‘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 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 Young Lieutenant
The young lieutenant's face was grey.
As came the day.
The watchers saw it lifting white
And ghostlike from the pool of night.
His eyes were wide and strangely lit.
Each thought in that unhallowed pit:
“I, too, may seem like one who dies
With wide, set eyes.”
He stood so still we thought it death,
For through the breath
Of reeking shell we came, and fire,
To hell, unlit, of blood and mire.
Tianced in a chill delirium
We wondered, though our lips were dumb
What precious thing his fingers pressed
Against his breast.
His left hand clutched so lovingly
What none might see.
All bloodless were his lips beneath
The straight, white, rigid clip of teeth.
His eyes turned to the distance dim;
Our sleepless eyes were all on him.
He stirred; we aped a phantom cheer.
The hour was here!
The young lieutenant blew his call.
“God keep us all!”
He whispered softly. Out he led;
And over the vale of twisted dead,
Close holding that dear thing, he went.
On through the storm we followed, bent
To pelt of iron and the rain
Of flame and pain.
His wan face like a lodestar glowed
Down that black road,
And deep among the torn and slain
We drove, and twenty times again
He squared us to the charging hordes.
His word was like a hundred swords.
And still a hand the treasure pressed
Against his breast.
Our gain we held. Up flamed the sun.
“The ridge is won,”
He calmly said, and, with a sigh,
“Thank God, a man is free to die!”
He smiled at this, and so he passed.
His secret prize we knew at last,
For through his hand the jewel's red,
Fierce lustre bled.
A STRAIGHT old fossicker was Lanky Mann,
Who clung to that in spite of friends’ advising:
A grim and grizzled worshipper of ‘pan,’
All other arts and industries despising.
Bare-boned and hard, with thin long hair and beard,
With horny hands that gripped like iron pliers;
A clear, quick eye, a heart that nothing feared,
A soul full simple in its few desires.
No hot, impatient amateur was Jo,
Sweating to turn the slides up every minute—
He knew beforehand how his stuff would go,
Could tell by instinct almost what was in it.
I’ve known him stand for hours, and rock, and rock,
A-swinging now the shovel, now the ladle,
So sphinx-like that at Time he seemed to mock,
Resolved to run creation through his cradle.
No sun-shafts pricked him through his seasoned hide,
Nor cold nor damp could bend his form heroic;
Bare-breasted Jo the elements defied,
And met all fortunes like a hoary Stoic.
Where there were tailings, tips, and mangled fields,
And sluggish, sloven creeks meandering slowly,
Where puddlers old and sluice-sites promised yields,
There Lanky might be found, contented wholly.
Even though they’d worked the field, as Chinkies do,
Had ‘bulled’ each shaft, and scraped out every gutter,
Burnt every stick, and put the ashes through—
Yet Jo contrived to knock out bread and butter,
And something for a dead-broke mate—such men
As he have little love for filthy lucre;
His luxury was a whisky now and then,
And now and then a friendly game of euchre.
They tell me he is dead: ‘On top? That’s so,
Died at the handle, mate, which is accordin’
As he should die and if you’re good, you’ll know
Jo pannin’ prospects in the River Jordan.’
Out Of Khaki
I slung me khaki suit to-day.
Civilian now front heel to chin
I 'op round on a single shin;
At home in peace I'm bound to stay.
'N' so they've took me duds away.
It 'urt like strippin' off me skin!
I put it on three years ago,
The ole brown rig. There wasn't then
A prouder chicken in the pen.
Jist twenty turned, me nibs you'd know
For how I give me chest a throw,
A man among the best of men.
Me little no the touch I give,
Me chin's ez solid ez a rock,
'N' level with the Town 'All clock,
A five-inch grin across me chiv.
“Lor' love us, this is how to live,”
Sez I, 'n' felt I owned the Block.
Glad eyes was ever on the lurk,
'N' little 'earts was thumpin' warm
For nippers trainin' with the swarm
To swat ole Kaiser Bill, or work
A toe-hold on the heathen Turk.
Fair dink, I loved the uniform!
I soused mine in the brine that day
When Tophet spilt, 'n' in the roar
Of shells that split the sea 'n' tore
Our boats to chips, we broke any
Up through the pelt of leaden spray,
'N' got our first real taste of war.
They shot me tunic all to rags;
Then in the perpendic'lar spree
Me trousers wore off to the knee.
The right-abouts of many bags
Was ground off in the dust 'n' crags
A-sittin' in Gallipoli.
I wore the khaki on the Somme-
Most time 'twas jist a coat of mud;
I once come through the battle scud
Stripped mother-naked by a bomb;
'N' once it' took its color from
Me own 'n' one good cobber's blood.
They cheered the khaki through the street
When we come home with pipers gay,
But now I'm jist a bloke in grey.
Harf-lost, lob-sided, incomplete,
It's nothin' but me spook you'll meet,
Ghost-walkin' in the light o' day.
‘HELLO! that’s the whistle, be moving.
Wake up! don’t lie muttering there.
What language! your style is improving—
It’s pleasant to hear you at prayer.
Turn out, man, and spare us the blessing.
Crib’s cut, and the tea’s on the brew.
You’ll have to look slippy in dressing
For that was the half-hour that blew.’
‘Half-past! and the night’s simply awful,
The hut fairly shakes in the storm.
Hang night-shifts! They shouldn’t be lawful;
I’ve only had time to get warm.
I notice the hut’s rarely bright, and
The bunk’s always cold as a stone,
Except when I go on at night, and
The half-after whistles have blown.
‘Bob built up that fire just to spite me,
The conscienceless son of a swab!
By Jove! it would fairly delight me
To let Hogan be hanged with his job.
Oh! it’s easy to preach of contentment;
You’re eloquent all on the flute.
Old Nick’s everlasting resentment
Plague Dick if he’s taken my boot!
‘Great Cæsar! you roasted the liquor,
Whoever it was made the tea;
It’s hotter than hell-broth and thicker!
Fried bacon again. Not for me!
Good night, and be hanged! Stir up, Stumpy,
You look very happy and warm;
I’ll hoist half the bark off the humpy
And give you a taste of the storm.’
We laughed as he went away growling:
But down where the wind whipped the creek
The storm like old fury was howling,
And Fred was on top for the week.
‘A devil’s own night for the braceman,’
Muttered Con. ‘It’s a comfort to know
All weathers are one to the faceman,
All shifts are alike down below.’
We slept, and the storm was receding,
The wind moaned a dirge overhead,
When men brought him, broken and bleeding,
And laid him again on the bed.
We saw by the flame burning dimly
The gray hue of death on his face.
The stoker enlightened us grimly:
‘No hope. He was blown from the brace.’
A New Girl Up At White’s
THERE’S a fresh track down the paddock
Through the lightwoods to the creek,
And I notice Billy Craddock
And Maloney do not speak,
And The Snag is slyly bitter
When he’s criticising Bill,
And there’s quite a foreign glitter
On the fellows at the mill.
Sid M‘Mahon’s turned out a dandy
With a masher coat and tie,
And the engine-driver, Sandy,
Curls his whiskers on the sly:
All the boys wear paper collars
And their tombstone shirts of nights,
So it’s ten to one in dollars
There’s a new girl up at White’s.
She’s a charmer from the river,
But she steeps the lads in gloom,
With her blue eyes all a-quiver
And her hair like wattle-bloom;
Though she’s pretty and beguiling,
And so lit up, like, with fun
That the flowers turn to her smiling,
Just as if she was the sun.
But I wish she’d leave the valley,
For the camp is dull to me,
Now the mill hands never rally
For the regulation spree,
And there’s not another joker
Gives a tinker’s curse for nap.,
Or will take a hand at poker
Or at euchre with a chap!
Tom won’t stir us with his fiddle
By the boilers as he did
While Bob stepped it in the middle,
And we passed the billy-lid.
Ah! we had some gay old nights there,
But the boys now don’t agree,
And they hang about at White’s there,
When they’ve togged up after tea.
With the gloves we have no battle;
Now they sneak away and moon
Round with White, discussing cattle
All the Sunday afternoon.
There’s a want of old uprightness,
Too, has come upon the push,
And a sort of cold politeness
That’s not called for in the bush.
They’re all off, too, in that quarter;
Kate goes sev’ral times a week
Seeing Andy Kelly’s daughter,
Jimmy’s sister, up the creek;
And this difference seems a pity,
Since their chances are so slim—
While they are running after Kitty,
She is running after Jim.
In The Benevolent
‘I’M OFF on the wallaby!’ cries Old Ben,
And his pipe is lit, and his swag is rolled;
‘There is nothing here for us old-time men,
But up north, I hear, they are on the gold.’
And he shuffles off with a feeble stride,
With his ragged swag and his billy black.
He is making tracks for the other side,
O’er the river deep, or the Great Divide;
But at night, dead beat, he travels back.
Then at morn next day he is off again,
With an eager light in his aged eyes,
Tramping away on his journey vain
For the land of promise beyond the rise.
Over the range there is work to do,
There is roaring life at the shanty bars.
He will tramp the plains whilst the skies are blue,
And will wander the great wide bushland through,
And be soothed to sleep by the blinking stars.
In the garden gay where the old man roams
Pied poppies sway on their supple stalks,
And the fair white rose on the soft breeze foams,
And the pansies peep by the gravelled walks;
But his brow by the breeze of the hills is fanned,
And the clink of bells to his quick ear comes.
When he shades his eyes with a withered hand,
He sees silent rivers and ranges grand,
Or a still lagoon under silver gums.
‘Are you bound out back, Dan?’ the children cry,
And they peer at him through the fence, and shout
‘Well, it’s so long, Dan,’ as he hobbles by,
With his ‘Ay, ay, sonny lad—tramping out!’
On his back he’s bearing his house and bed,
As he bore them both in his manhood’s pride,
Pressing on each day till his strength has fled
By the force of a dauntless spirit led—
There’s a rush somewhere on the Sydney side.
Though his sight may fail and his limbs give way,
Yet no weakness touches his brave old heart,
And he cries each night: ‘At the break of day
I must strap up bluey and make a start!’
And they humour him; for the time is near
When he’ll tramp no more under changeful skies,
But will leave his travels and troubles here,
Take the track God blazed with His stars, and steer
To the Never Land just across the rise.
The Immortal Strain
“Late Midshipman John Travers (Chester),
aged 16 years. He was mortally wounded
early in the action, yet he remained alone in
a most exposed post awaiting orders, with
his gun's crew dead all round him.”
We told old stories one by one,
Brave tales of men who toyed with death,
Of wondrous deeds of valor done
In days of bold Elizabeth.
“Alas! our British stock,” said we,
“Is not now what it used to be.”
We read of Drake's great sailors, or
Of fighting men that Nelson led,
Who steered the walls of oak to war.
“These were our finest souls,” we said.
“Their fame is on the ocean writ,
Nor time, nor storm may cancel it.
“The mariners of England then
Were lords of battle and of breeze.
The were, indeed the wondrous men
Who won for us the shoreless seas,
Who took old Neptune's ruling brand
And set it in Britannia's hand.
“But now,” we sighed, “the blood is pale,
We're little people of the street,
And dare not front the shrilling gale.
The sons of England are effete,
Of shorter limb and smaller mould,
Mere pigmies by the men of old.”
Then came the vibrant bugle note.
None cowered at the high alarm,
The steady fleets were still afloat,
And England saw her soldiers arm,
And readily, with sober grace.
The close-set ranks swung into place.
On sea and shore they fought again,
And storied heroes came to life,
Once more were added to the slain.
Once more found glory in the strife;
Again her yeoman sons arose;
A wall 'tween Britain and her foes.
The eager lads, with laughing lips
And souls elate, where oceans roar,
Or planes the eagle's flight eclipse,
Give all for her, and come no more;
Or where death thunders down the sky
Beside their silent guns they lie;
This boy who, while the iron rains
With seething riot whip the flood,
Fights on, till in his heart remains
No single drop of English blood,
Avers the British strain sublime,
Outliving Death, outlasting Time!
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.
William And Bill
Our Mr. Jiggs was certainly an estimable youth,
A pillar of propriety, a champion of truth;
He had a good position in a warehouse in the town;
A staunch church-worker, he became a layman of renown.
Jiggs owned a bijou villa in a little suburb here;
His wife was small but precious, and their baby was a dear;
But a fly in William’s ointment (and intrude such creatures will)
Was his father, known about the neighborhood as “Bill.”
Now if you’re a serious soul, and known as “William” still,
It’s unpleasant to have hanging round a father who is “Bill.”
So William had discovered, for at sixty-two his dad
Behaved with great exuberance, aspired to be “a lad”;
Got shicker on occasion, and came home with the milk
(Which also means the whisky) and with fellows of the ilk
Would sing a ribald ditty, and he’d dance upon his hat,
Then curl hard down, and slumber on the goodly William’s mat.
If you’re a worker at the church, abhorring wicked fun,
An old man sleeping on your mat in full light of the sun
Is very detrimental; so William had to steal
From bed full oft his roystering pa to drag in by the heel.
And Bill went giddy with the girls, and made excessive love
To the wives of William’s neighbors. There was one two doors above
Who said he was a nice old man, so very clean and gay –
She let him buy her suppers, and went with him to the play.
Her husband was a travelling man. One day he spoke to Bill.
Bill pointed out where on the lawn toiled unsuspecting Will.
That ma he struck at Will with his fist, a thing of fear –
He knocked him down, he kicked him, and he trod upon his ear.
He beat him with a rake, and with the hose he washed him round,
Till William, stunned and helpless now, was presently half-downed.
Then said the fellow: “Billy Jiggs, I hope from this time out
You’ll kindly let my wife alone when I am not about.”
Will sadly looked upon his dad, reproachment in his eye.
Bills raised him up, and to his glance made reverent reply:
“Sins of the fathers fall upon the children. Be resigned.
It’s according to the gospel, so I thought you wouldn’t mind.”
Now William hides at Cooktown, and old Bill resides at hay.
Responsible for all his venal actions, so to say.
Of William Jiggs, whose “gorn all wrong,” a touching tale he’ll tell –
“A-renouncin’ of the Scriptures. And I brought him up so well!”
Peace, Blessed Peace
Here in the flamin' thick of thick of things,
With Death across the way, 'n' traps
What little Fritz the German flings
Explodin' in yer lunch pe'aps,
It ain't all glory for a bloke',
It ain't all corfee 'ot and stoo,
Nor wavin' banners in the smoke,
Or practisin' the bay'net stroke—
We has our little troubles, too!
Here's Trigger Ribb bin seein' red
'N' raisin' Cain because he had,
Back in the caverns iv his 'ead,
A 'oller tooth run ravin' mad.
Pore Trigger up 'n' down the trench
Was jiggin' like a blithered loan,
'N' every time she give a wrench
You orter seen the beggar blench,
You orter 'eard him play a toon.
The sullen shells was pawin' blind,
A-feelin' for us grim as sin,
While now 'n' then we'd likely find
A dizzy bomb come limpin' in.
But Trigger simply let 'er sizz.
He 'ardly begged to be excused.
This was no damn concern of his.
He twined a muffler round his phiz,
'N' fearful was the words he used.
Lest we be getting' cock-a-whoop
Ole 'Ans tries out his box of tricks.
His bullets all around the coop
Is peckin' like a million chicks.
But Trigger when they barks his snout
Don't sniff at it. He won't confess
They're on the earth—ignores the clout,
'N' makes the same old sung about
His brimmin' mug of bitterness.
They raided us there in the mud
One day afore the dead sun rose.
Me oath, the mess of stuff and blood
Would give a slaughterman the joes!
And when the scrap is past and done,
Where's Trigger Ribb? The noble youth
Has got his bay'net in a Hun,
While down his cheeks the salt tears run.
Sez he to me “Gorbli'—this tooth!”
A shell hoist Trigger in a tree.
We found him motherin' his jor.
“If this ache's goin' on,” sez he,
“So 'elp me, it'll spoil the war!”
Five collared Trigger on his perch,
They wired his molar to a bough,
Then give the anguished one a lurch,
'N' down he pitches. From that birch
His riddled tooth is hangin' now.
This afternoon it's merry 'ell;
Grenades is comin' by the peck;
A big gun times us true 'n well,
And, oh! we gets it in the neck.
They lick out flames hat reach a mile,
The drip of lead will never cease.
But Trigger's pottin' all the while;
He sports a fond 'n' foolish smile-
“Thank Gord,” he sez, “a bit of peace!”
I'm lyin' in a narrow bed,
'N' starin' at a wall.
Where all is white my plastered head
Is whitest of it all.
My life is jist a whitewashed blank,
With flamin' spurts of pain.
I dunno who I've got to thank,
I've p'raps been trod on by a tank,
Or caught out in the rain
When skies were peltin' fish-plates, bricks
'n' lengths of bullock-chain.
I'm lyin' here, a sulky swine,
'N' hatin' of the bloke
Who's in the doss right next to mine
With 'arf his girders broke.
He never done no 'arm t me,
'N' he's pertickler ill;
But I have got him snouted, see,
'N' all old earth beside but she
Come with the chemist's swill,
'N' puts a kind, soft 'and on mine, 'n' all
my nark is still.
She ain't a beaut, she's thirty two,
She scales eleven stone;
But, 'struth, I didn't think it true
There was such women grown!
She's nurse 'n' sister, mum 'n' dad,
'N' all that straight 'n' fine
In every girl I ever had.
When Gabr'el comes, 'n' all the glad
Young saints are tipped the sign,
You'll see this donah take her place, first
angel in the line!
She's sweet 'n' cool, her touch is dew—
Wet lilies on yer brow.
(Jist 'ark et me what never knew
Of lilies up to now).
She fits your case in 'arf a wink,
'N' knows how, why, 'n' where.
If you are five days gone in drink,
N' hoverin' on perdition's brink,
It is her brother there.
God how pain will take a man, and
He has spoke with her!
I dunno if she ever sleeps
Ten minutes at a stretch.
A dozen times a night she creeps
To soothe a screamin' wretch
Who has a tiger-headed Hun
A-gnawin' at his chest.
'N' when the long, 'ard flght is won,
'N' he is still 'n' nearly done,
She smiles down on his rest,
'N' minds me of a mother with a baby at her
The curly kid we cuddled when
There was no splendid row
(It seemed a little matter then,
But feels so wondrous now).
It's part of her. She's Joan iv Ark,
Flo Nightingale, all fair
'N' dinkum dames who've made their mark
If she comes tip-toe in the dark,
We blighters feel her there.
The whole pack perks up like a bird, 'n'
sorter takes the air.
She chats you in a 'Ighland botch;
But if our Sis saw fit
To pitch Hindoo instead of Scotch
I'd get the hang of it,
Because her heart it is that talks
What now is plain to me.
At war where bloody murder stalks,
'N' Nick his hottest samples hawks.
I have been given to see
What simple human kindness is, what
brotherhood may be.
Men Of Australia
Men of all the lands Australian from the Gulf to Derwent River,
From the Heads of Sydney Harbour to the waters of the West,
There’s a spirit loudly calling where the saplings dip and quiver,
Where the city crowds are thronging, and the range uplifts its crest!
Do ye feel the holy fervour of a new-born exultation?
For the task the Lord has set us is a trust of noblest pride—
We are named to march unblooded to the winning of a nation,
And to crown her with a glory that may evermore abide.
Have ye looked to great old nations, have ye wondered at their making,
Seen their fair and gracious cities, gemmed with palaces of light,
Felt the pulse of mighty engines beating ever, never slaking,
Like the sandalled feet of Progress moving onward in the night?
Can ye stand on some high headland when the drowsy day is fading,
And in dreamlike fancy see a merchant fleet upon the seas,
See the pinioned ships majestic ’gainst the purple even sailing
And the busy steamers racing down to half a thousand quays?
Have ye dreamed of this or seen of this, and feel ye no elation
O’er the most heroic duty that a free-born people knows?
To the chain of kindred nations ours to link another nation,
Ours to stay and build and bless her for a future great as those!
Cold and sordid hearts may linger still to bargain over trifles,
But the big-souled men have only hate for huckstering and sloth;
These would batter down division, tear away the bonds that stifle,
And would free our dear Australia for the larger, nobler growth.
Bushmen, roaming on the ridges, tracking “colours” to their sources,
Swinging axes by the rivers where the millsaws rend and shriek
Smoking thoughtful pipes, or dreaming on your slow, untroubled horses,
While the lazy cattle feed along the track or ford the creek,
Ye have known our country’s moods in all her wild and desert places,
Ye have felt the sweet, strange promptings that her solitudes inspire;
To have breathed the spirit of her is to love her—turn your faces,
Ride like lovers when the day dawns, ride to serve her, son and sire!
Miners in the dripping workings, farmers, pioneers who settle
On the bush lands, city workers of the benches and the marts,
Swart mechanics at the forges, beating out the glowing metal,
Thinkers, planners, if ye feel the love of country stir your hearts,
Help to write the bravest chapter of a fair young nation’s story
Great she’ll be as Europe’s greatest, more magnificent in truth!
That our children’s children standing in the rose light of her glory
May all honour us who loved her, and who crowned her in her youth!
The Drovers In Reply
We are wondering why those fellows who are writing cheerful ditties
Of the rosy times out droving, and the dust and death of cities,
Do not leave the dreary office, ask a drover for a billet,
And enjoy ‘the views,’ ‘the campfires,’ and ‘the freedom’ while they fill it.
If it’s fun to travel cattle or to picnic with merinoes,
Well the drover doesn’t see it—few poetic raptures he knows.
As for sleeping on the plains beneath ‘the pale moon’ always seen there,
That is most appreciated by the man who’s never been there.
And the ‘balmy air,’ the horses, and the ‘wondrous constellations,’
The ’possum-rugs, and billies, and the tough and musty rations,
It’s strange they only please the swell in urban streets residing,
Where the trams are always handy if he has a taste for riding.
We have travelled far with cattle for the very best of reasons—
For a living—we’ve gone droving in all latitudes and seasons,
But have never had a mate content with pleasures of this kidney,
And who wouldn’t change his blisses for a flutter down in Sydney.
Night watches are delightful when the stars are really splendid
To the sentimental stranger, but his joy is quickly ended
When the rain comes down in sluice-heads, or the cutting hailstones pelter,
And the sheep drift with the blizzard, and the horses bolt for shelter.
Don’t imagine we are soured, but it’s peculiarly annoying
To be told by city writers of the pleasures we’re enjoying,
When perhaps we’ve nothing better than some fluky water handy,
Whilst the scribes in showy bar-rooms take iced seltzer with their brandy.
The dust in town is nothing to the dust the drover curses,
And the dust a drover swallows, and the awful thirst he nurses
When he’s on the hard macadam, where the wethers cannot browse, and
The sirocco drives right at him, and he follows twenty thousand.
This droving on the plain is really charming when the weather
Isn’t hot enough to curl the soles right off your upper leather,
Or so cold that when the morning wind comes hissing through the grasses
You can feel it cut your eyelids like a whip-lash as it passes.
There are bull-ants in the blankets, wicked horses, cramps, and ‘skeeters,’
And a drinking boss like Halligan, or one like Humpy Peters,
Who is mean about the rations, and a flowing stream of curses
From the break of day to camping, through good fortune and reverses.
Yes, we wonder why the fellows who are building chipper ditties
Of the rosy times out droving and the dust and death of cities,
Do not quit the stuffy office, ask old Peters for a billet,
And enjoy the stars, the camp-fires, and the freedom while they fill it.
The Fact Of The Matter
I'm wonderin' why those fellers who go buildin' chipper ditties,
'Bout the rosy times out drovin', an' the dust an' death of cities,
Don't sling the bloomin' office, strike some drover for a billet,
And soak up all the glory that comes handy while they fill it.
P'r'aps it's fun to travel cattle or to picnic with merinos,
But the drover don't catch on, sir, not much high-class rapture he knows.
As for sleepin' on the plains there in the shadder of the spear-grass,
That's liked best by the Juggins with a spring-bed an' a pier-glass.
An' the camp-fire, an' the freedom, and the blanky constellations,
The 'possum-rug an' billy, an' the togs an' stale ole rations -
It's strange they're only raved about by coves that dress up pretty,
An' sport a wife, an' live on slap-up tucker in the city.
I've tickled beef in my time clear from Clarke to Riverina,
An' shifted sheep all round the shop, but blow me if I've seen a
Single blanky hand who didn't buck at pleasures of this kidney,
And wouldn't trade his blisses for a flutter down in Sydney.
Night-watches are delightful when the stars are really splendid
To the chap who's fresh upon the job, but, you bet, his rapture's ended
When the rain comes down in sluice-heads, or the cuttin' hailstones pelter,
An' the sheep drift off before the wind, an' the horses strike for shelter.
Don't take me for a howler, but I find it come annoyin'
To hear these fellers rave about the pleasures we're enjoyin',
When p'r'aps we've nothin' better than some fluky water handy,
An' they're right on all the lickers - rum, an' plenty beer an' brandy.
The town is dusty, may be, but it isn't worth the curses
'Side the dust a feller swallers an' the blinded thirst he nurses
When he's on the hard macadam, where the jumbucks cannot browse, an'
The wind is in his whiskers, an' he follers twenty thousan'.
This drovin' on the plain, too, it's all O.K. when the weather
Isn't hot enough to curl the soles right off your upper leather,
Or so cold that when the mornin' wind comes hissin' through the grasses
You can feel it cut your eyelids like a whip-lash as it passes.
Then there's bull-ants in the blankets, an' a lame horse, an' muskeeters,
An' a D.T. boss like Halligan, or one like Humpy Peters,
Who is mean about the tucker, an' can curse from start to sundown,
An' can fight like fifty devils, an' whose growler's never run down.
Yes, I wonder why the fellers what go building chipper ditties
'Bout the rosy times out drovin' an' the dust an' death of cities,
Don't sling the bloomin' office, strike ole Peters for a billet,
An' soak up all the glory that comes handy while they fill it.
The Tin-Pot Mill
QUITE a proud and happy man is Finn the Packer
Since he built his crazy mill upon the rise,
And he stands there in the gully, chewing ‘backer,’
With a sleepy sort of comfort in his eyes,
Gazin’ up to where the antiquated jigger
Is a-wheezing and a-hopping on the hill,
For up here my lord the Gov’nor isn’t bigger
Than the owner of the Federation Mill.
She goes biff, puff, bang, bump, cutter-clatter, smash,
And she rattles on for half a shift, and lets up with a crash;
And then silence reigns a little while, and all the land is still
While they’re tinkering awkward patches on the tin-pot mill.
It’s a five-head plant, and mostly built of lumber,
’Twas erected by a man that didn’t know,
And we’ve never had a decent spell of slumber
Since that battery of Finn’s was got to go;
For she raises just the most infernal clatter,
And we guessed the Day of Judgment had come down
When the tin-pot mill began to bang and batter
Like an earthquake in a boiler-metal town.
All the heads are different sizes, and the horses
Are so crazy that the whole caboodle rocks,
And each time a stamper thunders down it forces
Little spirtings through the crannies in the box.
Then the feed pipe’s mostly plugged and aggravating,
And the pump it suffers badly from a cough;
Every hour or so they burst a blooming grating,
And the shoes are nearly always coming off.
Mickey drives her with a portable, a ruin
That they used for donkeying cargo in the Ark.
When she’s got a little way on, and is doing,
You should hear that spavined coffee-grinder bark.
She is loose in all her joints, and, through corrosion,
Half her plates are not a sixteenth in the thick.
We’re expecting a sensational explosion,
And a subsequent excursion after Mick.
From the feed—which chokes—to quite the smallest ripple,
From the bed-logs to the guides, she’s mighty queer,
And she joggles like an agitated cripple
With St. Vitus dance intensified by beer.
She stops short; and starts with most unearthly rumbles,
And, distracted by the silence and the din,
Through the sleepless night the weary miner grumbles,
And heaps curses on the family of Finn.
But the owner’s much too cute a man to wrangle.
He is crushing for the public, understand,
And each ton of stuff that’s hammered through the mangle
Adds its tribute to the value of his land.
For she leaks the raw amalgam, and he’s able
To see daylight ’twixt the ripples an’ the plates,
And below the box and ’neath the shaking table
There are nest-eggs ’cumulating while he waits.
She goes biff, puff, bang, bump, clitter-clatter, smash,
And she rattles on for half a shift, and lets with a crash;
Then silence reigns a little while, and the land is still
While they’re tinkering awkward patches on the tin-pot mill.
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!
IF YOU want a game to tame you and to take your measure in,
Try a week or two of trucking in a mine
Where the rails are never level for a half-a-minute’s spin,
And the curves are short and sharp along the line.
Try the feverish bottom level, down five hundred feet of shaft,
Where the atmosphere is like a second suit,
When the wash is full of water, and you’ve got to run the graft,
For there’s forty ton of gravel in the shoot.
‘Want a job o’ truckin’, dost tha?’ says the boss, old Geordie Rist,
Shift’s a trucker short, ma lad, but aw don’ know—
Can’st tha do th’ work, though, think’st tha? Art a pretty decent fist?
Eh, well, damme! thoo can try it; go below.’
So the cage is manned, the knocker clangs and clatters on the brace,
The engine draws a deep, defiant breath
To inflate her lungs of iron; and in silence, face to face,
We drop into the darkness deep as death.
Then a fairy sense of lightness and of floating on the night,
A sudden glare, and Number Three is passed;
Soon a sound of warring waters and another rush of light—
‘All clear!’ The up-trip never seems so fast.
It is rough upon the tyro, that first tussle with the trucks—
The wretched four, with worn, three-cornered wheels
That are sure to fall to his lot and to floor him if his pluck’s
Not true when mates are grinding at his heels.
Then the struggle at the incline, and the deuced ticklish squeeze
At the curves where strength alone not all avails,
And the floundering in the mullock, and the badly-broken knees
Before he learns to run upon the rails.
But it’s like all other grafting, and the man that has the grit
Won’t tucker out with one back-racking shift;
When he’s sweated to condition, with his muscles firm and fit,
He’ll disdain to stick at seven trucks of drift.
He can swarm around the pinches with a scramble and a dash,
And negotiate the inclines just as pat;
And the sheets of iron rattle and the waters surge and splash
As he shoots the 'full ’uns' in along the plat.
When the empties wind and clatter down the drive and through the dark—
As ‘blowing’ spells those backward journeys serve—
On before, deep set in darkness, glints and glows a feeble spark,
The candle burning dimly at the curve.
After cribs are polished off, and when the smoke begins to rise
And cling about the caps and in the cracks,
There’s a passing satisfaction in the patriarchal lies
Of the Geordie pioneers and Cousin Jacks—
Lanky Steve’s unwritten stories of the fun of Fifty-two,
Or the dashing days at Donkey Woman’s Flat,
Of traps, and beaks, and heavy yields, and pugilists put through,
And lifting up the flag at Ballarat.
Yes, the truckers’ toil is rather heavy grafting as a rule—
Much heavier than the wages, well I know;
But the life’s not full of trouble, and the fellow is a fool
Who cannot find some pleasure down below.
In days before the trouble Jo was rated as
He chose to sit in hourly expectation of a job.
He'd loop hisself upon a post, for seldom
friends had he,
A gift of patient waitin' his distinctif quality.
He'd linger in a doorway, or he'd loiter on the
Edgin' modestly aside to let the fleetin'
Jo' begged a bob from mother, but more often
got a clout,
And settled down with cigarettes to smoke the
The one consistent member of the Never
He put a satin finish on the frontage of the
His shoulder-blades were pokin' out from
polishin' the pine;
But if a job ran at him Joey's footwork was
Jo strayed in at the cobbler's door, but, scoffed
at as a fool,
He found the conversation too exhaustin' as
Or, canted on the smithy coke, he'd hoist his
feet and yawn,
His boots slid up his shinbones, and his pants
And if the copper chanced along 'twas beauty-
ful to see
Joe wear away and made hisself a fadest
Then came the universal nark. The Kaiser
let her rip.
They cleared the ring. The scrap was for the
whole world's championship.
Jo Brown was takin' notice, lurkin' shy be-
neath his hat,
And every day he crept to see the drillin' on
He waited, watchin' from the furze the blokes
in butcher's blue,
For the burst of inspiration that would tell him
what to do.
He couldn't lean, he couldn't lie. He yelled
out in the night.
Jo understood—he'd all these years been
spoilin' for a fight!
Right into things he flung himself. He
took his kit and gun,
Mooched gladly in the dust, or roasted gaily
in the sun.
“Gorstruth,” he said, with shining eyes, “it
means a frightful war,
'N' now I know this is the thing that Heaven
meant me for.”
Jo went away a corporal and fought again the
And like a duck to water Joey cottoned to the
If anythin' was doin' it would presently come
That Joseph Brown from Booragool was there
He got a batch of medals, and a glorious
Attached all of a sudden to the name of
Then people talked of Joey as the dearest
friend they had;
They were chummy with his uncles, or ac-
quainted with his dad.
Joe goes to France, and presently he figure as
Two-handed all-in fighter in the armies of the
And men of every age at home and high and
We gather now, once went to school with
Sergeant Brown, V.C.
Then Hayes and Jo, in Flanders met, and very
proud was Hayes
To shake a townsman by the hand, and sing
the hero's praise,
“Oh, yes,” says Jo, “I'm doin' well, 'n' yet
I might do more.
If I was in a hurry, mate, to finish up this war
I'd lay out every Fritz on earth, but, strike me,
what a yob
A man would be to work himself out of a
Now Jo's a swell lieutenant, and he's keepin'
up the pace.
Ha “Record” says Lieutenant Brown's an
honor to the place.
The town gets special mention every time he
scores. We bet
If peace don't mess his chances up, he'll be
Dad, mother and the uncles Brown and all our
That Providence began this war to find a grip
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.
It is thirty moons since I slung me hook
From the job at the hay and corn,
Took me solemn oath, 'n' I straight forsook
All the ways of life, dinkum ways 'n' crook,
'N' the things on which it was good to look
Since the day when a bloke was born.
I was give a gun, 'n' a bay'net bright,
'N' a 'ell of a swag iv work,
N' I dipped my lid to the big pub light,
To the ole push cobbers I give “Good-night!”
Slipped a kiss to 'er, 'n' I wings me flight
For a date with the demon Turk.
Ez we pricked our heel to the skitin' drum.
Square 'n' all, I was gone a mile.
With a perky air, 'n' a 'eart ez glum
Ez a long-dead cod, I was blind 'n' dumb,
Holdin' do the tear that was bound to come
At a word or a friendly smile.
Now I've seen it all, I may come out dead,
But I 'ope never more a fool.
I have scorched, 'n' thirsted, 'n' froze, 'n'
'N' bin taught the use of the human head,
For when all is done 'n' when all is said,
War's a wonderful sort of school.
I've bin taught to get 'em 'n' never fret,
'N' to sleep without dreamin' when
We have swarmed a slope with the red rain wet;
I 'ave learned a pile, 'n' I'm learnin' yet;
But the thing I've learned that I won't forget
Is a way of not judgin' men.
We was shot down there in a dirty place—
From the mansions 'n' huts we'd come—
'N' of all the welter the 'ardest case
Was a little swine with a dimpled face,
Who a year ago was dispensin' lace
In a Carlton em-por-ee-um.
In the moochin' days of me giddy youth,
When I kidded meself a treat,
I'd have pass him one ez a gooey. 'Strewth
On the track iv Huns, he's a eight-day sleuth,
'N' at tearin' into 'em nail 'n' tooth
He's got Julius Caesar beat!
I ain't proud with him ; 'n' I'm modest, too,
When dividin' a can of swill
With a Algy boy from the wilds iv Kew.
Cos I do not know what the cow will do
When a Fritzy offers to sock me through;
'N' it's good to be livin' still.
There you are, you see! Oh! it makes you sore,
When a bloke you despised at 'ome
In them pifflin' days of the years before
Takes a odds-on chance with the God of War,
'N' he tows you out with his left lung tore,
'N' a crack in his bleedin' dome!
'Twas a lad called Hugh done ez much for me.
(He has curls 'n' he's fair 'n' slim).
Well, I mind the days in the Port when we
Puts it over Hugh coz we don't agree
With his tone 'n' style, 'n' my foot was free
When the push made a hack of him.
Now he's paid me back. I had struck a snag,
And must creep through the battle spume
All a flamin' age, with a grinnin' jag
In me thigh, for water, or jest a fag.
Like a crippled snake I was forced to drag
Shattered flesh till the crack of doom.
When they saw me he was the one who came.
'N' he give me a raffish grin
'N' a swig. I wasn't so bad that shame
Didn't get me then, for the lad was lame.
They had passed him his, but his 'art was game.
'N' he coughed ez he brought me in.
I have tackled God on me bended knees,
So He'll save him alive 'n' whole,
For the sake of one who he thinks he sees
When the Nurse's hands bring a kind of ease;
And I thank God, too, for the things like these
That have give me a sort of soul.
There are Percies, Algies, 'n' Claudes I've met
Who could take it 'n' come agen,
While the bullets flew in a screamin' jet.
What in pain, 'n' death, and in mire 'n' sweat
I 'ave learned from them that I won't forget
Is a way of not judgin' men.
WHEN the white sun scorches the fair, green land in the rage of his fierce desires,
Or looms blood red on the Western hills, through the smoke of their waning fires;
When the winds at war strew the mountain side with limbs of the mangled trees,
Or the flood tides wheel in the valleys low, or sweep to the distant seas,
We are leading back, and the faintest track that we leave in the desert wild
Or we blaze for fear through the forest drear will be tramped by the settler’s child.
We have turned our backs on the City’s joys, on the glare of its myriad lights,
On the measured peace of its bloodless days, and the strife of its shining nights;
We have fled the pubs in the dull bush towns and the furthermost shanty bars,
And have camped away at the edge of space, or aloft by the brooding stars.
We have stirred the world as our dishes swirled and we drummed on the matted gold,
And from East and West we beguile their best with a wonderful tale oft-told.
We go pushing on when the mirage glints o’er the rim of the voiceless plain,
And we leave our bones to be finger posts for the seekers who come again.
At the jealous heart of the secret bush, we have battered with clamour loud
And have made a way for the squatter bold, or a path for the busy crowd.
We have gone before through the shadowy door of the Never, the Great Unknown,
And have journeyed back with a golden pack, or as dust in the wild winds blown.
In the chilling breath of the ice-bound range, we have laboured and lost and won;
On the blazing hills we have striven long in the face of the angry sun.
We have fallen spitted with niggers’ spears in the graves ourselves have dug,
And have bitten grass, with a cloven skull, and the turf in our arms to hug.
From our rifled dead have the natives fled, blood-drunk, to their camping place,
Whilst the crows enthroned on a limb intoned to the devil a measured grace.
We have butchered too when the camp ran wild, with a mad, malignant hate,
For the lust of gold, or the hope we had, or the love of a murdered mate.
We have shocked the night with our ribald songs in the sullen, savage lands,
And have died the death that the lone man dies in the grip of the reeling sands,
Or have lived to die in a city sty, with the help of a charity prayer,
Or to do the swell at a grand hotel on our thousands of pounds a year.
We are moving still, and not love, nor fear, nor a wife’s nor mother’s grief,
Can distract the longing that drives us forth on the track of the hidden reef.
Some will face the heathen in lands afar by rivers and looming peaks,
Some will stay to ravage their own home bills, or to dig by the sluggish creeks,
Some go pushing West on the old, old quest, and wherever their tents abide
Will the world flow in and its swift tide spin till it scatter them far and wide.
Is it greed alone that impels our ranks? Is it only the lust of gold
Drives them past where the sentinel ranges stand where the plains to the sky unfold;
Is there nothing more in this dull unrest that remains in the hearts of man,
’Till the swag is rolled, or the pack-horse strapped, or the ship sails out again?
Is it this alone, or in blood and bone does the venturous spirit glow
That was noble pride when the world was wide and the tracks were all Westward Ho?
We are common men, with the faults of most, and a few that ourselves have grown,
With the good traits too of the common herd, and some more that are all our own;
We have drunk like beasts, and have fought like brutes, and have stolen, and lied, and slain,
And have paid the score in the way of men—in remorse and fear and pain.
We have done great deeds in our direst needs in the horrors of burning drought,
And at mateship’s call have been true through all to the death with the Furthest Out.
As the soft breeze stirs all the tender green of the bush that is newly born,
And the wattles blaze on the flats and gladden the hills with the glow of morn.
We are trenching high in the stony slopes, or turning the creeks below,
Or the gorge re-echoes the thud of picks and the songs that the miners know.
When the lode strips clean with a yellow sheen our fortunes are fairly won;
When the dish pans bare, up with tents and ware, and hurrah! for the outward run.
Peter Simson's Farm
Simson settled in the timber when his arm was strong and true,
And his form was straight and limber; and he wrought the long day through
In a struggle, single-handed, and the trees fell slowly back,
Twenty thousand giants banded ’gainst a solitary jack.
Through the fiercest days of summer you might hear his keen axe ring
And re-echo in the ranges, hear his twanging crosscut sing;
There the great gums swayed and whispered, and the birds were skyward blown,
As the circling hills saluted o’er a bush king overthrown.
Clearing, grubbing, in the gloaming, strong in faith the man descried
Heifers sleek and horses roaming in his paddocks green and wide,
Heard a myriad corn-blades rustle in the breeze’s soft caress,
And in every thew and muscle felt a joyous mightiness.
So he felled the stubborn forest, hacked and hewed with tireless might,
And a conqueror’s peace went with him to his fern-strewn bunk at night:
Forth he strode next morn, delighting in the duty to be done,
Whistling shrilly to the magpies trilling carols to the sun.
Back the clustered scrub was driven, and the sun fell on the lands,
And the mighty stumps were riven ’tween his bare, brown, corded hands.
One time flooded, sometimes parching, still he did the work of ten,
And his dog-leg fence went marching up the hills and down again.
By the stony creek, whose tiny streams slid o’er the sunken boles
To their secret, silent meetings in the shaded waterholes,
Soon a garden flourished bravely, gemmed with flowers, and cool and green,
While about the hut a busy little wife was always seen.
Came a day at length when, gazing down the paddock from his door,
Simson saw his horses grazing where the bush was long before,
And he heard the joyous prattle of his children on the rocks,
And the lowing of the cattle, and the crowing of the cocks.
There was butter for the market, there was fruit upon the trees,
There were eggs, potatoes, bacon, and a tidy lot of cheese;
Still the struggle was not ended with the timber and the scrub,
For the mortgage is the toughest stump the settler has to grub.
But the boys grew big and bolder—one, a sturdy, brown-faced lad,
With his axe upon his shoulder, loved to go to work ‘like dad’,
And another in the saddle took a bush-bred native’s pride,
And he boasted he could straddle any nag his dad could ride.
Though the work went on and prospered there was still hard work to do;
There were floods, and droughts, and bush-fires, and a touch of pleuro too;
But they laboured, and the future held no prospect to alarm—
All the settlers said: ‘They’re stickers up at Peter Simson’s farm.’
One fine evening Pete was resting in the hush of coming night,
When his boys came in from nesting with a clamorous delight;
Each displayed a tiny rabbit, and the farmer eyed them o’er,—
Then he stamped—it was his habit—and he smote his knee and swore.
Two years later Simson’s paddock showed dust-coloured, almost bare,
And too lean for hope of profit were the cows that pastured there;
And the man looked ten years older. Like the tracks about the place,
Made by half a million rabbits, were the lines on Simson’s face.
As he fought the bush when younger, Simson stripped and fought again,
Fought the devastating hunger of the plague with might and main,
Neither moping nor despairing, hoping still that times would mend,
Stubborn-browed and sternly facing all the trouble Fate could send.
One poor chicken to the acre Simson’s land will carry now.
Starved, the locusts have departed; rust is thick upon the plough;
It is vain to think of cattle, or to try to raise a crop,
For the farmer has gone under, and the rabbits are on top.
So the strong, true man who wrested from the bush a homestead fair
By the rabbits has been bested; yet he does not know despair—
Though begirt with desolation, though in trouble and in debt,
Though his foes pass numeration, Peter Simson’s fighting yet!
He is old too soon and failing, but he’s game to start anew,
And he tells his hopeless neighbours ‘what the Gov’mint’s goin’ to do’.
Both his girls are in the city, seeking places with the rest,
And his boys are tracking fortune in the melancholy West.
Dear Ned, I now take up my pen to write
you these few lines,
And hopin' how they find you fit. Gorbli',
it seems an age
Since Jumbo ducked the Port, 'n' drilled 'n'
polished to the nines,
He walked his pork on Collins like a hero off
Then hiked a rifle 'cross the sea this bleedin'
war to wage.
The things what's 'appened lately calls to
Jumbo's mind that day
Our push took on the Peewee pack, 'n'
belted out their lard,
With twenty cops to top it off. But now I'm
A bullet in me gizzard where I took it good
A-dealin'-stoush 'n' mullock to the Prussian
At Bullcoor mortal charnce had dumped a
mutton-truck of us
From good ole Port ker-flummox where we
didn't orter be,
All in a 'elpless hole-the Pug, Bill Carkeek,
Son, 'n' Gus,
Don, Steve, 'n' Jack, 'n' seven more, 'n', as
it 'appens, me,
With nothin' in since breakfast, 'n' a week
to go for tea.
Worked loose from Caddy's bunch, we went
it gay until we found
We'd took to 'arf the ragin' German Hempire
on our own.
Then down we went so 'umble, with our noses
in the ground,
Takin' cover in the rubble. If a German head
It was fare-the-well to Herman with a bullet
through the bone.
We slogged the cows remorseless, 'n' they
laid for us a treat.
We held that stinkin' cellar, though, 'n' when
the day was done
Son pussied on his bingie where a Maxie trim
Had spit out loaded lightnin', and he slugged
a tubby Hun,
Then choked a Fritzie with his dukes, 'n'
pinched the sooner's gun!
We rigged her on her knuckle-bones. Cri',
how she lapped 'em up!
We hosed 'em out with livin' lead. That was
the second day.
Me left eye I'd 'ave give for jest a bubble in a
Three fingers I'd 'ave parted for a bone I've
But the butcher wasn't callin', 'n' the fountain
T'was rotten mozzle, Neddo. We had blown
out ever clip,
'N' 'blooed the hammunition for the little box
Each took a batten in his fist. Sez Billy
“Let 'er rip!”
But Son he claws his stubble. Sez—he:
“Hold a brace of ticks.”
Then “Yow!” he pipes 'n' “Strewth!” he
sez, “it's bricks, you blighters,
There's more than 'arf a million spilt where
somethin' hit a pub;
We creeps among 'n' sorts 'em, stack afore,
'n' stack behind;
The Hun is comin' at us with his napper like
You couldn't 'ope to miss it, pickled, par-
alysed, 'n' blind.
Sez Sonny: “Lay 'em open! Give 'em
blotches on the rind!”
Then bricks was flyin' in the wind. Mine
dinted Otto's chin;
Ole Nosey got his brother, which he never
more will roam.
When Ulrich stopped a Port bookay he rolled
his alley in.
Their fire was somethin' fierce. Poor Son
was blowin' blood 'n' foam,
“Fill up,” he coughs, “'n' plug 'em! S'elp
me Gord, we're goin' 'ome!”
With bricks we drove right at 'em 'n' we
wanged 'em best we could.
'Twas either bed 'n' breakfast or a scribble
and a wreath.
Haynes bust a Prussian's almond, took the
bay'net where he stood,
Then heaved his last 'arf-Brunswick, split
the demon's grinnin' teeth,
And Son went down in glory, with a German
We'd started out with gibbers in our clobber
and our 'ats.
They gave us floatin' lead enough to stop an
We yelled like fiends, 'n' countered with a
lovely flight of bats,
Then rushed in close formation, heavin' cot-
tages, n' tore
Through blinded, bleedin' Bosches, 'n' lor
love yeh, it was war!
We came peltin', headfirst, 'elpless, in a drain
among a lot
Of dirty, damned old Tommies (Gord! The
best that ever blew!)
Eight left of us, all punctured, each man
holdin' what he'd got.
Me wild, a rat hole in me lung, but in me
A bull-nosed brick with whiskers where no
whiskers ever grew.
There's nothin' doin' now. I wear me blan-
kets like a toff.
The way this fat nurse pets me, strewth, it's
well to be so sick,
A-dreamin' of our contract 'n' the way we
pulled it off.
I reckon Haig is phonin' Hughes: “Hullo,
there, Billy. Quick—
A dozen of the pushes and a thousan' tons
THERE’S a sudden, fierce clang of the knocker, then the sound of a voice in the shaft,
Shrieking words that drum hard on the centres, and the braceman goes suddenly daft:
‘Set the whistle a-blowing like blazes! Billy, run, give old Mackie a call—
Run, you fool! Number Two’s gone to pieces, and Fred Baker is caught in the fall!
Say, hello! there below—any hope, boys, any chances of saving his life?
‘Heave away!’ says the knocker. ‘They’ve started. God be praised, he’s no youngsters or wife!’
Screams the whistle in fearful entreaty, and the wild echo raves on the spur,
And the night, that was still as a sleeper in soft, charmed sleep, is astir
With the fluttering of wings in the wattles, and the vague frightened murmur of birds,
With far cooeys that carry the warning, running feet, inarticulate words.
From the black belt of bush come the miners, and they gather by Mack on the brace,
Out of breath, barely clad, and half-wakened, with a question in every face.
‘Who’s below?’ ‘Where’s the fall?’ Didn’t I tell you?—Didn’t I say that them sets wasn’t sound?’
‘Is it Fred? He was reckless was Baker; now he’s seen his last shift underground.’
‘And his mate? Where is Sandy M‘Fadyn?’ ’Sandy’s snoring at home on his bunk.’
‘Not at work! Name o’ God! a foreboding?’ ‘A foreboding be hanged! He is drunk!’
Take it steady there, lads!’ the boss orders. He is white to the roots of his hair.
We may get him alive before daybreak if he’s close to the face and has air.’
In the dim drive with ardour heroic two facemen are pegging away.
Long and Coots in the rise heard her thunder, and they fled without word or delay
Down the drive, and they rushed for the ladders, and they went up the shaft with a run,
For they knew the weak spot in the workings, and they guessed there was graft to be done.
Number Two was pitch dark, and they scrambled to the plat and they made for the face,
But the roof bad come down fifty yards in, and the reef was all over the place.
Fresher men from the surface replace them, and they’re hauled up on top for a blow;
When a life and death job is in doing there’s room only for workers below.
Bare-armed, and bare-chested, and brawny, with a grim, meaning set of the jaw,
The relay hurries in to the rescue, caring not for the danger a straw;
’Tis not toil, but a battle, they’re called to, and like Trojans the miners respond,
For a dead man lies crushed ’neath the timbers, or a live man is choking beyond.
By the faint, yellow glow of the candles, where the dank drive is hot with their breath,
On the verge of the Land of the Shadow, waging war breast to bosom with Death,
How they struggle, these giants! and slowly, as the trucks rattle into the gloom,
Inch by inch they advance to the conquest of a prison—or is it a tomb?
And the working’s re-echo a volley as the timbers are driven in place;
Then a whisper is borne to the toilers ‘Boys, his mother is there on the brace!’
Like veterans late into action, fierce with longing to hew and to hack,
Riordan’s shift rushes in to relieve them, and the toil-stricken men stagger back.
‘Stow the stuff, mates, wherever there’s stowage! Run the man on the brace till he drops!
There’s no time to think on this billet! Bark the heels of the trucker who stops!
Keep the props well in front, and be careful. He’s in there, and alive, never fret.’
But the grey dawn is softening the ridges, and the word has not come to us yet.
Still the knocker rings out, and the engine shrieks and strains like a creature in pain
As the cage rushes up to the surface and drops back into darkness again.
By the capstan a woman is crouching. In her eyes neither hope nor despair;
But a yearning that glowers like frenzy bids those who’d speak pity forbear.
Like a figure in stone she is seated till the labour of rescue be done.
For the father was killed in the Phoenix, and the son—Lord of pity! the son?
‘Hello! there on top!’ they are calling. ‘They are through! He is seen in the drive!’
‘They have got him—thank Heaven! they’ve got him, and oh, blessed be God, he’s alive!’
‘Man on! heave away!’ ‘Step aside, lads; let his mother be first when he lands.’
She was silent and strong in her anguish; now she babbles and weeps where she stands,
And the stern men, grown gentle, support her at the mouth of the shaft, till at last
With a rush the cage springs to the landing, and her son’s arms encircle her fast.
She has cursed the old mine for its murders, for the victims its drives have ensnared,
Now she cries a great blessing upon it for the one precious life it has spared.
The Old Whim Horse
He's an old grey horse, with his head bowed sadly,
And with dim old eyes and a queer roll aft,
With the off-fore sprung and the hind screwed badly,
And he bears all over the brands of graft;
And he lifts his head from the grass to wonder
Why by night and day the whim is still,
Why the silence is, and the stampers' thunder
Sounds forth no more from the shattered mill.
In that whim he worked when the night winds bellowed
On the riven summit of Giant's Hand,
And by day when prodigal Spring had yellowed
All the wide, long sweep of enchanted land;
And he knew his shift, and the whistle's warning,
And he knew the calls of the boys below;
Through the years, unbidden, at night or morning,
He had taken his stand by the old whim bow.
But the whim stands still, and the wheeling swallow
In the silent shaft hangs her home of clay,
And the lizards flirt and the swift snakes follow
O'er the grass-grown brace in the summer day;
And the corn springs high in the cracks and corners
Of the forge, and down where the timber lies;
And the crows are perched like a band of mourners
On the broken hut on the Hermit's Rise.
All the hands have gone, for the rich reef paid out,
And the company waits till the calls come in;
But the old grey horse, like the claim, is played out,
And no market's near for his bones and skin.
So they let him live, and they left him grazing
By the creek, and oft in the evening dim
I have seen him stand on the rises, gazing
At the ruined brace and the rotting whim.
The floods rush high in the gully under,
And the lightnings lash at the shrinking trees,
Or the cattle down from the ranges blunder
As the fires drive by on the summer breeze.
Still the feeble horse at the right hour wanders
To the lonely ring, though the whistle's dumb,
And with hanging head by the bow he ponders
Where the whim boy's gone -- why the shifts don't come.
But there comes a night when he sees lights glowing
In the roofless huts and the ravaged mill,
When he hears again all the stampers going --
Though the huts are dark and the stampers still:
When he sees the steam to the black roof clinging
As its shadows roll on the silver sands,
And he knows the voice of his driver singing,
And the knocker's clang where the braceman stands.
See the old horse take, like a creature dreaming,
On the ring once more his accustomed place;
But the moonbeams full on the ruins streaming
Show the scattered timbers and grass-grown brace.
Yet HE hears the sled in the smithy falling,
And the empty truck as it rattles back,
And the boy who stands by the anvil, calling;
And he turns and backs, and he "takes up slack".
While the old drum creaks, and the shadows shiver
As the wind sweeps by, and the hut doors close,
And the bats dip down in the shaft or quiver
In the ghostly light, round the grey horse goes;
And he feels the strain on his untouched shoulder,
Hears again the voice that was dear to him,
Sees the form he knew -- and his heart grows bolder
As he works his shift by the broken whim.
He hears in the sluices the water rushing
As the buckets drain and the doors fall back;
When the early dawn in the east is blushing,
He is limping still round the old, old track.
Now he pricks his ears, with a neigh replying
To a call unspoken, with eyes aglow,
And he sways and sinks in the circle, dying;
From the ring no more will the grey horse go.
In a gully green, where a dam lies gleaming,
And the bush creeps back on a worked-out claim,
And the sleepy crows in the sun sit dreaming
On the timbers grey and a charred hut frame,
Where the legs slant down, and the hare is squatting
In the high rank grass by the dried-up course,
Nigh a shattered drum and a king-post rotting
Are the bleaching bones of the old grey horse.
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.
Waiting For Water
’TWAS old Flynn, the identity, told us
That the creek always ran pretty high,
But that fossicking veteran sold us,
And he lied as his quality lie.
Through a tangle of ranges and ridges,
Down a track that is blazed with our hide,
Over creeks minus crossings and bridges,
High and low, mere impertinent midges
Trying falls with the mighty Divide,
We came, hauling the boxes and stampers,
Or just nipping them in with a winch;
Now and then in unfortunate scampers
Missing smash by the eighth of an inch;
Round the spurs very daintily crawling,
With one team pulling out in a row,
And another lot heavenward hauling,
Lest the whole bag-of-tricks should go sprawling
Into regions unheard of below,
We came through with the shanks and the shafting,
And the frames, and the wonderful wheel;
Then we put in a month of hard grafting
Ere we nailed down the last scrap of deal.
She beat true, and with scarce a vibration,
And we voted her queen of the mills,
And a push from the wide desolation
Drifted in to our jollification
When her drumming was heard in the hills.
Now the discs by the cam-shaft are rusting,
And the stamps in the boxes are still,
And a silence that’s deep and disgusting
Seems to hang like a pall on the mill.
Just a fortnight she ran—then she rested,
And we’ve little to do but complain;
For a bird in the feed-pipe has nested,
And we’ve spent every stiver invested,
And are praying for tucker and rain.
Billy’s Creek—theme of eloquent fables—
Drips like sweat on the breast of the wheel,
And the blankets are dry on the tables,
And the sluice-box is warped like an eel;
Sudden dust-clouds run lunatic races
In the red, rocky bed down below,
And the porcupine scrambles in places
Where Flinn swears by the faith he embraces,
Fourteen inches of water should flow.
For a time we were proof against sorrow,
And we harboured a cheerful belief
In the plenteous rains of to-morrow
As we belted away at the reef.
We piled quartz in the paddocks and hopper,
And the pack-horse came in once a week:
Now our credit is not worth a copper
At the township, and highly improper
Is the language the storekeepers speak.
We no longer talk brightly, or snivel
Of our luck, but we loaf very hard,
Too disgusted to care to be civil,
And too lazy to look at a card.
Only George finds some slight consolation
Crushing prospects—a couple a day—
And then proving by multiplication
How much metal is in the formation,
And the ‘divvies’ she’ll probably pay.
But our leisure is qualified slightly
By the cattle from over the Fly—
Who have taken to pegging out nightly
In our limited water supply.
And the snakes have assisted in keeping
Things alive, for the man, you’ll agree,
Will be spry who may find he’s been sleeping
With a tiger—or chance on one creeping
In the water he wanted for tea.
Though our sweltering sky never changes,
Squatter Clark, up at Crowfoot, complains
That prospectors out over the ranges
Have been chased out of camp by the rains.
Veal, the Methodist preacher at Spence’s,
Who the Cousin Jacks say is ‘some tuss’
As a rain-making parson commences
To enlarge on our sins and offences,
And to blame all his failures on us.
We don’t go to his church down the mountain:
Seven miles is a wearisome trot,
With the glass playing up like a fountain,
And the prayers correspondingly hot.
So on Sunday each suffering sinner
Has a simple, convivial spree,—
A roast porcupine, maybe, for dinner;
For we daily grow thinner and thinner
On the week’s bread and treacle and tea.
We’ve been scared, too, of late by Golightly,
Him who kept up his chin best of all,
And predicted with confidence nightly
Heavy rains that neglected to fall,
And enlarged on the sure indications
(While we listened, and wearily groaned)
Of tremendous climatic sensations,
Fearful tempests, and great inundations,
That, it happened, were always postponed.
He’s gone daft through our many reverses,
Or the sun has got on to his brain,
For he cowers all day, and he curses
To a fretful and wearing refrain;
And at midnight he dolefully screeches
In the gloom of the desolate mill;
Or he goes in his shirt, making speeches
To the man in the moon, whom he reaches
From the summit of Poverty Hill.
So we’re waiting, and watching, and longing
With an impotent, bitter desire,
And new troubles and old ones come thronging,
Drought, and fever, and famine, and fire;
And we know—our misfortunes reviewing—
All the pangs that in Hades betide,
Where the damned sit eternally stewing,
And, through days never ending, are suing
For the water that’s ever denied.
HE WAS working on a station in the Western when I knew him,
And he came from Conongamo, up the old surveyors’ track,
And the fellows all admitted that no man in Vic. could ‘do him,’
Since he’d smothered Stonewall Menzie, also Anderson, the black.
Bob was modelled for a fighter, but he’d run to beef a trifle;
For his science every rouseabout was satisfied to vouch,
And Red Fogarty advised us he delivered like a rifle,
And his stopping—well, beside him Harry Sallars was a slouch.
Not a man of us had met him till he settled on the station—
This was early in the Sixties, what we call the good old days—
And it’s cheerfully admitted Robert owed his reputation
To a crippled jaw, a broken nose, and eyes that looked both ways.
We were certain on the face of it our guess was not an error,
Every feature of his phiz was marked, his chin was pulled askew,
And The Critic passed the office: ‘Bet your buttons he’s a terror!
That’s the man who hammered Kelly on The Creek in Fifty-two!’
Bob was not a shrinking blossom, and he held the first impressions
By his subsequent admissions to the ringers and the mugs,
And he let himself be tickled into casual confessions
Of his battles with the bruisers and the scientific pugs.
How he’d mangled Matty Hardy was his earliest narration;
He’d completely flummoxed Kitchen, and had made the climate hot
For Maloney, Fee, and Curran. It was quite a consolation
When he graciously informed us that he hadn’t licked the lot.
The arrival of the Wonder gave a spurt to local science,
And we had an exhibition every evening in the week,
For the lightest joke was answered in the lingo of defiance,
And our blood was cast like water on the grasses by the creek.
Every fellow but the stranger had his scrap or rough-and-tumble;
No one thought of looking ugly at the slugger, Battered Bob;
And whene’er the boys addressed him ’twas in language choice and humble,—
Though they ached to see him beaten, none was anxious for the job.
How we honoured Bob, and yielded to his later information;
Let him lead in all the arguments, and gently run the ranche!
And a very small potato was the owner of the station
By the man who slaughtered Melody and fought a draw with Blanche.
Battered Bob became our champion, our boss, and by degrees he
Sent his fame down to the Wannon, and right up to Spooner’s Gap,
And he scooped the honours smiling, and he held them just as easy,
For we’d never seen him shape yet, and he hadn’t fought a tap.
We’d a cook whose name was Han Cat—he was short, and fat, and yellow,
Just a common, ugly Chinky, with a never ending smile.
Bob was careful to avoid the corns of any other fellow,
But he filled Han Cat with sorrow, and he whaled him all the while.
Han Cat groaned and bore it meekly, and we didn’t care to figure
In the antics of the Champion or his little private rows.
Robert said, ‘I like a native, and I’ll liquor with a nigger,
But I hate the skin and colour of these sanguinary Chows!’
On a certain Sunday morning Robert slyly cut a section
Off the pig-tail of the pagan—’twas Han’s glory and his pride—
But the trouble that came after is his saddest recollection,
And the boys were so disgusted that they very nearly died.
Han Cat wept a while, and then he turned and scowled as black as thunder,
And he cursed the grinning spoiler till he had to stop for breath:
When he shaped up like a Christian, and he waltzed into the Wonder,
We arranged a ring, and waited for the heathen’s sudden death.
Oh! the sorrow of that Sunday! Oh! the shame and degradation!
The chaps were simply paralyzed, and everyone was dumb,
For the heathen pushed the battle in the fashion of our nation,
And he countered in a way that made the Wonder fairly hum.
‘Bob is fooling Han,’ we murmured, ‘he’ll surprise him in a minute—
Soon he’ll rise to this occasion, and display his proper form!’
But, alas! we’d nursed a viper, for our pug was never in it—
And he couldn’t battle well enough to keep the Pagan warm.
Han Cat beat our battered champion, beat the conqueror of Menzie,
And he towed him round the paddock like a dummy stuffed with hair,
And we never stirred to interfere and stop the Chinky’s frenzy
When he jumped upon the Wonder in a manner most unfair.
You must fancy all our sorrow, and our shame and indignation,
For pen can never, never tell how horrified we felt.
In the morning Little Finney, for the credit of the station,
Hammered Han in stylish fashion with one fist tucked in his belt.
As for Robert, we discussed him in a serious convention,
And resolved that we were victims of a duffer’s awful skite,
And we put it up to tar him; but he dropped to our intention,
And he skipped, without a character, for Hamilton that night.
There’s a moral, boys: Don’t think a mangled boko is a token
That a fellow is a fighter, as a simple thing of course;
Like Battered Bob, he may have had his features bent and broken
Through his carelessness when drunk in being walked on by a horse.
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.