tank he knew—’twas a shorter cut to death;
For the bed of the tank was hard and dry, and crossed with many a crack,
And, oh! it’s a terrible thing to die of thirst in the scrub Out Back.

A drover came, but the fringe of law was eastward many a mile;
He never reported the thing he saw, for it was not worth his while.
The tanks are full, and the grass is high in the mulga off the track,
Where the bleaching bones of a white man lie by his mouldering swag Out Back.

For time means tucker, and tramp they must, where the plains and scrubs are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the flies and heat the men of the outside track,
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, must carry their swags Out Back.

 

The Drover’s Sweetheart

An hour before the sun goes down
    Behind the ragged boughs,
I go across the little run
    And bring the dusty cows;
And once I used to sit and rest
    Beneath the fading dome,
For there was one that I loved best
    Who’d bring the cattle home.

Our yard is fixed with double bails,
    Round one the grass is green,
The Bush is growing through the rails,
    The spike is rusted in;
It was from there his freckled face
    Would turn and smile at me;
He’d milk seven in the race
    While I was milking three.

He kissed me twice and once again
    And rode across the hill,
The pint-pots and the hobble-chain
    I hear them jingling still . . .
About the hut the sunlight fails,
    And the fire shines through the cracks—
I climb the broken stockyard rails
    And watch the bridle-tracks.

And he is coming back again—
    He wrote from Evatt’s Rock;
A flood was in the Darling then
    And foot-rot in the flock.
The sheep were falling thick and fast
    A hundred miles from town,
And when he reached the line at last
    He trucked the remnant down.

And so he’ll have to stand the cost;
    His luck was always bad,
Instead of making more, he lost
    The money that he had;
And how he’ll manage, heaven knows
    (My eyes are getting dim),
He says—he says—he don’t—suppose
    I’ll want—to—marry—him.

As if I wouldn’t take his hand
   Without a golden glove—
Oh! Jack, you men won’t understand
    How much a girl can love.
I long to see his face once more—
    Jack’s dog! thank God, it’s Jack!—
(I never thought I’d faint before)
    He’s coming—up—the track.

 

The Southerly Buster

There’s a wind that blows out of the South in the drought,
    And we pray for the touch of his breath
When siroccos come forth from the Nor’-West and North,
    Or in dead calms of fever and death.
With eyes glad and dim we should sing him a hymn,
    For depression and death are his foes;
Oh. it gives us new life for the bread-winning strife
    When the glorious Old Southerly blows.

Old Southerly Buster! your forces you muster
    Where seldom a wind bloweth twice,
And your white-caps have hint of the snow caps, and glint of
    The far-away barriers of ice.
No wind the wide sea on can sing such a paean.
    Or do the great work that you do;
Our Own Wind and Only, from seas wild and lonely—
    Old Southerly Buster!—To you!

The yachts cut away at the close of the day
    From the breakers commencing to comb,
For a few he may swamp in the health-giving romp
    With the friendly Old Southerly home.
Oh, softly he plays through the city’s hot ways
    To the beds where they’re calling “Come, quick!”
He is gentle and mild round the feverish child,
    And he cools the hot brow of the sick.

’Tis a glorious mission. Old Sydney’s Physician!—
    Broom, Bucket, and Cloth of the East!
’Tis a breeze and a sprayer that answers our prayer,
    And it’s free to the greatest and least.
The red-lamp’s a warning to drought and its scorning—
    A sign to the city at large—
Hence, Headache and Worry! Despondency, hurry!
    Old Southerly Buster’s in charge.

Old Southerly Buster! your forces you muster
    Where seldom a wind bloweth twice,
And your white-caps have hint of the snow caps, and glint of
    The far-away barriers of ice.
No wind the wide sea on can sing such a paean,
    Or do the great work that you do;
Our Own Wind and Only, from seas wild and lonely—
    Old Southerly Buster!—To you!

 

Written Afterwards

(To J. Le Gay Brereton)

So the days of my riding are over,
    The days of my tramping are done—
I’m about as content as a rover
    Will ever be under the sun;
I write, after reading your letter—
    My mind with old memories rife—
And I feel in a mood that had better
    Not meet the true eyes of the wife.

You must never admit a suggestion
    That old things are good to recall;
You must never consider the question:
    “Was I happier then, after all?”
You must banish the old hope and sorrow
    That make the sad pleasures of life;
You must live for To-day and To-morrow
    If you want to be just to the wife.

I have changed since the first day I kissed her,
    Which is due—Heaven bless her!—to her;
I’m respected and trusted—I’m “Mister.”
    Addressed by the children as “Sir.”
I feel the respect without feigning,
    And you’d laugh the great laugh of your life
If you only saw me entertaining
    An old lady friend of the wife.

By the way, when you’re writing, remember
    You never went drinking with me,
And forget our Last Nights of December,
    Lest our sev’ral accounts disagree.
And, for my sake, old man, you had better
    Avoid the old language of strife,
For the technical terms of your letter
    Will be misconstrued by the wife.

Never hint of the girls appertaining
    To the past, when you’re writing again,
For they take such a lot of explaining—
    And you know how I hate to explain.
There are some things, we know to our sorrow,
    That cut to the heart like a knife,
And your past is To-day and To-morrow
    If you want to be true to the wife.

No doubt you are dreaming as I did
    And going the careless old pace,
But my future grows dull and decided,
    And the world narrow’s down to the Place.
Let it be. If my treason’s resented,
    You may do worse, old man, in your life;
Let me dream, too, that I am contented—
    For the sake of a true little wife.

England Yet

She’s England yet! The nations never knew her;
    Or, if they knew, were ready to forget.
She made new worlds that paid no homage to her,
    Because she called for none as for a debt.
The bullying Power who deemed all nations craven,
    And that her star of destiny had set,
Was sure that she would seek a coward’s haven —
    And tempted her, and found her England yet!

We learn our England, and we soon forget,
To learn again that she is England yet!

They watched Britannia ever looking forward,
    But could not see the things her children saw.
They watched in Southern seas her boats pull shoreward,
    But only marked the eyeglass, heard the “Haw!”
In tents, and bungalows, and outpost stations,
    Thin white men ruled for her, unseen, unheard,
Till millions of strange races and far nations
    Were ready to obey her at a word.

We learn our England, and in peace forget,
To learn in storm that she is England yet.

She’s England yet; and men shall doubt no longer;
    And mourn no longer for what she has been.
She’ll be a greater England and a stronger —
    A better England than the world has seen.
Our own, who reck not of a king’s regalia,
    Tinsel of crowns, and courts that fume and fret,
Are fighting for her — fighting for Australia —
    And blasphemously hail her “England Yet!”

She’s England yet, with little to regret —
Ay, more than ever, she’ll be England yet!

1917

Ballad of the Drover

Across the stony ridges,
    Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
    Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
    And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old packhorse
    Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle
    He’s travelled regions vast,
And many months have vanished
    Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
    He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
    Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado
    Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
    The station homestead lies.
And thitherward the drover
    Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
    Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens
    With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
    Around the drover’s track;
But Harry pushes onward,
    His horses’ strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
    Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder pealing o’er him
    Goes rumbling down the plain;
And sweet on thirsty pastures
    Beats fast the plashing rain;
Then every creek and gully
    Sends forth its tribute flood—
The river runs a banker,
    All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,
    The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
    And strokes their shaggy manes:
“We’ve breasted bigger rivers
    When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
    From getting home to-night!”

The thunder growls a warning,
    The blue, forked lightnings gleam;
The drover turns his horses
    To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
    Than e’er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
    And only half-way o’er!

When flashes next the lightning,
    The flood’s grey breast is blank;
A cattle dog and packhorse
    Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
    The girl shall wait in vain—
He’ll never pass the stations
    In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment
    Lies panting on the bank,
Then plunges through the current
    To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
    He fights with failing strength,
Till, gripped by wilder waters,
    He fails and sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands
    And slopes of sodden loam
The packhorse struggles bravely
    To take dumb tidings home;
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
    He goes by rock and tree,
With clanging chains and tinware
    All sounding eerily.

 

After All

The brooding ghosts of Australian night have gone from the bush and town;
My spirit revives in the morning breeze, though it died when the sun went down;
The river is high and the stream is strong, and the grass is green and tall,
And I fain would think that this world of ours is a good world after all.

The light of passion in dreamy eyes, and a page of truth well read,
The glorious thrill, in a heart grown cold, of the spirit I thought was dead,
A song that goes to a comrade’s heart, and a tear of pride let fall—
And my soul is strong! and the world to me is a grand world after all!

Let our enemies go by their old dull tracks, and theirs be the fault or shame
(The man is bitter against the world who has only himself to blame);
Let the darkest side of the past be dark, and only the good recall;
For I must believe that the world, my dear, is a kind world after all.

It well may be that I saw too plain, and it may be I was blind;
But I’ll keep my face to the dawning light, though the devil may stand behind!
Though the devil may stand behind my back, shall I see his shadow fall?
I’ll read in the light of the morning stars—a good world after all.

Rest, for your eyes are weary, girl—you have driven the worst away—
The ghost of the man that I might have been is gone from my heart to-day;
We’ll live for life and the best it brings till our twilight shadows fall;
My heart grows brave, and the world, my girl, is a good world after all.

 

Black Bonnet

A day of seeming innocence,
    A glorious sun and sky,
And, just above my picket fence,
    Black Bonnet passing by.
In knitted gloves and quaint old dress,
    Without a spot or smirch,
Her worn face lit with peacefulness,
    Old Granny goes to church.

Her hair is richly white, like milk,
    That long ago was fair—
And glossy still the old black silk
    She keeps for “chapel wear”;
Her bonnet, of a bygone style
    That long has passed away,
She must have kept a weary while
    Just as it is to-day.

The parasol of days gone by—
    Old days that seemed the best—
The hymn and prayer books carried high
    Against her warm, thin breast;
As she had clasped—come smiles come tears,
    Come hardship, aye, and worse—
On market days, through faded years,
    The slender household purse.

Although the road is rough and steep,
    She takes it with a will,
For, since she hushed her first to sleep
    Her way has been uphill.
Instinctively I bare my head
    (A sinful one, alas!)
Whene’er I see, by church bells led,
    Brave Old Black Bonnet pass.

For she has known the cold and heat
    And dangers of the Track:
Has fought bush-fires to save the wheat
    And little home Out Back.
By barren creeks the Bushman loves,
    In stockyard, hut, and pen,
The withered hands in those old gloves
    Have done the work of men.

* * * * * * * * * *

They called it “Service” long ago
    When Granny yet was young,
And in the chapel, sweet and low,
    As girls her daughters sung.
And when in church she bends her head
    (But not as others do)
She sees her loved ones, and her dead,
    And hears their voices too.

Fair as the Saxons in her youth,
    Not forward, and not shy;
And strong in healthy life and truth
    As after years went by;
She often laughed with sinners vain,
    Yet passed from faith to sight—
God gave her beauty back again
    The more her hair grew white.

She came out in the Early Days,
    (Green seas, and blue—and grey) —
The village fair, and English ways,
    Seemed worlds and worlds away.
She fought the haunting loneliness
    Where brooding gum trees stood;
And won through sickness and distress
    As Englishwomen could.

* * * * * * * * *

By verdant swath and ivied wall
    The congregation’s seen—
White nothings where the shadows fall,
    Black blots against the green.
The dull, suburban people meet
    And buzz in little groups,
While down the white steps to the street
    A quaint old figure stoops.

And then along my picket fence
    Where staring wallflowers grow—
World-wise Old Age, and Common-sense!—
    Black Bonnet, nodding slow.
But not alone; for on each side
    A little dot attends
In snowy frock and sash of pride,
    And these are Granny’s friends.

To them her mind is clear and bright,
    Her old ideas are new;
They know her “real talk” is right,
    Her “fairy talk” is true.
And they converse as grown-ups may,
    When all the news is told;
The one so wisely young to-day,
    The two so wisely old.

At home, with dinner waiting there,
    She smooths her hair and face,
And puts her bonnet by with care
    And dons a cap of lace.
The table minds its p’s and q’s
    Lest one perchance be hit
By some rare dart which is a part
    Of her old-fashioned wit.

* * * * * * * * * *

Her son and son’s wife are asleep,
    She puts her apron on—
The quiet house is hers to keep,
    With all the youngsters gone.
There’s scarce a sound of dish on dish
    Or cup slipped into cup,
When left alone, as is her wish,
    Black Bonnet “washes up!”

 

The Vanguard

They say, in all kindness. I’m out of the hunt—
Too old and too deaf to be sent to the Front.
A scribbler of stories, a maker of songs,
To the fireside and armchair my valour belongs.
Yet in hopeless campaigns and in bitterest strife
I have been at the Front all the days of my life.

Oh, your girl feels a princess, your people are proud,
As you march down the street to the cheers of the crowd;
And the Nation’s behind you and cloudless your sky.
And you come back to Honour, or gloriously die;
But for each thing that brightens, and each thing that cheers,
I have starved in the trenches these forty long years.

 

My Army, O My Army!

My army, O my army! The time I dreamed of comes!
I want to see your colours; I long to hear your drums!
I heard them in my boyhood when all men’s hearts seemed cold;
I heard them through the Years of Life—and now I’m growing old!
My army, O my army! The signs are manifold!

My army, O my army! My army and my Queen!
I sang your Southern battle-songs when I was seventeen!
They echoed down the Ages, they came from far and near;
They came to me from Paris, they came to me from Here!—
They came while I was marching with the Army of the Rear.

My Queen’s dark eyes were flashing (oh, she was younger then!)
My Queen’s Red Cap was redder than the reddest blood of men!
My Queen marched like an Amazon, with anger manifest—
Her wild hair darkly matted from a knife-gash in her breast
(For blood will flow where milk will not—her sisters knew the rest).

My legions ne’er were listed, they had no need to be;
My army ne’er was trained to arms—’twas trained to misery!
It took long years to mould it, but war could never drown
The shuffling of my army’s feet at drill in Hunger Town—
A little child was murdered, and so Tyranny went down.

My army kept no order, my army kept no time;
My army dug no trenches, yet died in dust and slime;
Its troops were fiercely ignorant, as to the manner born;
Its clothes were rags and tatters—patched rags, the patches torn—
Ah, me! It wore a uniform that I have often worn.

The faces of my army were ghastly as the dead;
My army’s cause was Hunger, my army’s cry was “Bread!”
It called on God and Mary and Christ of Nazareth;
It cried to kings and courtesans that fainted at its breath—
Its women beat their poor, flat breasts where babes had starved to death.

* * * * * * * * * *

My army! O my army—I hear the sound of drums
Above the roar of battle—and, lo, my army comes!
Nor creed of man may stay it—nor war, nor nations’ law—
The pikes go through the firing-lines as pitchforks go through straw—
Like pitchforks through the litter—while empires stand in awe!

 

Rain in the Mountains

The valley’s full of misty cloud,
    Its tinted beauty drowning,
Tree-tops are veiled in fleecy shrouds,
    And mountain fronts are frowning.

The mist is hanging like a pall
    From many granite ledges,
And many a silvery waterfall
    Leaps o’er the valley’s edges.

The sky is of a leaden grey,
    Save where the north looks surly,
The driven daylight speeds away,
    And night comes o’er us early.

Dear L ove, the rain will pass full soon,
    Far sooner than my sorrow,
And in a golden afternoon
    The sun may set to-morrow.

 

Talbragar

Jack Denver died on Talbragar when Christmas Eve began,
And there was sorrow round the place, for Denver was a man;
Jack Denver’s wife bowed down her head—her daughter’s grief was wild,
And big Ben Duggan by the bed stood sobbing like a child.
But big Ben Duggan saddled up, and galloped fast and far,
To raise the biggest funeral yet seen on Talbragar.
              By station home
              And shearing shed
              Ben Duggan cried, “Jack Denver’s dead!
              Roll up at Talbragar!”

He borrowed horses here and there, and rode all Christmas Eve,
And scarcely paused a moment’s time the mournful news to leave;
He rode by lonely huts and farms until the day was done,
And then he turned his horse’s head and made for Ross’s Run.
No bushman in a single day had ridden half so far
Since Johnson brought the doctor to his wife at Talbragar.
              By diggers’ camps
              Ben Duggan sped—
              At each he cried. “Jack Denver’s dead!
              Roll up at Talbragar!”

That night he passed the humpies of the splitters on the ridge,
And roused the bullock-drivers camped at Belinfante’s Bridge;
And as he climbed the ridge again the moon shone on the rise—
Did moonbeams glisten in the mist of tears that filled his eyes?
He dashed the rebel drops away—for blinding things they are—
But ’twas his best and truest friend who died on Talbragar.
              At Blackman’s Run
              Before the dawn
              Ben Duggan cried. “Jack Denver’s gone!
              Roll up at Talbragar!”

At all the shanties round the place they heard his horse’s tramp,
He took the track to Wilson’s Luck, and told the diggers’ camp;
But in the gorge by Deadman’s Gap the mountain shades were black,
And there a newly-fallen tree was lying on the track—
He saw too late—and then he heard the swift hoof’s sudden jar,
And big Ben Duggan ne’er again rode home to Talbragar.
              “The wretch is drunk,
              And Denver’s dead—
              A burning shame!” the people said
              Next day at Talbragar.

For thirty miles round Talbragar the boys rolled up in strength,
And Denver had a funeral a good long mile in length;
Round Denver’s grave that Christmas Day rough Bushmen’s eyes were dim—
The Western Bushmen knew the way to bury dead like him;
But some returning homeward found, by light of moon and star,
Ben Duggan lying in the rocks, five miles from Talbragar.
              And far and wide
              When Duggan died.
              The bushmen of the western side
              Rode in to Talbragar.

 

The Shakedown on the Floor

Set me back for twenty summers,
    For I’m tired of cities now—
Set my feet in red-soil furrows
    And my hands upon the plough.
With the two Black Brothers trudging
    On the home stretch through the loam—
While along the grassy sidling
    Come the cattle grazing home.

And I finish ploughing early,
    And I hurry home to tea—
There’s my black suit on the stretcher,
    And a clean white shirt for me;
There’s a dance at Rocky Rises,
    And, when they can dance no more,
 For a certain favoured party
    There’s a shakedown on the floor.

You remember Mary Carey,
    Bushmen’s favourite at The Rise?
With her sweet small freckled features,
    Red-gold hair, and kind grey eyes;
Sister, daughter, to her mother,
    Mother, sister, to the rest—
And of all my friends and kindred
    Mary Carey loved me best.

Far too shy, because she loved me,
    To be dancing oft with me;
(What cared I, because she loved me,
    If the world were there to see?)
But we lingered by the sliprails
    While the rest were riding home,
Ere the hour before the dawning
    Dimmed the great star-clustered dome.

Small brown hands that spread the mattress,
    While the old folk winked to see
How she’d find an extra pillow
    And an extra sheet for me.
For a moment shyly smiling,
    She would grant me one kiss more—
Slip away and leave me happy
    By the shakedown on the floor.

Rock me hard in steerage cabins,
    Rock me soft in first saloons,
Lay me on the sandhill lonely
    Under waning Western moons;
But wherever night may find me—
    Till I rest for evermore—
I shall dream that I am happy
    In the shakedown on the floor.

 

Peter Anderson and Co.

He had offices in Sydney, not so many years ago,
And his shingle bore the legend “Peter Anderson and Co.”,
But his real name was Careless, as the fellows understood—
And his relatives decided that he wasn’t any good.
’Twas their gentle tongues that blasted any “character” he had—
He was fond of beer and leisure—and the Co. was just as bad.
It was limited in number to a unit, was the Co.—
’Twas a bosom chum of Peter and his Christian name was Joe.

’Tis a class of men belonging to these soul-forsaken years:
Third-rate canvassers, collectors, journalists and auctioneers.
They are never very shabby, they are never very spruce—
Going cheerfully and carelessly and smoothly to the deuce.
Some are wanderers by profession, “turning up” and gone as soon,
Travelling second-class, or steerage (when it’s cheap they go saloon);
Free from “ists” and “isms”, troubled little by belief or doubt—
Lazy, purposeless, and useless—knocking round and hanging out.
They will take what they can get, and they will give what they can give,
God alone knows how they manage—God alone knows how they live!
They are nearly always hard-up, but are cheerful all the while—
Men whose energy and trousers wear out sooner than their smile!
They, no doubt, like us, are haunted by the boresome “if” or “might”,
But their ghosts are ghosts of daylight—they are men who live at night!

Peter met you always smiling, always seemed to know you well,
Always gay and glad to see you, and always had a joke to tell;
He could laugh when all was gloomy, he could grin when all was blue,
Sing a comic song and act it, and appreciate it, too.
Only cynical in cases where his own self was the jest,
And the humour of his good yarns made atonement for the rest.
Seldom serious—doing business just as ’twere a friendly game—
Cards or billiards—nothing graver. And the Co. was much the same.

They tried everything and nothing ’twixt the shovel and the press,
And were more or less successful in their ventures—mostly less.
Once they ran a country paper till the plant was seized for debt,
And the local sinners chuckle over dingy copies yet.
Now and then they’d take an office, as they called it,—make a dash
Into business life as “Agents”—something not requiring cash.
(You can always furnish cheaply, when your cash or credit fails,
With a packing-case, a hammer, and a pound of two-inch nails—
And, maybe, a drop of varnish and sienna, too, for tints,
And a scrap or two of oilcloth, and a yard or two of chintz).


The office was their haven, for they lived there when hard-up—
A “daily” for a table cloth—a jam tin for a cup;
If, perchance, the landlord’s bailiff happened round in times like these
And seized the office-fittings—well, there wasn’t much to seize—
They would leave him in possession. But at times when things grew hot
They would shoot the moon, and open where the landlord knew them not.
And when morning brought the bailiff there’d be nothing to be seen
Save a piece of bevelled cedar where the tenant’s plate had been;
There would be no sign of Peter—there would be no sign of Joe
But another portal boasted “Peter Anderson and Co.”

And when times were locomotive, billiard-rooms and private bars—
Spicy parties at the cafe—long cab-drives beneath the stars;
Private picnics down the Harbour—shady campings-out, you know—
No one would have dreamed ’twas Peter—no one would have thought ’twas Joe!
Free-and-easies in their ‘diggings”, when the funds began to fail,
Bosom chums, cigars, tobacco, and a case of English ale—
Gloriously drunk and happy, till they heard the roosters crow—
And the landlady and neighbours made complaints about the Co.
But that life! it might be likened to a reckless drinking-song,
For it can’t go on for ever, and it never lasted long.

* * * * * * * * * *

Debt-collecting ruined Peter—people talked him round too oft,
For his heart was soft as butter (and the Co.’s was just as soft);
He would cheer the haggard missus, and he’d tell her not to fret,
And he’d ask the worried debtor round with him to have a wet;
He would ask him round the corner, and it seemed to him and her,
After each of Peter’s visits, things were brighter than they were.
But, of course, it wasn’t business—only Peter’s careless way;
And perhaps it pays in heaven, but on earth it doesn’t pay.
They got harder up than ever, and, to make it worse, the Co.
Went more often round the corner than was good for him to go.
“I might live,” he said to Peter, “but I haven’t got the nerve—
I am going, Peter, going—going, going—no reserve.
Eat and drink and love they tell us, for to-morrow we may die,
Buy experience—and we bought it—we’re experienced, you and I.”

Then, with a weary movement of his hand across his brow—
‘The death of such philosophy’s the death I’m dying now.
Pull yourself together, Peter; ’Tis the dying wish of Joe
That the business world shall honour Peter Anderson and Co.
Find again and follow up the old ambitions that you had—
See if you can raise a drink, old man, I’m feelin’ mighty bad—
Hot and sweetened, nip o’ butter—squeeze o’ lemon, Pete,” he sighed.
And, while Peter went to fetch it, Joseph went to sleep—and died
With a smile—anticipation, maybe, of the peace to come,
Or a joke to try on Peter—or, perhaps, it was the rum.

* * * * * * * * * *

Peter staggered, gripped the table, swerved as some old drunkard swerves—
At a gulp he drank the toddy, just to brace his shattered nerves.
It was awful, more than awful, but he had no time to think—
All is nothing! Nothing matters! Fill your glasses—dead man’s drink.

* * * * * * * * * *

Peter mourned his buried comrade, feeling beaten and bereft,
Paid the undertaker cash, and then got drunk on what was left.
Then he shed some tears, half-maudlin, on the grave where lay the Co.,
And he drifted to a township where the city failures go.
There, though haunted by the man he was, the wreck he yet might be,
Or the man he might have been, or by spectres of the three,
And the dying words of Joseph, ringing through his own despair,
Peter pulled himself together and he started business there.


In a town of wrecks and failures—they appreciated him—
Men who might have been, who had been, but who were not in the swim;
They would ask him who the Co. was—that queer company he kept—
And he’d always answer vaguely—he would say his partner slept;
That he had a sleeping partner—jesting while his spirit broke—
And they grinned above their glasses, for they took it as a joke.
He would shout while he had money, he would joke while he had breath—
No one seemed to care or notice how he drank himself to death;
Till at last there came a morning when his smile was seen no more—
He was gone from out the office, and his shingle from the door,
And a boundary-rider jogging out across the neighb’ring run
Was attracted by a something that was blazing in the sun;
And he found that it was Peter, lying peacefully at rest,
With a bottle close beside him and the shingle on his breast.
Well, they analysed the liquor, and the doctor said that he
Had mixed his drink with something good for setting spirits free.
But said “He’s gone to look for Joseph,” that was what thetownsfolk said;
And the jury viewed him sadly, and they found—that he was dead.

 

The Song and the Sigh

The creek went down with a broken song,
    ’Neath the sheoaks high;
The waters carried the tune along,
    And the oaks a sigh.

The song and the sigh went winding by,
    Went winding down;
Circling the foot of the mountain high,
    And the hillside brown.

They were hushed in the swamp of the Dead Man’s Crime,
    Where the curlews cried;
But they reached the river the self-same time,
    And there they died.

And the creek of life goes winding on,
    Wandering by;
And bears for ever, its course upon,
    A song and a sigh.

 

Trooper Campbell

One day old Trooper Campbell
    Rode out to Blackman’s Run;
His cap-peak and his sabre
    Were glancing in the sun.
’Twas New Year’s Eve, and slowly
    Across the ridges low
The sad Old Year was drifting
    To where the old years go.

The trooper’s mind was reading
    The love-page of his life—
His love for Mary Wylie
    Ere she was Blackman’s wife;
He sorrowed for the sorrows
    Of the heart a rival won,
For he knew that there was trouble
    Out there on Blackman’s Run.

The sapling shades had lengthened,
    The summer day was late,
When Blackman met the trooper
    Beyond the homestead gate.
And if the hand of trouble
    Can leave a lasting trace,
The lines of care had come to stay
    On poor old Blackman’s face.

“Not good day, Trooper Campbell,
    It’s a bad, bad day for me—
You are of all the men on earth
    The one I wished to see.
The great black clouds of trouble
    Above our homestead hang;
That wild and reckless boy of mine
    Has joined M’Durmer’s gang.

“Oh! save him, save him, Campbell!
    I beg in friendship’s name!
For if they take and hang him,
    The wife would die of shame.
Could Mary or her sisters
    Hold up their heads again,
And face a woman’s malice
    Or claim the love of men?

“And if he does a murder
    We all were better dead.
Don’t take him living, Trooper,
    If a price be on his head;
But shoot him! shoot him, Campbell,
    When you meet him face to face,
And save him from the gallows—
    And us from that disgrace.”

“Now, Tom,” cried Trooper Campbell,
“You know your words are wild.
Wild though he is and reckless,
    Yet still he is your child;
Bear up and face your trouble,
    Yes, meet it like a man,
And tell the wife and daughters
    I’ll save him if I can.”

* * * * * * * * *

The sad Australian sunset
    Had faded from the west;
But night brings darker shadows
    To hearts that cannot rest;
And Blackman’s wife sat rocking
    And moaning in her chair.
“Oh, the disgrace, disgrace,” she moaned;
    “Its more than I can bear.

“In hardship and in trouble
    I struggled year by year
To make my children better
    Than other children here.
And if my son’s a felon
    How can I show my face?
I cannot bear disgrace; my God,
    I cannot bear disgrace!

“Ah, God in Heaven pardon!
    I’m selfish in my woe—
My boy is better-hearted
    Than many that I know.
And I will face the world’s disgrace,
    And, till his mother’s dead,
My foolish child shall find a place
    To lay his outlawed head.”

* * * * * * * * *

With a sad heart Trooper Campbell
    Rode back from Blackman’s Run,
Nor noticed aught about him
    Till thirteen miles were done;
When, close beside a cutting,
    He heard the click of locks,
And saw the rifle muzzles
    Were on him from the rocks.

But suddenly a youth rode out,
    And, close by Campbell’s side:
“Don’t fire! don’t fire, in heaven’s name!
    It’s Campbell, boys!” he cried.
Then one by one in silence
    The levelled rifles fell,
For who’d shoot Trooper Campbell
    Of those who knew him well?

Oh, bravely sat old Campbell,
    No sign of fear showed he.
He slowly drew his carbine;
    It rested by his knee.
The outlaws’ guns were lifted,
    But none the silence broke,
Till steadfastly and firmly
    Old Trooper Campbell spoke.

“That boy that you would ruin
    Goes home with me, my men;
Or some of us shall never
    Ride through the Gap again.
You know old Trooper Campbell,
    And have you ever heard
That bluff or lead could turn him,
    That e’er he broke his word?

“That reckless lad is playing
     A heartless villain’s part;
He knows that he is breaking
     His poor old mother’s heart.
He’s going straight to ruin;
     But ’tis not that alone,
He’ll bring dishonour to a name
     That I’d be proud to own.

“I speak to you, M’Durmer,—
    If your heart’s not hardened quite,
And if you’d seen the trouble
    At Blackman’s home this night,
You’d help me now, M’Durmer—
    I speak as man to man—
I swore to save that foolish lad,
    And I’ll save him if I can.”

“Oh, take him!” said M’Durmer,
    “He’s got a horse to ride. . . . ”
The youngster thought a moment,
    Then rode to Campbell’s side. . . .
“Good-bye!” young Blackman shouted,
    As up the range they sped.
“Luck for the New Year, Campbell,”
    Was all M’Durmer said.

* * * * * * * * *

Then fast along the ridges
    Two bushmen rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
    To Trooper Campbell’s face.
And ere the new year’s dawning
    They reached the homestead gate—
“I found him,” said the Trooper
    “And not, thank God, too late!”

 

The Route March

Did you hear the children singing, O my brothers?
Did you hear the children singing as our troops went marching past?
        In the sunshine and the rain,
        As they’ll never sing again—
Hear the little school-girls singing as our troops went swinging past?

Did you hear the children singing, O my brothers?
Did you hear the children singing for the first man and the last?
        As they marched away and vanished,
        To a tune we thought was banished—
Did you hear the children singing for the future and the past?

Shall you hear the children singing, O my brothers?
Shall you hear the children singing in the sunshine or the rain?
        There’ll be sobs beneath the ringing
        Of the cheers, and ’neath the singing
There’ll be tears of orphan children when Our Boys come back again!

 

Ballad of the Elder Son

A son of elder sons I am,
    Whose boyhood days were cramped and scant,
Through ages of domestic sham
    And family lies and family cant.
Come, elder brothers mine, and bring
    Dull loads of care that you have won,
And gather round me while I sing
    The ballad of the elder son.

’Twas Christ who spake in parables—
    To picture man was his intent;
A simple tale He simply tells,
    And He Himself makes no comment.
A morbid sympathy is felt
    For prodigals—the selfish ones—
The crooked world has ever dealt
    Unjustly by the elder sons.

The elder son on barren soil,
    Where life is crude and lands are new,
Must share the father’s hardest toil,
    And share the father’s troubles too.
With no child-thoughts to meet his own
    His childhood is a lonely one:
The youth his father might have known
    Is seldom for the eldest son.

It seems so strange, but fate is grim,
    And Heaven’s ways are hard to track,
Though ten young scamps come after him
    The rod falls heaviest on his back.
And, well I’ll say it might be caused
    By a half-sense of injustice done—
That vague resentment parents feel
    So oft towards the eldest son.

He, too, must bear the father’s name,
    He loves his younger brother, too,
And feels the younger brother’s shame
    As keenly as his parents do.
The mother’s prayers, the father’s curse,
    The sister’s tears have all been done—
We seldom see in prose or verse
    The prayers of the elder son.

But let me to the parable
    With eyes on facts but fancy free;
And don’t belie me if I tell
    The story as it seems to me—
For, mind, I do not mean to sneer
    (I was religious when a child),
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
    That Christ himself had sometimes smiled.

A certain squatter had two sons
    Up Canaan way some years ago.
The graft was hard on those old runs,
    And it was hot and life was slow.
The younger brother coolly claimed
    The portion that he hadn’t earned,
And sought the ‘life’ for which untamed
    And high young spirits always yearned.

A year or so he knocked about,
    And spent his cheques on girls and wine,
And, getting stony in the drought,
    He took a job at herding swine,
And though he is a hog that swigs
    And fools with girls till all is blue—
’Twas rather rough to shepherd pigs
    And have to eat their tucker too.

“When he came to himself,” he said
    (I take my Bible from the shelf:
There’s nothing like a feed of husks
    To bring a young man to himself.
And when you’re done with wine and girls—
    Right here a moral seems to shine—
And are hard up, you’ll find no pearls
    Are cast by friends before your swine)—

When he came to himself, he said—
    He reckoned pretty shrewdly, too—
‘The rousers in my father’s shed
    ‘Have got more grub than they can chew;
‘I’ve been a fool, but such is fate—
    ‘I guess I’ll talk the guv’nor round:
‘“I’ve acted cronk,” I’ll tell him straight;
    ‘(He’s had his time too, I’ll be bound).

‘I’ll tell him straight I’ve had my fling,
    ‘I’ll tell him “I’ve been on the beer,
‘“But put me on at anything,
    ‘“I’ll graft with any bounder here.”’
He rolled his swag and struck for home—
    He was by this time pretty slim
And, when the old man saw him come—
    Well, you know how he welcomed him.

They’ve brought the best robe in the house,
    The ring, and killed the fatted calf,
And now they hold a grand carouse,
    And eat and drink and dance and laugh:
And from the field the elder son—
    Whose character is not admired—
Comes plodding home when work is done,
    And very hot and very tired.

He asked the meaning of the sound
    Of such unwonted revelry,
They said his brother had been ‘found’
    (He’d found himself it seemed to me);
’Twas natural in the elder son
    To take the thing a little hard
And brood on what was past and done
    While standing outside in the yard.

Now he was hungry and knocked out
    And would, if they had let him be,
Have rested and cooled down, no doubt,
    And hugged his brother after tea,
And welcomed him and hugged his dad
    And filled the wine cup to the brim—
But, just when he was feeling bad
    The old man came and tackled him.

He well might say with bitter tears
    While music swelled and flowed the wine—
‘Lo, I have served thee many years
    ‘Nor caused thee one grey hair of thine.
‘Whate’er thou bad’st me do I did
    ‘And for my brother made amends;
‘Thou never gavest me a kid
    ‘That I might make merry with my friends.’

(He was no honest clod and glum
    Who could not trespass, sing nor dance—
He could be merry with a chum,
    It seemed, if he had half a chance;
Perhaps, if further light we seek,
    He knew—and herein lay the sting—
His brother would clear out next week
    And promptly pop the robe and ring).

The father said, ‘The wandering one,
    ‘The lost is found, this son of mine,
‘But thou art always with me, son—
    ‘Thou knowest all I have is thine.’
(It seemed the best robe and the ring,
    The love and fatted calf were not;
But this was just a little thing
    The old man in his joy forgot.)

The father’s blindness in the house,
    The mother’s fond and foolish way
Have caused no end of ancient rows
    Right back to Cain and Abel’s day.
The world will blame the eldest born—
    But—well, when all is said and done,
No coat has ever yet been worn
    That had no colour more than one.

Oh! if I had the power to teach—
    The strength for which my spirit craves—
The cant of parents I would preach
    Who slave and make their children slaves.
For greed of gain, and that alone
    Their youth they steal, their hearts they break
And then, the wretched misers moan—
    ‘We did it for our children’s sake.’

‘And all I have’—the paltry bribe
    That he might slave contented yet
While envied by his selfish tribe
    The birthright he might never get:
The worked-out farm and endless graft,
    The mortgaged home, the barren run—
The heavy, hopeless overdraft—
    The portion of the elder son.

He keeps his parents when they’re old,
    He keeps a sister in distress,
His wife must work and care for them
    And bear with all their pettishness.
The mother’s moan is ever heard,
    And, whining for the worthless one,
She seldom has a kindly word
    To say about her eldest son.

’Tis he, in spite of sneer and jibe,
    Who stands the friend when others fail:
He bears the burdens of his tribe
    And keeps his brother out of jail.
He lends the quid and pays the fine,
    And for the family pride he smarts—
For reasons I cannot divine
    They hate him in their heart of hearts.

A satire on this world of sin—
    Where parents seldom understand—
That night the angels gathered in
    The firstborn of that ancient land.
Perhaps they thought, in those old camps,
    While suffering for the blow that fell,
They might have better spared the scamps
    And Josephs that they loved so well.

Sometimes the Eldest takes the track
    When things at home have got too bad—
He comes not crawling, canting back
    To seek the blind side of his dad.
He always finds a knife and fork
    And meat between on which to dine,
And, though he sometimes deals in pork,
    You’ll never catch him herding swine.

The happy home, the overdraft,
    His birthright and his prospects gay,
And likewise his share of the graft,
    He leaves the rest to grab. And they—
Who’d always do the thing by halves,
    If anything for him was done—
Would kill a score of fatted calves
    To welcome home the eldest son.

 

Knocked Up

I’m lyin’ on the barren ground that’s baked and cracked with drought,
And dunno if my legs or back or heart is most wore out;
I’ve got no spirits left to rise and smooth me achin’ brow—
I’m too knocked up to light a fire and bile the billy now.

Oh it’s trampin’, trampin’, tra-a-mpin’, in flies an’ dust an’ heat,
Or it’s trampin’ trampin’ tra-a-a-mpin’ through mud and slush ’n sleet;
It’s tramp an’ tramp for tucker—one everlastin’ strife,
An’ wearin’ out yer boots an’ heart in the wastin’ of yer life.

They whine o’ lost an’ wasted lives in idleness and crime—
I’ve wasted mine for twenty years, and grafted all the time
And never drunk the stuff I earned, nor gambled when I shore—
But somehow when yer on the track yer life seems wasted more.

A long dry stretch of thirty miles I’ve tramped this broilin’ day,
All for the off-chance of a job a hundred miles away;
There’s twenty hungry beggars wild for any job this year,
An’ fifty might be at the shed while I am lyin’ here.

The sinews in my legs seem drawn, red-hot—’n that’s the truth;
I seem to weigh a ton, and ache like one tremendous tooth;
I’m stung between my shoulder-blades—my blessed back seems broke;
I’m too knocked out to eat a bite—I’m too knocked up to smoke.

The blessed rain is comin’ too—there’s oceans in the sky,
An’ I suppose I must get up and rig the blasted fly;
The heat is bad, the water’s bad, the flies a crimson curse,
The grub is bad, mosquitoes damned—but rheumatism’s worse.

I wonder why poor blokes like me will stick so fast to breath,
Though Shakespeare says it is the fear of somethin’ after death;
But though Eternity be cursed with God’s almighty curse—
What ever that same somethin’ is I swear it can’t be worse.

For it’s trampin’, trampin’, tra-a-mpin’ through hell across the plain,
And it’s trampin’ trampin’ tra-a-mpin’ through slush ’n mud ’n rain—
A livin’ worse than any dog—without a home ’n wife,
A-wearin’ out yer heart ’n soul in the wastin’ of yer life.

 

The Never-Never Land

By homestead, hut, and shearing-shed,
    By railroad, coach, and track—
By lonely graves where rest our dead,
    Up-Country and Out-Back;
To where beneath the clustered stars
    The dreamy plains expand—
My home lies wide a thousand miles
    In the Never-Never Land.

It lies beyond the farming belt,
    Wide wastes of scrub and plain,
A blazing desert in the drought,
    A lake-land after rain;
To the skyline sweeps the waving grass,
    Or whirls the scorching sand—
A phantom land, a mystic realm!
    The Never-Never Land.

Where lone Mount Desolation lies,
    Mounts Dreadful and Despair,
’Tis lost beneath the rainless skies
    In hopeless deserts there;
It spreads nor’-wrest by No-Man’s-Land—
    Where clouds are seldom seen—
To where the cattle-stations lie
    Three hundred miles between.

The drovers of the Great Stock Routes
    The strange Gulf Country know,
Where, travelling for the northern grass,
    The big lean bullocks go;
And camped by night where plains lie wide,
    Like some old ocean’s bed,
The stockmen in the starlight ride
    Round fifteen hundred head.

And west of named and numbered days
    The shearers walk and ride,
Jack Cornstalk and the Ne’er-do-well
    And Greybeard side by side;
They veil their eyes from moon and stars,
    And slumber on the sand—
Sad memories sleep as years go round
    In Never-Never Land.

O rebels to society!
    The Outcasts of the West—
O hopeless eyes that smile for me,
    And broken hearts that jest!
The pluck to face a thousand miles,
    The grit to see it through!
The Communism perfected
    Till man to man is True!

The Arab to the desert sand,
    The Finn to fens and snow,
The “Flax-stick” dreams of Maoriland,
    While seasons come and go.
Whatever stars may glow or burn
    O’er lands of East and West,
The wandering heart of man will turn
    To one it loves the best.

Lest in the city I forget
    True mateship, after all,
My water-bag and billy yet
    Are hanging on the wall.
And I, to save my soul, again
    Would tramp to sunsets grand
With sad-eyed mates across the plain
    In the Never-Never Land.

 

The Jolly Dead March

If I ever be worthy or famous—
    Which I’m sadly beginning to doubt—
When the angel whose place ’tis to name us
    Shall say to my spirit, “Pass out!”
I wish for no snivelling about me
    (My work was the work of the land)
But I hope that my country will shout me
    The price of a decent brass band.

Oh, let it strike up “Annie Laurie”
    And let it burst out with “Lang Syne”—
Twin voices of sadness and glory
    That have ever been likings of mine.
And give the French war-hymn deep-throated
    With “The Star Spangled Banner” between,
But let the last mile be devoted
    To “Britannia” and “Wearing the Green.”

Thump! thump! of the drums and “Te-ri-rit,”
    Thump! thump! of the drum—’twill be grand,
Though only in dream or in spirit
    To ride or flit after that band!
While myself and my mourners go straying
    And strolling and drifting along,
With the cornets in front of us playing
    The tune of an old battle-song!

I ask for no “turn-out” to bear me;
    I ask not for railings or slabs,
And spare me, my country, oh, spare me
    The hearse and the long string of cabs!
And if, in the end—more’s the pity—
    There’s fame more than money to spare—
A vanman I know in the city
    Will cart me “This side up with care.”

And my spirit will join the procession—
    Will pause, so to speak, on the brink—
Nor feel the least shade of depression
    When the mourners drop out for a drink;
It may be a hot day in December,
    Or a cold day in June it may be,      
And a drink will but help them remember
    The good points the world missed in me.

“Unhook the West Port” for an orphan,
    An old digger chorus revive—
If you don’t hear a whoop from the coffin,
    I am not being buried alive.
But I’ll go with a spirit less bitter
    Than mine on this earth’s ever been,
And, perhaps, to save trouble, Saint Peter
    Will pass me, two comrades between.

Thump! thump! of the drums we inherit—
    War-drums of my dreams—oh, it’s grand!
Be this the reward of all merit
    To ride or march after a band!
As we, the World-Battlers, go straying
    And loving and laughing along—
With Hope in the lead of us playing
    The tune of a life-battle song!

Then let them strike up “Annie Laurie,”
    And let ’em burst out with “Lang Syne,”
Twin voices of sadness and glory
    That have ever been likings of mine.
Let them swell the French war-hymn deep-throated
    (And I’ll not buck at “God Save the Queen”)
But let the last mile be devoted
    To “Britannia” and “Wearing the Green.”

 

Kiss In The Ring

I’ve not seen a picnic for many a day,
My heart has grown callous, my head has grown grey;
But old faded letters their memories bring,
And I’m thinking tonight about Kiss in the Ring.
                      Kiss in the Ring,
                      Kiss in the Ring—
Oh, it makes me remember old Kiss in the Ring!

We drove down the gullies, we drove down the creek,
We drove round the sidlings, we drove round the Peak,
In carts and in buggies the Bush girls to bring
To laugh with us there in sweet Kiss in the Ring.
                      Kiss in the Ring,
                      Kiss in the Ring—
I remember the days of sweet Kiss in the Ring.

And now I think sadly of years in their flight . . .
At the turn by the sliprails I kissed her good night.
She is under the turf, but old memories cling—
Do the angels dance with her to Kiss in the Ring?
                      Kiss in the Ring,
                      Sweet Kiss in the Ring—
Do the angels dance with her to Kiss in the Ring?

 

For’ard

It is stuffy in the steerage where the second-classers sleep,
For there’s near a hundred for’ard, and they’re stowed away like sheep—
They are trav’lers for the most part in a straight ’n’ honest path;
But their linen’s rather scanty, an’ there isn’t any bath—
Stowed away like ewes and wethers that is shore ’n’ marked ’n’ draft;
But the shearers of the shearers always seem to travel aft—
                     In the cushioned cabins, aft,
                     With saloons ’n’ smoke-rooms, aft—
There is sheets ’n’ best of tucker for the first-salooners, aft.

Our beef is just like scrapin’s from the inside of a hide,
And the spuds were pulled too early, for they’re mostly green inside;
But from somewhere back amidships there’s a smell o’ cookin’ waft,
An’ I’d give my earthly prospects for a real good tuck-out aft—
                     Ham an’ eggs, ’n’ coffee, aft,
                     Say, cold fowl for luncheon, aft,
Juicy grills an’ toast ’n’ cutlets—tucker a-lor-frongsy, aft.

They feed our women sep’rate, an’ they make a blessed fuss.
Just as if they couldn’t trust ’em for to eat along with us!
Just because our hands are horny an’ our hearts are rough with graft—
But the gentlemen and ladies always “dine” together aft—
                     With their ferns an’ mirrors, aft,
                     With their flowers an’ napkins, aft—
“I’ll assist you to an orange”—“Kindly pass the sugar,” aft.

We are shabby, rough, ’n’ dirty, an’ our feelin’s out of tune,
An’ it’s hard on fellers for’ard that was used to go saloon;
There’s a broken swell amongst us—he is barracked, he is chaffed,
An’ I wish at times, poor devil, for his own sake he was aft;
                     For they’d understand him, aft,
                     (He will miss the bath-rooms aft)
Spite of all there’s no denying that there’s finer feelin’s aft.

Last night we watched the moonlight as it spread across the sea—
“It is hard to make a livin’,” said the broken swell to me;
“There is ups and downs,” I answered, an’ a bitter laugh he laughed—
There were brighter days an’ better when he always travelled aft—
                     With his rug an’ gladstone, aft,
                     With his cap an’ spyglass, aft—
A careless, rovin’, gay young spark as always travelled aft.

Therc’s a notice by the gangway, an’ it seems to come amiss,
For it says that second-classers ain’t allowed abaft o’ this;
An’ there ought to be a notice for the fellows from abaft—
But the smell an’ dirt’s a warnin’ to the first-salooners, aft;
                     With their tooth- and nail-brush, aft,
                     With their cuffs an’ collars, aft—
Their cigars an’ books, an’ papers, an’ their cap-peaks fore-’n’-aft.

I want to breathe the mornin’ breeze that blows against the boat,
For there’s a swellin’ in my heart, a tightness in my throat.
We are for’ard when there’s trouble! We are for’ard when there’s graft!
But the men who never battle always seem to travel aft;
                     With their dressin’-cases, aft,
                     With their swell pyjamas, aft—
Yes! the idle and the careless, they have ease an’ comfort aft.

I feel so low an’ wretched, as I mooch about the deck.
That I’m ripe for jumpin’ over—an’ I wish there was a wreck!
We are driven to New Zealand to be shot out over there,
Scarce a shillin’ in our pockets, nor a decent rag to wear,
With the everlastin’ worry lest we don’t get into graft—
Oh, there’s little left to land for if you cannot travel aft.
                     No anxiety abaft,
                     They have stuff to land with, aft—
There is little left to land for if you cannot travel aft.

But it’s grand at sea this mornin’, an’ Creation almost speaks,
Sailin’ past the Bay of Islands with its pinnacles an’ peaks,
With the sunny haze all round us an’ the white-caps on the blue,
An’ the orphan rocks an’ breakers—oh, it’s glorious sailin’ through!
To the south a distant steamer, to the west a coastin’ craft,
An’ we see the beauty for’ard—can they see it better aft?—
                     Spite of op’ra-glasses, aft;
                     But, ah well, they’re brothers aft—
Nature seems to draw us closer—bring us nearer fore-’n’-aft.

What’s the use of bein’ bitter? What’s the use of gettin’ mad?
What’s the use of bein’ narrer just because yer luck is bad?
What’s the blessed use of frettin’ like a child that wants the moon?
There is broken hearts an’ trouble in the gilded First Saloon!
We are used to bein’ shabby—we have got no overdraft—
We can laugh at troubles for’ard that they couldn’t laugh at aft!
                     Spite o’ pride an’ tone abaft
                     (Keepin’ up appearance, aft)
There’s anxiety an’ worry in the breezy cabins aft.

But the curse of class distinctions from our shoulders shall be hurled,
An’ the sense of Human Kinship revolutionize the world;
There’ll be higher education for the toilin’ starvin’ clown,
An’ the rich an’ educated shall be educated down;
Then we all will meet amidships on this stout old earthly craft,
An’ there won’t be any friction ’twixt the classes fore-’n’-aft.
                     We’ll be brothers, fore-’n’-aft!
                     Yes, an’ sisters, fore-’n’-aft!
When the people work together, and there ain’t no fore-’n’-aft.

 

To An Old Mate

Old Mate!  In the gusty old weather,
When our hopes and our troubles were new,
In the years spent in wearing out leather,
I found you unselfish and true —
I have gathered these verses together
For the sake of our friendship and you.

You may think for awhile, and with reason,
Though still with a kindly regret,
That I’ve left it full late in the season
To prove I remember you yet;
But you’ll never judge me by their treason
Who profit by friends — and forget.

I remember, Old Man, I remember —
The tracks that we followed are clear —
The jovial last nights of December,
The solemn first days of the year,
Long tramps through the clearings and timber,
Short partings on platform and pier.

I can still feel the spirit that bore us,
And often the old stars will shine —
I remember the last spree in chorus
For the sake of that other Lang Syne,
When the tracks lay divided before us,
Your path through the future and mine.

Through the frost-wind that cut like whip-lashes,
Through the ever-blind haze of the drought —
And in fancy at times by the flashes
Of light in the darkness of doubt —
I have followed the tent poles and ashes
Of camps that we moved further out.

You will find in these pages a trace of
That side of our past which was bright,
And recognise sometimes the face of
A friend who has dropped out of sight —
I send them along in the place of
The letters I promised to write.

 

‘Says You’

When the heavy sand is yielding backward from your blistered feet,
And across the distant timber you can see the flowing heat;
When your head is hot and aching, and the shadeless plain is wide,
And it’s fifteen miles to water in the scrub the other side—
Don’t give up, don’t be down-hearted, to a man’s strong heart be true!
Take the air in through your nostrils, set your lips and see it through—
For it can’t go on for ever, and—‘I’ll have my day!’ says you.

When you’re camping in the mulga, and the rain is falling slow,
While you nurse your rheumatism ’neath a patch of calico;
Short of tucker or tobacco, short of sugar or of tea,
And the scrubs are dark and dismal, and the plains are like a sea;
Don’t give up and be down-hearted—to the soul of man be true!
Grin! if you’ve a mate to grin for, grin and jest and don’t look blue;
For it can’t go on for ever, and—‘I’ll rise some day,’ says you.

When you’ve tramped the Sydney pavements till you’ve counted all the flags,
And your flapping boot-soles trip you, and your clothes are mostly rags,
When you’re called a city loafer, shunned, abused, moved on, despised—
Fifty hungry beggars after every job that’s advertised—
Don’t be beaten! Hold your head up! To your wretched self be true;
Set your pride to fight your hunger! Be a man in all you do!
For it cannot last for ever—‘I will rise again!’ says you.

When you’re dossing out in winter, in the darkness and the rain,
Crouching, cramped, and cold and hungry ’neath a seat in The Domain,
And a cloaked policeman stirs you with that mighty foot of his—
‘Phwat d’ye mane? Phwat’s this? Who are ye? Come, move on—git out av this!’
Don’t get mad; ’twere only foolish; there is nought that you can do,
Save to mark his beat and time him—find another hole or two;
But it can’t go on for ever—‘I’ll have money yet!’ says you.

* * * * * * * * *

Bother not about the morrow, for sufficient to the day
Is the evil (rather more so). Put your trust in God and pray!
Study well the ant, thou sluggard. Blessed are the meek and low.
Ponder calmly on the lilies—how they idle, how they grow.
A man’s a man! Obey your masters! Do not blame the proud and fat,
For the poor are always with them, and they cannot alter that.
Lay your treasures up in Heaven—cling to life and see it through!
For it cannot last for ever—‘I shall die some day,’ says you.

 

Andy’s Return

With pannikins all rusty,
    And billy burnt and black,
And clothes all torn and dusty,
    That scarcely hide his back;
With sun-cracked saddle-leather,
    And knotted greenhide rein,
And face burnt brown with weather,
    Our Andy’s home again!

His unkempt hair is faded
    With sleeping in the wet,
He’s looking old and jaded;
    But he is hearty yet.
With eyes sunk in their sockets—
    But merry as of yore;
With big cheques in his pockets,
    Our Andy’s home once more!

Old Uncle’s bright and cheerful;
    He wears a smiling face;
And Aunty’s never tearful
    Now Andy’s round the place.
Old Blucher barks for gladness;
    He broke his rusty chain,
And leapt in joyous madness
    When Andy came again.

With tales of flood and famine,
    On distant northern tracks,
And shady yarns—‘baal gammon!’
    Of dealings with the blacks,
From where the skies hang lazy
    On many a northern plain,
From regions dim and hazy
    Our Andy’s home again!

His toil is nearly over;
    He’ll soon enjoy his gains.
Not long he’ll be a drover,
    And cross the lonely plains.
We’ll happy be for ever
    When he’ll no longer roam,
But by some deep, cool river
    Will make us all a home.

 

Song of the Old Bullock-Driver

Far back in the days when the blacks used to ramble
    In long single file ’neath the evergreen tree,
The wool-teams in season came down from Coonamble,
    And journeyed for weeks on their way to the sea,
’Twas then that our hearts and our sinews were stronger,
    For those were the days when the bushman was bred.
We journeyed on roads that were rougher and longer
    Than roads where the feet of our grandchildren tread.

With mates who have gone to the great Never-Never,
    And mates whom I’ve not seen for many a day,
I camped on the banks of the Cudgegong River
    And yarned at the fire by the old bullock-dray.
I would summon them back from the far Riverina,
    From days that shall be from all others distinct,
And sing to the sound of an old concertina
    Their rugged old songs where strange fancies were linked.

We never were lonely, for, camping together,
    We yarned and we smoked the long evenings away,
And little I cared for the signs of the weather
    When snug in my hammock slung under the dray.
We rose with the dawn, were it ever so chilly,
    When yokes and tarpaulins were covered with frost,
And toasted the bacon and boiled the black billy,
    Where high on the camp-fire the branches were tossed.

On flats where the air was suggestive of ’possums,
    And homesteads and fences were hinting of change,
We saw the faint glimmer of appletree blossoms
    And far in the distance the blue of the range;
And here in the rain, there was small use in flogging
    The poor, tortured bullocks that tugged at the load,
When down to the axles the waggons were bogging
    And traffic was making a marsh of the road.

’Twas hard on the beasts on the terrible pinches,
    Where two teams of bullocks were yoked to a load,
And tugging and slipping, and moving by inches,
    Half-way to the summit they clung to the road.
And then, when the last of the pinches was bested,
    (You’ll surely not say that a glass was a sin?)
The bullocks lay down ’neath the gum trees and rested —
    The bullockies steered for the bar of the inn.

Then slowly we crawled by the trees that kept tally
    Of miles that were passed on the long journey down.
We saw the wild beauty of Capertee Valley,
    As slowly we rounded the base of the Crown.
But, ah! the poor bullocks were cruelly goaded
    While climbing the hills from the flats and the vales;
’Twas here that the teams were so often unloaded
    That all knew the meaning of ‘counting your bales.’

And, oh! but the best-paying load that I carried
    Was one to the run where my sweetheart was nurse.
We courted awhile, and agreed to get married,
    And couple our futures for better or worse.
And as my old feet grew too weary to drag on
    The miles of rough metal they met by the way,
My eldest grew up and I gave him the waggon —
    He’s plodding along by the bullocks to-day.

 

I’m a Rebel Too

 

It was the King of Virland —
    O he was angry then —
That rode to crush rebellion
    With twenty thousand men.
His enemies he scattered
    And hanged on every side,
Because their creed was rapine,
    Their cause was greed and pride.

They searched for Outlaw Eric,
    They hunted everywhere —
(Most honest of the rebels
    If aught was honest there).
King Hertzberg swore to hang him,
    But, when the day was done,
They had not found the Outlaw,
    But found his little son.

He had not seen his father,
    Nor knew where he had gone;
And someone asked him, thoughtless,
    Which side himself was on,
And straightway he made answer —
    They found he answered true —
“My father is a rebel,
    And I’m a rebel too.”


King Hertzberg, he dismounted,
    And kindly bent his head:
“Now, why are you a rebel,
    My little man?” he said.
The boy nor paused nor faltered,
    But stood like Eric’s son,
And answered Hertzberg simply —
    “Because my father’s one.”


And then they promised all things,
    Dear to his heart, I ween —
They promised they would make him
    The first page to the queen,
With princesses for playmates —
    But, nay, it would not do —
“My father is a rebel,
    And I’m a rebel too!”

King Hertzberg sank beside him
    And rested on one knee.
“I would my royal children
    As loyal were!” said he.
“Go, seek and tell your father
    That he and his go free,
And if his wrongs be real
    Then let him come to me.

“And let him come with plain words,
    With plain words in daylight,
And ride not with armed rebels
    And outlaws in the night.
And let him not misjudge me —
    For to all that is untrue,
And wherever Wrong’s the ruler,
    I am a rebel too.”

 

The Song of the Darling River

The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere—
And all that is left of the last year’s flood
Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And—this is the dirge of the Darling River:

‘I rise in the drought from the Queensland rain,
‘I fill my branches again and again;
‘I hold my billabongs back in vain,
‘For my life and my peoples the South Seas drain;
‘And the land grows old and the people never
‘Will see the worth of the Darling River.

‘I drown dry gullies and lave bare hills,
‘I turn drought-ruts into rippling rills—
‘I form fair island and glades all green
‘Till every bend is a sylvan scene.
‘I have watered the barren land ten leagues wide!
‘But in vain I have tried, ah! in vain I have tried
‘To show the sign of the Great All Giver,
‘The Word to a people: O! lock your river.

‘I want no blistering barge aground,
‘But racing steamers the seasons round;
‘I want fair homes on my lonely ways,
‘A people’s love and a people’s praise—
‘And rosy children to dive and swim—
‘And fair girls’ feet in my rippling brim;
‘And cool, green forests and gardens ever’—
Oh, this is the hymn of the Darling River.

The sky is brass and the scrub-lands glare,
Death and ruin are everywhere;
Thrown high to bleach, or deep in the mud
The bones lie buried by last year’s flood,
And the Demons dance from the Never Never
To laugh at the rise of the Darling River.

 

The Good Samaritan

He comes from out the ages dim—
    The good Samaritan;
I somehow never pictured him
    A fat and jolly man;
But one who’d little joy to glean,
    And little coin to give—
A sad-faced man, and lank and lean,
    Who found it hard to live.

His eyes were haggard in the drought,
    His hair was iron-grey—
His dusty gown was patched, no doubt,
    Where we patch pants to-day.
His faded turban, too, was torn—
    But darned and folded neat,
And leagues of desert sand had worn
    The sandals on his feet.

He’s been a fool, perhaps, and would
    Have prospered had he tried,
But he was one who never could
    Pass by the other side.
An honest man whom men called soft,
    While laughing in their sleeves—
No doubt in business ways he oft
    Had fallen amongst thieves.

And, I suppose, by track and tent,
    And other ancient ways,
He drank, and fought, and loved, and went
    The pace in his young days.
And he had known the bitter year
    When love and friendship fail—
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
    That he had been in jail.

A silent man, whose passions slept,
    Who had no friends or foes—
A quiet man, who always kept
    His hopes and sorrows close.
A man who very seldom smiled,
    And one who could not weep
Be it for death of wife or child
    Or sorrow still more deep.

But sometimes when a man would rave
    Of wrong, as sinners do,
He’d say to cheer and make him brave
    ‘I’ve had my troubles too.’
(They might be twittered by the birds,
    And breathed high Heaven through,
There’s beauty in those world-old words:
    ‘I’ve had my sorrows too.’)

And if he was a married man,
    As many are that roam,
I guess that good Samaritan
    Was rather glum at home,
Impatient when a child would fret,
    And strict at times and grim—
A man whose kinsmen never yet
    Appreciated him.

Howbeit—in a study brown—
    He had for all we know,
His own thoughts as he journeyed down
    The road to Jericho,
And pondered, as we puzzle yet,
    On tragedies of life—
And maybe he was deep in debt
    And parted from his wife.

(And so ‘by chance there came that way,’
    It reads not like romance—
The truest friends on earth to-day,
    They mostly come by chance.)
He saw a stranger left by thieves
    Sore hurt and like to die—
He also saw (my heart believes)
    The others pass him by.

(Perhaps that good Samaritan
    Knew Levite well, and priest)
He lifted up the wounded man
    And sat him on his beast,
And took him on towards the inn—
    All Christ-like unawares—
Still pondering, perhaps, on sin
    And virtue—and his cares.

He bore him in and fixed him right
    (Helped by the local drunk),
And wined and oiled him well all night,
    And thought beside his bunk.
And on the morrow ere he went
    He left a quid and spoke
Unto the host in terms which meant—
    ‘Look after that poor bloke.’

He must have known them at the inn,
    They must have known him too—
Perhaps on that same track he’d seen
    Some other sick mate through;
For ‘Whatsoe’er thou spendest more’
    (The parable is plain)
‘I will repay,’ he told the host,
    ‘When I return again.’

He seemed to be a good sort, too,
    The boss of that old pub—
(As even now there are a few
    At shanties in the scrub).
The good Samaritan jogged on
    Through Canaan’s dust and heat,
And pondered over various schemes
    And ways to make ends meet.

.     .     .     .     .

He was no Christian, understand,
    For Christ had not been born—
He journeyed later through the land
    To hold the priests to scorn;
And tell the world of ‘certain men’
    Like that Samaritan,
And preach the simple creed again—
    Man’s duty! Man to man!

.     .     .     .     .

‘Once on a time there lived a man,’
    But he has lived alway,
And that gaunt, good Samaritan
    Is with us here to-day;
He passes through the city streets
    Unnoticed and unknown,
He helps the sinner that he meets—
    His sorrows are his own.

He shares his tucker on the track
    When things are at their worst
(And often shouts in bars outback
    For souls that are athirst).
To-day I see him staggering down
    The blazing water-course,
And making for the distant town
    With a sick man on his horse.

He’ll live while nations find their graves
    And mortals suffer pain—
When colour rules and whites are slaves
    And savages again.
And, after all is past and done,
    He’ll rise up, the Last Man,
From tending to the last but one—
    The good Samaritan.

 

To Hannah

Spirit Girl to whom ’twas given
    To revisit scenes of pain,
From the hell I thought was Heaven
    You have lifted me again;
Through the world that I inherit,
    Where I loved her ere she died,
I am walking with the spirit
    Of a dead girl by my side.

Through my old possessions only
    For a very little while,
And they say that I am lonely,
    And they pity, but I smile:
For the brighter side has won me
    By the calmness that it brings,
And the peace that is upon me
    Does not come of earthly things.

Spirit girl, the good is in me,
    But the flesh you know is weak,
And with no pure soul to win me
    I might miss the path I seek;
Lead me by the love you bore me
    When you trod the earth with me,
Till the light is clear before me
    And my spirit too is free.

 

Shearers

No church-bell rings them from the Track,
    No pulpit lights their blindness—
’Tis hardship, drought and homelessness
    That teach those Bushmen kindness:
The mateship born of barren lands,
    Of toil and thirst and danger—
The camp-fare for the stranger set,
    The first place to the stranger.

They do the best they can to-day—
    Take no thought of the morrow;
Their way is not the old-world way—
    They live to lend and borrow.
When shearing’s done and cheques gone wrong,
    They call it ‘time to slither’—
They saddle up and say ‘So-long!’
    And ride—the Lord knows whither.

And though he may be brown or black,
    Or wrong man there or right man,
The mate that’s honest to his mates
    They call that man a ‘white man’!
They tramp in mateship side by side—
    The Protestant and ‘Roman’—
They call no biped lord or ‘sir,’
    And touch their hats to no man!

They carry in their swags, perhaps,
    A portrait and a letter—
And, maybe, deep down in their hearts,
    The hope of ‘something better.’
Where lonely miles are long to ride,
    And all days seem recurrent,
There’s lots of time to think of men
    They might have been—but weren’t.

They turn their faces to the west
    And leave the world behind them—
(Their drought-dried graves are seldom green
    Where even mates can find them).
They know too little of the world
    To rise to wealth or greatness:
But in this book of mine I pay
    My tribute to their straightness.

 

The Army of the Rear

I listened through the music and the sounds of revelry,
And all the hollow noises of that year of Jubilee;
I heard beyond the music and beyond the local cheer,
The steady tramp of thousands that were marching in the rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            They seem to shake the air,
Those never-ceasing footsteps of the outcasts in the rear.

I heard defiance ringing from the men of rags and dirt,
I heard wan woman singing that sad “Song of the Shirt”,
And o’er the sounds of menace and moaning low and drear,
I heard the steady tramping of their feet along the rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            Vibrating in the air —
They’re swelling fast, those footsteps of the Army of the Rear!

I hate the wrongs I read about, I hate the wrongs I see!
The tramping of that army sounds as music unto me!
A music that is terrible, that frights the anxious ear,
Is beaten from the weary feet that tramp along the rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            In dogged, grim despair —
They have a goal, those footsteps of the Army of the Rear!

I looked upon the nobles, with their lineage so old;
I looked upon their mansions, on their acres and their gold,
I saw their women radiant in jewelled robes appear,
And then I joined the army of the outcasts in the rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            We’ll show what Want can dare,
My brothers and my sisters of the Army of the Rear!

I looked upon the mass of poor, in filthy alleys pent;
And on rich men’s Edens, that are built on grinding rent;
I looked o’er London’s miles of slums — I saw the horrors there,
And swore to die a soldier of the Army of the Rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            I’ve sworn to do and dare,
I’ve sworn to die a soldier of the Army of the Rear!

“They’re brutes,” so say the wealthy, “and by steel must be dismayed” —
Be brutes among us, nobles, they are brutes that ye have made;
We want what God hath given us, we want our portion here,
And that is why we’re marching — and we’ll march beyond the rear!
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            Awake and have a care,
Ye proud and haughty spurners of the wretches in the rear.

We’ll nurse our wrongs to strengthen us, our hate that it may grow,
For, outcast from society, society’s our foe.
Beware! who grind out human flesh, for human life is dear!
There’s menace in the marching of the Army of the Rear.
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            There’s danger in despair,
There’s danger in the marching of the Army of the Rear!

The wealthy care not for our wants, nor for the pangs we feel;
Our hands have clutched in vain for bread, and now they clutch for steel!
Come, men of rags and hunger, come! There’s work for heroes here!
There’s room still in the vanguard of the Army of the Rear!
            Tramp! tramp! tramp!
            O men of want and care!
There’s glory in the vanguard of the Army of the Rear!

 

New Chum Jackeroos

Let bushmen think as bushmen will,
    And say whate’er they choose,
I hate to hear the stupid sneer
    At New Chum Jackaroos.

He may not ride as you can ride,
    Or do what you can do;
But sometimes you’d seem small beside
    The New Chum Jackaroo.

His share of work he never shirks,
    And through the blazing drought,
He lives the old things down, and works
    His own salvation out.

When older, wiser chums despond
    He battles brave of heart—
’Twas he who sailed of old beyond
    The margin of the chart.

’Twas he who proved the world was round—
    In crazy square canoes;
The lands you’re living in were found
    By New Chum Jackaroos.

He crossed the deserts hot and bare,
    From barren, hungry shores—
The plains that you would scarcely dare
    With all your tanks and bores.

He fought a way through stubborn hills
    Towards the setting sun—
Your fathers all and Burke and Wills
    Were New Chums, every one.

When England fought with all the world
    In those brave days gone by,
And all its strength against her hurled,
    He held her honour high.

By Southern palms and Northern pines—
    Where’er was life to lose—
She held her own with thin red lines
    Of New Chum Jackaroos.

Through shot and shell and solitudes,
    Wherever feet have gone,
The New Chums fought while eye-glass dudes
    And Johnnies led them on.

And though he wear a foppish coat,
    And these old things forget,
In stormy times I’d give a vote
    For Cuffs and Collars yet.

 

The Cambaroora Star

So you’re writing for a paper? Well, it’s nothing very new
To be writing yards of drivel for a tidy little screw;
You are young and educated, and a clever chap you are,
But you’ll never run a paper like the Cambaroora Star.
Though in point of education I am nothing but a dunce,
I myself—you mayn’t believe it—helped to run a paper once
With a chap on Cambaroora, by the name of Charlie Brown,
And I’ll tell you all about it if you’ll take the story down.

On a golden day in summer, when the sunrays were aslant,
Brown arrived in Cambaroora with a little printing plant
And his worldly goods and chattels—rather damaged on the way—
And a weary-looking woman who was following the dray.
He had bought an empty humpy, and, instead of getting tight,
Why, the diggers heard him working like a lunatic all night:
And next day a sign of canvas, writ in characters of tar,
Claimed the humpy as the office of the Cambaroora Star.

Well, I cannot read, that’s honest, but I had a digger friend
Who would read the paper to me from the title to the end;
And the Star contained a leader running thieves and spielers down,
With a slap against claim-jumping, and a poem made by Brown.
Once I showed it to a critic, and he said ’twas very fine,
Though he wasn’t long in finding glaring faults in every line;
But it was a song of Freedom—all the clever critic said
Couldn’t stop that song from ringing, ringing, ringing in my head.

So I went where Brown was working in his little hut hard by:
‘My old mate has been a-reading of your writings, Brown,’ said I—
‘I have studied on your leader, I agree with what you say,
You have struck the bed-rock certain, and there ain’t no get-away;
Your paper’s just the thumper for a young and growing land,
And your principles is honest, Brown; I want to shake your hand,
And if there’s any lumping in connection with the Star,
Well, I’ll find the time to do it, and I’ll help you—there you are!’

Brown was every inch a digger (bronzed and bearded in the South),
But there seemed a kind of weakness round the corners of his mouth
When he took the hand I gave him; and he gripped it like a vice,
While he tried his best to thank me, and he stuttered once or twice.
But there wasn’t need for talking—we’d the same old loves and hates,
And we understood each other—Charlie Brown and I were mates.
So we worked a little ‘paddock’ on a place they called the ‘Bar’,
And we sank a shaft together, and at night we worked the Star.

Charlie thought and did his writing when his work was done at night,
And the missus used to ‘set’ it near as quick as he could write.
Well, I didn’t shirk my promise, and I helped the thing, I guess,
For at night I worked the lever of the crazy printing-press;
Brown himself would do the feeding, and the missus used to ‘fly’—
She is flying with the angels, if there’s justice up on high,
For she died on Cambaroora when the Star began to go,
And was buried like the diggers buried diggers long ago.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord, that press! It was a jumper—we could seldom get it right,
And were lucky if we averaged a hundred in the night.
Many nights we’d sit together in the windy hut and fold,
And I helped the thing a little when I struck a patch of gold;
And we battled for the diggers as the papers seldom do,
Though when the diggers errored, why, we touched the diggers too.
Yet the paper took the fancy of that roaring mining town,
And the diggers sent a nugget with their sympathy to Brown.

Oft I sat and smoked beside him in the listening hours of night,
When the shadows from the corners seemed to gather round the light—
When his weary, aching fingers, closing stiffly round the pen,
Wrote defiant truth in language that could touch the hearts of men—
Wrote until his eyelids shuddered—wrote until the East was grey:
Wrote the stern and awful lessons that were taught him in his day;
And they knew that he was honest, and they read his smallest par,
For I think the diggers’ Bible was the Cambaroora Star.

Diggers then had little mercy for the loafer and the scamp—
If there wasn’t law and order, there was justice in the camp;
And the manly independence that is found where diggers are
Had a sentinel to guard it in the Cambaroora Star.
There was strife about the Chinamen, who came in days of old
Like a swarm of thieves and loafers when the diggers found the gold—
Like the sneaking fortune-hunters who are always found behind,
And who only shepherd diggers till they track them to the ‘find’.

Charlie wrote a slinging leader, calling on his digger mates,
And he said: ‘We think that Chinkies are as bad as syndicates.
What’s the good of holding meetings where you only talk and swear?
Get a move upon the Chinkies when you’ve got an hour to spare.’
It was nine o’clock next morning when the Chows began to swarm,
But they weren’t so long in going, for the diggers’ blood was warm.
Then the diggers held a meeting, and they shouted: ‘Hip hoorar!
Give three ringing cheers, my hearties, for the Cambaroora Star.’

But the Cambaroora petered, and the diggers’ sun went down,
And another sort of people came and settled in the town;
The reefing was conducted by a syndicate or two,
And they changed the name to ‘Queensville’, for their blood was very blue.
They wanted Brown to help them put the feathers in their nests,
But his leaders went like thunder for their vested interests,
And he fought for right and justice and he raved about the dawn
Of the reign of Man and Reason till his ads. were all withdrawn.

He was offered shares for nothing in the richest of the mines,
And he could have made a fortune had he run on other lines;
They abused him for his leaders, and they parodied his rhymes,
And they told him that his paper was a mile behind the times.
‘Let the times alone,’ said Charlie, ‘they’re all right, you needn’t fret;
For I started long before them, and they haven’t caught me yet.
But,’ says he to me, ‘they’re coming, and they’re not so very far—
Though I left the times behind me they are following the Star.

‘Let them do their worst,’ said Charlie, ‘but I’ll never drop the reins
While a single scrap of paper or an ounce of ink remains:
I’ve another truth to tell them, though they tread me in the dirt,
And I’ll print another issue if I print it on my shirt.’
So we fought the battle bravely, and we did our very best
Just to make the final issue quite as lively as the rest.
And the swells in Cambaroora talked of feathers and of tar
When they read the final issue of the Cambaroora Star.

Gold is stronger than the tongue is—gold is stronger than the pen:
They’d have squirmed in Cambaroora had I found a nugget then;
But in vain we scraped together every penny we could get,
For they fixed us with their boycott, and the plant was seized for debt.
’Twas a storekeeper who did it, and he sealed the paper’s doom,
Though we gave him ads. for nothing when the Star began to boom:
’Twas a paltry bill for tucker, and the crawling, sneaking clown
Sold the debt for twice its value to the men who hated Brown.

I was digging up the river, and I swam the flooded bend
With a little cash and comfort for my literary friend.
Brown was sitting sad and lonely with his head bowed in despair,
While a single tallow candle threw a flicker on his hair,
And the gusty wind that whistled through the crannies of the door
Stirred the scattered files of paper that were lying on the floor.
Charlie took my hand in silence—and by-and-by he said:
‘Tom, old mate, we did our damnedest, but the brave old Star is dead.’

* * * * * * * * * *

Then he stood up on a sudden, with a face as pale as death,
And he gripped my hand a moment, while he seemed to fight for breath:
‘Tom, old friend,’ he said, ‘I’m going, and I’m ready to—to start,
For I know that there is something—something crooked with my heart.
Tom, my first child died. I loved her even better than the pen—
Tom—and while the Star was dying, why, I felt like I did then.

* * * * * * * * * *

Listen! Like the distant thunder of the rollers on the bar—
Listen, Tom! I hear the—diggers—shouting: ‘Bully for the Star!’’

 

The Water Lily

        A lonely young wife
        In her dreaming discerns
        A lily-decked pool
        With a border of ferns,
        And a beautiful child,
        With butterfly wings,
Trips down to the edge of the water and sings:
        ‘Come, mamma! come!
        ‘Quick! follow me—
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’

        And the lonely young wife,
        Her heart beating wild,
        Cries, ‘Wait till I come,
        ‘Till I reach you, my child!’
        But the beautiful child
        With butterfly wings
Steps out on the leaves of the lily and sings:
        ‘Come, mamma! come!
        ‘Quick! follow me!
‘And step on the leaves of the water-lily!

        And the wife in her dreaming
        Steps out on the stream,
        But the lily leaves sink
        And she wakes from her dream.
        Ah, the waking is sad,
        For the tears that it brings,
And she knows ’tis her dead baby’s spirit that sings:
        ‘Come, mamma! come!
        ‘Quick! follow me!
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’

 

The Tracks That Lie by India

Now this is not a dismal song, like some I’ve sung of late,
When I’ve been brooding all day long about my muddled fate;
For though I’ve had a rocky time I’ll never quite forget,
And though I never was so deep in trouble and in debt,
And though I never was so poor nor in a fix so tight—
The tracks that run by India are shining in my sight.

The roads that run by India, and all the ports of call—
I’m going back to London first to raise the wherewithal.
I’ll call at Suez and Port Said as I am going past
(I was too worried to take notes when I was that way last),
At Naples and at Genoa, and, if I get the chance,
Who knows but I might run across the pleasant land of France.

The track that runs by India goes up the hot Red Sea—
The other side of Africa is far too dull for me.
(I fear that I have missed a chance I’ll never get again
To see the land of chivalry and bide awhile in Spain.)
I’ll graft a year in London, and if fortune smiles on me
I’ll take the track to India by France and Italy.

’Tis sweet to court some foreign girl with eyes of lustrous glow,
Who does not know my language and whose language I don’t know;
To loll on gently-rolling decks beneath the softening skies,
While she sits knitting opposite, and make love with our eyes—
The glance that says far more than words, the old half-mystic smile—
The track that runs by India will wait for me awhile.

The tracks that run by India to China and Japan,
The tracks where all the rovers go—the tracks that call a Man!
I’m wearied of the formal lands of parson and of priest,
Of dollars and of fashions, and I’m drifting towards the East;
I’m tired of cant and cackle, and of sordid jobbery—
The mystery of the East hath cast its glamour over me.

 

 

New Life, New Love

The breezes blow on the river below,
    And the fleecy clouds float high,
And I mark how the dark green gum trees match
    The bright blue dome of the sky.
The rain has been, and the grass is green
    Where the slopes were bare and brown,
And I see the things that I used to see
    In the days ere my head went down.

I have found a light in my long dark night,
    Brighter than stars or moon;
I have lost the fear of the sunset drear,
    And the sadness of afternoon.
Here let us stand while I hold your hand,
    Where the light’s on your golden head—
Oh! I feel the thrill that I used to feel
    In the days ere my heart was dead.

The storm’s gone by, but my lips are dry
    And the old wrong rankles yet—
Sweetheart or wife, I must take new life
    From your red lips warm and wet!
So let it be, you may cling to me,
    There is nothing on earth to dread,
For I’ll be the man that I used to be
    In the days ere my heart was dead!

 

A May Night on the Mountains

’Tis a wonderful time when these hours begin,
    These long ‘small hours’ of night,
When grass is crisp, and the air is thin,
    And the stars come close and bright.
The moon hangs caught in a silvery veil,
    From clouds of a steely grey,
And the hard, cold blue of the sky grows pale
    In the wonderful Milky Way.

There is something wrong with this star of ours,
    A mortal plank unsound,
That cannot be charged to the mighty powers
    Who guide the stars around.
Though man is higher than bird or beast,
    Though wisdom is still his boast,
He surely resembles Nature least,
    And the things that vex her most.

Oh, say, some muse of a larger star,
    Some muse of the Universe,
If they who people those planets far
    Are better than we, or worse?
Are they exempted from deaths and births,
    And have they greater powers,
And greater heavens, and greater earths,
    And greater Gods than ours?

Are our lies theirs, and our truth their truth,
    Are they cursed for pleasure’s sake,
Do they make their hells in their reckless youth
    Ere they know what hells they make?
And do they toil through each weary hour
    Till the tedious day is o’er,
For food that gives but the fleeting power
    To toil and strive for more?

 

The Captains

The Captains sailed from all the World—from all the world and Spain;
And each one for his country’s ease, her glory and her gain;
The Captains sailed to Southern Seas, and sailed the Spanish Main;
And some sailed out beyond the World, and some sailed home again.

And each one for his daily bread, and bitter bread it was,
Because of things they’d left at home—or for some other cause.
Their wives and daughters made the lace to deck the Lady’s gown,
Where sailors’ wives sew dungarees by many a seaport town.

The Captains sailed in rotten ships, with often rotten crews,
Because their lands were ignorant and meaner than the ooze;
With money furnished them by Greed, or by ambition mean,
When they had crawled to some pig-faced, pig-hearted king or queen.

And when a storm was on the coast, and spray leaped o’er the quays,
Then little Joan or Dorothy, or Inez or Louise,
Would kneel her down on such a night beside her mother’s knees,
And fold her little hands and pray for those beyond the seas.
With the touching faith of little girls—the faith by love embalmed—
They’d pray for men beyond the seas who might have been becalmed.

For some will pray at CHRIST His feet, and some at MARY’S shrine;
And some to Heathen goddesses, as I have prayed to mine;
To Mecca or to Bethlehem, to Fire, or Joss, or Sol,
And one will pray to sticks or stones, and one to her rag doll.
But we are stubborn men and vain, and though we rise or fall,
Our children’s prayers or women’s prayers, GOD knows we need them all!
And no one fights the bitter gale, or strives in combat grim,
But, somewhere in the world, a child is praying hard for him.

The Captains sailed to India, to China and Japan.
They met the Strangers’ Welcome and the Friendliness of Man;
The Captains sailed to Southern Seas, and “wondrous sights” they saw—
The Rights of Man in savage lands, and law without a law.
They learnt the truth from savages, and wisdom from the wild,
And learned to walk in unknown ways, and trust them like a child.
(The sailors told of monstrous things that be where sailors roam . . .
But none had seen more monstrous things than they had seen at home.)

They found new worlds for crowded folk in cities old and worn,
And huts of hunger, fog and smoke in lands by Faction torn.
(They found the great and empty lands where Nations might be born.)
They found new foods, they found new wealth, and newer ways to live,
Where sons might grow in strength and health, with all that God would give.
They tracked their ways through unknown seas where Danger still remains,
And sailed back poor and broken men, and some sailed back in chains.
But, bound or free, or ill or well, where’er their sails were furled,
They brought to weary, worn-out lands glad tidings from the World.

The Seasons saw our fathers come, their flocks and herds increase;
They saw the old lands waste in War, the new lands waste in Peace;
The Seasons saw new gardens made, they saw the old lands bleed,
And into new lands introduced the curse of Class and Creed.
They saw the birth of Politics, and all was ripe for Greed.
And Mammon came and built his towers, and Mammon held the fort:
Till one new land went dollar-mad, and one went mad for Sport.

Where men for love of Science sailed in rotten tubs for years,
To hang or starve, while nought availed a wife or daughter’s tears—
Where men made life-long sacrifice for some blind Northern Power,
Now Science sinks a thousand souls, and sinks them in an hour.
You would be rich and great too soon—have all that mortal craves;
The day may come ere you have lived when you’ll be poor and slaves.
You heeded not the warning voice, for Self and Sport prevailed;
You yet might wish, in dust and dread, those Captains had not sailed.

 

A Voice from the City

On western plain and eastern hill
    Where once my fancy ranged,
The station hands are riding still
    And they are little changed.
But I have lost in London gloom
    The glory of the day,
The grand perfume of wattle bloom
    Is faint and far away.

Brown faces under broad-brimmed hats
    The grip of wiry hands,
The gallops on the frosty flats,
    Seem dreams of other lands;
The camp fire and the stars that blaze
    Above the mystic plain
Are but the thoughts of vanished days
    That never come again.

The evening star I seldom view—
    That led me on to roam—
I never see the morning star
    That used to draw me home.
But I have often longed for day
    To hide the few I see,
Because they only point and say
    Most bitter things to me.

I wear my life on pavement stones
    That drag me ever down,
A paltry slave to little things,
    By custom chained to town.
I’ve lost the strength to strike alone,
    The heart to do and dare—
I mind the day I’d roll my swag
    And tramp to—God-knows-where.

When I should wait I wander out,
    When I should go I bide—
I scarcely dare to think about
    The days when I could ride.
I would not mount before his eyes,
    ‘Straight’ Bushman tall and tan—
I mind the day when I stood up
    And fought him like a man.

I mind the time when I was shy
    To meet the brown Bush girls—
I’ve lunched with lords since then and I
    Have been at home with earls:
I learned to smile and learned to bow
    And lie to ladies gay—
But to a gaunt Bushwoman now
    I’d not know what to say.

And if I sought her hard bare home
    From scenes of show and sham,
I’d sit all ill at ease and feel
    The poor weak thing I am.
I could not meet her hopeless eyes
    That look one through and through,
The haggard woman of the past
    Who once thought I was true.

But nought on earth can last for aye,
    And wild with care and pain,
Some day by chance I’ll break away
    And seek the Bush again.
And find awhile from bitter years
    The rest the Bush can bring,
And hear, perhaps, with truer ears
    The songs it has to sing.

 

Cameron’s Heart

The diggings were just in their glory when Alister Cameron came,
With recommendations, he told me, from friends and a parson ‘at hame’;
He read me his recommendations—he called them a part of his plant—
The first one was signed by an Elder, the other by Cameron’s aunt.
The meenister called him ’ungodly—a stray frae the fauld o’ the Lord’,
And his aunt set him down as a spendthrift, ‘a rebel at hame and abroad’.

He got drunk now and then and he gambled (such heroes are often the same);
That’s all they could say in connection with Alister Cameron’s name.
He was straight and he stuck to his country and spoke with respect of his kirk;
He did his full share of the cooking, and more than his share of the work.
And many a poor devil then, when his strength and his money were spent,
Was sure of a lecture—and tucker, and a shakedown in Cameron’s tent.

He shunned all the girls in the camp, and they said he was proof to the dart—
That nothing but whisky and gaming had ever a place in his heart;
He carried a packet about him, well hid, but I saw it at last,
And—well, ’tis a very old story—the story of Cameron’s past:
A ring and a sprig o’ white heather, a letter or two and a curl,
A bit of a worn silver chain, and the portrait of Cameron’s girl.

* * * * * * * * * *

It chanced in the first of the Sixties that Ally and I and McKean
Were sinking a shaft on Mundoorin, near Fosberry’s puddle-machine.
The bucket we used was a big one, and rather a weight when ’twas full,
Though Alister wound it up easy, for he had the strength of a bull.
He hinted at heart-disease often, but, setting his fancy apart,
I always believed there was nothing the matter with Cameron’s heart.

One day I was working below—I was filling the bucket with clay,
When Alister cried, ‘Pack it on, mon! we ought to be bottomed to-day.’
He wound, and the bucket rose steady and swift to the surface until
It reached the first log on the top, where it suddenly stopped, and hung still.
I knew what was up in a moment when Cameron shouted to me:
‘Climb up for your life by the footholes. I’ll stick tae th’ haun’le—or dee!

And those were the last words he uttered. He groaned, for I heard him quite plain—
There’s nothing so awful as that when it’s wrung from a workman in pain.
The strength of despair was upon me; I started, and scarcely drew breath,
But climbed to the top for my life in the fear of a terrible death.
And there, with his waist on the handle, I saw the dead form of my mate,
And over the shaft hung the bucket, suspended by Cameron’s weight.

I wonder did Alister think of the scenes in the distance so dim,
When Death at the windlass that morning took cruel advantage of him?
He knew if the bucket rushed down it would murder or cripple his mate—
His hand on the iron was closed with a grip that was stronger than Fate;
He thought of my danger, not his, when he felt in his bosom the smart,
And stuck to the handle in spite of the Finger of Death on his heart.

 

Genoa

A long farewell to Genoa
    That rises to the skies,
Where the barren coast of Italy
    Like our own coastline lies.
A sad farewell to Genoa,
    And long my heart shall grieve,
The only city in the world
    That I was loath to leave.

No sign of rush or strife is there,
    No war of greed they wage.
The deep cool streets of Genoa
    Are rock-like in their age.
No garish signs of commerce there
    Are flaunting in the sun.
A rag hung from a balcony
    Is by an artist done.

And she was fair in Genoa,
    And she was very kind,
Those pale blind-seeming eyes that seem
    Most beautifully blind.
Oh they are sad in Genoa,
    Those poor soiled singing birds.
I had but three Italian words
    And she three English words.

But love is cheap in Genoa,
    Aye, love and wine are cheap,
And neither leaves an aching head,
    Nor cuts the heart too deep;
Save when the knife goes straight, and then
    There’s little time to grieve—
The only city in the world
    That I was loath to leave.

I’ve said farewell to tinted days
    And glorious starry nights,
I’ve said farewell to Naples with
    Her long straight lines of lights;
But it is not for Naples but
    For Genoa that I grieve,
The only city in the world
    That I was loath to leave.

 

Eureka

(A Fragment)

Roll up, Eureka’s heroes, on that grand Old Rush afar,
For Lalor’s gone to join you in the big camp where you are;
Roll up and give him welcome such as only diggers can,
For well he battled for the rights of miner and of man.
And there, in that bright, golden land that lies beyond our sight,
The record of his honest life shall be his Miner’s Right.
Here many a bearded mouth shall twitch, and many a tear be shed,
And many a grey old digger sigh to hear that Lalor’s dead.
But wipe your eyes, old fossickers, o’er worked-out fields that roam,
You need not weep at parting from a digger going home.

.     .     .     .     .

Now from the strange wild seasons past, the days of golden strife,
Now from the Roaring Fifties comes a scene from Lalor’s life:
All gleaming white amid the shafts o’er gully, hill, and flat
Again I see the tents that form the camp at Ballarat.
I hear the shovels and the picks, and all the air is rife
With the rattle of the cradles and the sounds of digger-life;
The clatter of the windlass-boles, as spinning round they go,
And then the signal to his mate, the digger’s cry, ‘Below!’
From many a busy pointing forge the sound of labour swells,
The tinkling at the anvils is as clear as silver bells.

I hear the broken English from the mouth at least of one
From every state and nation that is known beneath the sun;
The homely tongue of Scotland and the brogue of Ireland blend
With the dialects of England, from Berwick to Land’s End;
And to the busy concourse here the West has sent a part,
The land of gulches that has been immortalised by Harte;
The land where long from mining-camps the blue smoke upward curled;
The land that gave that ‘Partner’ true and ‘Mliss’ unto the world;
The men from all the nations in the New World and the Old,
All side by side, like brethren here, are delving after gold;
But suddenly the warning cries are heard on every side
As, closing in around the field, a ring of troopers ride;
Unlicensed diggers are the game, their class and want are sins,
And so, with all its shameful scenes, the digger-hunt begins;
The men are seized who are too poor the heavy tax to pay,
And they are chained, as convicts were, and dragged in gangs away;
While in the eye of many a mate is menace scarcely hid—
The digger’s blood was slow to boil, but scalded when it did.

.     .     .     .     .

But now another match is held that sure must light the charge,
A digger murdered in the camp! his murderer at large!
Roll up! Roll up! the pregnant cry awakes the evening air,
And angry faces surge like waves around the speakers there.
‘What are our sins that we should be an outlawed class?’ they say,
‘Shall we stand by while mates are seized and dragged like “lags,” away?
‘Shall insult be on insult heaped? Shall we let these things go?
And on a roar of voices comes the diggers’ answer—‘No!’
The day has vanished from the scene, but not the air of night
Can cool the blood that, ebbing back, leaves brows in anger white.
Lo! from the roof of Bentley’s inn the flames are leaping high;
They write ‘Revenge!’ in letters red across the smoke-dimmed sky.
Now the oppressed will drink no more humiliation’s cup;
Call out the troops! Read martial law!—the diggers’ blood is up!

.     .     .     .     .

‘To arms! To arms!’ the cry is out; ‘To arms if man thou art;
‘For every pike upon a pole will find a tyrant’s heart!’
Now Lalor comes to take the lead, the spirit does not lag,
And down the rough, wild diggers kneel beneath the Diggers’ Flag,
And, rising to their feet, they swear, while rugged hearts beat high,
To stand beside their leader and to conquer or to die!
Around Eureka’s stockade now the shades of night close fast,
Three hundred sleep beside their arms, and thirty sleep their last.

.     .     .     .     .

Around about fair Melbourne town the sounds of bells are borne
That call the citizens to prayer this fateful Sabbath morn;
But there, upon Eureka’s hill, a hundred miles away,
The diggers’ forms lie white and still above the blood-stained clay.
The bells that ring the diggers’ death might also ring a knell
For those few gallant soldiers, dead, who did their duty well.
There’s many a ‘someone’s’ heart shall ache, and many a someone care,
For many a ‘someone’s darling’ lies all cold and pallid there.
And now in smoking ruins lie the huts and tents around,
The diggers’ gallant flag is down and trampled in the ground.

.     .     .     .     .

The sight of murdered heroes is to hero hearts a goad,
A thousand men are up in arms upon the Creswick road,
And wildest rumours in the air are flying up and down,
’Tis said the men of Ballarat will march upon the town.
But not in vain those diggers died. Their comrades may rejoice,
For o’er the voice of tyranny is heard the people’s voice;
It says: ‘Reform your rotten law, the diggers’ wrongs make right,
‘Or else with them, our brothers now, we’ll gather in the fight.’
And now before my vision flash the scenes that followed fast—
The trials, and the triumph of the diggers’ cause at last.
Twas of such stuff the men were made who saw our nation born,
And such as Lalor were the men who led their foot-steps on;
And of such men there’ll many be, and of such leaders some,
In the roll-up of Australians on some dark day yet to come.

 

Knocking Around

Weary old wife, with the bucket and cow,
‘How’s your son Jack? and where is he now?’
Haggard old eyes that turn to the west—
‘Boys will be boys, and he’s gone with the rest!’
Grief without tears and grief without sound;
‘Somewhere up-country he’s knocking around.’

    Knocking around with a vagabond crew,
    Does for himself what a mother would do;
    Maybe in trouble and maybe hard-up,
    Maybe in want of a bite or a sup;
    Dead of the fever, or lost in the drought,
    Lonely old mother! he’s knocking about.

Wiry old man at the tail of the plough,
‘Heard of Jack lately? and where is he now?’
Pauses a moment his forehead to wipe,
Drops the rope reins while he feels for his pipe,
Scratches his grey head in sorrow or doubt:
‘Somewheers or others he’s knocking about.’

    Knocking about on the runs of the West,
    Holding his own with the worst and the best
    Breaking in horses and risking his neck,
    Droving or shearing and making a cheque;
    Straight as a sapling—six-foot and sound,
    Jack is all right when he’s knocking around

 

The Bush Fire

Ah, better the thud of the deadly gun, and the crash of the bursting shell,
Than the terrible silence where drought is fought out there in the western hell;
And better the rattle of rifles near, or the thunder on deck at sea,
Than the sound—most hellish of all to hear—of a fire where it should not be.

On the runs to the west of the Dingo Scrubs there was drought, and ruin, and death,
And the sandstorm came from the dread north-east with the blast of a furnace-breath;
Till at last one day, at the fierce sunrise, a boundary-rider woke,
And saw, in the place of the distant haze, a curtain of light blue smoke.

There is saddling-up by the cockey’s hut, and out in the station yard,
And away to the north, north-east, north-west, the bushmen are riding hard.
The pickets are out and many a scout, and many a mulga wire,
While Bill and Jim, with their faces grim, are riding to meet the fire.

It roars for days in the hopeless scrubs, and across, where the ground seems bare,
With a cackle and hiss, like the hissing of snakes, the fire is travelling there;
Till at last, exhausted by sleeplessness, and the terrible toil and heat,
The squatter is crying, ‘My God! the wool!’ and the farmer, ‘My God! the wheat!’

But there comes a drunkard (who reels as he rides), with the news from the roadside pub:—
‘Pat Murphy—the cockey—cut off by the fire!—way back in the Dingo Scrub!’
‘Let the wheat and the woolshed go to——’ Well, they do as each great heart bids;
They are riding a race for the Dingo Scrub—for Pat and his wife and kids.

And who is leading the race with death? An ill-matched three, you’ll allow;
Flash Jim the breaker and Boozing Bill (who is riding steadily now),
And Constable Dunn, of the Mounted Police, is riding between the two
(He wants Flash Jim, but the job can wait till they get the Murphys through).

As they strike the track through the blazing scrub, the trooper is heard to shout:
‘We’ll take them on to the Two-mile Tank, if we cannot bring them out!’
A half-mile more, and the rest rein back, retreating, half-choked, halfblind;
And the three are gone from the sight of men, and the bush fire roars behind.

The Bushman wiped the tears of smoke, and like Bushmen wept and swore;
‘Poor Bill will be wanting his drink to-night as never he did before.
‘And Dunn was the best in the whole damned force!’ says a client of Dunn’s, with pride;
I reckon he’ll serve his summons on Jim—when they get to the other side.

.     .     .     .     .

It is daylight again, and the fire is past, and the black scrub silent and grim,
Except for the blaze of an old dead tree, or the crash of a falling limb;
And the Bushmen are riding again on the run, with hearts and with eyes that fill,
To look for the bodies of Constable Dunn, Flash Jim, and Boozing Bill.

They are found in the mud of the Two-mile Tank, where a fiend might scarce survive,
But the Bushmen gather from words they hear that the bodies are much alive.
There is Swearing Pat, with his grey beard singed, and his language of lurid hue,
And his tough old wife, and his half-baked kids, and the three who dragged them through.

Old Pat is deploring his burnt-out home, and his wife the climate warm;
And Jim the loss of his favourite horse, and Dunn his uniform;
And Boozing Bill, with a raging thirst, is cursing the Dingo Scrub—
He’ll only ask for the loan of a flask and a lift to the nearest pub.

.     .     .     .     .

Flash Jim the Breaker is lying low—blue-paper is after him,
And Dunn, the trooper, is riding his rounds with a blind eye out for Jim,
And Boozing Bill is fighting D.Ts. in the township of Sudden Jerk—
When they’re wanted again in the Dingo Scrubs, they’ll be there to do the work.

 

The Drunkard’s Vision

A public parlour in the slums,
    The haunt of vice and villainy,
Where things are said unfit to hear,
    And things are done unfit to see;
’Mid ribald jest and reckless song,
    That mock at all that’s pure and right,
The drunkard drinks the whole day long,
    And raves through half the dreadful night.

And in the morning now he sits,
    With staring eyes and trembling limb;
The harbour in the sunlight laughs,
    But morning is as night to him.
And, staring blankly at the wall,
    He sees the tragedy complete—
He sees the man he used to be
    Go striding proudly up the street.

He turns the corner with a swing,
    And, at the vine-framed cottage gate,
The father sees, with laughing eyes,
    His little son and daughter wait:
They race to meet him as he comes—
    And—Oh! this memory is worst—
Her dimpled arms go round his neck,
    She pants, ‘I dot my daddy first!’

He sees his bright-eyed little wife;
    He sees the cottage neat and clean—
He sees the wrecking of his life
    And all the things that might have been!
And, sunk in hopeless, black despair,
    That drink no more has power to drown,
Upon the beer-stained table there
    The drunkard’s ruined head goes down.

.     .     .     .     .

But even I, a fearful wreck,
    Have drifted long before the storm:
I know, when all seems lost on earth,
    How hard it can be to reform.
I, too, have sinned, and we have both
    Drunk to the dregs the bitter cup—
Give me your hand, Oh brother mine,
    And even I might help you up.

 

Dons of Spain

The Eagle screams at the beck of trade, so Spain, as the world goes round,
Must wrestle the right to live or die from the sons of the land she found;
For, as in the days when the buccaneer was abroad on the Spanish Main,
The national honour is one thing dear to the hearts of the Dons of Spain.

She has slaughtered thousands with fire and sword, as the Christian world might know;
We murder millions, but, thank the Lord! we only starve ’em slow.
The times have changed since the days of old, but the same old facts remain—
We fight for Freedom, and God, and Gold, and the Spaniards fight for Spain.

We fought with the strength of the moral right, and they, as their ships went down,
They only fought with the grit to fight and their armour to help ’em drown.
It mattered little what chance or hope, for ever their path was plain,
The Church was the Church, and the Pope the Pope—but the Spaniards fought for Spain.

If Providence struck for the honest thief at times in the battle’s din—
If ever it struck at the hypocrite—well, that’s where the Turks came in;
But this remains ere we leave the wise to argue it through in vain—
There’s something great in the wrong that dies as the Spaniards die for Spain.

The foes of Spain may be kin to us who are English heart and soul,
And proud of our national righteousness and proud of the lands we stole;
But we yet might pause while those brave men die and the death-drink pledge again—
For the sake of the past, if you’re doomed, say I, may your death be a grand one, Spain!

Then here’s to the bravest of Freedom’s foes who ever with death have stood—
For the sake of the courage to die on steel as their fathers died on wood;
And here’s a cheer for the flag unfurled in a hopeless cause again,
For the sake of the days when the Christian world was saved by the Dons of Spain.

 

The Cattle-Dog’s Death

The plains lay bare on the homeward route,
And the march was heavy on man and brute;
For the Spirit of Drouth was on all the land,
And the white heat danced on the glowing sand.

The best of our cattle-dogs lagged at last,
His strength gave out ere the plains were passed,
And our hearts grew sad when he crept and laid
His languid limbs in the nearest shade.

He saved our lives in the years gone by,
When no one dreamed of the danger nigh,
And the treacherous blacks in the darkness crept
On the silent camp where the drovers slept.

‘The dog is dying,’ a stockman said,
As he knelt and lifted the shaggy head;
‘’Tis a long day’s march ere the run be near,
‘And he’s dying fast; shall we leave him here?’

But the super cried, ‘There’s an answer there!’
As he raised a tuft of the dog’s grey hair;
And, strangely vivid, each man descried
The old spear-mark on the shaggy hide.

We laid a ‘bluey’ and coat across
The camping pack of the lightest horse,
And raised the dog to his deathbed high,
And brought him far ’neath the burning sky.

At the kindly touch of the stockmen rude
His eyes grew human with gratitude;
And though we parched in the heat that fags,
We gave him the last of the water-bags.

The super’s daughter we knew would chide
If we left the dog in the desert wide;
So we brought him far o’er the burning sand
For a parting stroke of her small white hand.

But long ere the station was seen ahead,
His pain was o’er, for the dog was dead
And the folks all knew by our looks of gloom
’Twas a comrade’s corpse that we carried home.

 

Second Class Wait Here

On suburban railway stations — you may see them as you pass —
There are signboards on the platforms saying, ‘Wait here second class;’
And to me the whirr and thunder and the cluck of running gear
Seem to be for ever saying, saying ‘Second class wait here’ —
      ‘Wait here second class,
      ‘Second class wait here.’
Seem to be for ever saying, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

And the second class were waiting in the days of serf and prince,
And the second class are waiting — they’ve been waiting ever since.
There are gardens in the background, and the line is bare and drear,
Yet they wait beneath a signboard, sneering ‘Second class wait here.’

I have waited oft in winter, in the mornings dark and damp,
When the asphalt platform glistened underneath the lonely lamp.
Ghastly on the brick-faced cutting ‘Sellum’s Soap’ and ‘Blower’s Beer;’
Ghastly on enamelled signboards with their ‘Second class wait here.’

And the others seemed like burglars, slouched and muffled to the throats,
Standing round apart and silent in their shoddy overcoats,
And the wind among the wires, and the poplars bleak and bare,
Seemed to be for ever snarling, snarling ‘Second class wait there.’

Out beyond the further suburb, ’neath a chimney stack alone,
Lay the works of Grinder Brothers, with a platform of their own;
And I waited there and suffered, waited there for many a year,
Slaved beneath a phantom signboard, telling our class to wait here.

Ah! a man must feel revengeful for a boyhood such as mine.
God! I hate the very houses near the workshop by the line;
And the smell of railway stations, and the roar of running gear,
And the scornful-seeming signboards, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

There’s a train with Death for driver, which is ever going past,
And there are no class compartments, and we all must go at last
To the long white jasper platform with an Eden in the rear;
And there won’t be any signboards, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

 


The Outside Track

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
    And one on the for’ard hatch;
No straighter mate to his mates than he
    Had ever said: ‘Len’s a match!’
’Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
    ’Twill be long ere we grip your hand!—
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
    Till the whole wide world seemed grand.

        For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
            They marry and vanish and die;
        But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
            As long as the years go by.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
    That rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
    As the dark tide came between.

We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
    And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
    And the land he had left behind.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
    But my heart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell
    When the steamer had passed the point
We drifted home through the public bars,
    We were ten times less by one
Who sailed out under the morning stars,
    And under the rising sun.

And one by one, and two by two,
    They have sailed from the wharf since then;
I have said good-bye to the last I knew,
    The last of the careless men.
And I can’t but think that the times we had
    Were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass
    And drink to the bar-room wall.

        But I’ll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
            Then a last good-bye to the bush;
        For my heart’s away on the Outside Track,
            On the track of the steerage push.


In the Storm That is to Come

If the Bourke people, with a dyke of sandbags across the Darling River, could keep the steamers running above that town for months in the drought, what could not the Government do? The Darling rises mostly from the Queensland rains, and feeds her billabongs, and the floods waste into the sea.

By our place in the midst of the furthest seas we were fated to stand alone—
When the nations fly at each other’s throats let Australia look to her own;
Let her spend her gold on the barren west, let her keep her men at home;
For the South must look to the South for strength in the storm that is to come.

Now who shall gallop from cape to cape, and who shall defend our shores—
The crowd that stands on the kerb agape and glares at the cricket scores?
And who will hold the invader back when the shells tear up the ground—
The weeds that yelp by the cycling track while a nigger scorches round?

There may be many to man the forts in the big towns by the sea—
But the East will call to the West for scouts in the storm that is to be:
The West cries out to the East in drought, but the coastal towns are dumb;
And the East must look to the West for food in the war that is to come.

The rain comes down on the Western land and the rivers run to waste,
While the city folk rush for the special tram in their childless, senseless haste,
And never a pile of a lock we drive—but a few mean tanks we scratch—
For the fate of a nation is nought compared with the turn of a cricket match!

There’s a gutter of mud where there spread a flood from the land-long western creeks,
There is dust and drought on the plains far out where the water lay for weeks,
There’s a pitiful dam where a dyke should stretch and a tank where a lake should be,
And the rain goes down through the silt and sand and the floods waste into the seas.

We’ll fight for Britain or for Japan, we will fling the land’s wealth out;
While every penny and every man should be used to fight the drought.
God helps the nation that helps itself, and the water brings the rain,
And a deadlier foe than the world could send is loose on the western plain.

I saw a vision in days gone by and would dream that dream again
Of the days when the Darling shall not back her billabongs up in vain.
There were reservoirs and grand canals where the Dry Country had been,
And a glorious network of aqueducts, and the fields were always green.

I have seen so long in the land I love what the land I love might be,
Where the Darling rises from Queensland rains and the floods run into the sea.
And is it our fate that we’ll wake too late to the truth that we were blind,
With a foreign foe at our harbour gate and a blazing drought behind!

 

The Men We Might Have Been

When God’s wrath-cloud is o’er me,
    Affrighting heart and mind;
When days seem dark before me,
    And days seem black behind;
Those friends who think they know me —
    Who deem their insight keen —
They ne’er forget to show me
    The man I might have been.

He’s rich and independent,
    Or rising fast to fame;
His bright star is ascendant,
    The country knows his name;
His houses and his gardens
    Are splendid to be seen;
His fault the wise world pardons —
    The man I might have been.

His fame and fortune haunt me;
    His virtues wave me back;
His name and prestige daunt me
    When I would take the track;
But you, my friend true-hearted —
    God keep our friendship green! —
You know how I was parted
    From all I might have been.

But what avails the ache of
    Remorse or weak regret?
We’ll battle for the sake of
    The men we might be yet!
We’ll strive to keep in sight of
    The brave, the true, and clean,
And triumph yet in spite of
    The men we might have been.

 

Booth’s Drum

[According to Commissioner Hay, Chief Officer of the Salvation Army in Australia, who has just returned from Europe, there are already about 20,000 Salvationists at the Front, and more going, and a lot more getting ready in a hurry to go. . . . In Europe there are brigades of nurses and Red Cross workers under the control of “Brigadier” Mary Murray. She is a daughter of General Sir Alexander Murray of the Indian Military forces, and she has been a member of the Salvation Army for twenty years. . . . The Army has placed a number of its homes (and presumably all its barracks) at the disposal of the naval and military authorities for use as hospitals. . . . In Australia there are several Salvation Army training camps that have been visited and complimented by the Minister for Defence, who has accepted the offer of the Army to accommodate and care for children orphaned by the war, and for whom succour in private homes cannot be found. Belgian children will be welcomed and cared for. . . . Eighty Salvation Army people have volunteered for Red Cross work; the majority well trained as surgical nurses. . . . All those trained as officers have special training in first aid; over 600 young men have already gained certificates. Tents are being erected at Rosehill, where men in training will be provided with writing material, reading matter, games, music, etc., and a coffee canteen. I don’t know what the “etc.” is, but, incidentally, the Army handed in its little bit of £1,000 for the widow’s and orphans’ fund—just to keep things going like. Glory, Alleluia!]

They were “ratty” they were hooted by the meanest and the least,
When they woke the Drum of Glory long ago in London East.
They were often mobbed by hoodlums—they were few, but unafraid—
And their Lassies were insulted, but they banged the drum—and prayed.
Prayed in public for the sinners, prayed in private for release,
Till they saved some brawny lumpers—then they banged the drum in peace.
(Saved some prize-fighter and burglars)—and they banged the drum in peace.
        Booth’s Drum.

    He was hook-nosed, he was “scrawny,”
    He was nothing of a Don.
    And his business ways seemed Yiddish,
    And his speeches “kid”—or kiddish;
    And we doubted his “convictions”—
    But his drum is going on.

Oh, they drummed it ever onward with old Blood-and-Fire unfurled,
And they drummed it ever outward to the corners of the world.
Till they banged the drum in Greenland and they banged in Ispahan,
And they banged it round to India and China and Japan.
And they banged it through the Islands where each seasoned Son of Rum
Took them for new-fangled Jim Jams when he heard the Army Drum.
(For a bran’ new brand of Horrors, when he saw the Army come.)
So they banged it in the desert, and they banged in the snow—
They’d have banged the Drum to Mecca! with the shadow of a “show.”
(But Mohammed cut their heads off, so they had to let it go.)

Somewhere in the early eighties they had banged the drum to Bourke,
Where the job of fighting Satan was white-hot and dusty work.
Oh, the Local Lass was withered in the heat that bakes and glares,
And we sent her food and firewood but took small heed of her prayers.
We were blasphemous and beery, we were free from Creed or Care,
Till they sent their prettiest Lassies—and they broke our centre there.
So that, moderately sober, we could stand to hear them sing—
And we’d chaff their Testifiers, and throw quids into the ring.
(Never less than bobs or “dollars”—sometimes quids into the ring.)

They have “stormed” our sinful cities—banged for all that they were worth—
From Port Darwin to Port Melbourne, and from Sydney round to Perth.
We’d no need for them (or woman) when we were all right and well,
But they took us out of prison, and they took us out of Hell.
And they helped our fallen sisters who went down for such as we,
And our widows and our orphans in distress and poverty.
And neglected wives and children of the worst of us that be;
And they made us fit for Glory—or another Glorious Spree.
(So I rather think there’s something that is up to you or me.)

Oh! the Blindness of the Future!—Ah, we never reckoned much
That they’d beat the quids we gave them into bayonets and such.
That the coin would be devoted, when our world was looking blue,
To another kind of orphan—wife, or child, or widow too.
But the times have changed a sudden, and the past is very dim;
They Have Found a Real Devil, and They’re Going After Him.
(With a Bible and a Rifle they are going after him.)

For the old Salvation Army, and their Country, and their King,
They are marching to the trenches, shouting, “Comrades! Let us Sing!”
They’ll find foreign “Army” soldiers here and there and everywhere,
Who will speak their tongue and help them. And they’ll surely breathe a prayer
For the Spy—before they shoot him; and another when he’s still.
And they’re going to “fire a volley” in the Land of Kaiser Bill.
But, when all is done and quiet—as before they march away—
They will kneel about their banner, saying “Brethren. Let us pray.”

They have long used army rank-terms, and oh, say what it shall be,
When a few come back the real thing, and when one comes back V.C.!
They will bang the drum at Crow’s Nest, they will bang it on “the Shore,”
They will bang the drum in Kent-street as they never banged before.
And At Last they’ll frighten Satan from the Mansion and the Slum—
He’ll have never heard till that time such a Banging of the Drum.

    He was lonely with his thousands,
    Lonely in his household too,
    For his children had deserted,
    And his captains, not a few.
    He was old and white and feeble
    And his sight was nearly gone,
    And he “could not see his people,”
    But his drum is rolling on.
        Booth’s Drum.

 

Mount Bukaroo

Only one old post is standing—
    Solid yet, but only one—
Where the milking, and the branding,
    And the slaughtering were done.
Later years have brought dejection,
    Care, and sorrow; but we knew
Happy days on that selection
    Underneath old Bukaroo.

Then the light of day commencing
    Found us at the gully’s head,
Splitting timber for the fencing,
    Stripping bark to roof the shed.
Hands and hearts the labour strengthened;
    Weariness we never knew,
Even when the shadows lengthened
    Round the base of Bukaroo.

There for days below the paddock
    How the wilderness would yield
To the spade, and pick, and mattock,
    While we toiled to win the field.
Bronzed hands we used to sully
    Till they were of darkest hue,
‘Burning off’ down in the gully
    At the back of Bukaroo.

When we came the baby brother
    Left in haste his broken toys,
Shouted to the busy mother:
    ‘Here is dadda and the boys!’
Strange it seems that she was able
    For the work that she would do;
How she’d bustle round the table
    In the hut ’neath Bukaroo!

When the cows were safely yarded,
    And the calves were in the pen,
All the cares of day discarded,
    Closed we round the hut-fire then.
Rang the roof with boyish laughter
    While the flames o’er-topped the flue;
Happy days remembered after—
    Far away from Bukaroo.

But the years were full of changes,
    And a sorrow found us there;
For our home amid the ranges
    Was not safe from searching Care.
On he came, a silent creeper;
    And another mountain threw
O’er our lives a shadow deeper
    Than the shade of Bukaroo.

All the farm is disappearing;
    For the home has vanished now,
Mountain scrub has choked the clearing,
    Hid the furrows of the plough.
Nearer still the scrub is creeping
    Where the little garden grew;
And the old folks now are sleeping
    At the foot of Bukaroo.

 

Bourke

I’ve followed all my tracks and ways, from old bark school to Leicester Square,
I’ve been right back to boyhood’s days, and found no light or pleasure there.
But every dream and every track—and there were many that I knew—
They all lead on, or they lead back, to Bourke in Ninety-one, and two.

No sign that green grass ever grew in scrubs that blazed beneath the sun;
The plains were dust in Ninety-two, that baked to bricks in Ninety-one.
On glaring iron-roofs of Bourke, the scorching, blinding sandstorms blew,
And there was nothing beautiful in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

Save grit and generosity of hearts that broke and healed again—
The hottest drought that ever blazed could never parch the hearts of men;
And they were men in spite of all, and they were straight, and they were true,
The hat went round at trouble’s call, in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

They drank, when all is said and done, they gambled, and their speech was rough—
You’d only need to say of one—‘He was my mate!’ that was enough.
To hint a bushman was not white, nor to his Union straight and true,
Would mean a long and bloody fight in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

The yard behind the Shearers’ Arms was reckoned best of battle grounds,
And there in peace and quietness they fought their ten or fifteen rounds;
And then they washed the blood away, and then shook hands, as strong men do—
And washed away the bitterness—in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

The Army on the grand old creek was mighty in those days gone by,
For they had sisters who could shriek, and brothers who could testify;
And by the muddy waterholes, they tackled sin till all was blue—
They took our bobs and damned our souls in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

By shanty bars and shearing sheds, they took their toll and did their work—
But now and then they lost their heads, and raved of hotter hells than Bourke:
The only message from the dead that ever came distinctly through—
Was—‘Send my overcoat to hell’—it came to Bourke in Ninety-two.

I know they drank, and fought, and died—some fighting fiends on blazing tracks—
I don’t remember that they lied, or crawled behind each others’ backs;
I don’t remember that they loafed, or left a mate to battle through—
Ah! men knew how to stick to men in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

They’re scattered wide and scattered far—by fan-like tracks, north, east, and west—
The cruel New Australian star drew off the bravest and the best.
The Cape and Klondyke claim their bones, the streets of London damned a few,
And jingo-cursed Australia mourns for Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

For ever westward in the land, Australians hear—and will not heed—
The murmur of the board-room, and the sure and stealthy steps of greed—
Bourke was a fortress on the track! and garrisons were grim and true
To hold the spoilers from Out Back, in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

I hear it in the ridges lone, and in the dread drought-stricken wild—
I hear at times a woman’s moan—the whimper of a hungry child:
And—let the cynics say the word: ‘a godless gang, a drunken crew’—
But these were things I never heard in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

.     .     .     .     .

They say that things have changed out there, and western towns have altered quite:
They don’t know how to drink and swear, they’ve half forgotten how to fight;
They’ve almost lost the strength to trust, the faith in mateship to be true—
The heart that grew in drought and dust in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

We’ve learned to laugh the bitter laugh since then—we’ve travelled, you and I;
The sneaking little paragraph, the dirty trick, the whispered lie
Are known to us—the little men—whose souls are rotten through and through—
We called them scabs and crawlers then, in Ninety-one and Ninety-two.

And could I roll the summers back, or bring the dead time on again;
Or from the grave or world-wide track, call back to Bourke the vanished men,
With mind content I’d go to sleep, and leave those mates to judge me true,
And leave my name to Bourke to keep—the Bourke of Ninety-one and two.

 


Sticking to Bill

There’s a thing that sends a lump to my throat,
    And cuts my heart like a knife:
’Tis the woman that waits at the prison gate,
    And the woman is not his wife.
You may preach and pray till the dawn of day,
    Denounce or damn as you will,
But the soul of that woman shall cleave for aye
    To the sin-stained soul of Bill.

She hath no need for our sympathy,
    And her face is as hard as a stone —
A rag of a woman at war with the world
    And fiercely fighting alone.
At the kindly touch of the janitor’s hand
    The eyes of a wife would fill,
But Sal replies with a “Blast yer eyes!” —
    She is only stickin’ to Bill.

But, in spite of herself there is help that comes —
    And it comes from a source well hid —
To buy the tucker and pay the rent
    Of a roost for herself and kid.
For the “talent” has sent round its thievish hat
    By one with a fist and a will,
For a quid or two just to see Sal through —
    For Sal is stickin’ to Bill.

A furtive figure from Nowhere comes
    To Red Rock Lane by night,
And it softly raps at a dingy door
    While it scowls to left and right:
It jerks its arm in a half salute,
    By habit — against its will,
’Tis a fellow felon of Bill’s, discharged,
    And it brings her a message from Bill.

There’s a woman that comes to the gate alone
    (Bill’s Gaol Delivery’s near),
With a face a little less like a stone
    And a sign of a savage tear.
With a suit of clobber done up and darned —
    For William is leaving “The Hill”.
And the tear is the first she ever has shed
    Since she’s been stickin’ to Bill.

There’s tucker at home, and a job to come
    And no one to wish him ill,
There’s a bottle of beer and a minded kid
    In a brand-new suit of drill.
There’s an old-time mate who will steer him straight,
    And the sticks of furniture still —
He can take a spell for a month if he likes,
    And — she’s done her best for Bill.

 

The Drums of Battersea

They can’t hear in West o’ London, where the worst dine with the best—
Deaf to all save lies and laughter, they can’t hear in London West—
Tailored brutes and splendid harlots, and the parasites that be—
They can’t hear the warning thunder of the Drums of Battersea.
                More drums! War drums!
                Drums of Misery—
Beating from the hearts of men—the Drums of Battersea.

Where the hearses hurry ever, and where man lives like a beast,
They can feel the war-drums beating—men of Hell! and London East.
And the far-off foreign farmers, fighting fiercely to be free,
Found new courage in the echo of the Drums of Battersea.
                More drums! War drums!
                Beating for the free—
Beating on the hearts of men—the Drums of Battersea.

And the drummers! Ah! the drummers!—stern and haggard men are those
Standing grimly at their meetings; and their washed and mended clothes
Speak of worn-out wives behind them and of grinding poverty—
But the English of the English beat the Drums of Battersea!
                More drums! War drums!
                Drums of agony—
The big bruised heart of England’s in the Drums of Battersea.

Where in fields slave Englishwomen, Oh! the sound of drums is there:
I have heard it in the laughter of the nights of Leicester Square—
Sailing southward with the summer, London but a dream to me,
Still I feel the distant thunder of the Drums of Battersea!
                More drums! War drums!
                Drums of Liberty—
Rolling round the English world—the Drums of Battersea.

Oh! I heard them in the Queen’s Hall—aye! and London heard that night—
While we formed up round the leaders while they struck one blow for right!
And the old strength, that old fire, that I thought was dead in me,
Blazed up fiercely at the beating of the Drums of Battersea!
                More drums! War drums!
                They beat for victory—
When above the roar of Jingoes rolled the Drums of Battersea.

And where’er my feet may wander, and howe’er I lay my head,
I shall hear them while I’m dreaming—I shall hear them when I’m dead!
For they beat for men and women, beat for Christ, and you and me:
There is hope and there is terror in the Drums of Battersea!
                More drums! War drums!
                Drums of destiny—
There’s hope!—there’s hope for England in the Drums of Battersea.

 

The Wreck of the Derry Castle

Day of ending for beginnings!
Ocean hath another innings,
    Ocean hath another score;
And the surges sing his winnings,
And the surges shout his winnings,
And the surges shriek his winnings,
    All along the sullen shore.

Sing another dirge in wailing,
For another vessel sailing
    With the shadow-ships at sea;
Shadow-ships for ever sinking—
Shadow-ships whose pumps are clinking,
And whose thirsty holds are drinking
    Pledges to Eternity.

Pray for souls of ghastly, sodden
Corpses, floating round untrodden
    Cliffs, where nought but sea-drift strays;
Souls of dead men, in whose faces
Of humanity no trace is—
Not a mark to show their races—
    Floating round for days and days.

* * * * * * *

Ocean’s salty tongues are licking
    Round the faces of the drowned,
And a cruel blade seems sticking
    Through my heart and turning round.

Heaven! shall his ghastly, sodden
    Corpse float round for days and days?
Shall it dash ’neath cliffs untrodden,
    Rocks where nought but sea-drift strays?

God in heaven! hide the floating,
    Falling, rising, face from me;
God in heaven! stay the gloating,
    Mocking singing of the sea!

 

Ruth

All is well—in a prison—to-night, and the warders are crying ‘All’s Well!’
I must speak, for the sake of my heart—if it’s but to the walls of my cell.
For what does it matter to me if to-morrow I go where I will?
I’m as free as I ever shall be—there is naught in my life to fulfil.

I am free! I am haunted no more by the question that tortured my brain:
‘Are you sane of a people gone mad? or mad in a world that is sane?’
I have had time to rest—and to pray—and my reason no longer is vext
By the spirit that hangs you one day, and would hail you as martyr the next.

Are the fields of my fancy less fair through a window that’s narrowed and barred?
Are the morning stars dimmed by the glare of the gas-light that flares in the yard?
No! And what does it matter to me if to-morrow I sail from the land?
I am free, as I never was free! I exult in my loneliness grand!

Be a saint and a saviour of men—be a Christ, and they’ll slander and rail!
Only Crime’s understood in the world, and a man is respected—in gaol.
But I find in my raving a balm—in the worst that has come to the worst—
Let me think of it all—I grow calm—let me think it all out from the first.

.     .     .     .     .

Beyond the horizon of Self do the walls of my prison retreat,
And I stand in a gap of the hills with the scene of my life at my feet;
The range to the west, and the Peak, and the marsh where the dark ridges end,
And the spurs running down to the Creek, and the she-oaks that sigh in the bend.

The hints of the river below; and, away on the azure and green,
The old goldfield of Specimen Flat, and the township—a blotch on the scene;
The store, the hotels, and the bank—and the gaol and the people who come
With the weatherboard box and the tank—the Australian idea of home:

The scribe—spirit-broken; the ‘wreck,’ in his might-have-been or shame;
The townsman ‘respected’ or worthy; the workman respectful and tame;
The boss of the pub with his fine sense of honour, grown moral and stout,
Like the spielers who came with the ‘line,’ on the cheques that were made farther out.

The clever young churchman, despised by the swaggering, popular man;
The doctor with hands clasped behind, and bowed head, as if under a ban;
The one man with the brains—with the power to lead, unsuspected and dumb,
Whom Fate sets apart for the Hour—the man for the hour that might come.

The old local liar whose story was ancient when Egypt was young,
And the gossip who hangs on the fence and poisons God’s world with her tongue;
The haggard bush mother who’d nag, though a husband or child be divine,
And who takes a fierce joy in a rag of the clothes on the newcomer’s line.

And a lad with a cloud on his heart who was lost in a world vague and dim—
No one dreamed as he drifted apart that ’twas genius the matter with him;
Who was doomed, in that ignorant hole, to its spiritless level to sink,
Till the iron had entered his soul, and his brain found a refuge in drink.

.     .     .     .     .

Perhaps I was bitter because of the tongues of disgrace in the town—
Of a boy-nature misunderstood and its nobler ambitions sneered
Of the sense of injustice that stings till it ends in the creed of the push—
I was born in that shadow that clings to the old gully homes in the bush.

And I was ambitious. Perhaps as a boy I could see things too plain—
How I wished I could write of the truths—of the visions—that haunted my brain!
Of the bush-buried toiler denied e’en the last loving comforts of all—
Of my father who slaved till he died in the scrub by his wedges and maul.

Twenty years, and from daylight till dark—twenty years it was split, fence, and grub,
And the end was a tumble-down hut and a bare, dusty patch in the scrub.
’Twas the first time he’d rested, they said, but the knit in his forehead was deep,
And to me the scarred hands of the dead seemed to work as I’d seen them in sleep.

And the mother who toiled by his side, through hardship and trouble and drought,
And who fought for the home when he died till her heart—not her spirit—wore out:
I am shamed for Australia and haunted by the face of the haggard bush wife—
She who fights her grim battle undaunted because she knows nothing of life.

By the barren track travelled by few men—poor victims of commerce, unknown—
E’en the troubles that woman tells woman she suffers, unpitied, alone;
Heart-dumbed and mind-dulled and benighted, Eve’s beauty in girlhood destroyed!
Till the wrongs never felt shall be righted—and the peace never missed be enjoyed.

There was no one to understand me. I was lonely and shy as a lad,
Or I lived in a world that was wider than ours; so of course I was ‘mad.’
Who is not understood is a ‘crank’—so I suffered the tortures of men
Doomed to think in the bush, till I drank and went wrong—I grew popular then.

There was Doctor Lebenski, my friend—and the friend, too, of all who were down—
Clever, gloomy, and generous drunkard—the pride and disgrace of the town.
He had been through the glory and shame of a wild life by city and sea,
And the tales of the land whence he came had a strong fascination for me.

And often in yarning or fancy, when she-oaks grew misty and dim,
From the forest and straight for the camp of the Cossack I’ve ridden with him:
Ridden out in the dusk with a score, ridden back ere the dawning with ten—
Have struck at three kingdoms and Fate for the fair land of Poland again!

He’d a sorrow that drink couldn’t drown—that his great heart was powerless to fight—
And I gathered the threads ’twixt the long, pregnant puffs of his last pipe at night;
For he’d say to me, sadly: ‘Jack Drew’—then he’d pause, as to watch the smoke curl—
‘If a good girl should love you, be true—though you die for it—true to the girl!

‘A man may be false to his country—a man may be false to his friend:
‘Be a vagabond, drunkard, a spieler—yet his soul may come right in the end;
‘But there is no prayer, no atonement, no drink that can banish the shade
‘From your side, if you’ve one spark of manhood, of a dead girl that you have betrayed.’

.     .     .     .     .

‘One chance for a fortune,’ we’re told, in the lives of the poorest of men—
There’s a chance for a heaven on earth that comes over and over again!
’Twas for Ruth, the bank manager’s niece, that the wretched old goldfield grew fair,
And she came like an angel of peace in an hour of revengeful despair.

A girl as God made her, and wise in a faith that was never estranged—
From childhood neglected and wronged, she had grown with her nature unchanged;
And she came as an angel of Hope as I crouched on Eternity’s brink,
And the loaded revolver and rope were parts of the horrors of drink.

I was not to be trusted, they said, within sight of a cheque or a horse,
And the worst that was said of my name all the gossips were glad to endorse.
But she loved me—she loved me! And why? Ask the she-oaks that sighed in the bends—
We had suffered alike, she and I, from the blindness of kinsfolk and friends.

A girlhood of hardship and care, for she gave the great heart of a child
To a brother whose idol was Self, and a brother good-natured but ‘wild;’—
And a father who left her behind when he’d suffered too much from the moan
Of a mother grown selfish and blind in her trouble—’twas always her own.

She was brave, and she never complained, for the hardships of youth that had driven
My soul to the brink of perdition, but strengthened the girl’s faith in Heaven.
In the home that her relatives gave she was tortured each hour of her life.
By her cruel dependence—the slave of her aunt, the bank-manager’s wife.

Does the world know how easy to lead and how hard to be driven are men?
She was leading me back with her love, to the faith of my childhood again!
To my boyhood’s neglected ideal—to the hopes that were strangled at birth,
To the good and the truth of the real—to the good that was left on the earth.

And the sigh of the oaks seemed a hymn, and the waters had music for me
As I sat on the grass at her feet, and rested my head on her knee;
And we seemed in a dreamland apart from the world’s discontent and despair,
For the cynic went out of my heart at the touch of her hand on my hair.

.     .     .     .     .

She would talk like a matron at times, and she prattled at times like a child:
‘I will trust you—I know you are good—you have only been careless and wild—
‘You are clever—you’ll rise in the world—you must think of your future and me—
‘You will give up the drink for my sake, and you don’t know how happy we’ll be!’

‘I can work, I will help you,’ she said, and she’d plan out our future and home,
But I found no response in my heart save the hungry old craving to roam.
Would I follow the paths of the dead? I was young yet. Would I settle down
To the life that our parents had led by the dull, paltry-spirited town?

For the ghost of the cynic was there, and he waited and triumphed at last—
One night—I’d been drinking, because of a spectre that rose from the past—
My trust had so oft been betrayed: that at last I had turned to distrust—
My sense of injustice so keen that my anger was always unjust.

Would I sacrifice all for a wife, who was free now to put on my hat
And to go far away from the life—from the home life of Specimen Flat?
Would I live as our fathers had lived to the finish? And what was it worth?
A woman’s reproach in the end—of all things most unjust on the earth.

The old rebel stirred in my blood, and he whispered, ‘What matter?’ ‘Why not?’
And she trembled and paled, for the kiss that I gave her was reckless and hot.
And the angel that watched o’er her slept, and the oaks sighed aloud in the creek
As we sat in a shadow that crept from a storm-cloud that rose on the Peak.

There’s a voice warns the purest and best of their danger in love or in strife,
But that voice is a knell to her honour who loves with the love of her life!
And ‘Ruth—Ruth!’ I whispered at last in a voice that was not like my own—
She trembled and clung to me fast with a sigh that was almost a moan.

While you listen and doubt, and incline to the devil that plucks at your sleeve—
When the whispers of angels have failed—then Heaven speaks once I believe.
The lightning leapt out—in a flash only seen by those ridges and creeks,
And the darkness shut down with a crash that I thought would have riven the peaks.

By the path through the saplings we ran, as the great drops came pattering down,
To the first of the low-lying ridges that lay between us and the town;
Where she suddenly drew me aside with that beautiful instinct of love
As the clatter of hoofs reached our ears—and a horseman loomed darkly above.

’Twas the Doctor: he reined up and sat for the first moment pallid and mute,
Then he lifted his hand to his hat with his old-fashioned martial salute,
And he said with a glance at the ridge, looming black with its pine-tops awhirl,
‘Take my coat, you are caught in the storm!’ and he whispered, ‘Be true to the girl!’

.     .     .     .     .

He rode on—to a sick bed, maybe some twenty miles back in the bush,
And we hurried on through the gloom, and I still seemed to hear in the ‘woosh’
Of the wind in the saplings and oaks, in the gums with their top boughs awhirl—
In the voice of the gathering tempest—the warning, ‘Be true to the girl!’

And I wrapped the coat round her, and held her so close that I felt her heart thump
When the lightning leapt out, as we crouched in the lee of the shell of a stump—
And there seemed a strange fear in her eyes and the colour had gone from her cheek—
And she scarcely had uttered a word since the hot brutal kiss by the creek.

The storm rushed away to the west—to the ridges drought-stricken and dry—
To the eastward loomed far-away peaks ’neath the still starry arch of the sky;
By the light of the full moon that swung from a curtain of cloud like a lamp,
I saw that my tent had gone down in the storm, as we passed by the camp.

’Tis a small thing, or chance, such as this, that decides between hero and cur
In one’s heart. I was wet to the skin, and my comfort was precious to her.
And her aunt was away in the city—the dining-room fire was alight,
And the uncle was absent—he drank with some friends at the Royal that night.

He came late, and passed to his room without glancing at her or at me—
Too straight and precise, be it said, for a man who was sober to be.
Then the drop of one boot on the floor (there was no wife to witness his guilt),
And a moment thereafter a snore that proclaimed that he slept on the quilt.

Was it vanity, love, or revolt? Was it joy that came into my life?
As I sat there with her in my arms, and caressed her and called her ‘My wife!’
Ah, the coward! But my heart shall bleed, though I live on for fifty long years,
For she could not cry out, only plead with eyes that were brimming with tears.

Not the passion so much brings remorse, but the thought of the treacherous part
I’d have played in a future already planned out—ay! endorsed in my heart!
When a good woman falls for the sake of a love that has blinded her eyes,
There is pardon, perhaps, for his lust; but what heaven could pardon the lies?

And ‘What does it matter?’ I said. ‘You are mine, I am yours—and for life.
‘He is drunk and asleep—he won’t hear, and to morrow you shall be my wife!’
There’s an hour in the memory of most that we hate ever after and loathe—
’Twas the daylight that came like a ghost to her window that startled us both.

.     .     .     .     .

Twixt the door of her room and the door of the office I stood for a space,
When a treacherous board in the floor sent a crack like a shot through the place!—
Then the creak of a step and the click of a lock in the manager’s room—
I grew cold to the stomach and sick, as I trembled and shrank in the gloom.

He faced me, revolver in hand—‘Now I know you, you treacherous whelp!
‘Stand still, where you are, or I’ll fire!’ and he suddenly shouted for help.
‘Help! Burglary!’ Yell after yell—such a voice would have wakened the tomb;
And I heard her scream once, and she fell like a log on the floor of her room!

And I thought of her then like a flash—of the foul fiend of gossip that drags
A soul to perdition—I thought of the treacherous tongues of the hags;
She would sacrifice all for my sake—she would tell the whole township the truth.
I’d escape, send the Doctor a message and die—ere they took me—for Ruth!

Then I rushed him—a struggle—a flash—I was down with a shot in my arm—
Up again, and a desperate fight—hurried footsteps and cries of alarm!
A mad struggle, a blow on the head—and the gossips will fill in the blank
With the tale of the capture of Drew on the night he broke into the bank.

In the cell at the lock-up all day and all night, without pause through my brain
Whirled the scenes of my life to the last one—and over and over again
I paced the small cell, till exhaustion brought sleep—and I woke to the past
Like a man metamorphosed—clear-headed, and strong in a purpose at last.

She would sacrifice all for my sake—she would tell the whole township the truth—
In the mood I was in I’d have given my life for a moment with Ruth;
But still, as I thought, from without came the voice of the constable’s wife;
‘They say it’s brain fever, poor girl, and the doctor despairs of her life.’

‘He has frightened the poor girl to death—such a pity—so pretty and young,’
So the voice of a gossip chimed in: ‘And the wretch! he deserves to be hung.
‘They were always a bad lot, the Drews, and I knowed he was more rogue than crank,
‘And he only pretended to court her so’s to know his way into the bank!’

Came the doctor at last with his voice hard and cold and a face like a stone—
Hands behind, but it mattered not then—’twas a fight I must fight out alone:
‘You have cause to be thankful,’ he said, as though speaking a line from the past—
‘She was conscious an hour; she is dead, and she called for you, Drew, till the last!

‘Ay! And I knew the truth, but I lied. She fought for the truth, but I lied;
‘And I said you were well and were coming, and, listening and waiting, she died.
‘God forgive you! I warned you in time. You will suffer while reason endures:
‘For the rest, you will know only I have the key of her story—and yours.’

.     .     .     .     .

The curious crowd in the court seemed to me but as ghosts from the past,
As the words of the charge were read out, like a hymn from the first to the last;
I repeated the words I’d rehearsed—in a voice that seemed strangely away—
In their place, ‘I am guilty,’ I said; and again, ‘I have nothing to say.’

I realised then, and stood straight—would I shrink from the eyes of the clown—
From the eyes of the sawney who’d boast of success with a girl of the town?
But there is human feeling in men which is easy, or hard, to define:
Every eye, as I glanced round the court, was cast down, or averted from mine.

Save the doctor’s—it seemed to me then as if he and I stood there alone—
For a moment he looked in my eyes with a wonderful smile in his own,
Slowly lifted his hand in salute, turned and walked from the court-room, and then
From the rear of the crowd came the whisper: ‘The Doctor’s been boozing again!’

I could laugh at it then from the depth of the bitterness still in my heart,
At the ignorant stare of surprise, at the constables’ ‘Arder in Car-rt!’
But I know. Oh, I understand now how the poor tortured heart cries aloud
For a flame from High Heaven to wither the grin on the face of a crowd.

Then the Judge spoke harshly; I stood with my fluttering senses awhirl:
My crime, he said sternly, had cost the young life of an innocent girl;
I’d brought sorrow and death to a home, I was worse than a murderer now;
And the sentence he passed on me there was the worst that the law would allow.

.     .     .     .     .

Let me rest—I grow weary and faint. Let me breathe—but what value is breath?
Ah! the pain in my heart—as of old; and I know what it is—it is death.
It is death—it is rest—it is sleep. ’Tis the world and I drifting apart.
I have been through a sorrow too deep to have passed without breaking my heart.

There’s a breeze! And a light without bars! Let me drink the free air till I drown.
’Tis the she-oaks—the Peak—and the stars. Lo, a dead angel’s spirit floats down!
This will pass—aye, and all things will pass. Oh, my love, have you come back to me?
I am tired—let me lie on the grass at your feet, with my head on your knee.

‘I was wrong’—the words lull me to sleep, like the words of a lullaby song—
I was wrong—but the iron went deep in my heart ere I knew I was wrong.
I rebelled, but I suffered in youth, and I suffer too deeply to live:
You’ll forgive me, and pray for me, Ruth—for you loved me—and God will forgive.

 

To My Cultured Critics

Fight through ignorance, want, and care —
    Through the griefs that crush the spirit;
Push your way to a fortune fair,
    And the smiles of the world you’ll merit.
Long, as a boy, for the chance to learn —
    For the chance that Fate denies you;
Win degrees where the Life-lights burn,
    And scores will teach and advise you.

My cultured friends! you have come too late
    With your bypath nicely graded;
I’ve fought thus far on my track of Fate,
    And I’ll follow the rest unaided.
Must I be stopped by a college gate
    On the track of Life encroaching?
Be dumb to Love, and be dumb to Hate,
    For the lack of a college coaching?

You grope for Truth in a language dead —
    In the dust ’neath tower and steeple!
What know you of the tracks we tread?
    And what know you of our people?
‘I must read this, and that, and the rest,’
    And write as the cult expects me? —
I’ll read the book that may please me best,
    And write as my heart directs me!

You were quick to pick on a faulty line
    That I strove to put my soul in:
Your eyes were keen for a ‘dash’ of mine
    In the place of a semi-colon —
And blind to the rest. And is it for such
    As you I must brook restriction?
‘I was taught too little?’ I learnt too much
    To care for a pedant’s diction!

Must I turn aside from my destined way
    For a task your Joss would find me?
I come with strength of the living day,
    And with half the world behind me;
I leave you alone in your cultured halls
    To drivel and croak and cavil:
Till your voice goes further than college walls,
    Keep out of the tracks we travel!

 

Pigeon Toes

A dusty clearing in the scrubs
    Of barren, western lands—
Where, out of sight, or sign of hope
    The wretched school-house stands;
A roof that glares at glaring days,
    A bare, unshaded wall,
A fence that guards no blade of green—
    A dust-storm over all.

The books and slates are packed away,
    The maps are rolled and tied,
And for an hour I breathe, and lay
    My ghastly mask aside;
I linger here to save my head
    From voices shrill and thin,
That rasp for ever in the shed,
    The ‘home’ I’m boarding in.

The heat and dirt and wretchedness
    With which their lives began—
Bush mother nagging day and night,
    And sullen, brooding man;
The minds that harp on single strings,
    And never bright by chance,
The rasping voice of paltry things,
    The hopeless ignorance.

I had ideals when I came here,
    A noble purpose had,
But all that they can understand
    Is ‘axe to grind’ or ‘mad.’
I brood at times till comes a fear
    That sets my brain awhirl—
I fight a strong man’s battle here,
    And I am but a girl.

I hated paltriness and deemed
    A breach of faith a crime;
I listen now to scandal’s voice
    In sewing-lesson time.
There is a thought that haunts me so,
    And gathers strength each day—
Shall I as narrow-minded grow,
    As mean of soul as they?

The feuds that rise from paltry spite,
    Or from no cause at all;
The brooding, dark, suspicious minds—
    I suffer for it all.
They do not dream the ‘Teacher’ knows,
    What brutal thoughts are said;
The children call me ‘Pigeon Toes,’
    ‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Carrot Head.’

On phantom seas of endless change
    My thoughts to madness roam—
The only thing that keeps me here,
    The thoughts of those at home—
The hearts that love and cling to me,
    That I love best on earth,
My mother left in poverty,
    My brother blind from birth.

On burning West Australian fields
    In that great dreadful land,
Where all day long the heat waves flow
    O’er the seas of glowing sand.
My elder brother toils and breaks
    That great true heart of his
To rescue us from poverty—
    To rescue me from this.

And one is with him where he goes,
    My brother’s mate and mine;
He never called me Pigeon Toes—
    He said my eyes were ‘fine’;
And his face comes before me now,
    And hope and courage rise,
The lines of life—the troubled brow,
    Firm mouth and kind grey eyes.

I preach content and gentleness,
    And mock example give;
They little think the Teacher hates
    And loathes the life they live.
I told the infants fairy tales
    But half an hour since—
They little dream how Pigeon Toes
    Prays for a fairy Prince.

I have one prayer (and God forgive
    A selfish prayer and wild);
I kneel down by the infants’ stool
    (For I am but a child),
And pray as I’ve prayed times untold
    That Heaven will set a sign,
To guide my brother to the gold,
    For mother’s sake and mine.

A dust cloud on the lonely road,
    And I am here alone;
I lock the door till it be past,
    For I have nervous grown.

.     .     .     .     .

God spare me disappointment’s blow.
    He stops beside the gate;
A voice, thrill-feeling that I know.
    My brother! No! His mate!

.     .     .     .     .

His eyes—a proud, triumphant smile,
    His arms outstretched, and ‘Come,
‘For Jack and I have made our pile,
    ‘And I’m here to take you home’!

 

The Battling Days

So, sit you down in a straight-backed chair, with your pipe and your wife content,
And cross your knees with your wisest air, and preach of the ‘days mis-spent;’
Grown fat and moral apace, old man! you prate of the change ‘since then’ —
In spite of all, I’d as lief be back in those hard old days again.

They were hard old days; they were battling days; they were cruel at times — but then,
In spite of all, I would rather be back in those hard old days again.
The land was barren to sow wild oats in the days when we sowed our own —
(’Twas little we thought or our friends believed that ours would ever be sown)
But the wild oats wave on their stormy path, and they speak of the hearts of men —
I would sow a crop if I had my time in those hard old days again.

We travel first, or we go saloon — on the planned-out trips we go,
With those who are neither rich nor poor, and we find that the life is slow;
It’s ‘a pleasant trip’ where they cried, ‘Good luck! There was fun in the steerage then —
In spite of all, I would fain be back in those vagabond days again.

On Saturday night we’ve a pound to spare — a pound for a trip down town —
We took more joy in those hard old days for a hardly spared half-crown;
We took more pride in the pants we patched than the suits we have had since then —
In spite of all, I would rather be back in those comical days again.

’Twas We and the World — and the rest go hang — as the Outside tracks we trod;
Each thought of himself as a man and mate, and not as a martyred god;
The world goes wrong when your heart is strong — and this is the way with men —
The world goes right when your liver is white, and you preach of the change ‘since then.’

They were hard old days; they were battling days; they were cruel times — but then,
In spite of all, we shall live to-night in those hard old days again.

 

The Fire at Ross’s Farm

The squatter saw his pastures wide
    Decrease, as one by one
The farmers moving to the west
    Selected on his run;
Selectors took the water up
    And all the black soil round;
The best grass-land the squatter had
    Was spoilt by Ross’s Ground.

Now many schemes to shift old Ross
    Had racked the squatter’s brains,
But Sandy had the stubborn blood
    Of Scotland in his veins;
He held the land and fenced it in,
    He cleared and ploughed the soil,
And year by year a richer crop
    Repaid him for his toil.

Between the homes for many years
    The devil left his tracks:
The squatter pounded Ross’s stock,
    And Sandy pounded Black’s.
A well upon the lower run
    Was filled with earth and logs,
And Black laid baits about the farm
    To poison Ross’s dogs.

It was, indeed, a deadly feud
    Of class and creed and race;
But, yet, there was a Romeo
    And a Juliet in the case;
And more than once across the flats,
    Beneath the Southern Cross,
Young Robert Black was seen to ride
    With pretty Jenny Ross.

One Christmas time, when months of drought
    Had parched the western creeks,
The bush-fires started in the north
    And travelled south for weeks.
At night along the river-side
    The scene was grand and strange—
The hill-fires looked like lighted streets
    Of cities in the range.

The cattle-tracks between the trees
    Were like long dusky aisles,
And on a sudden breeze the fire
    Would sweep along for miles;
Like sounds of distant musketry
    It crackled through the brakes,
And o’er the flat of silver grass
    It hissed like angry snakes.

It leapt across the flowing streams
    And raced o’er pastures broad;
It climbed the trees and lit the boughs
    And through the scrubs it roared.
The bees fell stifled in the smoke
    Or perished in their hives,
And with the stock the kangaroos
    Went flying for their lives.

The sun had set on Christmas Eve,
    When, through the scrub-lands wide,
Young Robert Black came riding home
    As only natives ride.
He galloped to the homestead door
    And gave the first alarm:
‘The fire is past the granite spur,
    ‘And close to Ross’s farm.’

‘Now, father, send the men at once,
    They won’t be wanted here;
Poor Ross’s wheat is all he has
    To pull him through the year.’
‘Then let it burn,’ the squatter said;
    ‘I’d like to see it done—
I’d bless the fire if it would clear
    Selectors from the run.’

‘Go if you will,’ the squatter said,
    ‘You shall not take the men—
Go out and join your precious friends,
    And don’t come here again.’
‘I won’t come back,’ young Robert cried,
    And, reckless in his ire,
He sharply turned his horse’s head
    And galloped towards the fire.

And there, for three long weary hours,
    Half-blind with smoke and heat,
Old Ross and Robert fought the flames
    That neared the ripened wheat.
The farmer’s hand was nerved by fears
    Of danger and of loss;
And Robert fought the stubborn foe
    For the love of Jenny Ross.

But serpent-like the curves and lines
    Slipped past them, and between,
Until they reached the bound’ry where
    The old coach-road had been.
‘The track is now our only hope,
    There we must stand,’ cried Ross,
‘For nought on earth can stop the fire
    If once it gets across.’

Then came a cruel gust of wind,
    And, with a fiendish rush,
The flames leapt o’er the narrow path
    And lit the fence of brush.
‘The crop must burn!’ the farmer cried,
    ‘We cannot save it now,’
And down upon the blackened ground
    He dashed the ragged bough.

But wildly, in a rush of hope,
    His heart began to beat,
For o’er the crackling fire he heard
    The sound of horses’ feet.
‘Here’s help at last,’ young Robert cried,
    And even as he spoke
The squatter with a dozen men
    Came racing through the smoke.

Down on the ground the stockmen jumped
    And bared each brawny arm,
They tore green branches from the trees
    And fought for Ross’s farm;
And when before the gallant band
    The beaten flames gave way,
Two grimy hands in friendship joined—
    And it was Christmas Day.

 

The Shame of Going Back

When you’ve come to make a fortune and you haven’t made your salt,
And the reason of your failure isn’t anybody’s fault —
When you haven’t got a billet, and the times are very slack,
There is nothing that can spur you like the shame of going back;
        Crawling home with empty pockets,
        Going back hard-up;
Oh! it’s then you learn the meaning of humiliation’s cup.

When the place and you are strangers and you struggle all alone,
And you have a mighty longing for the town where you are known;
When your clothes are very shabby and the future’s very black,
There is nothing that can hurt you like the shame of going back.

When we’ve fought the battle bravely and are beaten to the wall,
’Tis the sneers of men, not conscience, that make cowards of us all;
And the while you are returning, oh! your brain is on the rack,
And your heart is in the shadow of the shame of going back.

When a beaten man’s discovered with a bullet in his brain,
They post-mortem him, and try him, and they say he was insane;
But it very often happens that he’d lately got the sack,
And his onward move was owing to the shame of going back.

Ah! my friend, you call it nonsense, and your upper lip is curled,
I can see that you have never worked your passage through the world;
But when fortune rounds upon you and the rain is on the track,
You will learn the bitter meaning of the shame of going back;
        Going home with empty pockets,
        Going home hard-up;
Oh, you’ll taste the bitter poison in humiliation’s cup.

 

Farewell to the Bushmen

Some carry their swags in the Great North-West,
    Where the bravest battle and die,
And a few have gone to their last long rest,
    And a few have said: Good-bye!
The coast grows dim, and it may be long
    Ere the Gums again I see;
So I put my soul in a farewell song
    To the chaps who barracked for me.

Their days are hard at the best of times,
    And their dreams are dreams of care—
God bless them all for their big soft hearts,
    And the brave, brave grins they wear!
God keep me straight as a man can go,
    And true as a man may be!
For the sake of the hearts that were always so,
    Of the men who had faith in me!

And a ship-side word I would say, you chaps
    Of the blood of the Don’t-give-in!
The world will call it a boast, perhaps—
    But I’ll win, if a man can win!
And not for gold nor the world’s applause—
    Though ways to the end they be—
I’ll win, if a man might win, because
    Of the men who believed in me.

 

Break o’ Day

You love me, you say, and I think you do,
    But I know so many who don’t,
And how can I say I’ll be true to you
    When I know very well that I won’t?
I have journeyed long and my goal is far,
    I love, but I cannot bide,
For as sure as rises the morning star,
    With the break of day I’ll ride.

        I was doomed to ruin or doomed to mar
            The home wherever I stay,
        But I’ll think of you as the morning star
            And they call me Break o’ Day.

They well might have named me the Fall o’ Night,
    For drear is the track I mark,
But I love fair girls and I love the light,
    For I and my tribe were dark.
You may love me dear, for a day and night,
    You may cast your life aside;
But as sure as the morning star shines bright
    With the break of day I’ll ride.

There was never a lover so proud and kind,
    There was never a friend so true;
But the song of my life I have left behind
    In the heart of a girl like you.
There was never so deep or cruel a wrong
    In the land that is far away,
There was never so bitter a broken heart
    That rode at the break of day.

God bless you, dear, with your red-gold hair
    And your pitying eyes of grey—
Oh! my heart forbids that a star so fair
    Should be marred by the Break o’ Day.
Live on, my girl, as the girl you are,
    Be a good and a true man’s bride,
For as sure as beckons the evening star
    With the fall o’ night I’ll ride.

        I was born to ruin or born to mar
            The home wherever I light.
        Oh! I wish that you were the Evening Star
            And that I were the Fall o’ Night.

 

The Cross-Roads

Once more I write a line to you,
    While darker shadows fall;
Dear friends of mine who have been true,
    And steadfast through it all.
If I have written bitter rhymes,
    With many lines that halt,
And if I have been false at times
    It was not all my fault.

To Heaven’s decree I would not bow,
    And I sank very low—
The bitter things are written now,
    And we must let them go.
But I feel softened as I write;
    The better spirit springs,
And I am very sad to-night
    Because of many things.

The friendships that I have abused,
    The trust I did betray,
The talents that I have misused,
    The gifts I threw away.
The things that did me little good,
    And—well my cheeks might burn—
The kindly letters that I should
    Have answered by return.

But you might deem them answered now,
    And answered from my heart;
And injured friends will understand
    ’Tis I who feel the smart.
But I have done with barren strife
    And dark imaginings,
And in my future work and life
    Will seek the better things.

 

The Men Who Come Behind

There’s a class of men (and women) who are always on their guard—
Cunning, treacherous, suspicious—feeling softly—grasping hard—
Brainy, yet without the courage to forsake the beaten track—
Cautiously they feel their way behind a bolder spirit’s back.

If you save a bit of money, and you start a little store—
Say, an oyster-shop, for instance, where there wasn’t one before—
When the shop begins to pay you, and the rent is off your mind,
You will see another started by a chap that comes behind.

So it is, and so it might have been, my friend, with me and you—
When a friend of both and neither interferes between the two;
They will fight like fiends, forgetting in their passion mad and blind,
That the row is mostly started by the folk who come behind.

They will stick to you like sin will, while your money comes and goes,
But they’ll leave you when you haven’t got a shilling in your clothes.
You may get some help above you, but you’ll nearly always find
That you cannot get assistance from the men who come behind.

There are many, far too many, in the world of prose and rhyme,
Always looking for another’s ‘footsteps on the sands of time.’
Journalistic imitators are the meanest of mankind;
And the grandest themes are hackneyed by the pens that come behind.

If you strike a novel subject, write it up, and do not fail,
They will rhyme and prose about it till your very own is stale,
As they raved about the region that the wattle-boughs perfume
Till the reader cursed the bushman and the stink of wattle-bloom.

They will follow in your footsteps while you’re groping for the light ;
But they’ll run to get before you when they see you’re going right;
And they’ll trip you up and baulk you in their blind and greedy heat,
Like a stupid pup that hasn’t learned to trail behind your feet.

Take your loads of sin and sorrow on more energetic backs!
Go and strike across the country where there are not any tracks!
And—we fancy that the subject could be further treated here,
But we’ll leave it to be hackneyed by the fellows in the rear.

 

Riding Round the Lines

Dust and smoke against the sunrise out where grim disaster lurks
And a broken sky-line looming like unfinished railway works,
And a trot, trot, trot and canter down inside the belt of mines:
It is General Greybeard Shrapnel who is riding round his lines.

And the scarecrows from the trenches, haggard eyes and hollow cheeks,
War-stained uniforms and ragged that have not been off for weeks;
They salute him and they cheer him and they watch his face for signs;
Ah! they try to read old Greybeard while he’s riding round the lines.

There’s a crack, crack, crack and rattle; there’s a thud and there’s a crash;
In the battery over yonder there is something gone to smash,
Then a hush and sudden movement, and its meaning he divines,
And he patches up a blunder while he’s riding round his lines.

Pushing this position forward, bringing that position back,
While his officers, with orders, ride like hell down hell’s own track;
Making hay—and to what purpose?—while his sun of winter shines,
But his work is just beginning when he’s ridden round his lines.

There are fifty thousand rifles and a hundred batteries
All a-playing battle music, with his fingers on the keys,
And if for an hour, exhausted, on his camp bed he reclines,
In his mind he still is riding—he is riding round his lines.

He’s the brains of fifty thousand, blundering at their country’s call;
He’s the one hope of his nation, and the loneliest man of all;
He is flesh and blood and human, though he never shews the signs:
He is General Greybeard Shrapnel who is fixing up his lines.

It is thankless work and weary, and, for all his neighbour knows,
He may sometimes feel as if he doesn’t half care how it goes;
But for all that can be gathered from his eyes of steely blue
He might be a great contractor who has some big job to do.

There’s the son who died in action—it may be a week ago;
There’s the wife and other troubles that most men have got to know—
(And we’ll say the grey-haired mother underneath the porch of vines):
Does he ever think of these things while he’s riding round his lines?

He is bossed by bitter boobies who can never understand;
He is hampered by the asses and the robbers of the land,
And I feel inclined to wonder what his own opinions are
Of the Government, the country, of the war and of the Czar.

He’s the same when he’s advancing, he’s the same in grim retreat;
For he wears one mask in triumph and the same mask in defeat;
Of the brave he is the bravest, he is strongest of the strong:
General Greybeard Shrapnel never shows that anything is wrong.

But we each and all are lonely, and we have our work to do;
We must fight for wife and children or our country and our screw
In the everlasting struggle to the end that fate destines;
In the war that men call living we are riding round our lines.

I ride round my last defences, where the bitter jibes are flung,
I am patching up the blunders that I made when I was young,
And I may be digging pitfalls and I may be laying mines;
For I sometimes feel like Shrapnel while I’m riding round my lines.

 

The Christ of the Never

With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
    To the awful horizons of land,
Through the haze of hot days, and the fierce
    White heat-waves that flow on the sand;
Through the Never Land westward and nor’ward,
    Bronzed, bearded and gaunt on the track,
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
    The Christ of the Outer Out-back.

For the cause that will ne’er be relinquished
    Spite of all the great cynics on earth—
In the ranks of the bush undistinguished
    By manner or dress—if by birth—
God’s preacher, of churches unheeded—
    God’s vineyard, though barren the sod—
Plain spokesman where spokesman is needed—
    Rough link ’twixt the bushman and God.

He works where the hearts of all nations
    Are withered in flame from the sky,
Where the sinners work out their salvations
    In a hell-upon-earth ere they die.
In the camp or the lonely hut lying
    In a waste that seems out of God’s sight,
He’s the doctor—the mate of the dying
    Through the smothering heat of the night.

By his work in the hells of the shearers,
    Where the drinking is ghastly and grim,
Where the roughest and worst of his hearers
    Have listened bareheaded to him.
By his paths through the parched desolation
    Hot rides and the terrible tramps;
By the hunger, the thirst, the privation
    Of his work in the furthermost camps

By his worth in the light that shall search men
    And prove—ay! and justify each—
I place him in front of all churchmen
    Who feel not, who know not—but preach!

 

A Prouder Man Than You

If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine,
If you hint of higher breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you’re proud because of fortune or the clever things you do—
Then I’ll play no second fiddle: I’m a prouder man than you!

If you think that your profession has the more gentility,
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I’m shabby while your clothes are spruce and new—
You have only got to hint it: I’m a prouder man than you!

If you have a swell companion when you see me on the street,
And you think that I’m too common for your toney friend to meet,
So that I, in passing closely, fail to come within your view—
Then be blind to me for ever: I’m a prouder man than you!

If your character be blameless, if your outward past be clean,
While ’tis known my antecedents are not what they should have been,
Do not risk contamination, save your name whate’er you do—
‘Birds o’ feather fly together’: I’m a prouder bird than you!

Keep your patronage for others! Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal—let me see that you are true,
And my wall of pride is shattered: I am not so proud as you!

 

From the Bush

The Channel fog has lifted—
    And see where we have come!
Round all the world we’ve drifted,
    A hundred years from ‘home.’
The fields our parents longed for—
    Ah! we shall ne’er know how—
The wealth that they were wronged for
    We’ll see as strangers now!

The Dover cliffs have passed on—
    In morning light aglow—
That our fathers looked their last on
    A weary time ago.
Now grin, and grin your bravest!
    We need be strong to fight;
For you go home to picture
    And I go home to write.

Hold up your head in England,
    Tread firm on London streets;
We come from where the strong heart
    Of all Australia beats!
Hold up your head in England
    However poor you roam!
For no men are your betters
    Who never sailed from home!

From a hundred years of hardships—
    ’Tis ours to tell the cost—
From a thousand miles of silence
    Where London would be lost;
From where the glorious sunset
    On sweeps of mulga glows—
Ah! we know more than England,
    And more than Europe knows!

Hold up your head in London,
    However poor you come,
For no man is your better
    Who never sailed from home!
Our ‘home’ and foreign fathers,
    Where none but men dared go,
Have done more for the White Man
    Than England e’er shall know!

 

The Separation

We knew too little of the world,
    And you and I were good—
’Twas paltry things that wrecked our lives
    As well I knew they would.
The people said our love was dead,
    But how were they to know?
Ah! had we loved each other less
    We’d not have quarrelled so.

We knew too little of the world,
    And you and I were kind,
We listened to what others said
    And both of us were blind.
The people said ’twas selfishness,
    But how were they to know?
Ah! had we both more selfish been
    We’d not have parted so.

But still when all seems lost on earth
    Then heaven sets a sign—
Kneel down beside your lonely bed,
    And I will kneel by mine,
And let us pray for happy days—
    Like those of long ago.
Ah! had we knelt together then
    We’d not have parted so.

 

Cherry-Tree Inn

The rafters are open to sun, moon, and star,
Thistles and nettles grow high in the bar—
The chimneys are crumbling, the log fires are dead,
And green mosses spring from the hearthstone instead.
The voices are silent, the bustle and din,
For the railroad hath ruined the Cherry-tree Inn.

Save the glimmer of stars, or the moon’s pallid streams,
And the sounds of the ’possums that camp on the beams,
The bar-room is dark and the stable is still,
For the coach comes no more over Cherry-tree Hill.
No riders push on through the darkness to win
The rest and the comfort of Cherry-tree Inn.

I drift from my theme, for my memory strays
To the carrying, digging, and bushranging days—
Far back to the seasons that I love the best,
When a stream of wild diggers rushed into the west,
But the rushes grew feeble, and sluggish, and thin,
Till scarcely a swagman passed Cherry-tree Inn.

Do you think, my old mate (if it’s thinking you be),
Of the days when you tramped to the goldfields with me?
Do you think of the day of our thirty-mile tramp,
When never a fire could we light on the camp,
And, weary and footsore and drenched to the skin,
We tramped through the darkness to Cherry-tree Inn?

Then I had a sweetheart and you had a wife,
And Johnny was more to his mother than life;
But we solemnly swore, ere that evening was done,
That we’d never return till our fortunes were won.
Next morning to harvests of folly and sin
We tramped o’er the ranges from Cherry-tree Inn.

* * * * * * *

The years have gone over with many a change,
And there comes an old swagman from over the range,
And faint ’neath the weight of his rain-sodden load,
He suddenly thinks of the inn by the road.
He tramps through the darkness the shelter to win,
And reaches the ruins of Cherry-tree Inn.

 


Foreign Lands

You may roam the wide seas over, follow, meet, and cross the sun,
Sail as far as ships can sail, and travel far as trains can run;
You may ride and tramp wherever range or plain or sea expands,
But the crowd has been before you, and you’ll not find ‘Foreign Lands;’
            For the Early Days are over,
            And no more the white-winged rover
Sinks the gale-worn coast of England bound for bays in Foreign Lands.

Foreign Lands are in the distance dim and dreamlike, faint and far,
Long ago, and over yonder, where our boyhood fancies are,
For the land is by the railway cramped as though with iron bands,
And the steamship and the cable did away with Foreign Lands.
            Ah! the days of blue and gold!
            When the news was six months old—
But the news was worth the telling in the days of Foreign Lands.

Here we slave the dull years hopeless for the sake of Wool and Wheat
Here the homes of ugly Commerce—niggard farm and haggard street;
Yet our mothers and our fathers won the life the heart demands—
Less than fifty years gone over, we were born in Foreign Lands.

When the gipsies stole the children still, in village tale and song,
And the world was wide to travel, and the roving spirit strong;
When they dreamed of South Sea Islands, summer seas and coral strands—
Then the bravest hearts of England sailed away to Foreign Lands,
            ‘Fitting foreign’—flood and field—
            Half the world and orders sealed—
And the first and best of Europe went to fight in Foreign Lands.

Canvas towers on the ocean—homeward bound and outward bound—
Glint of topsails over islands—splash of anchors in the sound;
Then they landed in the forests, took their strong lives in their hands,
And they fought and toiled and conquered—making homes in Foreign Lands,
            Through the cold and through the drought—
            Further on and further out—
Winning half the world for England in the wilds of Foreign Lands.

Love and pride of life inspired them when the simple village hearts
Followed Master Will and Harry—gone abroad to ‘furrin parts’
By our townships and our cities, and across the desert sands
Are the graves of those who fought and died for us in Foreign Lands—
            Gave their young lives for our sake
            (Was it all a grand mistake?)
Sons of Master Will and Harry born abroad in Foreign Lands!

Ah, my girl, our lives are narrow, and in sordid days like these,
I can hate the things that banished ‘Foreign Lands across the seas,’
But with all the world before us, God above us—hearts and hands,
I can sail the seas in fancy far away to Foreign Lands.

 

The Passing of Scotty

We throw us down on the dusty plain
    When the gold has gone from the west,
But we rise and tramp on the track again,
    For we’re tired, too tired to rest.
Darker and denser the shadows fall
    That are cramping each aching brow,
Scotty the Wrinkler! you’ve solved it all,
    Give us a wrinkle now.

But no one lieth so still in death
    As the rover who never could rest;
And he’s free of thought as he’s free of breath,
    And his hands are crossed on his breast.
You have earned your rest, you brave old tramp,
    As I hope in the end we will.
Ah me! ’Twas a long, long way to camp
    Since the days when they called you “Phil”.

What have they done with your quaint old soul
    Now they have passed you through?
But we can’t but think, as our swags we roll,
    That it’s right, old man, with you;
You learned some truth in the storm and strife
    Of the outcast battler’s ways;
And you left some light in the vagabond’s life
    Ere you vanished beyond the haze.

One by one in the far ahead,
    In the smothering haze of drought,
Where hearts are loyal and hopes are dead,
    The forms of our mates fade out.
’Tis a distant goal and a weary load,
    But we follow the Wrinkler home,
As, staggering into the short, straight road,
    From the blind branch tracks we come.

We leave our mark and we play our part
    In the nation’s pregnant days,
And we find a place in the Bushman’s heart
    Ere we vanish beyond the haze.

 

The Mountain Splitter

He works in the glen where the waratah grows,
    And the gums and the ashes are tall,
’Neath cliffs that re-echo the sound of his blows
    When the wedges leap in from the mawl.

He comes of a hardy old immigrant race,
    And he feels not the rain nor the drouth.
His sinews are tougher than wire; and his face
    Has been tanned by the sun of the south.

Now doomed to be shorn of its glory at last
    Is the stately old tree he attacks;
Its moments of life he is numbering fast
    With the keen steady strokes of his axe.

Loud cracks at the butt; and the strong wood is burst;
    And the splitter steps backward, and turns
His eyes to the boughs that move slowly at first
    Ere they rush to their grave in the ferns.

He strips off the bark with slight effort of strength
    And stretches it out on the weeds,
And marks off the trunk with a measure the length
    Of the rails or the palings he needs.

The teeth of his crosscut so truly are set
    That it swings from his elbow at ease;
And the song of the saw, I am hearing it yet,
    Has the music of wind in the trees.

Strong blows on the wedge, and a rip and a tear,
    And the log opens up to the butt;
And, spreading around through the pure mountain air,
    Is the scent of the wood newly cut.

A lover of comfort and cronies is he;
    And when the day’s work is behind,
A fire, and a yarn, and a billy of tea,
    At the hut of the splitter you’ll find.

His custom is sought in the town by the range;
    For well to the future he looks:
His cheques in an instant the storekeepers change;
    And his name is the best on the books.

 

 

The Three Kings

[Three sea-girt pinnacles off North Cape, New Zealand.]

The East is dead and the West is done, and again our course lies thus:—
South-east by Fate and the Rising Sun where the Three Kings wait for us.
When our hearts are young and the world is wide, and the heights seem grand to climb—
We are off and away to the Sydney-side; but the Three Kings bide their time.

‘I’ve been to the West,’ the digger said: he was bearded, bronzed and old;
‘Ah, the smothering curse of the East is wool, and the curse of the West is gold.
‘I went to the West in the golden boom, with Hope and a life-long mate,
‘They sleep in the sand by the Boulder Soak, and long may the Three Kings wait.’

‘I’ve had my fling on the Sydney-side,’ said a black-sheep to the sea,
‘Let the young fool learn when he can’t be taught: I’ve learnt what’s good for me.’
And he gazed ahead on the sea-line dim—grown dim in his softened eyes—
With a pain in his heart that was good for him—as he saw the Three Kings rise.

A pale girl sits on the foc’sle head—she is back, Three Kings! so soon;
But it seems to her like a life-time dead since she fled with him ‘saloon.’
There is refuge still in the old folks’ arms for the child that loved too well;
They will hide her shame on the Southern farm—and the Three Kings will not tell.

’Twas a restless heart on the tide of life, and a false star in the skies
That led me on to the deadly strife where the Southern London lies;
But I dream in peace of a home for me, by a glorious southern sound,
As the sunset fades from a moonlit sea, and the Three Kings show us round.

Our hearts are young and the old hearts old, and life on the farms is slow,
And away in the world there is fame and gold—and the Three Kings watch us go.
Our heads seem wise and the world seems wide, and its heights are ours to climb,
So it’s off and away in our youthful pride—but the Three Kings bide our time.

 

The Rovers

Some born of homely parents
    For ages settled down—
The steady generations
    Of village, farm, and town:
And some of dusky fathers
    Who wandered since the flood—
The fairest skin or darkest
    Might hold the roving blood—

Some born of brutish peasants,
    And some of dainty peers,
In poverty or plenty
    They pass their early years;
But, born in pride of purple,
    Or straw and squalid sin,
In all the far world corners
    The wanderers are kin.

A rover or a rebel,
    Conceived and born to roam,
As babies they will toddle
    With faces turned from home;
They’ve fought beyond the vanguard
    Wherever storm has raged,
And home is but a prison
    They pace like lions caged.

They smile and are not happy;
    They sing and are not gay;
They weary, yet they wander;
    They love, and cannot stay;
They marry, and are single
    Who watch the roving star,
For, by the family fireside,
    Oh, lonely men they are!

They die of peace and quiet—
    The deadly ease of life;
They die of home and comfort;
    They live in storm and strife;
No poverty can tie them,
    Nor wealth nor place restrain—
Girl, wife, or child might draw them,
    But they’ll be gone again!

Across the glowing desert;
    Through naked trees and snow;
Across the rolling prairies
    The skies have seen them go;
They fought to where the ocean
    Receives the setting sun;—
But where shall fight the rovers
    When all the lands are won?

They thirst on Greenland snowfields,
    On Never-Never sands;
Where man is not to conquer
    They conquer barren lands;
They feel that most are cowards,
    That all depends on ‘nerve,’
They lead who cannot follow,
    They rule who cannot serve.

Across the plains and ranges,
    Away across the seas,
On blue and green horizons
    They camp by twos and threes;
They hold on stormy borders
    Of states that trouble earth
The honour of the country
    That only gave them birth.

Unlisted, uncommissioned,
    Untaught of any school,
In far-away world corners
    Unconquered tribes they rule;
The lone hand and revolver—
    Sad eyes that never quail—
The lone hand and the rifle
    That win where armies fail.

They slumber sound where murder
    And treachery are bare—
The pluck of self-reliance,
    The pluck of past despair;
Thin brown men in pyjamas—
    The thin brown wiry men!—
The helmet and revolver
    That lie beside the pen.

Through drought and desolation
    They won the way Out Back;
The commonplace and selfish
    Have followed on their track;
They conquer lands for others,
    For others find the gold,
But where shall go the rovers
    When all the lands are old?

A rover and a rebel—
    And so the worlds commence!
Their hearts shall beat as wildly
    Ten generations hence;
And when the world is crowded—
    ’Tis signed and sealed by Fate—
The roving blood will rise to make
    The countries desolate.

 

The Bush Girl

So you rode from the range where your brothers select,
    Through the ghostly, grey Bush in the dawn—
You rode slowly at first, lest her heart should suspect
    That you were so glad to be gone;
You had scarcely the courage to glance back at her
    By the homestead receding from view,
And you breathed with relief as you rounded the spur,
    For the world was a wide world to you.

        Grey eyes that grow sadder than sunset or rain,
            Fond heart that is ever more true,
        Firm faith that grows firmer for watching in vain—
            She’ll wait by the slip-rails for you.

Ah! the world is a new and a wide one to you,
    But the world to your sweetheart is shut,
For a change never comes to the lonely Bush homes
    Of the stockyard, the scrub, and the hut;
And the only relief from its dulness she feels
    When the ridges grow softened and dim,
And away in the dusk to the slip-rails she steals
    To dream of past hours ‘with him.’

Do you think, where, in place of bare fences, dry creeks,
    Clear streams and green hedges are seen—
Where the girls have the lily and rose in their cheeks,
    And the grass in mid-summer is green—
Do you think, now and then, now or then, in the whirl
    Of the town life, while London is new,
Of the hut in the Bush and the freckled-faced girl
    Who waits by the slip-rails for you?

        Grey eyes that are sadder than sunset or rain,
            Bruised heart that is ever more true,
        Fond faith that is firmer for trusting in vain—
            She waits by the slip-rails for you.

 


Marshall’s Mate

You almost heard the surface bake, and saw the gum-leaves turn—
You could have watched the grass scorch brown had there been grass to burn.
In such a drought the strongest heart might well grow faint and weak—
’Twould frighten Satan to his home—not far from Dingo Creek.

The tanks went dry on Ninety Mile, as tanks go dry out back,
The Half-Way Spring had failed at last when Marshall missed the track;
Beneath a dead tree on the plain we saw a pack-horse reel—
Too blind to see there was no shade, and too done-up to feel.
And charcoaled on the canvas bag (’twas written pretty clear)
We read the message Marshall wrote. It said: ‘I’m taken queer—
I’m somewhere off of Deadman’s Track, half-blind and nearly dead;
Find Crowbar, get him sobered up, and follow back,’ it said.

‘Let Mitchell go to Bandicoot. You’ll find him there,’ said Mack.
‘I’ll start the chaps from Starving Steers, and take the dry-holes back.’
We tramped till dark, and tried to track the pack-horse on the sands,
And just at daylight Crowbar came with Milroy’s station hands.
His cheeks were drawn, his face was white, but he was sober then—
In times of trouble, fire, and flood, ’twas Crowbar led the men.
‘Spread out as widely as you can each side the track,’ said he;
‘The first to find him make a smoke that all the rest can see.’

We took the track and followed back where Crowbar followed fate,
We found a dead man in the scrub—but ’twas not Crowbar’s mate.
The station hands from Starving Steers were searching all the week—
But never news of Marshall’s fate came back to Dingo Creek.
And no one, save the spirit of the sand-waste, fierce and lone,
Knew where Jack Marshall crawled to die—but Crowbar might have known.

He’d scarcely closed his quiet eyes or drawn a sleeping breath—
They say that Crowbar slept no more until he slept in death.
A careless, roving scamp, that loved to laugh and drink and joke,
But no man saw him smile again (and no one saw him smoke),
And, when we spelled at night, he’d lie with eyes still open wide,
And watch the stars as if they’d point the place where Marshall died.

The search was made as searches are (and often made in vain),
And on the seventh day we saw a smoke across the plain;
We left the track and followed back—’twas Crowbar still that led,
And when his horse gave out at last he walked and ran ahead.
We reached the place and turned again—dragged back and no man spoke—
It was a bush-fire in the scrubs that made the cursed smoke.
And when we gave it best at last, he said, ‘I’ll see it through,’
Although he knew we’d done as much as mortal men could do.
‘I’ll not—I won’t give up!’ he said, his hand pressed to his brow;
‘My God! the cursed flies and ants, they might be at him now.
I’ll see it so in twenty years, ’twill haunt me all my life—
I could not face his sister, and I could not face his wife.
It’s no use talking to me now—I’m going back,’ he said,
‘I’m going back to find him, and I will—alive or dead!’

* * * * * * * * * *

He packed his horse with water and provisions for a week,
And then, at sunset, crossed the plain, away from Dingo Creek.
We watched him tramp beside the horse till we, as it grew late,
Could not tell which was Bonypart and which was Marshall’s mate.
The dam went dry at Dingo Creek, and we were driven back,
And none dared face the Ninety Mile when Crowbar took the track.

They saw him at Dead Camel and along the Dry Hole Creeks—
There came a day when none had heard of Marshall’s mate for weeks;
They’d seen him at No Sunday, he called at Starving Steers—
There came a time when none had heard of Marshall’s mate for years.
They found old Bonypart at last, picked clean by hungry crows,
But no one knew how Crowbar died—the soul of Marshall knows!

And now, way out on Dingo Creek, when winter days are late,
The bushmen talk of Crowbar’s ghost ‘what’s looking for his mate’;
For let the fools indulge their mirth, and let the wise men doubt—
The soul of Crowbar and his mate have travelled further out.
Beyond the furthest two-rail fence, Colanne and Nevertire—
Beyond the furthest rabbit-proof, barbed wire and common wire—
Beyond the furthest ‘Gov’ment’ tank, and past the furthest bore—
The Never-Never, No Man’s Land, No More, and Nevermore—
Beyond the Land o’ Break-o’-Day, and Sunset and the Dawn,
The soul of Marshall and the soul of Marshall’s mate have gone
Unto that Loving, Laughing Land where life is fresh and clean—
Where the rivers flow all summer, and the grass is always green.

 


The Old Jimmy Woodser

The old Jimmy Woodser comes into the bar,
    Unwelcomed, unnoticed, unknown,
Too old and too odd to be drunk with, by far;
And he glides to the end where the lunch baskets are
    And they say that he tipples alone.

His frock-coat is green and the nap is no more,
    And the style of his hat is at rest.
He wears the peaked collar our grandfathers wore,
The black-ribboned tie that was legal of yore,
    And the coat buttoned over his breast.

When first he came in, for a moment I thought
    That my vision or wits were astray;
For a picture and page out of Dickens he brought,
’Twas an old file dropped in from the Chancery Court
    To a wine-vault just over the way.

But I dreamed as he tasted his bitters to-night,
    And the lights in the bar-room grew dim,
That the shades of the friends of that other day’s light,
And of girls that were bright in our grandfathers’ sight,
    Lifted shadowy glasses to him.

And I opened the door as the old man passed out,
    With his short, shuffling step and bowed head;
And I sighed, for I felt as I turned me about,
An odd sense of respect—born of whisky no doubt—
    For the life that was fifty years dead.

And I thought—there are times when our memory trends
    Through the future, as ’twere, on its own—
That I, out of date ere my pilgrimage ends,
In a new fashioned bar to dead loves and dead friends
Might drink like the old man alone:
    While they whisper, ‘He boozes alone.’

 

Waratah and Wattle

Though poor and in trouble I wander alone,
    With a rebel cockade in my hat;
Though friends may desert me, and kindred disown,
    My country will never do that!
You may sing of the Shamrock, the Thistle, and Rose,
    Or the three in a bunch if you will;
But I know of a country that gathered all those,
And I love the great land where the Waratah grows,
    And the Wattle-bough blooms on the hill.

Australia! Australia! so fair to behold—
    While the blue sky is arching above;
The stranger should never have need to be told,
That the Wattle-bloom means that her heart is of gold,
    And the Waratah red blood of love.

Australia! Australia! most beautiful name,
    Most kindly and bountiful land;
I would die every death that might save her from shame,
    If a black cloud should rise on the strand;
But whatever the quarrel, whoever her foes,
    Let them come! Let them come when they will!
Though the struggle be grim, ’tis Australia that knows,
That her children shall fight while the Waratah grows,
    And the Wattle blooms out on the hill.

 


Australian Engineers

Ah, well! but the case seems hopeless, and the pen might write in vain;
The people gabble of old things over and over again.
For the sake of the sleek importer we slave with the pick and the shears,
While hundreds of boys in Australia long to be engineers.

A new generation has risen under Australian skies,
Boys with the light of genius deep in their dreamy eyes—
Not as of artists or poets with their vain imaginings,
But born to be thinkers and doers, and makers of wonderful things.

Born to be builders of vessels in the Harbours of Waste and Loss,
That shall carry our goods to the nations, flying the Southern Cross;
And fleets that shall guard our seaboard—while the East is backed by the Jews—
Under Australian captains, and manned by Australian crews.

Boys who are slight and quiet, but boys who are strong and true,
Dreaming of great inventions—always of something new;
With brains untrammelled by training, but quick where reason directs—
Boys with imagination and unclouded intellects.

They long for the crank and the belting, the gear and the whirring wheel,
The stamp of the giant hammer, the glint of the polished steel.
For the mould and the vice and the lathe—they are boys who long for the keys
To the doors of the world’s Mechanics and Science’s mysteries.

They would be makers of fabrics, of cloth for the continents—
Makers of mighty engines and delicate instruments;
It is they who would set fair cities on the western plains far out,
They who would garden the deserts—it is they who would conquer the drought!

They see the dykes to the skyline, where a dust-waste blazes to-day,
And they hear the lap of the waters on the miles of sand and clay;
They see the rainfall increasing, and the boundless sweeps of grass,
And all the year on the rivers the strings of barges pass.

.     .     .     .     .

But still the steamers sail out with our timber and wool and gold,
And back with the costly shoddy stacked high in the foreign hold;
With the cardboard boots for our leather; and the Brummagem goods and the slops
For stunted and white-faced Australians to sell in our sordid shops.

 


Eurunderee

There are scenes in the distance where beauty is not,
On the desolate flats where gaunt appletrees rot.
Where the brooding old ridge rises up to the breeze
From his dark lonely gullies of stringy-bark trees,
There are voice-haunted gaps, ever sullen and strange,
But Eurunderee lies like a gem in the range.

Still I see in my fancy the dark-green and blue
Of the box-covered hills where the five-corners grew;
And the rugged old sheoaks that sighed in the bend
O’er the lily-decked pools where the dark ridges end,
And the scrub-covered spurs running down from the Peak
To the deep grassy banks of Eurunderee Creek.

On the knolls where the vineyards and fruit-gardens are
There’s a beauty that even the drought cannot mar;
For I noticed it oft, in the days that are lost,
As I trod on the siding where lingered the frost,
When the shadows of night from the gullies were gone
And the hills in the background were flushed by the dawn.

I was there in late years, but there’s many a change
Where the Cudgegong River flows down through the range,
For the curse of the town with the railroad had come,
And the goldfields were dead. And the girl and the chum
And the old home were gone, yet the oaks seemed to speak
Of the hazy old days on Eurunderee Creek.

And I stood by that creek, ere the sunset grew cold,
When the leaves of the sheoaks are traced on the gold,
And I thought of old things, and I thought of old folks,
Till I sighed in my heart to the sigh of the oaks;
For the years waste away like the waters that leak
Through the pebbles and sand of Eurunderee Creek.

 

Do You Think That I Do Not Know?

They say that I never have written of love,
     As a writer of songs should do;
They say that I never could touch the strings
     With a touch that is firm and true;
They say I know nothing of women and men
     In the fields where Love’s roses grow,
And they say I must write with a halting pen
     Do you think that I do not know?

When the love-burst came, like an English Spring,
     In days when our hair was brown,
And the hem of her skirt was a sacred thing
     And her hair was an angel’s crown.
The shock when another man touched her arm,
     Where the dancers sat round in a row;
The hope and despair, and the false alarm
     Do you think that I do not know?

By the arbour lights on the western farms,
     You remember the question put,
While you held her warm in your quivering arms
     And you trembled from head to foot.
The electric shock from her finger tips,
     And the murmuring answer low,
The soft, shy yielding of warm red lips
     Do you think that I do not know?

She was buried at Brighton, where Gordon sleeps,
     When I was a world away;
And the sad old garden its secret keeps,
     For nobody knows to-day.
She left a message for me to read,
     Where the wild wide oceans flow;
Do you know how the heart of a man can bleed
     Do you think that I do not know?

I stood by the grave where the dead girl lies,
     When the sunlit scenes were fair,
And the white clouds high in the autumn skies,
     And I answered the message there.
But the haunting words of the dead to me
     Shall go wherever I go.
She lives in the Marriage that Might Have Been
     Do you think that I do not know?

They sneer or scoff, and they pray or groan,
     And the false friend plays his part.
Do you think that the blackguard who drinks alone
     Knows aught of a pure girl’s heart?
Knows aught of the first pure love of a boy
     With his warm young blood aglow,
Knows aught of the thrill of the world-old joy
     Do you think that I do not know?

They say that I never have written of love,
     They say that my heart is such
That finer feelings are far above;
     But a writer may know too much.
There are darkest depths in the brightest nights,
     When the clustering stars hang low;
There are things it would break his strong heart to write
     Do you think that I do not know?

 

The Ghost

Down the street as I was drifting with the city’s human tide,
Came a ghost, and for a moment walked in silence by my side—
Now my heart was hard and bitter, and a bitter spirit he,
So I felt no great aversion to his ghostly company.
Said the Shade: ‘At finer feelings let your lip in scorn be curled,
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, has ever been the motto for the world.’

And he said: ‘If you’d be happy, you must clip your fancy’s wings,
Stretch your conscience at the edges to the size of earthly things;
Never fight another’s battle, for a friend can never know
When he’ll gladly fly for succour to the bosom of the foe.
At the power of truth and friendship let your lip in scorn be curled—
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

‘Where Society is mighty, always truckle to her rule;
Never send an ‘i’ undotted to the teacher of a school;
Only fight a wrong or falsehood when the crowd is at your back,
And, till Charity repay you, shut the purse, and let her pack;
At the fools who would do other let your lip in scorn be curled,
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, remember, that’s the motto of the world.

‘Ne’er assail the shaky ladders Fame has from her niches hung,
Lest unfriendly heels above you grind your fingers from the rung;
Or the fools who idle under, envious of your fair renown,
Heedless of the pain you suffer, do their worst to shake you down.
At the praise of men, or censure, let your lip in scorn be curled,
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, remember, is the motto of the world.

‘Flowing founts of inspiration leave their sources parched and dry,
Scalding tears of indignation sear the hearts that beat too high;
Chilly waters thrown upon it drown the fire that’s in the bard;
And the banter of the critic hurts his heart till it grows hard.
At the fame your muse may offer let your lip in scorn be curled,
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, remember, that’s the motto of the world.

‘Shun the fields of love, where lightly, to a low and mocking tune,
Strong and useful lives are ruined, and the broken hearts are strewn.
Not a farthing is the value of the honest love you hold;
Call it lust, and make it serve you! Set your heart on nought but gold.
At the bliss of purer passions let your lip in scorn be curled—
‘Self and Pelf’, my friend, shall ever be the motto of the world.’

Then he ceased and looked intently in my face, and nearer drew;
But a sudden deep repugnance to his presence thrilled me through;
Then I saw his face was cruel, by the look that o’er it stole,
Then I felt his breath was poison, by the shuddering of my soul,
Then I guessed his purpose evil, by his lip in sneering curled,
And I knew he slandered mankind, by my knowledge of the world.

But he vanished as a purer brighter presence gained my side—
‘Heed him not! there’s truth and friendship in this wondrous world,’ she cried,
And of those who cleave to virtue in their climbing for renown,
Only they who faint or falter from the height are shaken down.
At a cynic’s baneful teaching let your lip in scorn be curled!
‘Brotherhood and Love and Honour!’ is the motto for the world.’

The Last Review

Turn the light down, nurse, and leave me, while I hold my last review,
For the Bush is slipping from me, and the town is going too:
Draw the blinds, the streets are lighted, and I hear the tramp of feet—
And I’m weary, very weary, of the Faces in the Street.

In the dens of Grind and Heartbreak, in the streets of Never-Rest,
I have lost the scent and colour and the music of the West:
And I would recall old faces with the memories they bring—
Where are Bill and Jim and Mary and the Songs They used to Sing?

They are coming! They are coming! they are passing through the room
With the smell of gum leaves burning, and the scent of Wattle bloom!
And behind them in the timber, after dust and heat and toil,
Others sit beside the camp fire yarning while the billies boil.

In the Gap above the ridges there’s a flash and there’s a glow—
Swiftly down the scrub-clad siding come the Lights of Cobb and Co.:
Red face from the box-seat beaming—Oh, how plain those faces come!
From his ‘Golden-Hole’ ’tis Peter M’Intosh who’s going home.

Dusty patch in desolation, bare slab walls and earthen floor,
And a blinding drought is blazing from horizons to the door:
Milkless tea and ration sugar, damper junk and pumpkin mash—
And a Day on our Selection passes by me in a flash.

Rush of big wild-eyed store bullocks while the sheep crawl hoplessly,
And the loaded wool teams rolling, lurching on like ships at sea:
With his whip across his shoulder (and the wind just now abeam),
There goes Jimmy Nowlett ploughing through the dust beside his team!

Sunrise on the diggings! (Oh! what life and hearts and hopes are here)
From a hundred pointing forges comes a tinkle, tinkle clear—
Strings of drays with wash to puddle, clack of countless windlass boles,
Here and there the red flag flying, flying over golden holes.

Picturesque, unreal, romantic, chivalrous, and brave and free;
Clean in living, true in mateship—reckless generosity.
Mates are buried here as comrades who on fields of battle fall—
And—the dreams, the aching, hoping lover hearts beneath it all!

Rough-built theatres and stages where the world’s best actors trod—
Singers bringing reckless rovers nearer boyhood, home and God;
Paid in laughter, tears and nuggets in the play that fortune plays—
’Tis the palmy days of Gulgong—Gulgong in the Roaring Days.

Pass the same old scenes before me—and again my heart can ache—
There the Drover’s Wife sits watching (not as Eve did) for a snake.
And I see the drear deserted goldfields when the night is late,
And the stony face of Mason watching by his Father’s Mate.

And I see my Haggard Women plainly as they were in life,
’Tis the form of Mrs. Spicer and her friend, Joe Wilson’s wife,
Sitting hand in hand ‘Past Carin’.’ not a sigh and not a moan,
Staring steadily before her and the tears just trickle down.

It was No Place for a Woman—where the women worked like men—
From the Bush and Jones’ Alley come their haunting forms again.
And, let this thing be remembered when I’ve answered to the roll,
That I pitied haggard women—wrote for them with all my soul.

Narrow bed-room in the City in the hard days that are dead—
An alarm clock on the table, and a pale boy on the bed:
Arvie Aspinalls Alarm Clock with its harsh and startling call
Never more shall break his slumbers—I was Arvie Aspinall.

Maoriland and Steelman, cynic, spieler, stiff-lipped, battler-through
(Kept a wife and child in comfort, but of course they never knew—
Thought he was an honest bagman)—Well, old man, you needn’t hug—
Sentimental; you of all men!—Steelman, Oh! I was a mug!

Ghostly lines of scrub at daybreak—dusty daybreak in the drought—
And a lonely swagman tramping on the track to Further Out:
Like a shade the form of Mitchell, nose-bag full and bluey up
And between the swag and shoulders lolls his foolish cattle-pup.

Kindly cynic, sad comedian! Mitchell! when you’ve left the Track,
And have shed your load of sorrow as we slipped our swags out back,
We shall have a yarn together in the land of Rest Awhile—
And across his ragged shoulder Mitchell smiles his quiet smile.

Shearing sheds and tracks and shanties—girls that wait at homestead gates—
Camps and stern-eyed Union leaders, and Joe Wilson and his Mates
True and straight, and to my fancy, each one as he passes through
Deftly down upon the table slips a dusty ‘note’ or two.

.     .     .     .     .

So at last the end has found me—(end of all the human push)
And again in silence round me come my Children of the Bush!—
Listen, who are young, and let them—if I in late and bitter days
Wrote some reckless lines—forget them—there is little there to praise.

I was human, very human, and if in the days misspent
I have injured man or woman, it was done without intent.
If at times I blundered blindly—bitter heart and aching brow—
If I wrote a line unkindly—I am sorry for it now.

Days in London like a nightmare—dreams of foreign lands and sea—
And Australia is the only land that seemeth real to me.
Tell the Bushmen to Australia and each other to be true—
‘Tell the boys to stick together!’ I have held my Last Review.

 


The Old Bark School

It was built of bark and poles, and the floor was full of holes
    Where each leak in rainy weather made a pool;
And the walls were mostly cracks lined with calico and sacks—
    There was little need for windows in the school.

Then we rode to school and back by the rugged gully track,
    On the old grey horse that carried three or four;
And he looked so very wise that he lit the master’s eyes
    Every time he put his head in at the door.

He had run with Cobb and Co.—‘that grey leader, let him go!’
    There were men ‘as knowed the brand upon his hide,’
And ‘as knowed it on the course’. Funeral service: ‘Good old horse!’
    When we burnt him in the gully where he died.

And the master thought the same. ’Twas from Ireland that he came,
    Where the tanks are full all summer, and the feed is simply grand;
And the joker then in vogue said his lessons wid a brogue—
    ’Twas unconscious imitation, let the reader understand.

And we learnt the world in scraps from some ancient dingy maps
    Long discarded by the public-schools in town;
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook
    Our geography was somewhat upside-down.

It was ‘in the book’ and so—well, at that we’d let it go,
    For we never would believe that print could lie;
And we all learnt pretty soon that when we came out at noon
    ‘The sun is in the south part of the sky.’

And Ireland! that was known from the coast line to Athlone:
    We got little information re the land that gave us birth;
Save that Captain Cook was killed (and was very likely grilled)
    And ‘the natives of New Holland are the lowest race on earth.’

And a woodcut, in its place, of the same degraded race
    Seemed a lot more like a camel than the black-fellows we knew;
Jimmy Bullock, with the rest, scratched his head and gave it best;
    But his faith was sadly shaken by a bobtailed kangaroo.

But the old bark-school is gone, and the spot it stood upon
    Is a cattle-camp in winter where the curlew’s cry is heard;
There’s a brick-school on the flat, but a schoolmate teaches that,
    For, about the time they built it, our old master was ‘transferred.’

But the bark-school comes again with exchanges ’cross the plain—
    With the Out-Back Advertiser; and my fancy roams at large
When I read of passing stock, of a western mob or flock,
    With ‘James Bullock,’ ‘Grey,’ or ‘Henry Dale’ in charge.

And I think how Jimmy went from the old bark school content,
    With his ‘eddication’ finished, with his pack-horse after him;
And perhaps if I were back I would take the self-same track,
    For I wish my learnin’ ended when the Master ‘finished’ Jim.

 

Paroo River

It was a week from Christmas-time,
    As near as I remember,
And half a year since in the rear
    We’d left the Darling Timber.
The track was hot and more than drear;
    The long day seemed forever;
Put now we knew that we were near
    Our camp—the Paroo River.

With blighted eyes and blistered feet,
    With stomachs out of order,
Half mad with flies and dust and heat
    We’d crossed the Queensland Border.
I longed to hear a stream go by
    And see the circles quiver;
I longed to lay me down and die
    That night on Paroo River.

’Tis said the land out West is grand—
    I do not care who says it—
It isn’t even decent scrub,
    Nor yet an honest desert;
It’s plagued with flies, and broiling hot,
    A curse is on it ever;
I really think that God forgot
    The country round that river.

My mate—a native of the land—
    In fiery speech and vulgar,
Condemned the flies and cursed the sand,
    And doubly damned the mulga.
He peered ahead, he peered about—
    A bushman he, and clever—
Now mind you keep a sharp look-out;
    ‘We must be near the river.’

The ‘nose-bags’ heavy on each chest
    (God bless one kindly squatter!)
With grateful weight our hearts they pressed—
    We only wanted water,
The sun was setting (in the west)
    In colour like a liver—
We’d fondly hoped to camp and rest
    That night on Paroo River.

A cloud was on my mate’s broad brow,
    And once I heard him mutter:
‘I’d like to see the Darling now,
    ‘God bless the Grand Old Gutter!’
And now and then he stopped and said
    In tones that made me shiver—
‘It cannot well be on ahead,
    ‘I think we’ve crossed the river.

But soon we saw a strip of ground
    That crossed the track we followed—
No barer than the surface round,
    But just a little hollowed.
His brows assumed a thoughtful frown—
    This speech he did deliver:
‘I wonder if we’d best go down
    ‘Or up the blessed river?’

‘But where,’ said I, ‘’s the blooming stream?’
    And he replied, ‘We’re at it!’
I stood awhile, as in a dream,
    ‘Great Scott!’ I cried, ‘is that it?
‘Why, that is some old bridle-track!’
    He chuckled, ‘Well, I never!
‘It’s nearly time you came out-back—
    ‘This is the Paroo River!’

No place to camp—no spot of damp—
    No moisture to be seen there;
If e’er there was it left no sign
    That it had ever been there.
But ere the morn, with heart and soul
    We’d cause to thank the Giver—
We found a muddy water-hole
    Some ten miles down the river.

 

Billy’s Square Affair

Long Bill, the captain of the push, was tired of his estate,
And wished to change his life and win the love of something ‘straight’;
’Twas rumour’d that the Gory B.’s had heard Long Bill declare
That he would turn respectable and wed a ‘square affair.’

He craved the kiss of innocence; his spirit longed to rise;
The ‘Crimson Streak,’ his faithful ‘piece,’ grew hateful in his eyes;
(And though, in her entirety, the Crimson Streak ‘was there,’
I grieve to state the Crimson Streak was not a ‘square affair.’)

He wanted clothes, a masher suit, he wanted boots and hat;
His girl had earned a quid or two—he wouldn’t part with that;
And so he went to Brickfield Hill, and from a draper there
He ‘shook’ the proper kind of togs to fetch a ‘square affair.’

Long Bill went to the barber’s shop and had a shave and singe,
And from his narrow forehead combed his darling Mabel fringe;
Long Bill put on a ‘square cut’ and he brushed his boots with care,
And roved about the Gardens till he mashed a ‘square affair.’

She was a tony servant-girl from somewhere on ‘the Shore;’
She dressed in style that suited Bill—he could not wish for more.
While in her guileless presence he had ceased to chew or swear,
He knew the kind of barrack that can fetch a square affair.

To thus desert his donah old was risky and a sin,
And ’twould have served him right if she had caved his garret in.
The Gory Bleeders thought it too, and warned him to take care
In case the Crimson Streak got scent of Billy’s square affair.

He took her to the stalls; ’twas dear, but Billy said ‘Wot odds!’
He couldn’t take his square affair amongst the crimson gods.
They wandered in the park at night, and hugged each other there—
But, ah! the Crimson Streak got wind of Billy’s square affair!

‘The blank and space and stars!’ she yelled; ‘the nameless crimson dash!
‘I’ll smash the blanky crimson and his square affair, I’ll smash’—
In short, she drank and raved and shrieked and tore her crimson hair,
And swore to murder Billy and to pound his square affair.

And so one summer evening, as the day was growing dim,
She watched her bloke go out, and foxed his square affair and him.
That night the park was startled by the shrieks that rent the air—
The ‘Streak’ had gone for Billy and for Billy’s square affair.

The ‘gory’ push had foxed the Streak, they foxed her to the park,
And they, of course; were close at hand to see the bleedin’ lark;
A cop arrived in time to hear a ‘gory B.’ declare
‘Gor blar-me! here’s the Red Streak foul of Billy’s square affair.’

* * * * * * * * * *

Now Billy scowls about the Rocks, his manly beauty marr’d,
And Billy’s girl, upon her ’ed, is doin’ six months ’ard;
Bill’s swivel eye is in a sling, his heart is in despair,
And in the Sydney ’Orspital lies Billy’s square affair.

 


The Boss-Over-the-Board

When he’s over a rough and unpopular shed,
With the sins of the bank and the men on his head;
When he musn’t look black or indulge in a grin,
And thirty or forty men hate him like Sin—
I am moved to admit—when the total is scored—
That it’s just a bit off for the Boss-of -the-board.
                I have battled a lot,
                But my dream’s never soared
To the lonely position of Boss-of-the-board.

’Twas a black-listed shed down the Darling: the Boss
Was a small man to see—though a big man to cross—
We had nought to complain of—except what we thought,
And the Boss didn’t boss any more than he ought;
But the Union was booming, and Brotherhood soared,
So we hated like poison the Boss-of-the-board.
                We could tolerate ‘hands’—
                We respected the cook;
But the name of a Boss was a blot in our book.

He’d a row with Big Duggan—a rough sort of Jim—
Or, rather, Jim Duggan was ‘laying for’ him!
His hate of Injustice and Greed was so deep
That his shearing grew rough—and he ill-used the sheep.
And I fancied that Duggan his manliness lower’d
When he took off his shirt to the Boss-of-the-board,
                For the Boss was ten stone,
                And the shearer full-grown,
And he might have, they said, let the crawler alone.

Though some of us there wished the fight to the strong,
Yet we knew in our hearts that the shearer was wrong.
And the crawler was plucky, it can’t be denied,
For he had to fight Freedom and Justice beside,
But he came up so gamely, as often as floored,
That a blackleg stood up for the Boss-of-the-board!
                And the fight was a sight,
                And we pondered that night—
‘It’s surprising how some of those blacklegs can fight!’

Next day at the office, when sadly the wreck
Of Jim Duggan came up like a lamb for his cheque,
Said the Boss, ‘Don’t be childish! It’s all past and gone;
‘I am short of good shearers. You’d better stay on.’
And we fancied Jim Duggan our dignity lower’d
When he stopped to oblige a damned Boss-of-the-board.
                We said nothing to Jim,
                For a joke might be grim,
And the subject, we saw, was distasteful to him.

The Boss just went on as he’d done from the first,
And he favoured Big Duggan no more than the worst;
And when we’d cut out and the steamer came down—
With the hawkers and spielers—to take us to town,
And we’d all got aboard, ’twas Jim Duggan, good Lord!
Who yelled for three cheers for the Boss-of-the-board.
                ’Twas a bit off, no doubt—
                And with Freedom about—
But a lot is forgot when a shed is cut out.

With Freedom of Contract maintained in his shed,
And the curse of the Children of Light on his head,
He’s apt to long sadly for sweetheart or wife,
And his views be inclined to the dark side of life.
The Truth must be spread and the Cause must be shored—
But it’s just a bit rough on the Boss-of-the-board.
                I am all for the Right,
                But perhaps (out of sight)
As a son or a husband or father he’s white.

 

Robbie’s Statue

Grown tired of mourning for my sins—
    And brooding over merits—
The other night with bothered brow
    I went amongst the spirits;
And I met one that I knew well:
    ‘Oh, Scotty’s Ghost, is that you?
‘And did you see the fearsome crowd
    ‘At Robbie Burns’s statue?

‘They hurried up in hansom cabs,
    ‘Tall-hatted and frock-coated;
‘They trained it in from all the towns,
    ‘The weird and hairy-throated;
‘They spoke in some outlandish tongue,
    ‘They cut some comic capers,
‘And ilka man was wild to get
    ‘His name in all the papers.

‘They showed no gleam of intellect,
    ‘Those frauds who rushed before us;
‘They knew one verse of “Auld Lang Syne—”
    ‘The first one and the chorus:
‘They clacked the clack o’ Scotlan’s Bard,
    ‘They glibly talked of “Rabby;”
‘But what if he had come to them
    ‘Without a groat and shabby?

‘They drank and wept for Robbie’s sake,
    ‘They stood and brayed like asses
‘(The living bard’s a drunken rake,
    ‘The dead one loved the lasses);
‘If Robbie Burns were here, they’d sit
    ‘As still as any mouse is;
‘If Robbie Burns should come their way,
    ‘They’d turn him out their houses.

‘Oh, weep for bonny Scotland’s bard!
    ‘And praise the Scottish nation,
‘Who made him spy and let him die
    ‘Heart-broken in privation:
‘Exciseman, so that he might live
    ‘Through northern winters’ rigours—
‘Just as in southern lands they give
    ‘The hard-up rhymer figures.

‘We need some songs of stinging fun
    ‘To wake the States and light ’em;
‘I wish a man like Robert Burns
    ‘Were here to-day to write ’em!
‘But still the mockery shall survive
    ‘Till the Day o’ Judgment crashes—
‘The men we scorn when we’re alive
    ‘With praise insult our ashes.’

And Scotty’s ghost said: ‘Never mind
    ‘The fleas that you inherit;
‘The living bard can flick them off—
    ‘They cannot hurt his spirit.
‘The crawlers round the bardie’s name
    ‘Shall crawl through all the ages;
‘His work’s the living thing, and they
    ‘Are fly-dirt on the pages.’

 


Tambaroora Jim

He never drew a sword to fight a dozen foes alone,
Nor gave a life to save a life no better than his own.
He lived because he had been born—the hero of my song—
And fought the battle with his fist whene’er he fought a wrong.
Yet there are many men who would do anything for him—
A simple chap as went by name of ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

He used to keep a shanty in the Come-and-find-it Scrub,
And there were few but knew the name of Tambaroora’s pub.
He wasn’t great in lambing down, as many landlords are,
And never was a man less fit to stand behind a bar—
Off-hand, as most bush natives are, and freckled, tall, and slim,
A careless native of the land was ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

When people said that loafers took the profit from his pub,
He’d ask them how they thought a chap could do without his grub;
He’d say, ‘I’ve gone for days myself without a bite or sup—
‘Oh! I’ve been through the mill and know what ’tis to be hard-up.’
He might have made his fortune, but he wasn’t in the swim,
For no one had a softer heart than ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

One dismal day I tramped across the Come-and-find-it Flats,
With ‘Ballarat Adolphus’ and a mate of ‘Ballarat’s’;
’Twas nearly night and raining fast, and all our things were damp,
We’d no tobacco, and our legs were aching with the cramp;
We couldn’t raise a cent, and so our lamp of hope was dim;
And thus we struck the shanty kept by ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

We dropped our swags beneath a tree, and squatted in despair,
But Jim came out to watch the rain, and saw us sitting there;
He came and muttered, ‘I suppose you haven’t half -a-crown,
‘But come and get some tucker, and a drink to wash it down.’
And so we took our blueys up and went along with him,
And then we knew why bushmen swore by ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

We sat beside his kitchen fire and nursed our tired knees,
And blessed him when we heard the rain go rushing through the trees.
He made us stay, although he knew we couldn’t raise a bob,
And tuckered us until we made some money on a job.
And many times since then we’ve filled our glasses to the brim,
And drunk in many pubs the health of ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

A man need never want a meal while Jim had ‘junk’ to carve,
For ‘Tambaroora’ always said a fellow couldn’t starve.
And this went on until he got a bailiff in his pub,
Through helping chaps as couldn’t raise the money for their grub.
And so, one rainy evening, as the distant range grew dim,
He humped his bluey from the Flats—did ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

I miss the fun in Jim’s old bar—the laughter and the noise,
The jolly hours I used to spend on pay-nights with the boys.
But that’s all past, and vain regrets are useless, I’ll allow;
They say the Come-and-find-it Flats are all deserted now.
Poor ‘Tambaroora’s’ dead, perhaps, but that’s all right with him,
Saint Peter cottons on to chaps like ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

I trust that he and I may meet where starry fields are grand,
And liquor up together in the pubs in spirit-land.
But if you chance to drop on Jim while in the West, my lad,
You won’t forget to tell him that I want to see him bad.
I want to shake his hand again—I want to shout for him—
I want to have a glass or two with ‘Tambaroora Jim.’

 

Rejected

She says she’s very sorry, as she sees you to the gate;
    You calmly say ‘Good-bye’ to her while standing off a yard,
Then you lift your hat and leave her, walking mighty stiff and straight—
    But you’re hit, old man—hit hard.

In your brain the words are burning of the answer that she gave,
    As you turn the nearest corner and you stagger just a bit;
But you pull yourself together, for a man’s strong heart is brave
    When it’s hit, old man—hard hit.

You might try to drown the sorrow, but the drink has no effect;
    You cannot stand the barmaid with her coarse and vulgar wit;
And so you seek the street again, and start for home direct,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

You see the face of her you lost, the pity in her smile—
    Ah! she is to the barmaid as is snow to chimney grit;
You’re a better man and nobler in your sorrow, for a while,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

And, arriving at your lodgings, with a face of deepest gloom,
    You shun the other boarders and your manly brow you knit;
You take a light and go upstairs directly to your room—
    But the whole house knows you’re hit.

You clutch the scarf and collar, and you tear them from your throat,
    You rip your waistcoat open like a fellow in a fit;
And you fling them in a corner with the made-to-order coat,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

You throw yourself, despairing, on your narrow little bed,
    Or pace the room till someone starts with ‘Skit! cat!—skit!’
And then lie blindly staring at the plaster overhead—
    You are hit, old man—hard hit.

It’s doubtful whether vanity or love has suffered worst,
    So neatly in our nature are those feelings interknit,
Your heart keeps swelling up so bad, you wish that it would burst,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

You think and think, and think, and think, till you go mad almost;
    Across your sight the spectres of the bygone seem to flit;
The very girl herself seems dead, and comes back as a ghost,
    When you’re hit, like this—hard hit.

You know that it’s all over—you’re an older man by years,
    In the future not a twinkle, in your black sky not a split.
Ah! you’ll think it well that women have the privilege of tears,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

You long and hope for nothing but the rest that sleep can bring,
    And you find that in the morning things have brightened up a bit;
But you’re dull for many evenings, with a cracked heart in a sling,
    When you’re hit, old man—hard hit.

 

O’Hara, J.P.

James Patrick O’Hara, the Justice of Peace,
He bossed the P.M. and he bossed the police;
A parent, a deacon, a landlord was he—
A townsman of weight was O’Hara, J.P.

He gave out the prizes, foundation-stones laid,
He shone when the Governor’s visit was paid;
And twice re-elected as Mayor was he—
The flies couldn’t roost on O’Hara, J.P.

Now Sandy M‘Fly, of the Axe-and-the-Saw,
Was charged with a breach of the licensing law—
He sold after hours whilst talking too free
On matters concerning O’Hara, J.P.

And each contradicted the next witness flat,
Concerning back parlours, side-doors, and all that;
‘Twas very conflicting, as all must agree—
‘Ye’d better take care!’ said O’Hara, J.P.

But ‘Baby,’ the barmaid, her evidence gave—
A poor, timid darling who tried to be brave—
‘Now, don’t be afraid—if it’s frightened ye be—
‘Speak out, my good girl,’ said O’Hara, J.P.

Her hair was so golden, her eyes were so blue,
Her face was so fair and her words seemed so true—
So green in the ways of sweet women was he
That she jolted the heart of O’Hara, J P.

He turned to the other grave Justice of Peace,
And whispered, ‘You can’t always trust the police;
I’ll visit the premises during the day,
‘And see for myself,
’ said O’Hara, Jay Pay.

(Case postponed.)

* * * * * * * * * * *

’Twas early next morning, or late the same night—
‘’Twas early next morning’ we think would be right—
And sounds that betokened a breach of the law
Escaped through the cracks of the Axe-and-the-Saw.

And Constable Dogherty, out in the street,
Met Constable Clancy a bit off his beat;
He took him with finger and thumb by the ear,
And led him around to a lane in the rear.

He pointed a blind where strange shadows were seen—
Wild pantomime hinting of revels within—
‘We’ll drop on M‘Fly, if you’ll listen to me,
‘And prove we are right to O’Hara, J. P.’

But Clancy was up to the lay of the land,
He cautiously shaded his mouth with his hand—
‘Wisht, man! Howld yer whisht! or it’s ruined we’ll be,
‘It’s the justice himself—it’s O’Hara, J.P.’

They hish’d and they whishted, and turned themselves round,
And got themselves off like two cats on wet ground;
Agreeing to be, on their honour as men,
A deaf-dumb-and-blind institution just then.

Inside on a sofa, two barmaids between,
With one on his knee was a gentleman seen;
And any chance eye at the keyhole could see
In less than a wink ’twas O’Hara, J.P.

The first in the chorus of songs that were sung,
The loudest that laughed at the jokes that were sprung,
The guest of the evening, the soul of the spree—
The daddy of all was O’Hara, J.P.

And hard-cases chuckled, and hard-cases said
That Baby and Alice conveyed him to bed—
In subsequent storms it was painful to see
Those hard-cases side with the sinful J.P.

Next day, in the court, when the case came in sight,
O’Hara declared he was satisfied quite;
The case was dismissed—it was destined to be
The final case of O’Hara, J.P.

The law and religion came down on him first—
The Christian was hard but his wife was the worst!
Half ruined and half driven crazy was he—
It made an old man of O’Hara, J. P.

Now, young men who come from the bush, do you hear?
Who know not the power of barmaids and beer—
Don’t see for yourself! from temptation steer free,
Remember the fall of O’Hara, J.P.

 

Bill and Jim Fall Out

Bill and Jim are mates no longer—they would scorn the name of mate—
Those two bushmen hate each other with a soul-consuming hate;
Yet erstwhile they were as brothers should be (tho’ they never will):
Ne’er were mates to one another half so true as Jim and Bill.

Bill was one of those who have to argue every day or die—
Though, of course, he swore ’twas Jim who always itched to argufy.
They would, on most abstract subjects, contradict each other flat
And at times in lurid language—they were mates in spite of that.

Bill believed the Bible story re the origin of him—
He was sober, he was steady, he was orthodox; while Jim,
Who, we grieve to state, was always getting into drunken scrapes,
Held that man degenerated from degenerated apes.

Bill was British to the backbone, he was loyal through and through;
Jim declared that Blucher’s Prussians won the fight at Waterloo,
And he hoped the coloured races would in time wipe out the white—
And it rather strained their mateship, but it didn’t burst it quite.

They battled round in Maoriland—they saw it through and through—
And argued on the rata, what it was and how it grew;
Bill believed the vine grew downward, Jim declared that it grew up—
Yet they always shared their fortunes to the final bite and sup.

Night after night they argued how the kangaroo was born,
And each one held the other’s stupid theories in scorn,
Bill believed it was ‘born inside,’ Jim declared it was born out—
Each as to his own opinions never had the slightest doubt.

They left the earth to argue and they went among the stars,
Re conditions atmospheric, Bill believed ‘the hair of Mars
‘Was too thin for human bein’s to exist in mortal states.’
Jim declared it was too thick, if anythin—yet they were mates

Bill for Freetrade—Jim, Protection—argued as to which was best
For the welfare of the workers—and their mateship stood the test!
They argued over what they meant and didn’t mean at all,
And what they said and didn’t—and were mates in spite of all.

Till one night the two together tried to light a fire in camp,
When they had a leaky billy and the wood was scarce and damp.
And . . . No matter: let the moral be distinctly understood:
One alone should tend the fire, while the other brings the wood.

 


The Ballad of Mabel Clare

Ye children of the Land of Gold,
    I sing a song to you,
And if the jokes are somewhat old,
    The main idea is new.
So be it sung, by hut and tent,
    Where tall the native grows;
And understand, the song is meant
    For singing through the nose.

There dwelt a hard old cockatoo
    On western hills far out,
Where everything is green and blue,
    Except, of course, in drought;
A crimson Anarchist was he—
    Held other men in scorn—
Yet preached that ev’ry man was free,
    And also ‘ekal born.’

He lived in his ancestral hut—
    His missus wasn’t there—
And there was no one with him but
    His daughter, Mabel Clare.
Her eyes and hair were like the sun;
    Her foot was like a mat;
Her cheeks a trifle overdone;
    She was a democrat.

A manly independence, born
    Among the trees, she had,
She treated womankind with scorn,
    And often cursed her dad.
She hated swells and shining lights,
    For she had seen a few,
And she believed in ‘women’s rights’
    (She mostly got’em, too).

A stranger at the neighb’ring run
    Sojourned, the squatter’s guest,
He was unknown to anyone,
    But like a swell was dress’d;
He had an eyeglass to his eye,
    A collar to his ears,
His feet were made to tread the sky,
    His mouth was formed for sneers.

He wore the latest toggery,
    The loudest thing in ties—
’Twas generally reckoned he
    Was something in disguise.
But who he was, or whence he came,
    Was long unknown, except
Unto the squatter, who the name
    And noble secret kept.

And strolling in the noontide heat,
    Beneath the blinding glare,
This noble stranger chanced to meet
    The radiant Mabel Clare.
She saw at once he was a swell—
    According to her lights—
But, ah! ’tis very sad to tell,
    She met him oft of nights.

And, strolling through a moonlit gorge,
    She chatted all the while
Of Ingersoll, and Henry George,
    And Bradlaugh and Carlyle:
In short, he learned to love the girl,
    And things went on like this,
Until he said he was an Earl,
    And asked her to be his.

‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
    ‘Oh, say no more!’ she said;
‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
    ‘I wish that I was dead:
‘My head is in a hawful whirl,
    ‘The truth I dare not tell—
‘I am a democratic girl,
    ‘And cannot wed a swell!’

‘Oh love!’ he cried, ‘but you forget
    ‘That you are most unjust;
‘’Twas not my fault that I was set
    ‘Within the upper crust.
‘Heed not the yarns the poets tell—
    ‘Oh, darling, do not doubt
‘A simple lord can love as well
    ‘As any rouseabout!

‘For you I’ll give my fortune up—
    ‘I’d go to work for you!
‘I’ll put the money in the cup
    ‘And drop the title, too.
‘Oh, fly with me! Oh, fly with me
    ‘Across the mountains blue!
‘Hoh, fly with me! Hoh, fly with me!—’
    That very night she flew.

They took the train and journeyed down—
    Across the range they sped—
Until they came to Sydney town,
    Where shortly they were wed.
And still upon the western wild
    Admiring teamsters tell
How Mabel’s father cursed his child
    For clearing with a swell.

‘What ails my bird this bridal night,’
    Exclaimed Lord Kawlinee;
‘What ails my own this bridal night—
    ‘O love, confide in me!’
‘Oh now,’ she said, ‘that I am yaws
    ‘You’ll let me weep—I must—
‘I did desert the people’s cause
    ‘To join the upper crust.’

O proudly smiled his lordship then—
    His chimney-pot he floor’d—
‘Look up, my love, and smile again,
    ‘For I am not a lord!’
His eye-glass from his eye he tore,
    The dickey from his breast,
And turned and stood his bride before
    A rouseabout—confess’d!

‘Unknown I’ve loved you long,’ he said,
    ‘And I have loved you true—
‘A-shearing in your guv’ner’s shed
    ‘I learned to worship you.
‘I do not care for place or pelf,
    ‘For now, my love, I’m sure
‘That you will love me for myself
    ‘And not because I’m poor.

‘To prove your love I spent my cheque
    ‘To buy this swell rig-out;
‘So fling your arms about my neck
    ‘For I’m a rouseabout!’
At first she gave a startled cry,
    Then, safe from care’s alarms,
She sigh’d a soul-subduing sigh
    And sank into his arms.

He pawned the togs, and home he took
    His bride in all her charms;
The proud old cockatoo received
    The pair with open arms.
And long they lived, the faithful bride,
    The noble rouseabout—
And if she wasn’t satisfied
    She never let it out.

 


The Stranger’s Friend

The strangest things and the maddest things, that a man can do or say,
To the chaps and fellers and coves Out Back are matters of every day;
Maybe on account of the lives they lead, or the life that their hearts discard—
But never a fool can be too mad or a ‘hard case’ be too hard.

I met him in Bourke in the Union days—with which we have nought to do
(Their creed was narrow, their methods crude, but they stuck to ‘the cause’ like glue).
He came into town from the Lost Soul Run for his grim half-yearly ‘bend,’
And because of a curious hobby he had, he was known as ‘The Stranger’s Friend.’

It is true to the region of adjectives when I say that the spree was ‘grim,’
For to go on the spree was a sacred rite, or a heathen rite, to him,
To shout for the travellers passing through to the land where the lost soul bakes—
Till they all seemed devils of different breeds, and his pockets were filled with snakes.

In the joyful mood, in the solemn mood—in his cynical stages too—
In the maudlin stage, in the fighting stage, in the stage when all was blue—
From the joyful hour when his spree commenced, right through to the awful end,
He never lost grip of his ‘fixed idee’ that he was the Stranger’s Friend.

‘The feller as knows, he can battle around for his bloomin’ self,’ he’d say—
‘I don’t give a curse for the “blanks” I know the hard-up bloke this way;
‘Send the stranger round, and I’ll see him through,’ and, e’en as the bushman spoke,
The chaps and fellers would tip the wink to a casual, ‘hard-up bloke.’

And it wasn’t only a bushman’s ‘bluff’ to the fame of the Friend they scored,
For he’d shout the stranger a suit of clothes, and he’d pay for the stranger’s board—
The worst of it was that he’d skite all night on the edge of the stranger’s bunk,
And never got helplessly drunk himself till he’d got the stranger drunk.

And the chaps and the fellers would speculate—by way of a ghastly joke—
As to who’d be caught by the ‘jim-jams’ first—the Friend or the hard-up bloke?
And the ‘Joker’ would say that there wasn’t a doubt as to who’d be damned in the end,
When the Devil got hold of a hard-up bloke in the shape of the Stranger’s Friend.

It mattered not to the Stranger’s Friend what the rest might say or think,
He always held that the hard-up state was due to the curse of drink,
To the evils of cards, and of company: ‘But a young cove’s built that way,
‘And I was a bloomin’ fool meself when I started out,’ he’d say.

At the end of the spree, in clean white ‘moles,’ clean-shaven, and cool as ice,
He’d give the stranger a ‘bob’ or two, and some straight Out Back advice;
Then he’d tramp away for the Lost Soul Run, where the hot dust rose like smoke,
Having done his duty to all mankind, for he’d ‘stuck to a hard-up bloke.’

They’ll say ’tis a ‘song of a sot,’ perhaps, but the Song of a Sot is true.
I have ‘battled’ myself, and you know, you chaps, what a man in the bush goes through:
Let us hope when the last of his sprees is past, and his cheques and his strength are done,
That, amongst the sober and thrifty mates, the Stranger’s Friend has one.

 

The Captain of the Push

As the night was falling slowly down on city, town and bush,
From a slum in Jones’s Alley sloped the Captain of the Push;
And he scowled towards the North, and he scowled towards the South,
As he hooked his little finger in the corners of his mouth.
Then his whistle, loud and shrill, woke the echoes of the ‘Rocks’,
And a dozen ghouls came sloping round the corners of the blocks.

There was nought to rouse their anger; yet the oath that each one swore
Seemed less fit for publication than the one that went before.
For they spoke the gutter language with the easy flow that comes
Only to the men whose childhood knew the brothels and the slums.
Then they spat in turns, and halted; and the one that came behind,
Spitting fiercely on the pavement, called on Heaven to strike him blind.

Let us first describe the captain, bottle-shouldered, pale and thin,
For he was the beau-ideal of a Sydney larrikin;
E’en his hat was most suggestive of the city where we live,
With a gallows-tilt that no one, save a larrikin, can give;
And the coat, a little shorter than the writer would desire,
Showed a more or less uncertain portion of his strange attire.

That which tailors know as ‘trousers’—known by him as ‘bloomin’ bags’—
Hanging loosely from his person, swept, with tattered ends, the flags;
And he had a pointed sternpost to the boots that peeped below
(Which he laced up from the centre of the nail of his great toe),
And he wore his shirt uncollar’d, and the tie correctly wrong;
But I think his vest was shorter than should be in one so long.

And the captain crooked his finger at a stranger on the kerb,
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb,
And he begged the Gory Bleeders that they wouldn’t interrupt
Till he gave an introduction—it was painfully abrupt—
‘Here’s the bleedin’ push, me covey—here’s a (something) from the bush!
Strike me dead, he wants to join us!’ said the captain of the push.

Said the stranger: ‘I am nothing but a bushy and a dunce;
‘But I read about the Bleeders in the Weekly Gasbag once;
‘Sitting lonely in the humpy when the wind began to “whoosh,”
‘How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the push!
‘Gosh! I hate the swells and good ’uns—I could burn ’em in their beds;
‘I am with you, if you’ll have me, and I’ll break their blazing heads.’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—suppose a feller was to split upon the push,
‘Would you lay for him and fetch him, even if the traps were round?
‘Would you lay him out and kick him to a jelly on the ground?
‘Would you jump upon the nameless—kill, or cripple him, or both?
‘Speak? or else I’ll speak!’ The stranger answered, ‘My kerlonial oath!’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—suppose the Bleeders let you come and join the push,
‘Would you smash a bleedin’ bobby if you got the blank alone?
‘Would you break a swell or Chinkie—split his garret with a stone?
‘Would you have a “moll” to keep yer—like to swear off work for good?’
‘Yes, my oath!’ replied the stranger. ‘My kerlonial oath! I would!’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—before the Bleeders let yer come and join the push,
‘You must prove that you’re a blazer—you must prove that you have grit
‘Worthy of a Gory Bleeder—you must show your form a bit—
‘Take a rock and smash that winder!’ and the stranger, nothing loth,
Took the rock—and smash! They only muttered, ‘My kerlonial oath!’

So they swore him in, and found him sure of aim and light of heel,
And his only fault, if any, lay in his excessive zeal;
He was good at throwing metal, but we chronicle with pain
That he jumped upon a victim, damaging the watch and chain,
Ere the Bleeders had secured them; yet the captain of the push
Swore a dozen oaths in favour of the stranger from the bush.

Late next morn the captain, rising, hoarse and thirsty from his lair,
Called the newly-feather’d Bleeder, but the stranger wasn’t there!
Quickly going through the pockets of his ‘bloomin’ bags,’ he learned
That the stranger had been through him for the stuff his ‘moll’ had earned;
And the language that he muttered I should scarcely like to tell.
(Stars! and notes of exclamation!! blank and dash will do as well).

In the night the captain’s signal woke the echoes of the ‘Rocks,’
Brought the Gory Bleeders sloping thro’ the shadows of the blocks;
And they swore the stranger’s action was a blood-escaping shame,
While they waited for the nameless, but the nameless never came.
And the Bleeders soon forgot him; but the captain of the push
Still is ‘laying’ round, in ballast, for the nameless ‘from the bush.’

 

 

Corny Bill

His old clay pipe stuck in his mouth,
    His hat pushed from his brow,
His dress best fitted for the South—
    I think I see him now;
And when the city streets are still,
    And sleep upon me comes,
I often dream that me an’ Bill
    Are humpin’ of our drums.

I mind the time when first I came
    A stranger to the land;
And I was stumped, an’ sick, an’ lame
    When Bill took me in hand.
Old Bill was what a chap would call
    A friend in poverty,
And he was very kind to all,
    And very good to me.

We’d camp beneath the lonely trees
    And sit beside the blaze,
A-nursin’ of our wearied knees,
    A-smokin’ of our clays.
Or when we’d journeyed damp an’ far,
    An’ clouds were in the skies,
We’d camp in some old shanty bar,
    And sit a-tellin’ lies.

Though time had writ upon his brow
    And rubbed away his curls,
He always was—an’ may be now—
    A favourite with the girls;
I’ve heard bush-wimmin scream an’ squall—
    I’ve see’d ’em laugh until
They could not do their work at all,
    Because of Corny Bill.

He was the jolliest old pup
    As ever you did see,
And often at some bush kick-up
    They’d make old Bill M.C.
He’d make them dance and sing all night,
    He’d make the music hum,
But he’d be gone at mornin’ light
    A-humpin’ of his drum.

Though joys of which the poet rhymes
    Was not for Bill an’ me,
I think we had some good old times
    Out on the wallaby.
I took a wife and left off rum,
    An’ camped beneath a roof;
But Bill preferred to hump his drum
    A-paddin’ of the hoof.

The lazy, idle loafers what
    In toney houses camp
Would call old Bill a drunken sot,
    A loafer, or a tramp;
But if the dead should ever dance—
    As poets say they will—
I think I’d rather take my chance
    Along of Corny Bill.

His long life’s-day is nearly o’er,
    Its shades begin to fall;
He soon must mount his bluey for
    The last long tramp of all;
I trust that when, in bush an’ town,
    He’s lived and learnt his fill,
They’ll let the golden slip-rails down
    For poor old Corny Bill.

 

Mary Called Him Mister

They’d parted but a year before—she never thought he’d come,
She stammer’d, blushed, held out her hand, and called him ‘Mister Gum.’
How could he know that all the while she longed to murmur ‘John.’
He called her ‘Miss le Brook,’ and asked how she was getting on.

They’d parted but a year before; they’d loved each other well,
But he’d been to the city, and he came back such a swell.
They longed to meet in fond embrace, they hungered for a kiss—
But Mary called him ‘Mister,’ and the idiot called her ‘Miss.’

He stood and lean’d against the door—a stupid chap was he—
And, when she asked if he’d come in and have a cup of tea,
He looked to left, he looked to right, and then he glanced behind,
And slowly doffed his cabbage-tree, and said he ‘didn’t mind.’

She made a shy apology because the meat was tough,
And then she asked if he was sure his tea was sweet enough;
He stirred the tea and sipped it twice, and answer’d ‘plenty, quite;’
And cut the smallest piece of beef and said that it was ‘right.’

She glanced at him at times and cough’d an awkward little cough;
He stared at anything but her and said, ‘I must be off.’
That evening he went riding north—a sad and lonely ride—
She locked herself inside her room, and there sat down and cried.

They’d parted but a year before, they loved each other well—
But she was such a country girl and he was such a swell;
They longed to meet in fond embrace, they hungered for a kiss—
But Mary called him ‘Mister’ and the idiot called her ‘Miss.’

 

Up the Country

I am back from up the country—very sorry that I went—
Seeking for the Southern poets’ land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have lost a lot of idols, which were broken on the track,
Burnt a lot of fancy verses, and I’m glad that I am back.
Further out may be the pleasant scenes of which our poets boast,
But I think the country’s rather more inviting round the coast.
Anyway, I’ll stay at present at a boarding-house in town,
Drinking beer and lemon-squashes, taking baths and cooling down.

‘Sunny plains’! Great Scott!—those burning wastes of barren soil and sand
With their everlasting fences stretching out across the land!
Desolation where the crow is! Desert where the eagle flies,
Paddocks where the luny bullock starts and stares with reddened eyes;
Where, in clouds of dust enveloped, roasted bullock-drivers creep
Slowly past the sun-dried shepherd dragged behind his crawling sheep.
Stunted peak of granite gleaming, glaring like a molten mass
Turned from some infernal furnace on a plain devoid of grass.

Miles and miles of thirsty gutters—strings of muddy water-holes
In the place of ‘shining rivers’—‘walled by cliffs and forest boles.’
Barren ridges, gullies, ridges! where the ever-madd’ning flies—
Fiercer than the plagues of Egypt—swarm about your blighted eyes!
Bush! where there is no horizon! where the buried bushman sees
Nothing—Nothing! but the sameness of the ragged, stunted trees!
Lonely hut where drought’s eternal, suffocating atmosphere
Where the God-forgotten hatter dreams of city life and beer.

Treacherous tracks that trap the stranger, endless roads that gleam and glare,
Dark and evil-looking gullies, hiding secrets here and there!
Dull dumb flats and stony rises, where the toiling bullocks bake,
And the sinister ‘gohanna’, and the lizard, and the snake.
Land of day and night—no morning freshness, and no afternoon,
When the great white sun in rising bringeth summer heat in June.
Dismal country for the exile, when the shades begin to fall
From the sad heart-breaking sunset, to the new-chum worst of all.

Dreary land in rainy weather, with the endless clouds that drift
O’er the bushman like a blanket that the Lord will never lift—
Dismal land when it is raining—growl of floods, and, oh! the woosh
Of the rain and wind together on the dark bed of the bush—
Ghastly fires in lonely humpies where the granite rocks are piled
In the rain-swept wildernesses that are wildest of the wild.

Land where gaunt and haggard women live alone and work like men,
Till their husbands, gone a-droving, will return to them again:
Homes of men! if home had ever such a God-forgotten place,
Where the wild selector’s children fly before a stranger’s face.
Home of tragedy applauded by the dingoes’ dismal yell,
Heaven of the shanty-keeper—fitting fiend for such a hell—
And the wallaroos and wombats, and, of course, the curlew’s call—
And the lone sundowner tramping ever onward through it all!

I am back from up the country, up the country where I went
Seeking for the Southern poets’ land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have shattered many idols out along the dusty track,
Burnt a lot of fancy verses—and I’m glad that I am back.
I believe the Southern poets’ dream will not be realised
Till the plains are irrigated and the land is humanised.
I intend to stay at present, as I said before, in town
Drinking beer and lemon-squashes, taking baths and cooling down.

 

The Days When We went Swimming

The breezes waved the silver grass,
    Waist-high along the siding,
And to the creek we ne’er could pass
    Three boys on bare-back riding;
Beneath the sheoaks in the bend
    The waterhole was brimming—
Do you remember yet, old friend,
    The times we ‘went in swimming?’

The days we ‘played the wag’ from school—
    Joys shared—and paid for singly—
The air was hot, the water cool—
    And naked boys are kingly!
With mud for soap the sun to dry—
    A well planned lie to stay us,
And dust well rubbed on neck and face
    Lest cleanliness betray us.

And you’ll remember farmer Kutz—
    Though scarcely for his bounty—
He leased a forty-acre block,
    And thought he owned the county;
A farmer of the old world school,
    That men grew hard and grim in,
He drew his water from the pool
    That we preferred to swim in.

And do you mind when down the creek
    His angry way he wended,
A green-hide cartwhip in his hand
    For our young backs intended?
Three naked boys upon the sand—
    Half buried and half sunnin’—
Three startled boys without their clothes
    Across the paddocks running.

We’ve had some scares, but we looked blank
    When, resting there and chumming,
One glanced by chance along the bank
    And saw the farmer coming!
And home impressions linger yet
    Of cups of sorrow brimming;
I hardly think that we’ll forget
    The last day we went swimming.

 

Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!

There was a young woman, as I’ve heard tell
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!),
Lived near the sea in a nice little hell
That she made for herself and her husband as well;
But that’s how a good many married folk dwell—
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

She kept a big mongrel that murdered his fowls
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!)
She also had cats that assisted with yowls;
She gave him old dishcloths and nightgowns for tow’ls,
And called in the neighbours to witness his growls—
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

You’d think ’twas the limit, but she didn’t—quite
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!);
He had to sleep out in the fowlhouse at night
And make his own breakfast before it was light;
Then go to his work and keep out of sight—
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

She’d find him and chase him with potstick and fist
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!)
Why didn’t he give her a jolt or a twist?
Then because she so crowed for the hiding she missed,
She’d shriek: “You great coward! Why don’t you enlist?”
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

She’d invite all her relatives down for the day
                    (Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!),
And also invite his relations to stay
He found his own worst, as is often the way;
His red beard went white and his brown hair went grey.
                    (Sadly:) Rip-per-ty! Kye! A-hoo!

Her parents were German, as he was aware.
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo),
He said to himself: “I had better be there!”
He went to the Depot and made himself bare,
Was straightway accepted, and passed then and there—
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

He came home for “final” and filled up with rum.
                    (Ripperty! Kye! A-hic-hoo!)
She said, when she saw him: “I thought you would come!”
Just fix the allowance, and don’t look so glum!”
He did as she told him, and went away, dumb—
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

He went to the Front, and he fought for the French.
                    (Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!)
He went for the Germans and cleared out a trench
He finished them off with a jab and a wrench,
And loudly he yelled, in the mix-up and stench.
                    “Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!”

He came back at last with ideas that were new,
                    ( Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!)
He went for the mongrel and ran him right through—
North, southward and eastward the relatives flew;
Then he said: “Now, old woman, I’m coming for you!
                    RIPPERTY! KYE! A-HOO!”

Three times round the house and the fowlyard she fled—
                    (Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!)
Three inches in front of his bayonet red—
He yelled and she shrieked fit to shriek off her head,
Till she fell on the wood-heap quite three-quarters dead.
                    Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

.    .    .    .    .    .

Now, there’s a young woman, as I’ve heard tell
                    (Sing softly) Ripperty! Kye! Ahoo!
Resides in a nice little home at Rozelle;
She’s fond of her husband, and he’s doing well—
And that’s how a good many married folk dwell.
                    (Sing Exultantly) Ripperty! Kye! A-hoo!

 

Rise Ye! Rise Ye!

Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers! claim your rights with fire and steel!
Rise ye! for the cursed tyrants crush ye with the hiron ’eel!
They would treat ye worse than sl-a-a-ves! they would treat ye worse than brutes!
Rise and crush the selfish tyrants! ku-r-rush them with your hob-nailed boots!
            Rise ye rise ye glorious toilers
            Rise ye rise ye noble toilers!
                        Erwake! er-rise!

Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers! tyrants come across the waves!
Will ye yield the Rights of Labour? will ye? will ye still be sl-a-a-ves?
Rise ye! rise ye! mighty toilers! and revoke the rotten laws!
Lo! your wives go out a-washing while ye battle for the caws!
            Rise ye! rise ye glorious toilers!
            Rise ye! rise ye noble toilers!
                        Erwake! er-rise!

Our gerlorious dawn is breaking! Lo! the tyrant trembles now!
He will sta-a-rve us here no longer! toilers will not bend or bow!
Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers! rise! behold, revenge is near;
See the leaders of the people! come an’ ’ave a pint o’ beer!
            Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers!
            Rise ye! rise ye! glorious toilers!
                        Erwake! er-rise!

Lo! the poor are starved, my brothers! lo! our wives and children weep!
Lo! our women toil to keep us while the toilers are asleep!
Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers! rise and break the tyrant’s chain!
March ye! march ye! mighty toilers! even to the battle plain!
            Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers!
            Rise ye! rise ye! noble toilers!
                        Erwake! er-r-rise!

 


The Song of Old Joe Swallow

When I was up the country in the rough and early days,
I used to work along ov Jimmy Nowlett’s bullick-drays;
Then the reelroad wasn’t heered on, an’ the bush was wild an’ strange,
An’ we useter draw the timber from the saw-pits in the range—
Load provisions for the stations, an’ we’d travel far and slow
Through the plains an’ ’cross the ranges in the days of long ago.

    Then it’s yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside ’em slow,
    An’ saddle up yer horses an’ a-ridin’ we will go,
    To the bullick-drivin’, cattle-drovin’,
    Nigger, digger, roarin’, rovin’
    Days o’ long ago.

Once me and Jimmy Nowlett loaded timber for the town,
But we hadn’t gone a dozen mile before the rain come down,
An’ me an’ Jimmy Nowlett an’ the bullicks an’ the dray
Was cut off on some risin’ ground while floods around us lay;
An’ we soon run short of tucker an’ terbacca, which was bad,
An’ pertaters dipped in honey was the only tuck we had.

An’ half our bullicks perished when the drought was on the land,
An’ the burnin’ heat that dazzles as it dances on the sand;
When the sun-baked clay an’ gravel paves for miles the burnin’ creeks,
An’ at ev’ry step yer travel there a rottin’ carcase reeks—
But we pulled ourselves together, for we never used ter know
What a feather bed was good for in those days o’ long ago.

But in spite ov barren ridges an’ in spite ov mud an’ heat,
An’ dust that browned the bushes when it rose from bullicks’ feet,
An’ in spite ov cold and chilblains when the bush was white with frost,
An’ in spite of muddy water where the burnin’ plain was crossed,
An’ in spite of modern progress, and in spite of all their blow,
’Twas a better land to live in, in the days o’ long ago.

When the frosty moon was shinin’ o’er the ranges like a lamp,
An’ a lot of bullick-drivers was a-campin’ on the camp,
When the fire was blazin’ cheery an’ the pipes was drawin’ well,
Then our songs we useter chorus an’ our yarns we useter tell;
An’ we’d talk ov lands we come from, and ov chaps we useter know,
For there always was behind us other days o’ long ago.

Ah, them early days was ended when the reelroad crossed the plain,
But in dreams I often tramp beside the bullick-team again:
Still we pauses at the shanty just to have a drop er cheer,
Still I feels a kind ov pleasure when the campin’-ground is near;
Still I smells the old tarpaulin me an’ Jimmy useter throw
O’er the timber-truck for shelter in the days ov long ago.

I have been a-driftin’ back’ards with the changes ov the land,
An’ if I spoke ter bullicks now they wouldn’t understand,
But when Mary wakes me sudden in the night I’ll often say:
‘Come here, Spot, an’ stan’ up, Bally, blank an’ blank an’ come-eer-way.’
An’ she says that, when I’m sleepin’, oft my elerquince ’ill flow
In the bullick-drivin’ language ov the days o’ long ago.

Well, the pub will soon be closin’, so I’ll give the thing a rest;
But if you should drop on Nowlett in the far an’ distant west—
An’ if Jimmy uses doubleyou instead of ar an’ vee,
An’ if he drops his aitches, then you’re sure to know it’s he.
An’ yer won’t forgit to arsk him if he still remembers Joe
As knowed him up the country in the days o’ long ago.

    Then it’s yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside ’em slow,
    An’ saddle up yer horses an’ a-ridin’ we will go,
    To the bullick-drivin’, cattle-drovin’,
    Nigger, digger, roarin’, rovin’
    Days o’ long ago.

 


Here’s Luck!

Old time is tramping close to-day—you hear his bluchers fall,
A mighty change is on the way, an’ God protect us all;
Some dust’ll fly from beery coats—at least it’s been declared.
I’m glad that wimin has the votes—but just a trifle scared.

I’m just a trifle scared—For why? The wimin mean to rule;
It makes me feel like days gone by when I was caned at school.
The days of men is nearly dead—of double moons and stars—
They’ll soon put out our pipes, ’tis said, an’ close the public bars.

No more we’ll take a glass of ale when pushed with care an’ strife,
An’ chuckle home with that old tale we used to tell the wife.
We’ll laugh an’ joke an’ sing no more with jolly beery chums,
An’ shout ‘Here’s luck!’ while waitin’ for the luck that never comes.

Did we prohibit swillin’ tea clean out of common-sense
Or legislate on gossipin’ across a backyard fence?
Did we prohibit bustles—or the hoops when they was here?
The wimin never think of this—they want to stop our beer.

The track o’ life is dry enough, an’ crossed with many a rut,
But, oh! we’ll find it long an’ rough when all the pubs is shut,
When all the pubs is shut, an’ gone the doors we used to seek,
An’ we go toilin’, thirstin’ on through Sundays all the week.

For since the days when pubs was ‘inns’—in years gone past’n’ far—
Poor sinful souls have drowned their sins an’ sorrers at the bar;
An’ though at times it led to crimes, an’ debt, and such complaints—
I scarce dare think about the time when all mankind is saints.

’Twould make the bones of Bacchus leap an’ break his coffin lid;
And Burns’s ghost would wail an’ weep as Bobby never did.
But let the preachers preach in style, an’ rave and rant—’n’ buck,
I rather guess they’ll hear awhile the old war-cry: ‘Here’s Luck!’

The world might wobble round the sun, an’ all the banks go bung,
But pipes’ll smoke an’ liquor run while Auld Lang Syne is sung.
While men are driven through the mill, an’ flinty times is struck,
They’ll find a private entrance still!
            Here’s Luck, old man—Here’s Luck!

 

With Dickens

In Windsor Terrace, number four,
    I’ve taken my abode—
A little crescent from the street,
    A bight from City Road;
And, hard up and in exile, I
    To many fancies yield;
For it was here Micawber lived
    And David Copperfield.

A bed, a table, and a chair,
    A bottle and a cup.
The landlord’s waiting even now
    For something to turn up.
The landlady is spiritless—
    They both seem tired of life;
They cannot fight the battle like
    Micawber and his wife.

But in the little open space
    That lies back from the street,
The same old ancient, shabby clerk
    Is sitting on a seat.
The same sad characters go by,
    The ragged children play—
And things have very little changed
    Since Dickens passed away.

Some seek religion in their grief,
    And some for friendship yearn;
Some fly to liquor for relief,
    But I to Dickens turn.
I find him ever fresh and new,
    His lesson ever plain;
And every line that Dickens wrote
    I’ve read and read again.

The tavern’s just across the ‘wye,’
    And frowsy women there
Are gossiping and drinking gin,
    And twisting up their hair.
And grubby girls go past at times,
    And furtive gentry lurk—
I don’t think anyone has died
    Since Dickens did his work.

There’s Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
    And Weevle—whom you will;
And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
    Into the pawnshop still.
Go east a bit from City Road,
    And all the rest are there—
A friendly whistle might produce
    A Chicken anywhere.

My favourite author’s heroes I
    Should love, but somehow can’t.
I don’t like David Copperfield
    As much as David’s Aunt,
And it may be because my mind
    Has been in many fogs—
I don’t like Nicholas Nickleby
    So well as Newman Noggs.

I don’t like Richard Carstone, Pip,
    Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
And for the rich and fatherly
    I scarcely care a bit.
The honest, sober clods are bores
    Who cannot suffer much,
And with the Esther Summersons
    I never was in touch.

The ‘Charleys’ and the haggard wives,
    Kind hearts in poverty—
And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too—
    Are very near to me;
But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
    And Madeline Bray divine,
And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
    In a better world than mine.

The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
    They do not stand the test;
And in my heart I don’t believe
    That Dickens loved them best.
I can’t admire their ways and talk,
    I do not like their looks—
Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
    Through all the Master’s books.

They’re mostly selfish in their love,
    And selfish in their hate,
They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
    While Agnes Wickfields wait;
And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
    When hard-up for a friend;
They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
    To help them in the end.

And—well, maybe I am unjust,
    And maybe I forget;
Some of us marry dolls and jilt
    Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
We seek our friends when fortune frowns—
    It has been ever thus—
And we neglect Joe Gargery
    When fortune smiles on us.

They get some rich old grandfather
    Or aunt to see them through,
And you can trace self-interest
    In nearly all they do.
And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
    In spite of all their crimes,
And crawlers like Uriah Heep
    Told bitter truths at times.

But—yes, I love the vagabonds
    And failures from the ranks,
And hard old files with hidden hearts
    Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
And Jaggers had his ‘poor dreams, too,’
    And fond hopes like the rest—
But, somehow, somehow, all my life
    I’ve loved Dick Swiveller best!

But, let us peep at Snagsby first
    As softly he lays down
Beside the bed of dying Joe
    Another half-a-crown.
And Nemo’s wretched pauper grave—
    But we can let them be,
For Joe has said to Heaven: ‘They
    Wos werry good to me.’

And Wemmick with his aged P——
    No doubt has his reward;
And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
    Will be judged by the Lord.
And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
    With laurels on his brow,
Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
    In Bleeding Heart Yard now.

Tom Pinch is very happy now,
    And Magwitch is at rest,
And Newman Noggs again might hold
    His head up with the best;
Micawber, too, when all is said,
    Drank bravely Sorrow’s cup—
Micawber worked to right them all,
    And something did turn up.

How do ‘John Edward Nandy, Sir!’
    And Plornish get along?
Why! if the old man is in voice
    We’ll hear him pipe a song.
We’ll have a look at Baptiste, too,
    While still the night is young—
With Mrs. Plornish to explain
    In the Italian tongue.

Before we go we’ll ask about
    Poor young John Chivery:
‘There never was a gentleman
    In all his family.’
His hopeless love, his broken heart,
    But to his rival true;
He came of Nature’s gentlemen,
    But young John never knew.

We’ll pass the little midshipman
    With heart that swells and fills,
Where Captain Ed’ard Cuttle waits
    For Wal’r and Sol Gills.
Jack Bunsby stands by what he says
    (Which isn’t very clear),
And Toots with his own hopeless love—
    As true as any here.

And who that read has never felt
    The sorrow that it cost
When Captain Cuttle read the news
    The ‘Son and Heir’ was lost?
And who that read has not rejoiced
    With him and ‘Heart’s Delight,’
And felt as Captain Cuttle felt
    When Wal’r came that night?

And yonder, with a broken heart,
    That people thought was stone,
Deserted in his ruined home,
    Poor Dombey sits alone.
Who has not gulped a something down,
    Whose eye has not grown dim
While feeling glad for Dombey’s sake
    When Florence came to him?

.     .     .     .     .

(A stately house in Lincolnshire—
    The scene is bleak and cold—
The footsteps on the terrace sound
    To-night at Chesney Wold.
One who loved honour, wife, and truth,
    If nothing else besides,
Along the dreary Avenue
    Sir Leicester Dedlock rides.)

.     .     .     .     .

We’ll go round by Poll Sweedlepipe’s,
    The bird and barber shop;
If Sairey Gamp is so dispoged
    We’ll send her up a drop.
We’ll cross High Holborn to the Bull,
    And, if he cares to come,
By streets that are not closed to him
    We’ll see Dick Swiveller home.

He’s looking rather glum to-night,
    The why I will not ask—
No matter how we act the goat,
    We mostly wear a mask.
Some wear a mask to hide the false
    (And some the good and true)—
I wouldn’t be surprised to know
    Mark Tapley wore one too.

We wear a mask called cheerfulness
    While feeling sad inside;
And men like Dombey, who was shy,
    Oft wear a mask called pride.
A front of pure benevolence
    The grinding ‘Patriarch’ bore;
And kind men often wear a mask
    Like that which Jaggers wore.

.     .     .     .     .

But, never mind, Dick Swiveller!
    We’ll see it out together
Beneath the wing of friendship, Dick,
    That never moults a feather.
We’ll look upon the rosy yet
    Full many a night, old friend,
And tread the mazy ere we woo
    The balmy in the end.

Our palace walls are rather bare,
    The floor is somewhat damp,
But, while there’s liquor, anywhere
    Is good enough to camp.
What ho! mine host! bring forth thine ale
    And let the board be spread!—
It is the hour when churchyards yawn
    And wine goes to the head.

’Twas you who saved poor Kit, old chap,
    When he was in a mess—
But, what ho! Varlet! bring us wine!
    Here’s to the Marchioness!
‘We’ll make a scholar of her yet,’
    She’ll be a lady fair,
‘And she shall go in silk attire
    And siller have to spare.’

From sport to sport they hurry her
    To banish her regrets,
And when we win a smile from her
    We cannot pay our debts!
Left orphans at a tender age,
    We’re happiest in the land—
We’re Glorious Apollos, Dick,
    And you’re Perpetual Grand!

You’re king of all philosophers,
    And let the Godly rust;
Here’s to the obscure citizen
    Who sent the beer on trust?
It sure would be a cheerful world
    If never man got tight;
You spent your money on your friends,
    Dick Swiveller! Good night!

‘A dissolute and careless man—
    An idle, drunken path;’
But see where Sidney Carton spills
    His last drink on the hearth!
A ruined life! He lived for drink
    And but one thing beside—
And Oh! it was a glorious death
    That Sidney Carton died.

.     .     .     .     .

And ‘Which I meantersay is Pip’—
    The voices hurry past—
‘Not to deceive you, sir’—‘Stand by!’
    ‘Awast, my lass, awast!’
‘Beware of widders, Samivel,’
    And shun strong drink, my friend;
And, ‘not to put too fine a point
    Upon it,’ I must end.

 

Professional Wanderers

When you’ve knocked about the country—been away from home for years;
When the past, by distance softened, nearly fills your eyes with tears—
You are haunted oft, wherever or however you may roam,
By a fancy that you ought to go and see the folks at home.
You forget the family quarrels—little things that used to jar—
And you think of how they’ll worry—how they wonder where you are;
You will think you served them badly, and your own part you’ll condemn,
And it strikes you that you’ll surely be a novelty to them,
For your voice has somewhat altered, and your face has somewhat changed—
And your views of men and matters over wider fields have ranged.
Then it’s time to save your money, or to watch it (how it goes!);
Then it’s time to get a ‘Gladstone’ and a decent suit of clothes;
Then it’s time to practise daily with a hair-brush and a comb,
Till you drop in unexpected on the folks and friends at home.

When you’ve been at home for some time, and the novelty’s worn off,
And old chums no longer court you, and your friends begin to scoff;
When ‘the girls’ no longer kiss you, crying ‘Jack! how you have changed!’
When you’re stale to your relations, and their manner seems estranged ;
When the old domestic quarrels, round the table thrice a day,
Make it too much like the old times—make you wish you’d stayed away,
When, in short, you’ve spent your money in the fulness of your heart,
And your clothes are getting shabby . . . Then it’s high time to depart.

 

Saint Peter

Now, I think there is a likeness
    ’Twixt St. Peter’s life and mine,
For he did a lot of trampin’
    Long ago in Palestine.
He was ‘union’ when the workers
    First began to organise,
And—I’m glad that old St. Peter
    Keeps the gate of Paradise.

When the ancient agitator
    And his brothers carried swags,
I’ve no doubt he very often
    Tramped with empty tucker-bags;
And I’m glad he’s Heaven’s picket,
    For I hate explainin’ things,
And he’ll think a union ticket
    Just as good as Whitely King’s.

He denied the Saviour’s union,
    Which was weak of him, no doubt;
But perhaps his feet was blistered
    And his boots had given out.
And the bitter storm was rushin’
    On the bark and on the slabs,
And a cheerful fire was blazin’,
    And the hut was full of ‘scabs.’

* * * * * * * * * *

When I reach the great head-station—
    Which is somewhere ‘off the track’—
I won’t want to talk with angels
    Who have never been out back;
They might bother me with offers
    Of a banjo—meanin’ well—
And a pair of wings to fly with,
    When I only want a spell.

I’ll just ask for old St. Peter,
    And I think, when he appears,
I will only have to tell him
    That I carried swag for years.
‘I’ve been on the track,’ I’ll tell him,
    ‘An’ I done the best I could,’
And he’ll understand me better
    Than the other angels would.

He won’t try to get a chorus
    Out of lungs that’s worn to rags,
Or to graft the wings on shoulders
    That is stiff with humpin’ swags.
But I’ll rest about the station
    Where the work-bell never rings,
Till they blow the final trumpet
    And the Great Judge sees to things.

 

A Word to Texas Jack

Texas Jack, you are amusin’. By Lord Harry, how I laughed
When I seen yer rig and saddle with its bulwarks fore-and-aft;
Holy smoke! In such a saddle how the dickens can yer fall?
Why, I seen a gal ride bareback with no bridle on at all!

Gosh! so-help-me! strike-me-balmy! if a bit o’ scenery
Like ter you in all yer rig-out on the earth I ever see!
How I’d like ter see a bushman use yer fixins, Texas Jack;
On the remnant of a saddle he can ride to hell and back.
Why, I heerd a mother screamin’ when her kid went tossin’ by
Ridin’ bareback on a bucker that had murder in his eye.

What? yer come to learn the natives how to squat on horse’s back!
Learn the cornstalk ridin’! Blazes!—w’at yer giv’n’us, Texas Jack?
Learn the cornstalk—what the flamin’, jumptup! where’s my country gone?
Why, the cornstalk’s mother often rides the day afore he’s born!

You may talk about your ridin’ in the city, bold an’ free,
Talk o’ ridin’ in the city, Texas Jack, but where’d yer be
When the stock horse snorts an’ bunches all ’is quarters in a hump,
And the saddle climbs a sapling, an’ the horse-shoes split a stump?

No, before yer teach the native you must ride without a fall
Up a gum or down a gully nigh as steep as any wall—
You must swim the roarin’ Darlin’ when the flood is at its height
Bearin’ down the stock an’ stations to the great Australian Bight.

You can’t count the bulls an’ bisons that yer copped with your lassoo—
But a stout old myall bullock p’raps ’ud learn yer somethin’ new;
Yer’d better make yer will an’ leave yer papers neat an’ trim
Before yer make arrangements for the lassooin’ of him;
Ere you ’n’ yer horse is catsmeat, fittin’ fate for sich galoots,
And yer saddle’s turned to laces like we put in blucher boots.

And yer say yer death on Injins! We’ve got somethin’in yer line—
If yer think your fitin’s ekal to the likes of Tommy Ryan.
Take yer karkass up to Queensland where the allygators chew
And the carpet-snake is handy with his tail for a lassoo;

Ride across the hazy regins where the lonely emus wail
An’ ye’ll find the black’ll track yer while yer lookin’ for his trail;
He can track yer without stoppin’ for a thousand miles or more—
Come again, and he will show yer where yer spit the year before.
But yer’d best be mighty careful, you’ll be sorry you kem here
When yer skewered to the fakements of yer saddle with a spear—
When the boomerang is sailin’ in the air, may heaven help yer!
It will cut yer head off goin’, an’ come back again and skelp yer.

 

P.S.—As poet and as Yankee I will greet you, Texas Jack,
For it isn’t no ill-feelin’ that is gettin’ up my back,
But I won’t see this land crowded by each Yank and British cuss
Who takes it in his head to come a-civilisin’ us.
So if you feel like shootin’ now, don’t let yer pistol cough—
(Our Government is very free at chokin’ fellers off);
And though on your great continent there’s misery in the towns
An’ not a few untitled lords and kings without their crowns,
I will admit your countrymen is busted big, an’ free,
An’ great on ekal rites of men and great on liberty;

I will admit yer fathers punched the gory tyrant’s head,
But then we’ve got our heroes, too, the diggers that is dead—
The plucky men of Ballarat who toed the scratch right well
And broke the nose of Tyranny and made his peepers swell
For yankin’ Lib.’s gold tresses in the roarin’ days gone by,
An’ doublin’ up his dirty fist to black her bonny eye;
So when it comes to ridin’ mokes, or hoistin’ out the Chow,
Or stickin’ up for labour’s rights, we don’t want showin’ how.
They come to learn us cricket in the days of long ago,
An’ Hanlan come from Canada to learn us how to row,
An’ ‘doctors’ come from ’Frisco just to learn us how to skite,
An’ ‘pugs’ from all the lands on earth to learn us how to fight;
An’ when they go, as like or not, we find we’re taken in,
They’ve left behind no larnin’—but they’ve carried off our tin.

 

Down the River

I’ve done with joys an’ misery,
    An’ why should I repine?
There’s no one knows the past but me
    An’ that ol’ dog o’ mine.
We camp an’ walk an’ camp an’ walk,
    An’ find it fairly good;
He can do anything but talk,
    An’ he wouldn’t if he could.

We sits an’ thinks beside the fire,
    With all the stars a-shine,
An’ no one knows our thoughts but me
    An’ that there dog o’ mine.
We has our Johnny-cake an’ “scrag,”
    An’ finds ’em fairly good;
He can do anything but talk,
    An’ he wouldn’t if he could.

He gets a ’possum now an’ then,
    I cooks it on the fire;
He has his water, me my tea—
    What more could we desire?
He gets a rabbit when he likes,
    We finds it pretty good;
He can do anything but talk,
    An’ he wouldn’t if he could.

I has me smoke, he has his rest,
    When sunset’s gettin’ dim;
An’ if I do get drunk at times,
    It’s all the same to him.
So long’s he’s got me swag to mind,
    He thinks that times is good;
He can do anything but talk,
    An’ he wouldn’t if he could.

He gets his tucker from the cook,
    For cook is good to him,
An’ when I sobers up a bit,
    He goes an’ has a swim.
He likes the rivers where I fish,
    An’ all the world is good;
He can do anything but talk,
    An’ he wouldn’t if he could.

 

The City Bushman

It was pleasant up the country, City Bushman, where you went,
For you sought the greener patches and you travelled like a gent;
And you curse the trams and buses and the turmoil and the push,
Though you know the squalid city needn’t keep you from the bush;
But we lately heard you singing of the ‘plains where shade is not’,
And you mentioned it was dusty—‘all was dry and all was hot’.

True, the bush ‘hath moods and changes’—and the bushman hath ’em, too,
For he’s not a poet’s dummy—he’s a man, the same as you;
But his back is growing rounder—slaving for the absentee—
And his toiling wife is thinner than a country wife should be.
For we noticed that the faces of the folks we chanced to meet
Should have made a greater contrast to the faces in the street;
And, in short, we think the bushman’s being driven to the wall,
And it’s doubtful if his spirit will be ‘loyal thro’ it all’.

Though the bush has been romantic and it’s nice to sing about,
There’s a lot of patriotism that the land could do without—
Sort of British Workman nonsense that shall perish in the scorn
Of the drover who is driven and the shearer who is shorn,
Of the struggling western farmers who have little time for rest,
And are ruined on selections in the sheep-infested West;
Droving songs are very pretty, but they merit little thanks
From the people of a country in possession of the Banks.

And the ‘rise and fall of seasons’ suits the rise and fall of rhyme,
But we know that western seasons do not run on schedule time;
For the drought will go on drying while there’s anything to dry,
Then it rains until you’d fancy it would bleach the sunny sky—
Then it pelters out of reason, for the downpour day and night
Nearly sweeps the population to the Great Australian Bight.
It is up in Northern Queensland that the seasons do their best,
But it’s doubtful if you ever saw a season in the West;
There are years without an autumn or a winter or a spring,
There are broiling Junes, and summers when it rains like anything.

In the bush my ears were opened to the singing of the bird,
But the ‘carol of the magpie’ was a thing I never heard.
Once the beggar roused my slumbers in a shanty, it is true,
But I only heard him asking, ‘Who the blanky blank are you?’
And the bell-bird in the ranges—but his ‘silver chime’ is harsh
When it’s heard beside the solo of the curlew in the marsh.

Yes, I heard the shearers singing ‘William Riley’, out of tune,
Saw ’em fighting round a shanty on a Sunday afternoon,
But the bushman isn’t always ‘trapping brumbies in the night’,
Nor is he for ever riding when ‘the morn is fresh and bright’,
And he isn’t always singing in the humpies on the run—
And the camp-fire’s ‘cheery blazes’ are a trifle overdone;
We have grumbled with the bushmen round the fire on rainy days,
When the smoke would blind a bullock and there wasn’t any blaze,
Save the blazes of our language, for we cursed the fire in turn
Till the atmosphere was heated and the wood began to burn.
Then we had to wring our blueys which were rotting in the swags,
And we saw the sugar leaking through the bottoms of the bags,
And we couldn’t raise a chorus, for the toothache and the cramp,
While we spent the hours of darkness draining puddles round the camp.

Would you like to change with Clancy—go a-droving? tell us true,
For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you,
And be something in the city; but ’twould give your muse a shock
To be losing time and money through the foot-rot in the flock,
And you wouldn’t mind the beauties underneath the starry dome
If you had a wife and children and a lot of bills at home.

Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky-black,
And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back
Till your saddle-weary backbone fell a-aching to the roots
And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots—
Sit and shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough
Till a squatter’s irate dummy cantered up to warn you off?
Did you fight the drought and pleuro when the ‘seasons’ were asleep,
Felling sheoaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep,
Drinking mud instead of water—climbing trees and lopping boughs
For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?

Do you think the bush was better in the ‘good old droving days’,
When the squatter ruled supremely as the king of western ways,
When you got a slip of paper for the little you could earn,
But were forced to take provisions from the station in return—
When you couldn’t keep a chicken at your humpy on the run,
For the squatter wouldn’t let you—and your work was never done;
When you had to leave the missus in a lonely hut forlorn
While you ‘rose up Willy Riley’—in the days ere you were born?

Ah! we read about the drovers and the shearers and the like
Till we wonder why such happy and romantic fellows strike.
Don’t you fancy that the poets ought to give the bush a rest
Ere they raise a just rebellion in the over-written West?
Where the simple-minded bushman gets a meal and bed and rum
Just by riding round reporting phantom flocks that never come;
Where the scalper—never troubled by the ‘war-whoop of the push’—
Has a quiet little billet—breeding rabbits in the bush;
Where the idle shanty-keeper never fails to make a draw,
And the dummy gets his tucker through provisions in the law;
Where the labour-agitator—when the shearers rise in might—
Makes his money sacrificing all his substance for The Right;
Where the squatter makes his fortune, and ‘the seasons rise and fall’,
And the poor and honest bushman has to suffer for it all;
Where the drovers and the shearers and the bushmen and the rest
Never reach the Eldorado of the poets of the West.

And you think the bush is purer and that life is better there,
But it doesn’t seem to pay you like the ‘squalid street and square’.
Pray inform us, City Bushman, where you read, in prose or verse,
Of the awful ‘city urchin who would greet you with a curse’.
There are golden hearts in gutters, though their owners lack the fat,
And we’ll back a teamster’s offspring to outswear a city brat.
Do you think we’re never jolly where the trams and buses rage?
Did you hear the gods in chorus when ‘Ri-tooral’ held the stage?
Did you catch a ring of sorrow in the city urchin’s voice
When he yelled for Billy Elton, when he thumped the floor for Royce?
Do the bushmen, down on pleasure, miss the everlasting stars
When they drink and flirt and so on in the glow of private bars?

You’ve a down on ‘trams and buses’, or the ‘roar’ of ’em, you said,
And the ‘filthy, dirty attic’, where you never toiled for bread.
(And about that self-same attic—Lord! wherever have you been?
For the struggling needlewoman mostly keeps her attic clean.)
But you’ll find it very jolly with the cuff-and-collar push,
And the city seems to suit you, while you rave about the bush.

* * * * * * * * *

You’ll admit that Up-the Country, more especially in drought,
Isn’t quite the Eldorado that the poets rave about,
Yet at times we long to gallop where the reckless bushman rides
In the wake of startled brumbies that are flying for their hides;
Long to feel the saddle tremble once again between our knees
And to hear the stockwhips rattle just like rifles in the trees!
Long to feel the bridle-leather tugging strongly in the hand
And to feel once more a little like a native of the land.
And the ring of bitter feeling in the jingling of our rhymes
Isn’t suited to the country nor the spirit of the times.
Let us go together droving, and returning, if we live,
Try to understand each other while we reckon up the div.

 


Trouble on the Selection

You lazy boy, you’re here at last,
    You must be wooden-legged;
Now, are you sure the gate is fast
    And all the sliprails pegged
And all the milkers at the yard,
    The calves all in the pen?
We don’t want Poley’s calf to suck
    His mother dry again.

And did you mend the broken rail
    And make it firm and neat?
I s’pose you want that brindle steer
    All night among the wheat.
And if he finds the lucerne patch,
    He’ll stuff his belly full;
He’ll eat till he gets ‘blown’ on that
    And busts like Ryan’s bull.

Old Spot is lost? You’ll drive me mad,
    You will, upon my soul!
She might be in the boggy swamps
    Or down a digger’s hole.
You needn’t talk, you never looked
    You’d find her if you’d choose,
Instead of poking ’possum logs
    And hunting kangaroos.

How came your boots as wet as muck?
    You tried to drown the ants!
Why don’t you take your bluchers off,
    Good Lord, he’s tore his pants!
Your father’s coming home to-night;
    You’ll catch it hot, you’ll see.
Now go and wash your filthy face
    And come and get your tea.

 

The Fourth Cook

He has notions of Australia from the tales that he’s been told—
Land of leggings and revolvers, land of savages and gold;
So he begs old shirts, and someone patches up his worn-out duds.
He is shipped as ‘general servant,’ scrubbing pots and peeling spuds
(In the steamer’s grimy alley, hating man and peeling spuds).

There is little time to comfort, there is little time to cry—
He will come back with a fortune—‘We’ll be happy by-and-by!’
Scarcely time to kiss his sweetheart, barely time to change his duds,
Ere they want him at the galley, and they set him peeling spuds
(With a butcher’s knife, a bucket, and, say, half a ton of spuds).

And he peels ’em hard to Plymouth, peels ’em fast to drown his grief,
Peels ’em while his stomach sickens on the road to Teneriffe;
Peels ’em while the donkey rattles, peels ’em while the engine thuds,
By the time they touch at Cape Town he’s a don at peeling spuds
(And he finds some time for dreaming as he gets on with the spuds).

In the steamer’s slushy alley, where the souls of men are dead,
And the adjectives are crimson if the substances are red,
He’s perhaps a college black-sheep, and, maybe, of ancient blood—
Ah! his devil grips him sometimes as he reaches for a spud
(And he jerks his head and sadly gouges dry-rot from a spud).

And his brave heart hopes and sickens as the weary days go round;
There is lots o’ time for blue-lights ere they reach King George’s Sound.
But he gets his best suit ready—two white shirts and three bone studs!
He will face the new world bravely when he’s finished with the spuds
(And next week, perhaps, he’ll gladly take a job at peeling spuds).

There were heroes in Australia went exploring long ago;
There are heroes in Australia that the world shall never know;
And the men we use for heroes in the land of droughts and floods
Often win their way to Sydney scrubbing pots and peeling spuds
(Plucky beggars! brave, poor devils! gouging dry-rot from their spuds).

 

The Old Head Nurse

I saw her first from a painful bed,
    Where I lay fresh from a fearful fall,
With a broken leg and a broken head,
    In the accident ward of the hospital.
Some women are hard as the road to grace
    That natural sinners are doomed to tread;
And as beautiful as a camel’s face —
    But our head nurse was the limit, they said.

She walked like a trestle, with toes turned in,
    As gaunt she was as a drought-baked horse,
With big buck teeth and a downy chin —
    And the three-haired mole — and a nose, of course.
She had us there where we could not strike,
    And she could punish in many ways too;
She was hated by nurses and patients alike —
    But she knew much more than the doctors knew.

With deep respect they would wait for her,
    In a desperate case where the chance was slim,
To take her place in the theatre
    Of the hospital with its secrets grim.
Of many a ghastly grapple with death —
    When doctors paled, she could tell, no doubt:
Of the hours she fought for the fluttering breath—
    Yes! — she knew mankind, inside and out.

And, speaking of nurses, now’s my chance
    To put in a word for the sisterhood,
Their life has little or no romance,
    The work is grand, and their hearts are good.
They take it, of course, “for better or worse”;
    But, when the “Head” is a Tartar, I know
That between the patients and that head nurse
    The sisters have a hard row to hoe.

.    .    .    .    .    .

I lived in “Thelma” in Belgrave Street,
    Off Belmore Park. ’Twas a good address
For the head of a memo short and sweet
    To the editors of the Sydney press.
’Twas a four-roomed shanty, built in a plain
    Colonial fashion — Australian quite;
The local pound was just down the lane,
    The Mongolian Gardens were opposite.

We kept a servant, a stunted freak
    I caught at a Government Bureau,
She might have been seventeen last week —
    Or six-and-twenty, for aught I know
She’d been trained backward (of immigrant stock —
    A midland county — I know no more).
She started each morning at six o’clock
    By scrubbing a hole in the kitchen floor.

Intentions excellent. Short of breath,
    Our troubles caused her the greatest distress.
By the wife she was called Elizabeth
    And known to me as “The Marchioness”.
“Master’s narrer” (she meant “The Boss”)
    She’d say to the wife when I could not eat,
“He’s nearly as narrer as father was;
    I wish that master would take his meat.”

She never could understand at all
    That this was a Land of Democracy.
She’d bully the tradesmen great and small
    Till those sons of freedom appealed to me.
They had to “go round to the kitching door”—
    Butcher and Baker, and Milk! no less,
A thing that they never had done before
    But they all were afraid of the Marchioness.

The sledge-hammer force of simplicity
    And truth was hers by an ancient right,
Hard, practical kindness and sympathy,
    And a great love somewhere — but out of sight.
Kiddies obeyed her, and, what is more,
    They loved her and came to her early and late,
And she’d dole out alms at the “kitching” door
    With the air of a Dame at her castle gate.

They never came singly to palace or tent,
    Twins or troubles, or human ills;
And I think that wherever a man pays rent
    The same thing mostly applies to bills.
And so, one Monday, when all behind
    With the rent (or ahead of it — which you will)
And the Butcher and Baker had been unkind,
    And a story rejected — wee Joe fell ill.

The doctor came, and he shook his head
    And he looked at the child for a moment or two;
He listened and nodded to what we said,
    And told the wife what she mustn’t do.
He said we must keep the child in bed —
    (It was bitter cold and ’twas raining too!)
And then he wrote a prescription and fled —
    A district doctor must earn his screw.

I looked in the kitchen — don’t know for what —
    The Marchioness there, with an altered face,
Was hurriedly making water hot
    In every kettle and pan in the place.
She plucked a rug from her skimpy bed,
    And dragged in a tub on the bedroom floor,
And, when I protested, she only said,
    “I know it, Master — I’ve seen it before.”

Ten o’clock in the morning found
    Joe still doubtful, and in distress.
I was bracing up for the second round;
    “Same time to-night” said the Marchioness.
I felt that my face was drawn and white—
    No doubt you’ll think I’m a womanish one—
But have you ever been up all night
    Fighting with death for your first-born son?

Or seen your child in convulsions, you chaps?
    I rose, and I went to the door at last
To look for the Unexpected perhaps —
    And who should I see but the “Head” go past!
In mufti, too — but you’d know her walk
    If you saw her passing on Paradise track.
’Twas a desperate case — I don’t want to talk —
    I was clean knocked out, so I called her back.

She was having a holiday — first in her life —
    And resting, of course, on her restless feet —
She was staying a week with her brother’s wife
    On the heights overlooking Belgrave Street.
This much I gathered — my wits were slow;
    I was faint and ill, and as dull as a dunce;
But she took charge of the wife and Joe
    And the Marchioness, “Thelma” and me at once.

The Marchioness looked at the Head Nurse hard;
    And the Head Nurse looked at the Marchioness —
(So the wife whispered to me in the yard)
    Why they chummed up at once I never could guess.
We hadn’t yet told the Head Nurse about
    How the Marchioness saved Joe from Paradise,
And to this very hour I could never make out
    What those two saw in each other’s eyes.

She packed the pair of us into a room
    To sleep for an hour by the Blessed Grace.
And she sent the priestess of our old broom
    For a lot of things from her brother’s place.
By hidden signs that were known to me
    (And known perhaps to Elizabeth),
And her hardening eyes, I could see that she
    Was bracing herself for a scrap with Death.

In the grey of the morning I crept by stealth
    To listen and peep in the passage gloom,
And the cleverest nurse in the Commonwealth
    Was sweeping and dusting the “dining room”.
Eyes of a hawk! She caught me, and said,
    “What do you here in the dead of night?
Get on with your writing, or go to bed —
    Your wife is asleep, and the boy’s all right.”

Eyes half blinded with — well, ’tis a poor
    Unmanlike, unwriterlike thing to do.
I’ve had always a fancy (but couldn’t be sure)
    That some of the tears were in her eyes too.
But she only muttered “Confound the man!”
    Giving her duster a vicious twirl —
“Go back as quietly as you can;
    Elizabeth is asleep — poor girl.”

.    .    .    .    .    .

Long years ten—and the Nurse is dead,
    Forgotten by hundreds she helped to live;
You gave her her uniform and her bread,
    I gave her a headstone (’twas little to give).
But I want you to know that preachers and pugs,
    Doctors and editors (publishers too),
Likewise spielers, and also mugs;
    And nurses and poets have hearts — like you.

Jack Cornstalk

I met with Jack Cornstalk in London to-day,
He saw me and coo-eed from over the way.
Oh! the solemn-faced Londoners stared with surprise
At his hair and his height as compared with his size!
For his trousers were short and his collar was low,
And—there’s not room to coo-ee in London, I know

But I said to him, ‘Jack!’ as he gripped my hand fast,
‘Oh, I hear that our Country’s a nation at last!
‘I hear they have launched the new ship of the State,
‘And with men at the wheel who are steering it straight.
‘I hear ’twas the vote of your Bush mates and you;
‘And, oh, tell me, Jack Cornstalk, if this can be true?

‘I hear that the bitter black strike times are o’er,
‘And that Grabbitt and Co. shall crush Labour no more;
‘That Australians are first where Australia was last,
‘And the day of the foreign adventurer’s past;
‘That all things are coming we fought for so long;
‘And, oh, tell me, Jack Cornstalk, if I have heard wrong?’

For a moment he dropped the old grin that he wore—
He’d a light in his eyes that was not there before—
And he reached for my hand, which I gave, nothing loth,
And replied in two words, and those words were ‘My Oath!
‘They are standing up grand, Toby Barton and See,
‘And Australia’s all right, you can take it from me.’

 

Write It Down for Me?

In the parlour of the shanty where the lives have all gone wrong,
When a singer or reciter gives a story or a song,
Where the poet’s heart is speaking to their hearts in every line,
Till the hardest curse and blubber at the thoughts of Auld Lang Syne;
Then a boozer lurches forward with an oath for all disguise—
Prayers and curses in his soul, and tears and liquor in his eyes—
Grasps the singer or reciter with a death-grip by the hand:
‘That’s the truth, bloke! Sling it at ’em! Oh! Gorbli’me, that was grand!
‘Don’t mind me; I’ve got ’em. You know! What’s yer name, bloke! Don’t yer see?
‘Who’s the bloke what wrote the po’try? Will yer write it down fer me?’

And the backblocks’ bard goes through it, ever seeking as he goes
For the line of least resistance to the hearts of men he knows;
And he tracks their hearts in mateship, and he tracks them out alone—
Seeking for the power to sway them, till he finds it in his own,
Feels what they feel, loves what they love, learns to hate what they condemn,
Takes his pen in tears and triumph, and he writes it down for them.

 

When the Army Prays for Watty

When the kindly hours of darkness, save for light of moon and star,
Hide the picture on the signboard over Doughty’s Horse Bazaar;
When the last rose-tint is fading on the distant mulga scrub,
Then the Army prays for Watty at the entrance of his pub.

Now, I often sit at Watty’s when the night is very near,
With a head that’s full of jingles and the fumes of bottled beer,
For I always have a fancy that, if I am over there
When the Army prays for Watty, I’m included in the prayer.

Watty lounges in his arm-chair, in its old accustomed place,
With a fatherly expression on his round and passive face;
And his arms are clasped before him in a calm, contented way,
And he nods his head and dozes when he hears the Army pray.

And I wonder does he ponder on the distant years and dim,
Or his chances over yonder, when the Army prays for him?
Has he not a fear connected with the warm place down below,
Where, according to good Christians, all the publicans should go?

But his features give no token of a feeling in his breast,
Save of peace that is unbroken and a conscience well at rest;
And we guzzle as we guzzled long before the Army came,
And the loafers wait for ‘shouters’ and—they get there just the same.

It would take a lot of praying—lots of thumping on the drum—
To prepare our sinful, straying, erring souls for Kingdom Come;
But I love my fellow-sinners, and I hope, upon the whole,
That the Army gets a hearing when it prays for Watty’s soul.

 

After the War

The big rough boys from the runs out back were first where the balls flew free,
And yelled in the slang of the Outside Track: ‘By God, it’s a Christmas spree!’
‘It’s not too rusty’—and ‘Wool away!’—‘stand clear of the blazing shoots!’—
‘Sheep O! Sheep O!’—‘We’ll cut out to-day’—‘Look out for the boss’s boots!’
‘What price the tally in camp to-night!’—‘What price the boys Out Back!’
‘Go it, you tigers, for Right or Might and the pride of the Outside Track!’
‘Needle and thread!’—‘I have broke my comb!’—‘Now ride, you flour-bags, ride!’
‘Fight for your mates and the folk at home!’—‘Here’s for the Lachlan side!’
Those men of the West would sneer and scoff at the gates of hell ajar,
And oft the sight of a head cut off was hailed by a yell for ‘Tar!’

* * * * * * * * * *

I heard the push in the Red Redoubt, irate at a luckless shot:
‘Look out for the blooming shell, look out!’—‘Gor’ bli’me, but that’s red-hot!’
‘It’s Bill the Slogger—poor bloke—he’s done. A chunk of the shell was his;
‘I wish the be beggar that fired that gun could get within reach of Liz.’
‘Those foreign gunners will give us rats, but I wish it was Bill they missed.’
‘I’d like to get at their bleeding hats with a rock in my (something) fist.’

‘Hold up, Billy; I’ll stick to you; they’ve hit you under the belt;
‘If we get the waddle I’ll swag you through, if the blazing mountains melt;
‘You remember the night when the traps got me for stoushing a bleeding Chow,
‘And you went for ’em proper and laid out three, and I won’t forget it now.’
And, groaning and swearing, the pug replied: ‘I’m done . . . they’ve knocked me out!
‘I’d fight them all for a pound a-side, from the boss to the rouseabout.
‘My nut is cracked and my legs is broke, and it gives me worse than hell;
‘I trained for a scrap with a twelve-stone bloke, and not with a bursting shell.
‘You needn’t mag, for I knowed, old chum, I knowed, old pal, you’d stick;
‘But you can’t hold out till the reg’lars come, and you’d best be nowhere quick.
‘They’ve got a force and a gun ashore, both of our wings is broke;
‘They’ll storm the ridge in a minute more, and the best you can do is smoke.’

And Jim exclaimed: ‘You can smoke, you chaps, but me—Gor’ bli’me, no!
‘The push that ran from the George-street traps won’t run from a foreign foe.
‘I’ll stick to the gun while she makes them sick, and I’ll stick to what’s left of Bill.’
And they hiss through their blackened teeth: ‘We’ll stick! by the blazing flame, we will!’
And long years after the war was past, they told in the town and bush
How the ridge of death to the bloody last was held by a Sydney push;
How they fought to the end in a sheet of flame, how they fought with their rifle-stocks,
And earned, in a nobler sense, the name of their ancient weapons—‘rocks.’

* * * * * * * * * *

In the western camps it was ever our boast, when ’twas bad for the kangaroo:
If the enemy’s forces take the coast, they must take the mountains, too;
‘They may force their way by the western line or round by a northern track,
But they won’t run short of a decent spree with the men who are left out back!’
When we burst the enemy’s ironclads and won by a run of luck,
We whooped as loudly as Nelson’s lads when a French three-decker struck—
And when the enemy’s troops prevailed the truth was never heard—
We lied like heroes who never failed explaining how that occurred.

You bushmen sneer in the old bush way at the new-chum jackeroo,
But ‘cuffs-’n’-collers’ were out that day, and they stuck to their posts like glue;
I never believed that a dude could fight till a Johnny led us then;
We buried his bits in the rear that night for the honour of George-street men.
And Jim the Ringer—he fought, he did. The regiment nicknamed Jim,
‘Old Heads a Caser’ and ‘Heads a Quid,’ but it never was ‘tails’ with him.
The way that he rode was a racing rhyme, and the way that he finished grand;
He backed the enemy every time, and died in a hand-to-hand!

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ll never forget when the ringer and I were first in the Bush Brigade,
With Warrego Bill, from the Live-till-you-Die, in the last grand charge we made.
And Billy died—he was full of sand—he said, as I raised his head:
‘I’m full of love for my native land, but a lot too full of lead.
‘Tell ’em,’ said Billy, ‘and tell old dad, to look after the cattle pup;’
But his eyes grew bright, though his voice was sad, and he said, as I held him up:
‘I have been happy on western farms. And once, when I first went wrong,
‘Around my neck were the trembling arms of the girl I’d loved so long.
‘Far out on the southern seas I’ve sailed, and ridden where brumbies roam,
‘And oft, when all on the station failed, I’ve driven the outlaw home.
‘I’ve spent a cheque in a day and night, and I’ve made a cheque as quick;
‘I struck a nugget when times were tight, and the stores had stopped our tick.
‘I’ve led the field on the old bay mare, and I hear the cheering still,
‘When mother and sister and she were there, and the old man yelled for Bill;
‘But, save for her, could I live my while again in the old bush way,
‘I’d give it all for the last half-mile in the race we rode to-day!’
And he passed away as the stars came out—he died as old heroes die—
I heard the sound of the distant rout, and the Southern Cross was high.

 

As Good as New

Oh, this is a song of the old lights, that came to my heart like a hymn;
And this is a song for the old lights—the lights that we thought grew dim,
That came to my heart to comfort me, and I pass it along to you;
And here is a hand to the good old friend who turns up as good as new.

And this is a song for the camp-fire out west where the stars shine bright—
Oh, this is a song for the camp-fire where the old mates yarn to-night;
Where the old mates yarn of the old days, and their numbers are all too few,
And this is a song for the good old times that will turn up as good as new.

Oh, this is a song for the old foe—we have both grown wiser now,
And this is a song for the old foe, and we’re sorry we had that row;
And this is a song for the old love—the love that we thought untrue—
Oh, this is a song of the dear old love that comes back as good as new.

Oh, this is a song for the black sheep, for the black sheep that fled from town,
And this is a song for the brave heart, for the brave heart that lived it down;
And this is a song for the battler, for the battler who sees it through—
And this is a song for the broken heart that turns up as good as new.

Ah, this is a song for the brave mate, be he Bushman, Scot, or Russ,
A song for the mates we will stick to—for the mates who have stuck to us;
And this is a song for the old creed, to do as a man should do,
Till the Lord takes us all to a wider world—where we’ll turn up as good as new.



The King, the Queen and I

Oh, Scotty, have you visited the Picture Gallery,
And did you see the portraits of the King and Queen and me?
The portraits made by Longstaff, and the pictures done by Jack,
Of the King and Queen and Lawson and the lady all in black?

The King is robed in royal state, with medals on his breast,
And, like the mother Queen she is, Her Majesty is dressed.
The lady’s dressed in simple black and sports no precious stones,
And I a suit of reach-me-downs I bought from Davy Jones.

We’re strangers two to two, and each unto the other three—
I do not know the lady and I don’t think she knows me.
We’re strangers to each other here, and to the other two,
And they themselves are strangers yet, if all we hear is true.

I s’pose we’re just as satisfied as folks have ever been:
The lady would much rather be her own self than the Queen;
And though I’m down and precious stiff and I admire King Ned,
I’d sooner just be Harry, with his follies on his head.

We four may meet together—stranger folk have met, I ween,
Than a rhymer and a monarch and a lady and a queen.
Ned and I might talk it over on the terrace, frank and free,
With cigars, while Alexandra and the lady’s having tea.

Anyway, we’ll never quarrel while we’re hanging on the wall—
Friends! we all have had our troubles—we are human, one and all!
If by chance we hang together—hang together on the line,
And the thing should shock the Godly—then it’s Longstaff’s fault, not mine.

 

The Shearer’s Dream

‘Oh, I dreamt I shore in a shearin’ shed, and it was a dream of joy,
For every one of the rouseabouts was a girl dressed up as a boy—
Dressed up like a page in a pantomime, and the prettiest ever seen—
They had flaxen hair, they had coal black hair—and every shade between.’

        ‘There was short, plump girls, there was tall, slim girls, and the handsomest ever seen—
        They was four-foot-five, they was six-foot high, and every size between.’

‘The shed was cooled by electric fans that was over every shoot;
The pens was of polished ma-ho-gany, and ev’rything else to suit;
The huts was fixed with spring-mattresses, and the tucker was simply grand,
And every night by the biller-bong we darnced to a German band.’

‘Our pay was the wool on the jumbucks’ backs, so we shore till all was blue—
The sheep was washed afore they was shore (and the rams was scented too);
And we all of us cried when the shed cut out, in spite of the long, hot days,
For every hour them girls waltzed in with whisky and beer on tr-a-a-ays!’

‘There was three of them girls to every chap, and as jealous as they could be—
There was three of them girls to every chap, and six of ’em picked on me;
We was draftin’ ’em out for the homeward track and sharin’ ’em round like steam,
When I woke with my head in the blazin’ sun to find ’twas a shearer’s dream.’

        ‘They had kind grey eyes, they had coal-black eyes, and the grandest ever seen—
        They had plump pink hands, they had slim white hands, and every shape be-tw-e-e-n.’

 

Foreign Engineers

Old Ivan McIvanovitch, with knitted brow of care,
Has climbed up from the engine-room to get a breath of air;
He slowly wipes the grease and sweat from hairy face and neck.
And from beneath his bushy brows he glowers around the deck.

The weirdest Russian in the fleet, whose words are strange to hear,
He seems to run the battleship, though but an engineer.
He is not great, he has no rank, and he is far from rich—
’Tis strange the admiral salutes old McIvanovitch.

He gives the order ‘Whusky!’ ere he goes below once more—
And ‘Whusky’ is a Russian word I never heard before;
Perhaps some Tartar dialect, because, you know, you’ll meet
Some very various Muscovites aboard the Baltic fleet.

And on another battleship that sailed out from Japan
The boss of all the engineers, you’ll find another man
With flaming hair and eyes like steel, and he is six-foot three—
His name is Jock McNogo, and a fearsome Jap is he.

He wears a beard upon his chest, his face you won’t forget,
His like was never found amongst the heathen idols yet;
His words are awesome words to hear, his lightest smile is grim,
And daily in the engine-room the heathen bow to him.

Now, if the fleets meet in the North and settle matters there,
Say, how will McIvanovitch and Jock McNogo fare?
But if you ken that Russian and that Jap, you needn’t fret,
They’ll hae a drap, or maybe twa, some nicht in Glesca yet.

Those foreigners will ship again aboard some foreign boat,
And do their best to drive her through and keep the tub afloat.
They’ll stir the foreign greasers up and prove from whence they came—
And all to win the bawbees for the wife and bairns at hame.

 

The Free-Selector’s Daughter

I met her on the Lachlan Side—
    A darling girl I thought her,
And ere I left I swore I’d win
    The free-selector’s daughter.

I milked her father’s cows a month,
    I brought the wood and water,
I mended all the broken fence,
    Before I won the daughter.

I listened to her father’s yarns,
    I did just what I ‘oughter’,
And what you’ll have to do to win
    A free-selector’s daughter.

I broke my pipe and burnt my twist,
    And washed my mouth with water;
I had a shave before I kissed
    The free-selector’s daughter.

Then, rising in the frosty morn,
    I brought the cows for Mary,
And when I’d milked a bucketful
    I took it to the dairy.

I poured the milk into the dish
    While Mary held the strainer,
I summoned heart to speak my wish,
    And, oh! her blush grew plainer.

I told her I must leave the place,
    I said that I would miss her;
At first she turned away her face,
    And then she let me kiss her.

I put the bucket on the ground,
    And in my arms I caught her:
I’d give the world to hold again
    That free-selector’s daughter!

 

The Shanty on the Rise

When the caravans of wool-teams climbed the ranges from the West,
On a spur among the mountains stood ‘The Bullock-drivers’ Rest’;
It was built of bark and saplings, and was rather rough inside,
But ’twas good enough for bushmen in the careless days that died—
Just a quiet little shanty kept by ‘Something-in-Disguise’,
As the bushmen called the landlord of the Shanty on the Rise.

City swells who ‘do the Royal’ would have called the Shanty low,
But ’twas better far and purer than some toney pubs I know;
For the patrons of the Shanty had the principles of men,
And the spieler, if he struck it, wasn’t welcome there again.
You could smoke and drink in quiet, yarn, or else soliloquise,
With a decent lot of fellows in the Shanty on the Rise.

’Twas the bullock-driver’s haven when his team was on the road,
And the waggon-wheels were groaning as they ploughed beneath the load;
And I mind how weary teamsters struggled on while it was light,
Just to camp within a cooey of the Shanty for the night;
And I think the very bullocks raised their heads and fixed their eyes
On the candle in the window of the Shanty on the Rise.

And the bullock-bells were clanking from the marshes on the flats
As we hurried to the Shanty, where we hung our dripping hats;
And we took a drop of something that was brought at our desire,
As we stood with steaming moleskins in the kitchen by the fire.
Oh! it roared upon a fireplace of the good, old-fashioned size,
When the rain came down the chimney of the Shanty on the Rise.

They got up a Christmas party in the Shanty long ago,
While I camped with Jimmy Nowlett on the riverbank below;
Poor old Jim was in his glory—they’d elected him M.C.,
For there wasn’t such another raving lunatic as he.
‘Mr. Nowlett, Mr. Swaller!’ shouted Something-in-Disguise,
As we walked into the parlour of the Shanty on the Rise.

There is little real pleasure in the city where I am—
There’s a swarry round the corner with its mockery and sham;
But a fellow can be happy when around the room he whirls
In a party up the country with the jolly country girls.
Why, at times I almost fancied I was dancing on the skies,
When I danced with Mary Carey in the Shanty on the Rise.

Jimmy came to me and whispered, and I muttered, ‘Go along!’
But he shouted, ‘Mr. Swaller will oblige us with a song!’
And at first I said I wouldn’t, and I shammed a little too,
Till the girls began to whisper, ‘Mr. Swallow, now, ah, do!’
So I sang a song of something ’bout the love that never dies,
And the chorus shook the rafters of the Shanty on the Rise.

Jimmy burst his concertina, and the bullock-drivers went
For the corpse of Joe the Fiddler, who was sleeping in his tent;
Joe was tired and had lumbago, and he wouldn’t come, he said,
But the case was very urgent, so they pulled him out of bed;
And they fetched him, for the bushmen knew that Something-in-Disguise
Had a cure for Joe’s lumbago in the Shanty on the Rise.

Jim and I were rather quiet while escorting Mary home,
’Neath the stars that hung in clusters, near and distant, from the dome;
And we walked so very silent—being lost in reverie—
That we heard the settlers’-matches rustle softly on the tree;
And I wondered who would win her when she said her sweet good-byes—
But she died at one-and-twenty, and was buried on the Rise.

I suppose the Shanty vanished from the ranges long ago,
And the girls are mostly married to the chaps I used to know;
My old chums are in the distance—some have crossed the border-line,
But in fancy still their glasses chink against the rim of mine.
And, upon the very centre of the greenest spot that lies
In my fondest recollection, stands the Shanty on the Rise.

 

The Poets of the Tomb

The world has had enough of bards who wish that they were dead,
’Tis time the people passed a law to knock ’em on the head,
For ’twould be lovely if their friends could grant the rest they crave —
Those bards of ‘tears’ and ‘vanished hopes’, those poets of the grave.
They say that life’s an awful thing, and full of care and gloom,
They talk of peace and restfulness connected with the tomb.

They say that man is made of dirt, and die, of course, he must;
But, all the same, a man is made of pretty solid dust.
There is a thing that they forget, so let it here be writ,
That some are made of common mud, and some are made of grit;
Some try to help the world along while others fret and fume
And wish that they were slumbering in the silence of the tomb.

’Twixt mother’s arms and coffin-gear a man has work to do!
And if he does his very best he mostly worries through,
And while there is a wrong to right, and while the world goes round,
An honest man alive is worth a million underground.
And yet, as long as sheoaks sigh and wattle-blossoms bloom,
The world shall hear the drivel of the poets of the tomb.

And though the graveyard poets long to vanish from the scene,
I notice that they mostly wish their resting-place kept green.
Now, were I rotting underground, I do not think I’d care
If wombats rooted on the mound or if the cows camped there;
And should I have some feelings left when I have gone before,
I think a ton of solid stone would hurt my feelings more.

Such wormy songs of mouldy joys can give me no delight;
I’ll take my chances with the world, I’d rather live and fight.
Though Fortune laughs along my track, or wears her blackest frown,
I’ll try to do the world some good before I tumble down.
Let’s fight for things that ought to be, and try to make ’em boom;
We cannot help mankind when we are ashes in the tomb.

 

The Grog-an’-Grumble Steeplechase

’Twixt the coastline and the border lay the town of Grog-an’-Grumble
    In the days before the bushman was a dull ’n’ heartless drudge,
An’ they say the local meeting was a drunken rough-and-tumble,
    Which was ended pretty often by an inquest on the judge.
An’ ’tis said the city talent very often caught a tartar
    In the Grog-an’-Grumble sportsman, ’n’ retired with broken heads,
For the fortune, life, and safety of the Grog-an’-Grumble starter
    Mostly hung upon the finish of the local thorough-breds.

Pat M‘Durmer was the owner of a horse they called the Screamer,
    Which he called the ‘quickest shtepper ’twixt the Darling and the sea;’
And I think it’s very doubtful if the stomach-troubled dreamer
    Ever saw a more outrageous piece of equine scenery;
For his points were most decided, from his end to his beginning,
    He had eyes of difrerent colour, and his legs they wasn’t mates.
Pat M‘Durmer said he always came ‘widin a flip av winnin’,’
    An’ his sire had come from England, ’n’ his dam was from the States.

Friends would argue with M‘Durmer, and they said he was in error
    To put up his horse the Screamer, for he’d lose in any case,
And they said a city racer by the name of Holy Terror
    Was regarded as the winner of the coming steeple-chase;
But he said he had the knowledge to come in when it was raining,
    And irrelevantly mentioned that he knew the time of day,
So he rose in their opinion. It was noticed that the training
    Of the Screamer was conducted in a dark, mysterious way.

Well, the day arrived in glory; ’twas a day of jubilation
    With careless-hearted bushmen for a hundred miles around,
An’ the rum ’n’ beer ’n’ whisky came in waggons from the station,
    An’ the Holy Terror talent were the first upon the ground.
Judge M‘Ard—with whose opinion it was scarcely safe to wrestle—
    Took his dangerous position on the bark-and-sapling stand:
He was what the local Stiggins used to speak of as a ‘wessel
    ‘Of wrath,’ and he’d a bludgeon that he carried in his hand.

‘Off ye go!’ the starter shouted, as down fell a stupid jockey—
    Off they started in disorder—left the jockey where he lay—
And they fell and rolled and galloped down the crooked course and rocky,
    Till the pumping of the Screamer could be heard a mile away.
But he kept his legs and galloped; he was used to rugged courses,
    And he lumbered down the gully till the ridge began to quake:
And he ploughed along the siding, raising earth till other horses
    An’ their riders, too, were blinded by the dust-cloud in his wake.

From the ruck he’d struggled slowly—they were much surprised to find him
    Close abeam of Holy Terror as along the flat they tore—
Even higher still and denser rose the cloud of dust behind him,
    While in more divided splinters flew the shattered rails before.
‘Terror!’ ‘Dead heat!’ they were shouting—‘Terror!’ but the Screamer hung out
    Nose to nose with Holy Terror as across the creek they swung,
An’ M‘Durmer shouted loudly, ‘Put yer tongue out! put yer tongue out!’
    An’ the Screamer put his tongue out, and he won by half-a-tongue.

 

Hawkers

Dust, dust, dust and a dog —
    Oh! The sheep-dog won’t be last.
When the long, long, shadow of the old bay horse
    With the shadow of his mate is cast.
A brick-brown woman with the brick-brown kids,
    And a man with his head half-mast,
The feed-bags hung and the bedding slung,
    And the blackened bucket made fast
Where the tailboard clings to the tucker and things —
    So the hawker’s van goes past.

 

Bursting of the Boom

The shipping-office clerks are ‘short,’ the manager is gruff—
‘They cannot make reductions,’ and ‘the fares are low enough.’
They ship us West with cattle, and we go like cattle too;
And fight like dogs three times a day for what we get to chew. . . .
We’ll have the pick of empty bunks and lots of stretching room,
And go for next to nothing at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show:
Then when the Boom bursts is our time to go.
We’ll meet ’em coming back in shoals, with looks of deepest gloom,
But we’re the sort that battle through at the Bursting of the Boom.

The captain’s easy-going when Fremantle comes in sight;
He can’t say when you’ll get ashore—perhaps tomorrow night;
Your coins are few, the charges high; you must not linger here—
You’ll get your boxes from the hold when she’s ‘longside the pier.’
The launch will foul the gangway, and the trembling bulwarks loom
Above a fleet of harbour craft—at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show;
He’ll ‘take you for a bob, sir,’ and where you want to go.
He’ll ‘take the big portmanteau, sir, if he might so presume’—
You needn’t hump your luggage at the Bursting of the Boom.

It’s loafers—Customs-loafers—and you pay and pay again;
They hinder you and cheat you from the gangway to the train;
The pubs and restaurants are full—they haven’t room for more;
They charge us each three shillings for a shakedown on the floor;
But, ‘Show this gentleman upstairs—the first front parlour room.
We’ll see about your luggage, sir’—at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show;
And wait till the Boom bursts, and swear mighty low.
‘We mostly charge a pound a week. How do you like the room?’
And ‘Show this gentleman the bath’—at the Bursting of the Boom.

I go down to the timber-yard (I cannot face the rent)
To get some strips of oregon to frame my hessian tent;
To buy some scraps of lumber for a table or a shelf:
The boss comes up and says I might just look round for myself;
The foreman grunts and turns away as silent as the tomb—
The boss himself will wait on me at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a load.
‘You had better take those scraps, sir, they’re only in the road.’
‘Now, where the hell’s the carter?’ you’ll hear the foreman fume;
And, ‘Take that timber round at once!’ at the Bursting of the Boom.

Each one-a-penny grocer, in his box of board and tin,
Will think it condescending to consent to take you in;
And not content with twice as much as what is just and right,
They charge and cheat you doubly, for the Boom is at its height.
It’s ‘Take it now or leave it now;’ ‘your money or your room;’
But ‘Who’s attending Mr. Brown?’ at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—and take what you can get,
‘There’s not the slightest hurry, and your bill ain’t ready yet.’
They’ll call and get your orders until the crack o’ doom,
And send them round directly, at the Bursting of the Boom.

* * * * * * * * * *

No Country and no Brotherhood—such things are dead and cold;
A camp from all the lands or none, all mad for love of gold;
Where T’othersider number one makes slave of number two,
And the vilest women of the world the vilest ways pursue;
And men go out and slave and bake and die in agony
In western hells that God forgot, where never man should be.
I feel a prophet in my heart that speaks the one word ‘Doom!’
And aye you’ll hear the Devil laugh at the Bursting of the Boom.

 

The Green-hand Rouseabout

Call this hot? I beg your pardon. Hot!—you don’t know what it means.
(What’s that, waiter? lamb or mutton! Thank you—mine is beef and greens.
Bread and butter while I’m waiting. Milk? Oh, yes—a bucketful.)
I’m just in from west the Darling, “picking-up” and “rolling wool.”

Mutton stewed or chops for breakfast, dry and tasteless, boiled in fat;
Bread or brownie, tea or coffee—two hours’ graft in front of that;
Legs of mutton boiled for dinner—mutton greasy-warm for tea—
Mutton curried (gave my order, beef and plenty greens for me.)
Breakfast, curried rice and mutton till your innards sacrifice,
 And you sicken at the colour and the very look of rice.
All day long with living mutton—bits and belly-wool and fleece;
Blinded by the yoke of wool, and shirt and trousers stiff with grease,
Till you long for sight of verdure, cabbage-plots and water clear,
And you crave for beef and butter as a boozer craves for beer.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dusty patch in baking mulga—glaring iron hut and shed—
Feel and scent of rain forgotten—water scarce and feed-grass dead.
Hot and suffocating sunrise—all-pervading sheep-yard smell—
Stiff and aching, Greenhand stretches—“Slushy” rings the bullock-bell—
Pint of tea and hunk of brownie—sinners string towards the shed—
Great, black, greasy crows round carcass—screen behind of dust-cloud red.
Engine whistles. “Go it, tigers!” and the agony begins,
Picking up for seven shearers—rushing, sweating for my sins;
Picking up for seven demons, seven devils out of Hell!
Sell their souls to get the bell-sheep—half-a-dozen Christs they’d sell!
Day grows hot as where they come from—too damned hot for men or brutes;
Roof of corrugated iron, six-foot-six above the shoots!
Whiz and rattle and vibration, like an endless chain of trams;
Blasphemy of five-and-forty—prickly heat—and stink of rams!
Barcoo leaves his pen-door open and the sheep come bucking out;
When the rouser goes to pen them Barcoo blasts the rouseabout.
Injury with insult added—trial of our cursing powers—
Cursed and cursing back enough to damn a dozen worlds like ours.
“Take my combs down to the grinder!” “Seen my (something) cattle-pup?”
“There’s a crawler down in my shoot—just slip through and pick it up.”
“Give the office when the boss comes.” “Catch that gory ram, old man.”
“Count the sheep in my pen, will you?” “Fetch my combs back when you can.”
“When you get a chance, old fellow, will you pop down to the hut?
Fetch my pipe—the cook ’ll show you—and I’ll let you have a cut.”
Shearer yells for tar and needle. Ringer’s roaring like a bull:
“Wool away, you (son of angels). Where the hell’s the (foundling)? WOOL!”

* * * * * * * *

Pound a week and station prices—mustn’t kick against the pricks—
Seven weeks of lurid mateship—ruined soul and four pounds six.

* * * * * * * * *

What’s that? Waiter! Me? Stuffed Mutton! Look here, waiter, to be brief,
I said beef! you blood-stained villain! Beef—moo-cow—Roast Bullock—BEEF!


His Majesty’s Garden Spade

It was the old King of Virland,
    The monarch of all the land,
Who toiled away through a sunny day
    With a garden spade in his hand.
There was peace in his wide dominions
    For arts and tillage and trade —
He’d won it with something sharper
    Than was ever a garden spade.

The old king wiped his forehead,
    And he blew a long breath — so,
As he’d done when the fight was over
    In the warlike long ago.
And he sat close under the ivy,
    And spelled in the dark green shade;
And he thought of nought but potatoes
    As he scraped his garden spade.

There stood a knave in the shadow,
    Unsuspecting and unafraid,
With his head through the buttery window
    And his arms round a buttery maid.
He tempted and she resisted —
    For to tempt and resist was their trade;
They were all unaware of his majesty
    And his majesty’s garden spade.

The old king stood by the ivy
    And listened to every word;
The oath, and the yielding murmur,
    And the plan for the night he heard.
And, be it a boor and a serving wench,
    Or be it a lady and knight,
He wanted his maids to be mated,
    But he wanted them mated aright.

So a sudden smack smote the silence,
    And startled both knave and maid:
‘Twas the mighty monarch of Virland,
    And the back of his kingly spade!
The knave swung round with a bad word —
    Then bowed with a knavish mien,
With his head bent low to the gravel,
    And a hand where the spade had been.

The old king pondered a moment,
    And leaned on his garden spade,
While the other maids screamed in hysterics
    To the screams of the buttery maid.
The old king paused for a moment,
    Then said with a kingly frown:
“I command you twain to be wedded
    The moment the sun goes down.

“For, be it a boor and a besom,
    Or a ladye and knight love-hot,
Though I want strong sons in my kingdom,
    I’ll have them honestly got;
That the son on the night ere battle,
    As he lies on the starlit sward,
May think without shame of his mother’s name,
    And be proud of his father’s sword!”

And the knave was a squire thereafter,
    And he bore him so well in a fight,
When a war-time came to Virland,
    That the old king made him a knight.
And he lived till his first great-grandson
    Was wed to a scullery maid,
And he died beloved and honoured,
    As the Knight of the Garden Spade.

 

The Sign of the Old Black Eye

When your rifle is lost, and your bayonet too,
    And your mates have all turned tail,
And captain and country are done with you,
    And the chances are death or gaol —
When the treacherous knife for your throat is raised
    Or the handcuffs held for your wrists —
Then put up a fight with your fists, old man!
    Oh, put up a fight with your fists!

For the sign of a man since strife began
    (Which nobody can deny),
Of the Man who Won, and the Beaten Man,
    Was the sign of the Old Black Eye.
Oh, the signs of a man since a man had foes,
    To show ’em the reason why,
Were ever the sign of the Broken Nose
    And the sign of the Blue-Black Eye.

When you’re down in the world where you once were up —
    When weather and friends were fair —
And the coat you wear is a lonesome coat,
    And your pants are a lonesome pair,
When the friends who borrowed when luck was good
    All leave you severely alone,
Then put up a fight on your own, old man!
    Oh, put up a fight on your own!

You’ll need to stand, where the down-track ends,
    With your drink-lulled senses clear,
For you’ll get no help from your fine new friends,
    And you’ll get no help from beer.
They’ll call you a boozer and loafer and all,
    And be noble for your disgrace.
But put your back to the nearest wall,
    And strike at the nearest face.

There are friends you helped, when your star was high,
    Who pass you as something strange —
Oh, they drank your beer in the days gone by,
    And they borrowed your careless change!
But you pass ’em blind and you pass ’em dumb,
    And they’ll borrow your cash again;
For they’ll drink your wine in the days to come,
    And you’ll pity the world of men.

There were friends that you lost by your own neglect
    In the days of your sinful pride;
There were friends that you lost with your self-respect
    Who’d have fought for you side by side.
You’d never have thought it would come to this —
    That you’d battle the world alone —
But swallow the lump in your throat, old man,
    And put up a fight of your own.

There were friends who came thrice, with help and advice,
    Ere the days of your folly were spent —
Oh, you wish you had answered the letters they wrote
    And paid back the money they lent!
Think not of the grey-black mists behind,
    Nor the future’s lurid mists,
But put up a fight with your fists (so to speak) —
    Oh, put up a fight with your fists.

You’ll know, when it’s done, and the fight you’ve won —
    And won on your lonesome own —
That a man goes up with a host of friends,
    But a man goes down alone.
But you laugh at it all as they chair you in,
    As they did in the days gone by,
And they’ll chuckle and grin, and drink to your win,
    At the Sign of the Old Black Eye.

 

Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers

While you use your best endeavour to immortalise in verse
The gambling and the drink which are your country’s greatest curse,
While you glorify the bully and take the spieler’s part—
You’re a clever southern writer, scarce inferior to Bret Harte.

If you sing of waving grasses when the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there’s only mud and sticks;
If you picture ‘mighty forests’ where the mulga spoils the view—
You’re superior to Kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.

If you swear there’s not a country like the land that gave you birth,
And its sons are just the noblest and most glorious chaps on earth;
If in every girl a Venus your poetic eye discerns,
You are gracefully referred to as the ‘young Australian Burns’.

But if you should find that bushmen—spite of all the poets say—
Are just common brother-sinners, and you’re quite as good as they—
You’re a drunkard, and a liar, and a cynic, and a sneak,
Your grammar’s simply awful and your intellect is weak.

 

The Song of the Back to Front

The Finn stokes well in the hot Red Sea, where the fireman damns his soul;
And the played-out sons of a warm country went furthest towards the Pole.
The grief is oft to the topside pup — and the “first” runs out of the hunt —
And — this is the song of the downside up, and a song of the back to front.
                              Yes — grunt!
                 And a song of the back to front.

Oh! this is the way that it all begun since first on one end we trod.
The short girl yearns for the six-foot-one, and the long for the four-foot-odd!
Or this is the way that it all began (if my grammar’s misunderstood),
The good girl loveth the bad, bad man, and the bad girl loves the good.
                              Yo-o-u — would! —
                 And the bad girl loves the good.

The thin girl seeketh the stout boy oft when the slight boy’s there to win;
And often the man who is fat and soft gets roped by the hard and thin.
The slave-wife loveth her “boss” and house, and everything seems to suit,
And the pampered wife leaves a generous spouse and sticks to a drunken brute.
                              Ye-es — shoot!
                 And she sticks to a drunken brute.

The woman says “Yes” when she meaneth “No”, and “No” when she meaneth “Yes”;
But the blithering fool who would take her so is about to fall in, I guess.
The mother sticks fast to the worthless one who treated her with contempt,
And often she hateth the good old son of whose “feelings” she never dreamt —
                              Yes! dreamt —
                 Of whose feelings she never dreamt.

The low comedian’s glum off-stage, and the heavy tragedian’s gay,
With the artist or poet at Pint or Page, ’tis ever the self-same way.
The fool looks wise, and the wise a fool, and the extra-“open” looks sly,
The smart and the cunning is oft the tool that the plain and the simple ply.
                              They’re fly —
                 So the plain and the simple ply.

The hard man’s “soft” when the crisis comes, though the whole of his life be marred,
And often as not, in our peaceful homes, are the “soft” men mean and hard.
The excitable man — when the crisis arrives — is cool — as often as not.
And the calm, mild men with the fiend’s own wives are wild to the world, and hot —
                              Yes! Ge-e-t hot!
                 Are wild to the world and hot.

The weeds go through where the strong men fail — be it office or desert or trench,
And the fattest coward in England’s tale brought tucker slap through the French!
The coward dies for his king and gods, and he throws his men away,
But the brave man runs from the doubtful odds — that his foe may run next day —
                              Wotcher say?
                 That his foe may run some day.

The pig is clean, and the bulldog kind, but the man is a brute or hog.
’Tis starve, sty, or bludgeon, you’ll mostly find, that spoileth the man, pig and dog.
The poet is generous, noble and clean, and he singeth by day and night,
But the edit — er — publisher? Woddidimean? — well, I didn’t mean that way quite.
*** —! —! —!! — — All right —!! —
      But I didn’t — mean — thatwayquite.

FROM THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS:
The Low is Up, and the Small is Great — and —
      (Now-I’m-goin’-quietly-don’t you-lay-a-hand-on-me.)

OUTSIDE:
      — and the scissoring fool is wise —
      (All right, constable!)

BY TELEPHONE:
The cur must run, but the hound can wait, and — (cut off)

BY POST:
      —and The Bulletin’s mostly lies.

Tho’ nothing is much, and the much is less, and the staring are always blind,
And the front is as good as the back, I guess, when the editor’s back’s behind.

 

Because of Her Father’s Blood

Sir William was gone to the Wars again,
    That went through the world at large,
And he left the Keep with some forty men,
    And his aunt, Dame Ruth, in charge.
The soldiers swore, and each knave looked grave,
    And the maids shed tears in a flood,
For a fearsome mistress she was to serve,
    Because of her father’s blood.

There was never a smile on her grim old mouth,
    Nor a tear in her hard old eye,
For her mincing days and her simpering days
    And her tearful days were by.
There was never a siege-starved horse so gaunt,
    Nor a camel’s face less fair;
But no court ladye could gaze her down,
    And never a knight out-swear.

She would cuff a maid till the maid saw sense,
    And a page till the page saw stars —
Oh, she was a queen of the olden time,
    In spite of her sinister bars.
’Twas a grim time then for the serving men,
    And the “maids” that we called the girls —
’Twas hard to be cuffed by a bony fist,
    With the strength of a hundred earls.

Sir William had been for a year away,
    And the land was a land of woe,
When the outlaw Marr came down from afar
    With a hundred men or so.
He cooped us up with the country folk —
    And he was a cur in truth —
He knew that the knight was not there to fight —
    But he did not know Dame Ruth.

He gathered the cattle and gathered the grain,
    And he promised to leave us be,
But he’d heard of gold in the oak chest old,
    So he sent for his outlaw’s fee.
We gathered like sheep in a castle keep,
    And an angry old dame was there —
Oh, we feared Dame Ruth with a tenfold fear
    On the days when she did not swear.

For she felt too much. “Outnumbered?” she cried,
    “Ye slime, and the spawn of slime! —
Would a Marr for a day in the Westland bide
    In my father’s father’s time?
There are forked things left that can stand upright,
    But are no men left in the land?
Must I carry you forth? Hold your blades in the fight
    As I’d hold a babe’s spoon in its hand?”

So we gat us out through the eastern gate,
    And down through the old oak trees,
Till backward borne in the wintry morn
    We fought them by twos and threes.
We’d gathered to win to the gate again —
    The gate of our grim despair —
When Clarence, who fought on my right hand, cried,
    With a backward glance, “Look there!”

Heels first in retreat — for they pressed us close —
    Just time to glance back through the trees —
And she sat on her horse on the top of the knoll
    With her ragged grey hair in the breeze.

Her old house gown was the armour she wore,
    And her old grey hair the crest,
And a long, tough whip on the pommel she bore,
    And — we did not look for the rest.
Then Clarence drew sword when his shaft was sped
    (And he was a mettlesome youth),
“I’ll face them one to a dozen,” he said,
    “But I will not face Dame Ruth.”

Her screech was heard in the startled land,
    And the outlaws paused in affright
As she spurred her down to her gallant band,
    Crying “Fight! ye scullions! Fight!”
The outlaws halted like stricken men
    Who stand ere they strike the sod —
They believed in warlocks and witches then,
    Far more than they did in God.

Their leader looked twice, and their leader looked thrice,
    And was first to gallop away,
Or, in spite of his warlike gear, he’d been
    A well-whipped cur that day.
We drove them clear and we chased them far,
    And we left a few in the mud,
And we hanged a few in the old oak trees
    As a hint of her father’s blood.

There was never a tear in her hard old eyes,
    On her grim face never a smile;
But she bound our wounds with her claw-like hands
    And she swore at the maids the while.
But all of us knew, of her battered crew,
    And we grinned and we winked aside,
For her bony old fingers they trembled at times,
    And the oaths were to hide her pride.

Sir William is come from the wars again
    With his faith and his thick head whole;
And Marr is gone to the Holy Land
    For the sake of his sinful soul.
We think too often of women and wine —
    Too seldom of cause or creed;
But we’d go with Dame Ruth to the gates of Hell,
    And never a whip she’d need.

 

When There’s Trouble on Your Mind

Now I do not want to bore you, or to take up too much time
When your nose is on the grindstone and to lift it seems a crime;
But in spite of all your wisdom you will nearly always find
That there’s one you like to talk to when there’s trouble on your mind.
                     Never mind
If it’s Gaol, or Corns, or Toothache that’s the trouble on your mind.

And he’ll grip your hand a moment, and he’ll beckon silently
To the waiter or the barmaid, as the case may chance to be;
And he’ll signal you to light up — and you’ll mostly always find
At this early stage the trouble seems much lighter on your mind.
                     Why, you’ll find
That ‘twill cost you quite an effort for to keep it on your mind!

“I’ve been there!” he says, and fills up — or he only says “Same here,”
And the humour of it strikes you as your head begins to clear.
And you say no more about it, for you see that you’ve been blind:
It was Nothing! Have another! Damn the trouble on your mind!
                     Weren’t you blind!
Why, there wasn’t any trouble — it was just your silly mind!

And he grins the grin of sorrow as he sees you home to bed,
And you even cease to wonder what was bothering your head.
Let the godly cant and snuffle, and the shallow cynic scoff,
But the grandest thing in this world is the grin that won’t come off
                     Won’t wash off;
It may fade at times a little, but (in public) won’t come off.

No, it won’t come off in public when the world is there to see,
And it won’t come off in private when there’s only you and me.
You may shift it for a moment when you’re sure you’re quite alone,
just to clasp your head in trouble, and to shed a tear and groan —
                     Just one groan,
For you cannot always wear it when you’re sure you’re quite alone.

Man was always, for his comfort, just a worry-making brute;
When you’ve just escaped the gallows, then your corns begin to shoot.
When you’re clear of debt or doctors, and the wolf has left your throat,
Then you find the time to worry at the fit of your new coat.
                     (That damned tailor!)
Why is man for ever haunted by the fit of his new coat?

When the future’s fair before him and when things are all serene,
Then he’ll think of years he wasted and the man he might have been.
Why! we might have all been married, and been living with our wives,
With a world of things to worry and to irritate our lives —
                     Just like knives,
And our grown-up children at us, backed up blindly by our wives.

Or he thinks about his boyhood, and he mourns his vanished Youth —
Now, who would live his life again, or face it? Tell the truth.
I am mighty glad my boyhood and my youth are far away —
I am in the straight for Fifty — and grow younger every day;
                     Drink and play,
And I grow more interested in a woman every day.

Death is nothing! We’re immortal — that’s the blessing — or the curse:
But whate’er the further future, I am sure it can’t be worse.
We shall live again in this world through the centuries to come,
And, should I return a woman, oh, I’ll make it warm for some!
                     Make things hum —
Breach o’ Promise — Alimony — Oh, I’ll score in times to come.

But the main thing for the present is just only to be kind —
You can always hear the scandal, but you don’t know what’s behind.
Take what friends can give in friendship, and pass on what you can get;
And, while jokes or kindly words can cheer, your life’s not wasted yet —
                     Never fret!
While a friend’s in need of cheering, life is full of interest yet.

 

My Literary Friend

Once I wrote a little poem which I thought was very fine,
And I showed the printer’s copy to a critic friend of mine,
First he praised the thing a little, then he found a little fault;
‘The ideas are good,’ he muttered, ‘but the rhythm seems to halt.’

So I straighten’d up the rhythm where he marked it with his pen,
And I copied it and showed it to my clever friend again.
‘You’ve improved the metre greatly, but the rhymes are bad,’ he said,
As he read it slowly, scratching surplus wisdom from his head.

So I worked as he suggested (I believe in taking time),
And I burnt the ‘midnight taper’ while I straightened up the rhyme.
‘It is better now,’ he muttered, ‘you go on and you’ll succeed,
‘It has got a ring about it—the ideas are what you need.’

So I worked for hours upon it (I go on when I commence),
And I kept in view the rhythm and the jingle and the sense,
And I copied it and took it to my solemn friend once more—
It reminded him of something he had somewhere read before.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now the people say I’d never put such horrors into print
If I wasn’t too conceited to accept a friendly hint,
And my dearest friends are certain that I’d profit in the end
If I’d always show my copy to a literary friend.

 

Dogs of War

Comes the British bulldog first—solid as a log—
He’s so ugly in repose that he’s a handsome dog;
Full of mild benevolence as his years increase;
Silent as a china dog on the mantelpiece.
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and in he goes,
        To the thick of Britain’s foes—
        Enemies behind him close—

(Silence for a while).

Comes a very different dog—tell him at a glance.
Clipped and trimmed and frilled all round. Dandy dog of France.
(Always was a dandy dog, no matter what his age)
Now his every hair and frill is stiff as wire with rage.
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and in he goes,
        While behind him France’s foes
        Reel and surge and pack and close.

(Silence for a while.)

Next comes Belgium’s market dog—hard to realise.
Go-cart dog and barrow dog—he’s a great surprise.
Dog that never hurt a cat, did no person harm;
Friendly, kindly, round and fat as a “Johnny Darm.”
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and in he goes,
        At the flank of Belgium’s foes
        Who could not behind him close—

(Silence for a while).

Next comes Servia’s mongrel pup—mongrel dawgs can fight;
Up or down, or down or up, whether wrong or right.
He was mad the other day—he is mad today,
Hustling round and raising dust in his backyard way.
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and in he goes,
        ’Twixt the legs of Servia’s foes,
        Biting tails and rearmost toes—

(Silence for a while.)

There are various terrier dawgs mixed up in the scrap,
Much too small for us to see, and too mad to yap.
Each one, on his frantic own—heard the row commence—
Tore with tooth and claw a hole in the backyard fence.
        No one called, but in they go,
        Dogs with many a nameless woe,
        Tripping up their common foe—

(Silence for a while).

From the snows of Canada, dragging box and bale,
Comes the sledge-dog toiling on, sore-foot from the trail.
He’ll be useful in the trench, when the nose is blue—
Winter dog that knows the French and the English too.
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and in he goes,
        At his father’s country’s foes,
        And his mother’s country’s foes.

(Silence for a while.)

See, in sunny Southern France a dog that runs by sight,
Lean and yellow, sharp of nose, long of leg and light,
Silent and bloodthirsty, too; Distance in his eyes,
Leaping high to gain his view, the Kangaroo Dog flies!
        Rub his sides and point his nose,
        Click your tongue and up he goes,
        Lands amongst his country’s foes—
        And his country’s country’s foes;
        While they sway and while they close—

(Silence for a while).

.     .     .     .     .

See across the early snow, far across the plain,
Where the clouds are grey and low and winter comes again;
By the sand-dune and the marsh—and forest black and dumb—
As dusky white as their winter’s night, the Russian wolf-hounds come!

(Silence for a while.)

 

But What’s the Use

But what’s the use of writing ‘bush’—
    Though editors demand it—
For city folk, and farming folk,
    Can never understand it.
They’re blind to what the bushman sees
    The best with eyes shut tightest,
Out where the sun is hottest and
    The stars are most and brightest.

The crows at sunrise flopping round
    Where some poor life has run down;
The pair of emus trotting from
    The lonely tank at sundown,
Their snaky heads well up, and eyes
    Well out for man’s manoeuvres,
And feathers bobbing round behind
    Like fringes round improvers.

The swagman tramping ’cross the plain;
    Good Lord, there’s nothing sadder,
Except the dog that slopes behind
    His master like a shadder;
The turkey-tail to scare the flies,
    The water-bag and billy;
The nose-bag getting cruel light,
    The traveller getting silly.

The plain that seems to Jackaroos
    Like gently sloping rises,
The shrubs and tufts that’s miles away
    But magnified in sizes;
The track that seems arisen up
    Or else seems gently slopin’,
And just a hint of kangaroos
    Way out across the open.

The joy and hope the swagman feels
    Returning, after shearing,
Or after six months’ tramp Out Back,
    He strikes the final clearing.
His weary spirit breathes again,
    His aching legs seem limber
When to the East across the plain
    He spots the Darling Timber!

But what’s the use of writing ‘bush’—
    Though editors demand it—
For city folk and cockatoos,
    They do not understand it.
They’re blind to what the whaler sees
    The best with eyes shut tightest,
Out where Australia’s widest, and
    The stars are most and brightest.

 

A Song of General Sick and Tiredness

I’m tired of raving at wrong things which must still to the end endure;
I’m sick and tired of the selfish rich, and I’m tired of the selfish poor.
Of the Awful Wrongs of the Social Plan (both sides, and in between) —
I’m tired of The Bulletin’s own Fat Man, and I’m also tired of the Lean.

‘Tis a weariness born of twenty years of ‘rastlin’ with Truth and Lies,
And of writing on rum and blood-stained tears, that the People might Wake and Rise!
I am wild, Damned Wild, at the wages paid for fighting with Freedom’s Foes,
And the awful blunders the people made when at last they Woke and Rose.

The motor car is the Car of Greed, and I’ve often written it down
(With little effect I fear, indeed, for I notice it still in town);
But now I’m tired of the Goggled Hog, and his veiled contemptuous “dart”.
I am also weary of Boko Bill and his fruit and Bottle-O cart.

I’m weary of Clara Vere de Vere, and her Bloque at the grand hotel,
And the Orphan Girl and the Orphan Boy — and their mother and father as well.
It’s not their fault, for extremes are fate (and extremes will meet again) —
I’m also disgusted with One-eyed Kate and her Bloke in Red Rock Lane.

My soul is sad for the young bards here who rave of a wrong red-hot,
And care not a curse, so they get their beer, if the people starve or not.
With a fine contempt for the grave and the tomb, for the old books on the shelves,
They gibe and sneer at the old bard’s gloom — and they straightway weep themselves.

I’m tired of the cruel, bleeding welt on the Young Heart Tempest-Tost;
Likewise of the love that we never felt, and the friend that we never lost.
I’m tired of the long white limbs, small head, and the eyes of unearthly hue;
Of the Bride, Rose Red, in her Bridal Bed — and I’m sick of the Other Man, too.

I’m tired — O I’m tired — of the bleeding heart of the bride that never was wed;
And the Dagger Drave — and the blood-stained grave of the lover who never was dead;
Of the wronged young wife, and her blighted life; also of the locket worn
With the Golden Curl from the Head of the Girl of the Babe that never was born.

To resume:
I’m scared of the great strong arms and the breast, and the brute force under control;
Of the gloomy eyes, and the head, and the rest — and the hidden heart and soul —
Of the muscle and tan of the awful MAN that our girl bards rave about;
The first of his kind since the world began — and I want them to trot him out.

Of the Swooning Love, ‘neath the stars (above), and the Slumbrous Burning Eyes;
Of the Blarst of Skorn from our Bards of Morn, and our girl-bards’ DAMN likewise.
(And let it be said, ere we go to bed, lest you curse me needlessly,
That I do not moan for these things alone, for I’m also tired of ME.)

To proceed:
I’m sick of the sight of the Single White in the islands far away,
Who is jabbed with a poisoned spear by night, and who pots the tribe next day.
A club-man dead to the world he knew, and long by his love forgot —
And the innocent swims with the Lithe Brown Limbs, and — the rest of the Thomas Rot.

He’s mostly a thin brown man in twill and specs (for his sight is dim),
And a score of niggers to work his will, and Ah Soon to cook for him.
With the steamer in sight (and a drunken white) and the rest of the world within hail,
A wife — or the pick of the native girls — and his fairly reg’lar mail.

And now to conclude:
I’m tired of the sneering at friendship, too, for you’ll find in the end, no doubt,
When you get run in, and the world looks blue, there’ll be one to bail you out —
I’m tired of the Love of the Bygone Day, of Women and Dice and Wine —
You’ll find, when his Washup has said his say, ‘tis the Missus that pays the fine.

You may shriek to High Heaven of love and death and howl of a Soul in Pain,
You may curse the Gods with your latest breath till the cows come home again;
But Dad plods home from his work to-night — in his bosom a peace profound —
To his bustling wife and his kitchen bright, and he helps the world go round.

You may write of revolvers, and nerves of steel, and the eyes of a steel-blue grey,
Of the white man banned, with his life in his hand, in those Islands far away;
Of his panther limbs and his courage grand, and his deadly aim and true —
But Bill and Jim with perception dim would call him a Jackaroo.

You may rave and rave of your fancy loves that go by your fancy names,
But the bread you eat and the bills you meet are fixed by Lizzie and James.
You may ode your Gladyses and what not — at the rest let your scorn be hurled,
But Lucy, and Mary, and Jack, and Fred — O! they are the living world.


THE END

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