‘HARRY! what, that yourself, back to old Vic., man,
Down from the Never Land? Now, what’s your game?
Ugly as ever. Not dropped the old trick, man?
Say, what’ll you take with me? Give it a name.

‘Here long? Well, rather, lad; five years and over,
Settled for good, and supporting a wife.
Slipped from the saddle, and living in clover,
Swore off a heap, and I’ve slung the old life.

‘What’s come of Taffy, and Brum, and the rest of them?
Long since you broke with the Poverty push?’
‘Bill, you’re on top, you’ve the best of the best of them.
Poor Brum’s a dummy, Taff died in the bush;

‘Bob’s cook for Chows on an absentee’s station,
Sam’s tout for spielers, Pete’s lumbered for life;
I’m on a tramp through the whole of creation,
Tracking a woman, my runaway wife.

Left me six years ago—sloped! I was shearing
Up on the Thomson. She left not a word;
Last year was seen by a Barcoo man, steering
Round about here, and that’s all that I’ve heard.

Heard of her, know her, Bill?—tallish and clever,
Blue eyes, dark hair, and she’s branded here, so;
Not one to liquor, or go on the never,
But skittish and queer in her tantrums, you know.

This is her picture, Bill; just have a look at her.
Like any female you chance to have seen?
Hallo! here, hold up! Say, man, what’s the matter?
Your Wife! By the Lord, Morton, what do you mean?’

The Living Picture

HE RODE along one splendid noon,
When all the hills were lit with Spring,
And through the bushland throbbed a croon
Of every living, hopeful thing.

Between his teeth a rose he bore
As white as milk, and passing there
He tossed it with a laugh. I wore
It as it fell among my hair.

No day a-drip with golden rain,
No heat with drench of wattle scent
Can touch the heart of me again
But with that young, sweet wonder blent.

We wed upon a gusty day,
When baffled fury whipped the sea;
And now I love the swift, wet play
Of wind and rain besetting me.

I took white roses in my hand,
A white rose on my forehead shone,
For we had come to understand
White roses bloomed for us alone.

When scarce a year had gone he sped
To fight the wars. With eyes grown grim
He kissed my lips, and whispering said:
“The world we must keep sweet for him!”

He wrote of war, the soldier’s life.
“’Tis hard, my dearest, but be brave.
I did not make my love my wife
To be the mother of a slave!”

My babe was born a boy. He had
His father’s eyes, his smile, his hair,
And, oh, my soul was brimming glad—
It seemed his father’s self was there!

But now came one who bade me still
In holy Heaven put my trust.
They’d laid my love beneath the hill,
And sealed his eyes with timeless dust.

Against my breast the babe I drew,
With strength from him to stay my fears.
I fought my fight the long days through;
He laughed and dabbled in my tears.

From my poor heart, at which it fed
With tiger teeth, I thrust despair,
And faced a world with shadow spread
And only echoes in the air.

The winter waned. One eve I went,
Led by a kindly hand to see
In moving scenes the churches rent,
The tumbled hill, the blasted lee.

Of soldiers resting by the road,
Who smoked and drowsed, a muddy rout,
One sprang alert, and forward strode,
With eager eyes to seek us out.

His fingers held a rose. He threw
The flower, and waved his cap. In me
A frenzy of assurance grew,
For, O dear God, ’twas he! ’twas he!

I called aloud. Aloft my child
I held, and nearer yet he came;
And when he understood and smiled,
My baby lisped his father’s name.

They say I fell like something dead,
But when I woke to morning’s glow
My boy sat by me on the bed,
And in his hand a rose of snow!

I saw the Christ down from His cross,
A tragic man lean-limbed and tall,
But weighed with suffering and loss.
His back was to a broken wall,
And out upon the tameless world
Was fixed His gaze His piercing eye
Beheld the towns to ruin hurled,
And saw the storm of death pass by.

Two thousand years it was since first
He offered to the race of men
His sovran boon, As one accurst
They nailed Him to the jibbet then,
And while they mocked Him for their mirth
He smiled, and from the hill of pain
To all the hating tribes of earth
Held forth His wondrous gift again.

To-day the thorns were on His brow,
His grief was deeper than before.
From ravaged field and city now
Arose the screams and reek of war.
The black smoke parted. Through the rift
God's sun fell on the b1oody lands.
Christ wept, for still His priceless gift
He held within His wounded hands.
Xxxx

The Living Picture
He rode along one splendid noon,
When all the hills were lit with Spring,
And through the bushland throbbed a croon
Of every living, hopeful thing.

Between his teeth a rose he bore
As white as milk, and passing there
He tossed it with a laugh. I wore
It as it fell among my hair.

No day a-drip with golden rain,
No heat with drench of wattle scent
Can touch the heart of me again
But with that young, sweet wonder blent.

We wed upon a gusty day,
When baffled fury whipped the sea;
And now I love the swift, wet play
Of wind and rain besetting me.

I took white roses in my hand,
A white rose on my forehead shone,
For we had come to understand
White roses bloomed for us alone.

When scarce a year had gone he sped
To fight the wars. With eyes grown grim
He kissed my lips, and whispering said:
“The world we must keep sweet for him!”

He wrote of war, the soldier's life.
“'Tis hard, my dearest, but be brave.
I did not make my love my wife
To be the mother of a slave!”

My babe was born a boy. He had
His father's eyes, his smile, his hair,
And, oh, my soul was brimming glad—
It seemed his father's self was there!

But now came one who bade me still
In holy Heaven put my trust.
They'd laid my love beneath the hill,
And sealed his eyes with timeless dust.

Against my breast the babe I drew,
With strength from him to stay my fears.
I fought my fight the long days through;
He laughed and dabbled in my tears.

From my poor heart, at which it fed
With tiger teeth, I thrust despair,
And faced a world with shadow spread
And only echoes in the air.

The winter waned. One eve I went,
Led by a kindly hand to see
In moving scenes the churches rent,
The tumbled hill, the blasted lee.

Of soldiers resting by the road,
Who smoked and drowsed, a muddy rout,
One sprang alert, and forward strode,
With eager eyes to seek us out.

His fingers held a rose. He threw
The flower, and waved his cap. In me
A frenzy of assurance grew,
For, O dear God, 'twas he! 'twas he!

I called aloud. Aloft my child
I held, and nearer yet he came;
And when he understood and smiled,
My baby lisped his father's name.

They say I fell like something dead,
But when I woke to morning's glow
My boy sat by me on the bed,
And in his hand a rose of snow!

Since Nellie Came To Live Along The Creek

MY HUT is built of stringy-bark, the window’s calico,
The furniture a gin-case, one bush-table, and a bunk;
Thick as wheat on my selection does the towering timber grow,
And the stately blue-gums’ taproots to the bedrock all are sunk;
Then the ferns spring up like nettles,
And the ti-tree comes and settles
On my clearing if I spell-oh for a week;
But I work for love of labour
Since I’ve got a handy neighbour,
And Miss Nellie’s come to live along the creek.

Time was when Death sat by me, and he stalked me through the trees;
Then my arm was weak as water, and my heart a weary thing;
I was sullen as a wombat on such still, wan days as these,
And my wedges all were rusty, and my axe had lost its ring.
Then a fear like sickness bound me,
And I cursed the trees around me,
For quite hopeless seemed the struggle I’d begun
And at night-time, cowed and sinking,
I would sit there thinking, thinking,
Gazing grimly down the barrels of my gun.

Then I felt the bush must crush me with its dreadful, brooding wings,
And its voices seemed to mock me, till I thought that I was mad
Like the mopoke, and the jackass, and the other loony things;
For beside my old dog, Brumbie, not a living mate I had.
Then each sapling was a giant,
And the stumps were all defiant,
And my friends were very few and far to seek;
But the bush is bright and splendid,
And my melancholy’s ended,
Since Miss Nellie came to live along the creek

I would swear she was the sweetest if the world was full of girls:
She’s as graceful as a sapling, and her waist is neat and slim;
She is dimpled o’er with smiling, and has glossy, golden curls,
And her eyes peep out like violets ’neath her sunhat’s jealous rim.
If I think I see her flitting
On the sun-crowned hill, or sitting
’Neath the fern-fronds where the creek sleeps, deep and cool,
Then my stroke is straight and steady,
And the white chips run and eddy,
And I laugh aloud at nothing, like a fool.

Now my axe rings like a sabre, and my heart exults with pride
When the green gums sweep the scrub down, and they thunder and rebound,
And then lie with limbs all shattered, reaching out on either side,
Like giants killed in battle, with their faces to the ground.
Now the bush has many pleasures,
And a wondrous store of treasures,
And a thousand tales its eerie voices speak;
But its strange night hushes, seeming
Sent to lure to mystic dreaming,
Have no terrors, now Miss Nellie’s on the creek.

I am happy when the thunder bumps and bellows on the hill,
And the tall trees writhe and wrestle with the fury of the gale,
Or when sunshine floods the clearing, and the bushland is so still
That I hear the creek’s low waters tinkle, tinkle on the shale.
In the thought that she is near me
There’s a charm to lift and cheer me,
And a power that makes me mighty seems to flow
From Miss Nellie’s distant coo-ey,
Or her twin lips red and dewy
When she comes by here, and shyly calls me ‘Joe.’

She can work from dawn to nightfall, and look handsome all the day;
At her smile my garden flourished, and the vines grew green and strong,
And the bush falls back before it, and it strikes the scrub away,
For it lingers ever with me, and it stirs me like a song.
Now I labour in all weathers,
And the logs are merest feathers,
Nor my heart nor yet my hand is ever weak,
And a higher thing my prize is
Than all else that life comprises—
Pretty Nell, who’s come to live along the creek.

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.

OUT OF LUCK, mate? Have a liquor. Hang it, where’s the use complaining?
Take your fancy, I’m in funds now—I can stand the racket, Dan.
Dump your bluey in the corner; camp here for the night, it’s raining;
Bet your life I’m glad to see you—glad to see a Daylesford man.
Swell? Correct, Dan. Spot the get up; and I own this blooming shanty,
Me the fellows christened ‘Jonah’ at Jim Crow and Blanket Flat,
’Cause my luck was so infernal—you remember me and Canty?
Rough times, those—the very memory keeps a chap from getting fat.

Where’d I strike it? That’s a yarn. The fire’s a comfort—sit up nearer.
Hoist your heels, man; take it easy till Kate’s ready with the stew.
Yes, I’ll tell my little story; ’tain’t a long one, but it’s queerer
Than those lies that Tullock pitched us on The Flat in ’52.
Fancy Phil a parson now! He’s smug as grease, the Reverend Tullock.
Yes, he’s big—his wife and fam’ly are a high and mighty lot.
Didn’t I say his jaw would keep him when he tired of punching mullock?
Well, it has—he’s made his pile here. How d’you like your whisky—hot?

Luck! Well, now, I like your cheek, Dan. You had luck, there’s no denying.
I in thirty years had averaged just a wage of twenty bob—
Why, at Alma there I saw men making fortunes without trying,
While for days I lived on ’possums, and then had to take a job.
Bah! you talk about misfortune—my ill-luck was always thorough:
Gold once ran away before me if I chased it for a week.
I was starved at Tarrangower—lived on tick at Maryborough—
And I fell and broke my thigh-bone at the start of Fiery Creek.

At Avoca Canty left me. Jim, you know, was not a croaker,
But he jacked the whole arrangement—found we couldn’t make a do:
Said he loved me like a brother, but ’twas rough upon a joker
When he’d got to fight the devil, and find luck enough for two.
Jim was off. I didn’t blame him, seeing what he’d had to suffer
When Maginnis, just beside us, panned out fifty to the tub.
‘We had pegged out hours before him, and had struck another duffer,
And each store upon the lead, my lad, had laid us up for grub.

After that I picked up Barlow, but we parted at Dunolly
When we’d struggled through at Alma, Adelaide Lead, and Ararat.
See, my luck was hard upon him; he contracted melancholy,
And he hung himself one morning in the shaft at Parrot Flat.
Ding it? No. Where gold was getting I was on the job, and early,—
Struck some tucker dirt at Armstrong’s, and just lived at Pleasant Creek,
Always grafting like a good ’un, never hopeless-like or surly,
Living partly on my earnings, Dan, but largely on my cheek.

Good old days, they like to call them—they were tough old days to many:
I was through them, and they left me still the choice to graft or beg—
Left me gray, and worn, and wrinkled, aged and stumped—without a penny—
With a chronic rheumatism and this darned old twisted leg.
Other work? That’s true—in plenty. But you know the real old stager
Who has followed up the diggings, how he hangs on to the pan,
How he hates to leave the pipeclay. Though you mention it I’ll wager
That you never worked on top until you couldn’t help it, Dan.

Years went by. On many fields I worked, and often missed a meal, and
Then I found Victoria played out, and the yields were very slack,
So I took a turn up Northward, tried Tasmania and New Zealand,—
Dan, I worked my passage over, and I sneaked the journey back.
Times were worse. I made a cradle, and went fossicking old places;
But the Chows had been before me, and had scraped the country bare;
There was talk of splendid patches ’mongst the creeks and round the races,
But ’twas not my luck to strike them, and I think I lived on air.

Rough? That’s not the word. So help me, Dan, I hadn’t got a stiver
‘When I caved in one fine Sunday—found I couldn’t lift my head.
They removed me, and the doctor said I’d got rheumatic fever,
And for seven months I lingered in a ward upon a bed.
Came out crippled, feeling done-up, hopeless-like and very lonely,
And dead-beat right down to bed rock as I’d never felt before.
Bitter? Just! Those hopeful years of honest graft had left me only
This bent leg; and some asylum was the prospect I’d in store.

You’ll be knowing how I felt then—cleaned-out, lame, completely gravelled—
All the friends I’d known were scattered widely north, and east, and west:
There seemed nothing there for my sort, and no chances if I travelled;
No, my digging days were over, and I had to give it best.
Though ’twas hard, I tried to meet it like a man in digger fashion:
’Twasn’t good enough—I funked it; I was fairly on the shelf,
Cursed my bitter fortune daily, and was always in a passion
With the Lord, sir, and with everyone, but mostly with myself.

I was older twenty years then than I am this blessed minute,
But I got a job one morning, knapping rock at Ballarat;
Two-and-three for two-inch metal. You may say there’s nothing in it,
To the man who’s been through Eaglehawk and mined at Blanket Flat.
Wait—you’d better let me finish. We and ill, I bucked in gladly,
But to get the tools I needed I was forced to pawn my swag.
I’d no hope of golden patches, but I needed tucker badly,
And this job, I think, just saved me being lumbered on the vag.

Fortune is a fickle party, but in spite of all her failings,
Don’t revile her, Dan, as I did, while you’ve still a little rope.
Well, the heap that I was put on was some heavy quartz and tailings,
That was carted from a local mine, I think the Band of Hope.
Take the lesson that is coming to your heart, old man, and hug it:
For I started on the heap with scarce a soul to call my own,
And in less than twenty minutes I’d raked out a bouncing nugget
Scaling close on ninety ounces, and just frosted round with stone.

How is that for high, my hearty? Miracle! It was, by thunder!
After forty years of following the rushes up and down,
Getting old, and past all prospect, and about to knuckle under,
Struck it lucky knapping metal in the middle of a town!
Pass the bottle! Have another! Soon we’ll get the word from Kitty—
She’s a daisy cook, I tell you. Yes, the public business pays
But my pile was made beforehand—made it ‘broking’ in the city.
That’s the yarn I pitch the neighbours. Here’s to good old now-a-days.

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