The Girl I Left Behind Me

I said: “I leave my bit of land-
In khaki they've entwined me,
I go abroad to lend a hand.”
Said she: “My love, I understand.
I will be true, and though we part
A thousand years you hold my heart'-
The girl I left behind me.

I went away to fight the Huns-
No coward thought could bind me,
I sizzled n the tropic suns,
I faced the bayonets and the guns.
And when in daring deeds I shone
One little woman spurred me on-
The girl I left behind me.

Out there, in grim Gallipoli.
Hard going they assigned me,
I pricked the Turk up from the sea;
I riddled him, he punctured me;
And, bleeding in my rags, I said:
“She'll meet me somewhere if I'm dead-
The girl I left behind me.

In France we broke the German's face-
They tried with gas to blind me.
In mud we bogged from front to base,
And dirt was ours, but not disgrace.
They carved me till I couldn't stand.
Said I “Now for the Lodden, and
The girl I left behind me.

I came ashore, and struck the track;
For dust you scarce could find me.
The dear girl gave no welcome back-
Shed changed her names and state, alack!
“You've been a time, I must say, Ned,
In finishing your old war.” Said
The girl I left behind me.

I flung a song up to the skies.
For battles gods designed me.
I think of Fifi's laughing eyes,
And Nami, dusk, but sweet and wise,
And chortle in my heart to find
How very far I've left behind-
The girl I left behind me.

The Happy Flatite

We were living in a flat; it was number eighty-three.
At eighty-four the Barleys lived, a fearsome man was he.
He had a wife and numerous kids. We heard then rip and cuss,
Some three feet and a quarter off, across the hall from us.

And when the Barley boys broke out, and ended up in fight,
Or when the Barley baby read the Riot Act at night,
And on their balcony their cat put up an eerie moan,
The fearful Barley family might as well have been our own.

When Barley after parting with some others of the ilk
Came panting up the narrow stairs, and drank our jug of milk,
Then broke out at his missus, and as fiercely answered she –
Where was the great advantage of our marked sobriety?

When Barley bedded early he would shake the common floor
And fill the gulf of night with an intolerable snore,
And people in the other wing at us their bluchers threw –
What good if we slept soft as snow and silent as the dew?

This Barley when unoccupied would fill my study chair,
And utilise much time, and take up space I could not spare,
To tell me of the deeds he’d done, his drinkings deep and vast,
And ladies who had loved him in his sanguinary past.

And Mrs. Barley dropped in – in the morning, as a rule –
And stayed till lunch and chattered like a ladies’ boarding-school.
Then she borrowed bread and onions, and wondered if she might
Leave her little Willie with us. She was going out till night.

Our little flat’s forsaken; we have left St. Kilda road;
We knew not where to go to, and we haven’t an abode;
But no flat in any building that we’d suffered in was worth
The comfort of a camp-out. So we’re flat upon the earth!

Bashful Gleeson

FROM HER HOME beyond the river in the parting of the hills,
Where the wattles fleecy blossom surged and scattered in the breeze,
And the tender creepers twined about the chimneys and the sills,
And the garden flamed with colour like an Eden through the trees,

She would come along the gully, where the ferns grew golden fair,
In the stillness of the morning, like the spirit of the place,
With the sunshafts caught and woven in the meshes of her hair,
And the pink and white of heathbloom sweetly blended in her face.

She was fair, and small, and slender-limbed, and buoyant as a bird,
Fresh as wild, white, dew-dipped violets where the bluegum’s shadow goes,
And no music like her laughter in the joyous bush was heard,
And the glory of her smile was as a sunbeam in a rose.

Ben felt mighty at the windlass when she watched him hauling stuff,
And she asked him many questions, ‘What was that?’ and ‘Why was this?’
Though his bashfulness was painful, and he answered like a muff,
With his foolish ‘My word Missie!’ and his ‘Beg your pardon, Miss.’

He stood six foot in his bluchers, stout of heart and strong of limb;
For her sake he would have tackled any man or any brute;
Of her half a score of suitors none could hold a light to him,
And he owned the richest hole along the Bullock Lead to boot.

Yet while Charley Mack and Hogan, and the Teddywaddy Skite
Put in many pleasant evenings at ‘The Bower,’ Ben declined,
And remained a mere outsider, and would spend one half the night
Waiting, hid among the trees, to watch her shadow on the blind.

He was laughed at on the river, and as far as Kiley’s Still
They would tell of Bashful Gleeson, who was ‘gone on’ Kitty Dwyer,
But, beyond defeating Hogan in a pleasant Sunday mill,
Gleeson’s courtship went no further till the morning of the fire.

We were called up in the darkness, heard a few excited words;
In the garden down the flat a Chow was thumping on a gong;
There were shouts and cooeys on the hills, and cries of startled birds,
But we saw the gum leaves redden, and that told us what was wrong.

O’er ‘The Bower’ the red cloud lifted as we sprinted for the punt.
Gleeson took the river for it in the scanty clothes he wore.
Dwyer was madly calling Kitty when we joined the men in front;
Whilst they questioned, hoped, and wondered, Ben was smashing at the door.

He went in amongst the smoke, and found her room; but some have said
That he dared not pass the threshold—that he lingered in distress,
Game to face the fire, but not to pluck sweet Kitty from her bed—
And he knocked and asked her timidly to ‘please get up and dress.’

Once again he called, and waited till a keen flame licked his face;
Then a Spartan-like devotion welled within the simple man,
And he shut his eyes and ventured to invade the sacred place,
Found the downy couch of Kitty, clutched an armful up, and ran.

True or not, we watched and waited, and our hearts grew cold and sick
Ere he came; we barely caught him as the flame leapt in his hair.
He had saved the sheets, a bolster, and the blankets, and the tick;
But we looked in vain for Kitty—pretty Kitty wasn’t there!

And no wonder: whilst we drenched him as he lay upon the ground,
And her mother wailed entreaties that it wrung our hearts to hear,
Hill came panting with the tidings that Miss Kitty had been found,
Clad in white, and quite unconscious, ’mid the saplings at the rear.

We’re not certain how it happened, but I’ve heard the women say
That ’twas Kitty’s work. She saw him when the doctor left, they vow,
Swathed in bandages and helpless, and she kissed him where he lay.
Anyhow, they’re three years married, and he isn’t bashful now.

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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