Whey our trooper hit wide water every
heart was yearin' back
To the little 'ouse at Coogee or a hut at Bar-
She was 'ookin' up to spike the stars, or rootin'
in the wave,
An' me liver turned a hand spring with each
buck the beggar gave.
Then we pulls a sick 'n' silly smile 'n' tips a
Crackin' hardy. Willie didn't. Willie
snivelled like a kid.
At Gallip' the steamer dumped us, 'n' we got
right down to work,
Whoopin' up the hill splendacious, playin'
tiggie with the Turk.
When the stinkin' Abdul hit us we curled
down upon a stone,
'N' we yelled for greater glory, crackin' 'ardy
on our own.
Not so Willie. He was cursin', cold ez death
'n' grey ez steel,
'N' the smallest thing that busted made the
little blighter squeal.
In the bitter day's that follered, spillin' life be-
side the sea,
We would fake a spry expression for the things
that had to be,
Always dressin' up the winder, crackin' 'ardy
though we felt
Fearful creepy in the whiskers, very cold be-
neath the belt.
But his jills would sniff 'n' shiver in the mother
of a fright,
'N' go blubberin' 'n' quakin' out to waller in
In the West we liked the weather, 'n' we fat-
tened in the mud,
Crackin' 'ardy, stewed together, rats an'
slurry men 'n' blood.
Weepin' Willie wouldn't have it these was
pleasin' things abed,
'N' he shuddered in his shimmy if they passed
him with the dead.
When he cried about his mother, in a gentle
voice he'd tell
Them as dumb-well didn't like it they could go
to sudden 'ell.
There was nothin' sweet for Willie in a rough-
up in the wet;
But if all things scared him purple, not a thing
had stopped him yet.
If some chaps was wanted urgent special dirty
work to do
Willie went in with a shudder, but he alwiz
saw it through.
Oh, a busy little body was our Willie in a
Then he'd cry out in the night about the faces
in the slush.
Well they pinked him one fine mornin' with
a thumpin' 'unk iv shell;
Put it in 'n' all across him. What he was
you couldn't tell.
I saw him stitched 'n' mended where he
whimpered in his bed,
'N' he'd on'y lived because he was afraid to
die, he said.
Sez he “Struth, they're out there fightin',
trimmin' Boshes good 'n' smart,
While I'm bedded here 'n' 'elpless. It fair
breaks a feller's 'eart.”
But he came again last Tuesday '-n' we go it
in a breath—
“London's big 'n' black 'n' noisy. It would
scare a bloke to death.”
He's away now in the trenches, white 'n'
nervous, but, you bet,
Playin' lovely 'ands of poker with his busy
'Fraid of givin' 'n' of takin', 'fraid of gases,
'fraid of guns—
But a champion lightweight terror to the gor-
As bullets come to us they're thin,
They're angular, or smooth and fat,
Some spiral are, and gimlet in,
And some are sharp, and others flat.
The slim one pink you clean and neat,
The flat ones bat a solid blow
Much as a camel throws his feet,
And leave you beastly incomplete.
If lucky you don't know it through.
The flitting bullets flow and flock;
They twitter as they pass;
They're picking at the solid rock,
They're rooting in the grass.
A tiny ballet swiftly throws
Its gossamer of rust,
Brown fairies on their little toes
A-dancing in the dust.
You cower down when first they come
With snaky whispers at your ear;
And when like swarming bees they hum
You know the tinkling chill of fear.
A whining thing will pluck your heel,
A whirring insect sting your shin;
You shrink to half your size, and feel
The ripples o'er your body seal-
'Tis terror walking in your skin!
The bullets pelt like winter hail,
The whistle and they sigh,
They shrill like cordage in a gale,
Like mewing kittens cry;
They hiss and spit, they purring come;
Or, silent all a span,
They rap, as on a slackened drum,
The dab that kills a man.
Rage takes you next. All hot your face
The bitter void, and curses leap
From pincered teeth. The wide, still space
Whence all these leaden devil's sweep
Is Tophet. Fiends by day and night
Are groping for your heart to sate
In blood their diabolic spite.
You shoot in idiot delight,
Each winging slug a hymn of hate.
The futile bullets scratch and go,
They chortle and the coo.
I laugh my scorn, for now I know
The thing they cannot do.
They flit like midges in the sun,
But howso thick they be
What matter, since there is not one
That God has marked for me!
An Eastern old philosophy
Come home at length and passion stills-
The thing will be that is to be,
And all must come as Heaven wills.
Where in the swelter and the flame
The new, hot, shining bullets drip;
One in the many has an aim,
Inwove a visage and a name-
No man may give his fate the slip!
The bullets thrill along the breeze,
They drum upon the bags,
They tweak your ear, your hair they tease,
And peck your sleeve to rags.
Their voices may no more annoy-
I chortle at the call:
The bullet that is mine, my boy,
I shall not hear at all!
The war's a flutter very like
The tickets that we took from Tatt.
Quite possibly I'll make a strike;
The odds are all opposed to that.
Behind the dawn the Furies sway
The mighty globe from which to get
Those bullets which throughout the day
Will winners be to break or slay.
I have not struck a starter yet
The busy bullets rise and flock;
They whistle as they pass;
They're chipping at the solid rock,
They're skipping in the grass.
Out there the tiny dancers throw
Their sober skirts of rust,
Brown flitting figures tipping toe
Along the golden dust.
The Deserted Homestead
PAST a dull, grey plain where a world-old grief seems to brood o’er the silent land,
When the orbéd moon turns her tense, white face on the ominous waste of sand,
And the wind that steals by the dreamer feels like the touch of a phantom hand,
Through the tall, still trees and the tangled scrub that has sprung on the old bush track,
In a clearing wide, where a willow broods and the cowering bush shrinks backs,
Stands a house alone that no dwellers own, yet unharmed by the storm’s attack.
’Tis a strange, sad place. On the shingle roof mosses gather and corn-blades spring,
And a stillness reigns in the air unstirred by the beat of a wild bird’s wing.
He who sees believes that the old house grieves with the grief of a sentient thing.
From the charmed gums that about the land in a reverent circle throng
Comes no parrot’s call, nor the wild cat’s cry, nor the magpie’s mellow song,
And their shadows chill with an icy thrill and the sense of an awful wrong.
And the creek winds by ’neath the twisted briar and the curling creepers here;
In the dusky depths of its bed it slips on it’s slime-green rocks in fear,
And it murmurs low to its stealthy flow in a monotone quaint and drear.
On a furrowed paddock that fronts the house grow the saplings straight and tall,
And noxious weeds in the garden ground on the desolate pathways crawl;
But the briar twists back with the supple-jack ’tween the rocks of the rubble wall.
On the rotting wall of the gloomy rooms bats gather with elfin wings,
And a snake is coiled by the shattered door where a giant lizard clings,
For this house of care is the fitting lair of a myriad voiceless things.
Once I camped alone on the clearing’s edge through the lapse of a livelong night,
When the wan moon flooded the house and land in a lake of her ghostly light,
And the silence dread of a world long dead filled my credulous soul with fright.
For no wind breathed by, but a nameless awe was abroad in the open there,
And the camp-fire burned with a pale, thin flame in the chill, translucent air,
And my dog lay prone, like a chiselled stone, with his opaline eyes a-stare.
In the trancéd air was an omen felt and the sway of a subtle spell,
And I waited long for I know not what, but the pale night augured well—
At a doleful hour, when the dead have power, lo! A hideous thing befell.
From the shadows flung by the far bush wall came a treacherous, phantom crew,
Like the smoke rack blown o’er the plain at morn when the bracken is wet with dew.
Not a sound they made, and their forms no shade on the moonlit surface threw.
And the night was changed to the quiet eve of a beautiful summer’s day,
And the old house warmed as with life and light, and was set in a garden gay,
And a babe that crawled by the doorway called to a kitten that leapt in play.
But the black fiends circled the peaceful home, and I fathomed their evil quest;
From the ground up-springing they hurled their spears, and danced with a demon zest,
And a girl lay dead ’neath the roses red with a wound in her fair, white breast.
Through the looped wall spat a rifle’s flame, and the devilish pack gave tongue,
For a lean form writhed in a torment dire, on the crimsoned stubble flung.
Many echoes spoke, and the sluggish smoke on the shingles rolled and clung.
Yet again and oft did the flame spring forth, and each shaft from the dwelling shore
Through a savage heart, but the band unawed at the walls of the homestead tore,
And a man and wife fought for love and life with the horde by the broken door.
Then ghostly and grey, from the dusky bush came a company riding fast.
Seven horses strode on the buoyant air, and I trembled and gazed aghast,
Such a deadly hate on the forehead sate of each rider racing past.
With a cry they leapt on the dusky crew, and swept them aside like corn
In the lusty stroke of the mower’s scythe, and distracted and overborne
Many demons fled, leaving many dead, by the hoofs of the horses torn.
Not in vain—not all—though a father lay with the light on his cold, grey face,
And a mother bled, with a murdered maid held close in a last embrace,
For the babe laughed back at a visage black death drawn to a foul grimace.
Came a soft wind swaying the pendent leaves, like the sigh of awakening day,
And the darkness fell on my tired eyes, for the phantoms had passed away;
And the breezes bore from a distant shore faint echoes of ocean’s play.
Past a dull, grey plain, through the tall, still trees, where the lingering days inspire
An unspoken woe in the heart of man, and the nights hold visions dire,
Stands a house alone that no dwellers own, yet unmarred by the storm or fire.
The Emu Of Whroo
WE’VE a tale to tell you of a spavined emit,
A bird with a smile like a crack in a hat,
Who was owned by M‘Cue, of the township of Whroo,
The county of Rodney—his front name was Pat.
The bird was a dandy, although a bit bandy,
Her knees, too, were queer and her neck out of gauge—
She’d eat what was handy, from crowbars to candy,
Was tall, too, and tough for a chick of her age.
But her taste and her height, and her figure and smile,
Were the smallest potatoes compared with her guile.
M‘Cue’s bird had a name, Arabella that same—
A name that was given by Pat, we may say,
To the memory and fame of a red-headed flame,
Because, as he said, ‘she wuz builded that way.’
The bird Arabella let nothing compel her,
Her temper was bad when disturbed, as a rule.
She’d rupture the smeller of any young ‘feller’
Who teased, with a kick that would honor a mule.
And the boys and the girls who were then living near
Were all minus an eye—those with luck had one ear.
The emu with her smile would the new-chum beguile
To step up and study the great, gawky bird,
And then let out in style, and she’d hoist him a mile—
The sound of his wailing would never be heard.
At which she’d look stately, and mild, and sedately,
And seem to be steeped in some deep inward woe,
Or wondering greatly what happened there lately
That people found need to go tearing round so.
P. M‘Cue overlooked his long bird’s little craze,
He declared it was only her emusing ways.
Is it strange that in time these outrages should prime
The neighbours with ire and profanity dread?
And at every crime, with good reason and rhyme,
They’d bombard the bird with old iron and lead;
Their weapons would whistle by Bella and hiss ill,
The bird only smiled as they yearned for her gore;
They wasted their gristle, she ate up each missile,
And placidly looked on and waited for more,
Her digestion not stones nor old nails could upset,
So it’s strange that the men disagreed with the pet.
The late Mr. M‘Cue, of the township of Whroo,
Would hear no complaints of his biped absurd,
And with little ado put the biggest man through
Who’d lay ’e’er a finger on Bella, the bird.
If father or teacher came flaunting a feature
Removed from a boy, say, an eyelid or ear,
He sooled on the preacher his feathery creature,
Or offered to fight him for money or beer.
And to shoot at this bird was but labour in vain,
She digested their slugs and she faced them again.
But M‘Cue for his care and and anxiety rare
Got meagre rewards from his camel-shanked fowl.
For when on a tear she’d uproot his back hair
And peck at his ear and snatch scraps off his jowl.
A kick from the shoulder, a shock like a boulder
That weighed half-a-ton being twisted in quick,
And Patrick was older and very near cold ere
The time he recovered that feathered mule’s kick.
At the worst he but sighed, and regretfully said
It reminded him so of his wife who was dead,
But the time came at last when anxiety cast
Its spell o’er the bird, she grew dull and deprest—
She felt glum, and she passed to hysterics as fast—
All day she sought round in sore mental unrest.
She acted like moody, hysterical Judy,
When Punch is inspired for a villainous lark;
But Paddy was shrewd—he could see she was broody
And yearned in the chick-rearing biz to embark.
The momentous importance and stress of her case.
Were quite plain in her actions and seen in her face.
She tried sitting on stones, and on brickbats and bones,
But moped all the time and supped grief to the dregs—
There was nothing in cones, and in harrowing tones
She spoke her great yearning to cultivate eggs.
One morning, day-dreaming, all glossy and gleaming
She saw the bald head of the neighbour next door;
Its round, egg-like seeming, set Bell wildly scheming
To sit on that skull or be happy no more;
And she laid for the man by the dark and the day,
And he cursed and he kicked in a terrible way.
From that day, it is said, Arabella she led
The bald-headed men who lived near a hard life;
They all held her in dread—for her manners ill-bred
M‘Cue spent his time in tempestuous strife.
With eye speculative, she cornered each native
To find if his skull would just suit her complaint;
The man’s strength was great if he saved all his pate, if
She failed to secure half his scalp in distraint.
And her owner indulged in Satanic delights,
And he egged on his bird to more furious fights.
But the downfall of spite and the triumph of right
Are bound to come round, fight we ever so hard;
On one March morning bright, Old M‘Cue very tight,
Returned to his home and dossed down in the yard.
He’d not long been sleeping when Bella came peeping
And viewed with delight his bare head, like a cast,
And into her keeping she raked it, and heaping
Her ribs on the skull she was happy at last.
And she sat till the day and the night both were gone,
And the next day and next was she still sitting on.
It was thought Pat had fled, and a week or more sped
E’er folks came to search, and they found for their pains
P. M‘Cue lying dead with the bird on his head
Still stolidly striving to hatch out some brains.
No priest at Pat’s croaking, by blessings invoking,
Had served to make easy the poor sinner’s death.
Some folks blamed his soaking, the jury said ‘choking’?
The bird was found guilty of stopping his breath,
And for peace, and for quiet, and morality’s sake
She was killed with a slab from a Cousin Jack's cake.