IN THE MORN when the keen blade bites the tree,
And the chips on the dead leaves dance,
And the bush echoes back right merrily
Blow for blow as the sunbeams glance
From the axe when it sweeps in circles true,
Then the splitter at heart is gay;
He exults in the work he’s set to do,
And he feels like a boy at play.
Swinging free with a stroke that’s straight and strong
To the heart of the messmate sent,
He is cheered by the magpie’s morning song
With the ring of the metal blent,
But the birds in their terror scatter high
When she falls with a rush and bound,
And the quivering saplings split and fly,
And the ranges all roar around.
Who is lord when the axeman mounts his spar,
And the breeze on his brown breast blows,
When the scent of the new wood floats afar,
And the gum from its red wounds flows?
With the bush at his back he laughs at care,
With a pipe and a right good mate—
There is drink in the billy, grub to spare,
And a bunk in the ten-by-eight.
When the sun’s in the west, from nooks aloft
Where the stringy is straight and tall,
Come the strains of a chorus quaint and soft,
Or the clink of the wedge and maul;
From the gully a murmur of broken talk
Or the song that the crosscut sings;
For the bush is a-dream, and high the hawk
Hangs at rest on his cradling wings.
But at night, by the tent, when tea is done
And when euchre’s begun to flag—
In the bush he may hear a distant gun
Or the neigh of a lonely nag—
Then the splitter has thoughts no longer gay,
And sorrows he cannot drown,
For he dreams of a girl who’s far away,
Or the joys of a spree in town.
The Old Camp-Oven
WE DON’T keep a grand piano in our hut beside the creek,
And I’m pretty certain Hannah couldn’t bang it, anyhow,
But we’ve got one box of music, and I’d rather hear its squeak
Than the daisiest cantata that’s been fashioned up to now.
It’s an old camp-oven merely, with a handle made of wire,
But no organ built could nearly compensate to me for it
When I come off graft and find it playing tunes before the fire,
And I’m feeling sort of vacant, but just wonder fully fit.
In its sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
There’s a thousand little airs,
And no man can sit and grizzle
’Bout his troubles and his cares
While the flames are gaily winding,
And the tea is down to brew,
And the old camp-oven’s grinding
All the reels he ever knew.
When the wet winds meet and whip me in the early winter nights,
And the hissing hailstones clip me all the way across the flat,
As I battle for’ards, water-logged, toward the beckoning lights,
There is always there a welcome to console a chap for that.
For my little wife is beaming brisk and bright beside the lamp,
And the old camp-oven’s going. Gosh! I feel just like a kid
As I peel and sluice so slippy, and I hear the storm winds vamp
To the singing of the oven when the missus lifts the lid.
There’s a sizzle and a splutter
And a whirr of many harps;
Where’s the instrument can utter
Such a maze of flats and sharps?
Not for me the great creations
When the old camp-oven plays
‘Home Sweet Home,’ with variations,
At the end of working days.
In the evenings dim and hazy, stretched outside along a butt,
Feeling reasonably lazy, blowing clouds that curl and climb,
I can hear the old camp-oven on the logs before the hut
Ripping out a mellow chorus that just suits the place and time.
If we strike it in the ranges, or The Windmill turns out well,
I suppose there’ll be some changes, and I’ll want to make things gee;
But the time will never happen when I’ll be so steep a swell
That the old camp-oven’s measure won’t be melody to me.
’Neath its bubble, bubble, bubble,
There’s the lilt of jigs and reels;
All the common kind of trouble
That the horney-handed feels
Is wiped out in half a minute
By the restfulness it brings,
And the peaceful rapture in it
When the old camp-oven sings.
Three other soldier blokes 'n' me packed
'ome from foreign lands;
Bit into each the God of Battles' everlastin'
They limped in time, 'n' coughed in tune, 'n'
one was short an ear,
'N' one was short a tier of ribs 'n' all was
short of beer.
I speaks up like a temp'rance gent,
But ever since the sky was bent
The thirst of man 'as never yet bin squenched
Bill's skull was welded all across, Jim 'ad an
eye in soak,
Sam 'obbled on a patent leg, 'n' every man
They sang a song of “Mother” with their faces
Says Bill-o: “'Ere's yer 'eroes, sling the
bloomin' votive cup!
We got no beer, the soup was bad-
Now oo will stand the soldier lad
The swag of honest liquor that for years he
Sez I: “Respeck yer uniform! Remember
oo you are!”
They'd pinched a wicker barrer, 'arf a pram
'n' 'arf a car.
In this ole Bill-o nestled 'neath a blanket, on
A someone's darlin' sorter look, a touch iv
The gentle ladies stopped to 'ear,
'N' dropped a symperthetic tear,
A dollar or a deener for the pore haff1ict
The others trucked the wounded to a hentrance
up a lane.
I sez: “Sich conduck's shameful!” Bill-o
took to ease his pain
One long 'un and another. The conductor
picked his brand;
The gripman lent his countenance to wot he
'ad in 'and.
And when they moved their stand 'twas
Lay pale 'n' peaceful in the pram,
'N' twenty flappers stroked his paw, 'n' said
he was a lamb.
The gathered in the tokens and they blooed
'em as above,
While Jim-o done the hinvalid 'oom Sammy
had to shove.
Sez I: “No noble 'eroes what's bin fightin'
for their king
Should smirch theirselves by doin' this dis-
But fine old gents 'n' donahs prim
They stopped 'n' slid the beans to Jim.
You betcher life I let 'im hear just what I
though of 'im.
Nine, g.m. at St. Kilder, saw the finish of the
Each 'ad his full-'n'-plentv, and was blowin'
in the tow'l.
As neither bloke cud stand alone, they leaned
Which was the patient sufferer oo's turn it was
Each 'eld a san'wich and a can.
Sez I: “This shouldn't 'ave began-
'Tain't conduck wot it worthy of a soldier and
I cud 'a' cried with injured pride. Afore a
push the three
Got scrappin', vague 'n' foolish, which the
cripple boy should be.
Sam slips his scientific leg, 'n' flings it in the
“I'll auto 'ome,” he sez, “or never see me
But I am thinkin' 'ard oo he
Tucked 'elpiess in the pram might be.
Comes sudden reckerlection. Great Gohan-
ners, it is me!