Of home, name and wealth and ambition bereft—
We are children of fortune and luck:
They deny there’s a shred of our characters left,
But they cannot deny us the pluck!
We are vagabond scamps, we are kings over all—
There is little on earth we desire—
We are devils who stand with our backs to the wall,
And who call on the cowards to fire!
There are some of us here who were noble and good,
And who learnt in ingratitude’s schools—
They were born of the selfish and misunderstood,
They were soft, they were ‘smoodgers’ or fools.
With their hands in their pockets to help every friend
In a fix—and they never asked how:
Beware of them you who have money to lend,
For it’s little you’d get from them now.
There are some of us here who were lovers of old—
In the days that were nearer to God;
The girl was more precious than honour or gold,
And they worshipped the ground where she trod;
But she trampled their hearts and they suffered and knew
How the soul of a woman to read—
They will never again to a woman be true;
Let the girls who may meet them take heed!
There are some of us here who were devils from birth,
Who would steal the eye out of a friend—
But we judge not or blame not the worst on the earth,
For it comes to the same in the end.
There are some of us here who were ruined by wrong—
To whom justice and love came too late—
And they threw them aside and go singing a song,
And they know that their mistress is fate.
We were some of us failures at suicide, too—
We are most of us back from the dead—
But we’ve all found the courage to battle it through,
Till the strength of our bodies is sped:
With a flag that is dyed with our hearts’-blood unfurled,
We are marching and marching afar—
We are comrades of all who are fighting the world,
For the world made us all what we are.
James Patrick O'Hara the Justice of Peace,
He bossed the P.M. and he bossed the police;
A parent, a deacon, a landlord was he—
A townsman of weight was O’Hara, J.P.
He gave out the prizes, foundation-stones laid,
He shone when the Governor’s visit was paid;
And twice re-elected as Mayor was he—
The flies couldn’t roost on O’Hara, J.P.
Now Sandy M‘Fly, of the Axe-and-the-Saw,
Was charged with a breach of the licensing law—
He sold after hours whilst talking too free
On matters concerning O’Hara, J.P.
And each contradicted the next witness flat,
Concerning back parlours, side-doors, and all that;
‘Twas very conflicting, as all must agree—
‘Ye’d better take care!’ said O’Hara, J.P.
But ‘Baby,’ the barmaid, her evidence gave—
A poor, timid darling who tried to be brave—
‘Now, don’t be afraid—if it’s frightened ye be—
‘Speak out, my good girl,’ said O’Hara, J.P.
Her hair was so golden, her eyes were so blue,
Her face was so fair and her words seemed so true—
So green in the ways of sweet women was he
That she jolted the heart of O’Hara, J P.
He turned to the other grave Justice of Peace,
And whispered, ‘You can’t always trust the police;
‘I’ll visit the premises during the day,
‘And see for myself,’ said O’Hara, Jay Pay.
’Twas early next morning, or late the same night—
‘’Twas early next morning’ we think would be right—
And sounds that betokened a breach of the law
Escaped through the cracks of the Axe-and-the-Saw.
And Constable Dogherty, out in the street,
Met Constable Clancy a bit off his beat;
He took him with finger and thumb by the ear,
And led him around to a lane in the rear.
He pointed a blind where strange shadows were seen—
Wild pantomime hinting of revels within—
‘We’ll drop on M‘Fly, if you’ll listen to me,
‘And prove we are right to O’Hara, J. P.’’
But Clancy was up to the lay of the land,
He cautiously shaded his mouth with his hand—
‘Wisht, man! Howld yer whisht! or it’s ruined we’ll be,
‘It’s the justice himself—it’s O’Hara, J.P.’
They hish’d and they whishted, and turned themselves round,
And got themselves off like two cats on wet ground;
Agreeing to be, on their honour as men,
A deaf-dumb-and-blind institution just then.
Inside on a sofa, two barmaids between,
With one on his knee was a gentleman seen;
And any chance eye at the keyhole could see
In less than a wink ’twas O’Hara, J.P.
The first in the chorus of songs that were sung,
The loudest that laughed at the jokes that were sprung,
The guest of the evening, the soul of the spree—
The daddy of all was O’Hara, J.P.
And hard-cases chuckled, and hard-cases said
That Baby and Alice conveyed him to bed—
In subsequent storms it was painful to see
Those hard-cases side with the sinful J.P.
Next day, in the court, when the case came in sight,
O’Hara declared he was satisfied quite;
The case was dismissed—it was destined to be
The final case of O’Hara, J.P.
The law and religion came down on him first—
The Christian was hard but his wife was the worst!
Half ruined and half driven crazy was he—
It made an old man of O’Hara, J. P.
Now, young men who come from the bush, do you hear?
Who know not the power of barmaids and beer—
Don’t see for yourself! from temptation steer free,
Remember the fall of O’Hara, J.P.
Queen Hilda Of Virland
Queen Hilda rode along the lines,
And she was young and fair;
And forward on her shoulders fell
The heavy braids of hair:
No gold was ever dug from earth
Like that burnished there –
No sky so blue as were her eyes
Had man seen anywhere.
'Twas so her gay court poets sang,
And we believed it true.
But men must fight for golden hair
And die for eyes of blue!
Cheer after cheer, the long half mile
(It has been ever thus),
And evermore her winsome smile
She turned and turned on us.
The Spring-burst over wood and sea,
The day was warm and bright –
Young Clarence stood on my left hand,
Old Withen on the right.
With fifteen thousand men, or more,
With plumes and banners gay,
To sail that day to foreign war,
And our ships swarmed on the bay.
Old Withen muttered in his beard I listened with a sigh –
"Good Faith! for such a chit as that
Strong men must kill and die.
She'll back to her embroideree,
And fools that bow and smirk,
And we must sail across the sea
And go to other work.
"And wherefore? Wherefore," Withen said,
"Is this red quarrel sought?
Because of clacking painted hags
And foreign fops at Court!
Because 'tis said a drunken king,
In lands we've never seen,
Said something foolish in his cups
Of our young silly queen!
"Good faith! in her old great-aunt's time
'Twere different, I vow:
If old Dame Ruth were here, she'd get
Some sharp advising now!"
(At this a grim smile went about
For men could say in sooth
That none who'd seen her face could doubt
The fair fame of Dame Ruth.)
If Clarence heard, he said no word;
His soul was fresh and clean;
The glory in his boyish eyes
Was shining for his Queen!
And as she passed, he gazed as one
An angel might regard.
(Old Withen looked as if he'd like
To take and smack her hard.)
We only smiled at anything
That good old Withen said,
For he, half blind, through smoke and flame
Had borne her grandsire dead;
And he, in Virland's danger time,
Where both her brothers died,
Had ridden to red victory
By her brave father's side.
Queen Hilda rode along the lines
'Mid thundering cheers the while,
And each man sought – and seemed to get –
Her proud and happy smile.
Queen Hilda little dreamed – Ah, me! –
On what dark miry plain,
And what blood-blinded eyes would see
Her girlish smile again!
Queen Hilda rode on through the crowd,
We heard the distant roar;
We heard the clack of gear and plank,
The sailors on the shore.
Queen Hilda sought her "bower" to rest,
(For her day's work was done),
We kissed our wives – or others' wives –
And sailed ere set of sun.
(Some sail because they're married men,
And some because they're free –
To come or not come back agen,
And such of old were we.
Some sail for fame and some for loot
And some for love – or lust –
And some to fish and some to shoot
And some because they must.
(Some sail who know not why they roam
When they are come aboard,
And some for wives and loves at home,
And some for those abroad.
Some sail because the path is plain,
And some because they choose,
And some with nothing left to gain
And nothing left to lose.
(And we have sailed from Virland, we,
For a woman's right or wrong,
And we are One, and One, and Three,
And Fifteen Thousand strong.
For Right or Wrong and Virland's fame –
You dared us and we come
To write in blood a woman's name
And take a letter home.)
King Death came riding down the lines
And broken lines were they,
With scarce a soldier who could tell
Where friend or foeman lay:
The storm cloud looming over all,
Save where the west was red,
And on the field, of friend and foe,
Ten thousand men lay dead.
Boy Clarence lay in slush and blood
With his face deathly white;
Old Withen lay by his left side
And I knelt at his right.
And Clarence ever whispered,
Though with dying eyes serene:
"I loved her for her girlhood,.
Will someone tell the Queen?"
And this old Withen's message,
When his time shortly came:
"I loved her for her father's sake
But I fought for Virland's fame:
Go, take you this, a message
From me," Old Withen said,
"Who knelt beside her father,
And his when they were dead:
"I who in sport or council,
I who as boy and man,
Would aye speak plainly to them
Were it Court, or battle's van –
(Nay! fear not, she will listen
And my words be understood,
And she will heed my message,
For I know her father's blood.)
"If shame there was – (I judge not
As I'd not be judged above:
The Royal blood of Virland
Was ever hot to love,
Or fight.) – the slander's wiped out,
As witness here the slain:
But, if shame there was, then tell her
Let it not be again."
At home once more in Virland
The glorious Spring-burst shines:
Queen Hilda rides right proudly
Down our victorious lines.
The gaps were filled with striplings,
And Hilda wears a rose:
And what the wrong or right of it
Queen Hilda only knows.
But, be it state or nation
Or castle, town, or shed,
Or be she wife or monarch
Or widowed or unwed –
Now this is for your comfort,
And it has ever been:
That, wrong or right, a man must fight
For his country and his queen.
When I Was King
The second time I lived on earth
Was several hundred years ago;
And—royal by my second birth—
I know as much as most men know.
I was a king who held the reins
As never modern monarch can;
I was a king, and I had brains,
And, what was more, I was a man!
Called to the throne in stormy times,
When things were at their very worst,
I had to fight—and not with rhymes—
My own self and my kindred first;
And after that my friends and foes,
And great abuses born of greed;
And when I’d fairly conquered those,
I ruled the land a king indeed.
I found a deal of rottenness,
Such as in modern towns we find;
I camped my poor in palaces
And tents upon the plain behind.
I marked the hovels, dens and drums
In that fair city by the sea.
And burnt the miles of wretched slums
And built the homes as they should be.
I stripped the baubles from the State,
And on the land I spent the spoil;
I hunted off the sullen great,
And to the farmers gave the soil.
My people were their own police;
My courts were free to everyone.
My priests were to preach love and peace;
My Judges to see justice done.
I’d studied men and studied kings,
No crawling cant would I allow;
I hated mean and paltry things,
As I can hate them even now.
A land of men I meant to see,
A strong and clean and noble race—
No subject dared kneel down to me,
But looked his king straight in the face
Had I not been a king in fact,
A king in council-hall and tent,
I might have let them crawl and act
The courtier to their heart’s content;
But when I called on other kings,
And saw men kneel, I felt inclined
To gently tip the abject things
And kick them very hard behind.
My subjects were not slaves, I guess,
But though the women in one thing—
A question ’twas of healthy dress—
Would dare to argue with their king
(I had to give in there, I own,
Though none denied that I was strong),
Yet they would hear my telephone
If anything went very wrong.
I also had some poets bright—
Their songs were grand, I will allow—
They were, if I remember right,
About as bad as bards are now.
I had to give them best at last,
And let them booze and let them sing;
As it is now, so in the past,
They’d small respect for gods or king.
I loved to wander through the streets—
I carried neither sword nor dirk—
And watch the building of my fleets,
And watch my artisans at work.
At times I would take off my coat
And show them how to do a thing—
Till someone, clucking in his throat,
Would stare and gasp, ‘It is the king!’
And I would say, ‘Shut up, you fools!
Is it for this my towns I burn?
You don’t know how to handle tools,
And by my faith you’ll have to learn!’
I was a king, but what of that?
A king may warble in the spring
And carry eggs home in his hat,
Provided that he is a king.
I loved to stroll about the town
With chums at night, and talk of things,
And, though I chanced to wear the crown,
My friends, by intellect, were kings.
When I was doubtful, then I might
Discuss a matter quietly,
But when I felt that I was right
No power on earth could alter me!
And now and then it was no sin
Nor folly to relax a bit—
I’d take my friends into an inn
And call for wine and pay for it.
And then of many things we’d clack
With loosened tongues and visions clear—
I often heard behind my back
The whispered ‘Peace, the king is here!’
The women harped about a queen,
I knew they longed to have a court
And flaunt their feathers on the scene,
But hitherto I’d held the fort.
My subjects wanted me, no doubt,
To give the throne a son and heir—
(There were some little kings about,
But that was neither here nor there).
I’d no occasion for a wife—
A queen as yet was not my plan;
I’d seen a lot of married life—
My sire had been a married man.
‘A son and heir be hanged!’ I said—
‘How dare you ask for such a thing,
‘You fight it out when I am dead
‘And let the best man be the king!’
‘Your Majesty, we love you well!’
A candid friend would say to me—
‘But there be tales that people tell
‘Unfitted to thy dignity’—
‘My dignity be damned!’ I’d say,
‘Bring me no women’s chattering!
‘I’ll be a man while yet I may—
‘When trouble comes I’ll be a king!
I’d kept my kingdom clean and strong
While other kingdoms were like ours—
I had no need to brook a wrong,
I feared not all the rotten Powers
I did not eat my heart out then,
Nor feebly fight in verse or prose
I’d take five hundred thousand men
To argue matters with my foes!
It thrilled me through, the mighty tramp
Of armëd men, the thundering cheer—
The pregnant whisper through the camp
At dead of night: ‘The King is here!’
And though we paid for victory
On some fields that were hard to hold,
The faith my soldiers had in me
Oft strengthened mine a hundredfold.
I’d chat with soldiers by the fires
On rocky heights and river banks,
I’d seek the brains that war requires,
And take my captains from the ranks.
And so, until the storm was by,
And came the peace just war can bring,
I bore me so that men might cry
With all their hearts, ‘God Save the King.’
When I was king the world was wide,
And I was strong and I was free.
I knew no hatred, knew no pride,
No envy and no treachery.
I feared no lies. I feared no truth,
Nor any storm that time might bring.
I had my love, I had my youth,
The world was mine when I was king.
Peace came at last—and strange is Fate—
The women begged just once alone
To see me robed in royal state
And seated on my father’s throne.
I thought, ‘Shall I this boon deny?’
And said—and ’twas a paltry thing:
‘I’ll show the fools just once that I
‘Can look, as well as be, a king.’
They dusted out the castle old,
And from the closet and the chest
They dug the jewels set in gold—
The crown and robes and all the rest.
They came with eyes like stars of night,
With diamonds set in raven hair,
They came with arms and bosoms white—
And, Oh my God! but one was fair!
They dressed me as the kings had been,
The ancient royal purple spread,
And one that was to be my queen,
She placed the circlet on my head.
They pressed their hearts and bowed to me,
They knelt with arms uplifted all.
I felt the rush of vanity—
The pride that goes before the fall.
And then the banquet and the wine
With Satan’s music and the glance
Of siren eyes. Those captains mine
Were reeling in the maddening dance:
A finger writing on the wall,
While girls sang as the angels sing—
A drunken boaster in the hall,
The fool that used to be a king.
I rose again—no matter how—
A woman, and a deeper fall—
I move amongst my people now
The most degraded of them all.
But, if in centuries to come,
I live once more and claim my own,
I’ll see my subjects blind and dumb
Before they set me on a throne
All is well—in a prison—to-night, and the warders are crying ‘All’s Well!’
I must speak, for the sake of my heart—if it’s but to the walls of my cell.
For what does it matter to me if to-morrow I go where I will?
I’m as free as I ever shall be—there is naught in my life to fulfil.
I am free! I am haunted no more by the question that tortured my brain:
‘Are you sane of a people gone mad? or mad in a world that is sane?’
I have had time to rest—and to pray—and my reason no longer is vext
By the spirit that hangs you one day, and would hail you as martyr the next.
Are the fields of my fancy less fair through a window that’s narrowed and barred?
Are the morning stars dimmed by the glare of the gas-light that flares in the yard?
No! And what does it matter to me if to-morrow I sail from the land?
I am free, as I never was free! I exult in my loneliness grand!
Be a saint and a saviour of men—be a Christ, and they’ll slander and rail!
Only Crime’s understood in the world, and a man is respected—in gaol.
But I find in my raving a balm—in the worst that has come to the worst—
Let me think of it all—I grow calm—let me think it all out from the first.
Beyond the horizon of Self do the walls of my prison retreat,
And I stand in a gap of the hills with the scene of my life at my feet;
The range to the west, and the Peak, and the marsh where the dark ridges end,
And the spurs running down to the Creek, and the she-oaks that sigh in the bend.
The hints of the river below; and, away on the azure and green,
The old goldfield of Specimen Flat, and the township—a blotch on the scene;
The store, the hotels, and the bank—and the gaol and the people who come
With the weatherboard box and the tank—the Australian idea of home:
The scribe—spirit-broken; the ‘wreck,’ in his might-have-been or shame;
The townsman ‘respected’ or worthy; the workman respectful and tame;
The boss of the pub with his fine sense of honour, grown moral and stout,
Like the spielers who came with the ‘line,’ on the cheques that were made farther out.
The clever young churchman, despised by the swaggering, popular man;
The doctor with hands clasped behind, and bowed head, as if under a ban;
The one man with the brains—with the power to lead, unsuspected and dumb,
Whom Fate sets apart for the Hour—the man for the hour that might come.
The old local liar whose story was ancient when Egypt was young,
And the gossip who hangs on the fence and poisons God’s world with her tongue;
The haggard bush mother who’d nag, though a husband or child be divine,
And who takes a fierce joy in a rag of the clothes on the newcomer’s line.
And a lad with a cloud on his heart who was lost in a world vague and dim—
No one dreamed as he drifted apart that ’twas genius the matter with him;
Who was doomed, in that ignorant hole, to its spiritless level to sink,
Till the iron had entered his soul, and his brain found a refuge in drink.
Perhaps I was bitter because of the tongues of disgrace in the town—
Of a boy-nature misunderstood and its nobler ambitions sneered
Of the sense of injustice that stings till it ends in the creed of the push—
I was born in that shadow that clings to the old gully homes in the bush.
And I was ambitious. Perhaps as a boy I could see things too plain—
How I wished I could write of the truths—of the visions—that haunted my brain!
Of the bush-buried toiler denied e’en the last loving comforts of all—
Of my father who slaved till he died in the scrub by his wedges and maul.
Twenty years, and from daylight till dark—twenty years it was split, fence, and grub,
And the end was a tumble-down hut and a bare, dusty patch in the scrub.
’Twas the first time he’d rested, they said, but the knit in his forehead was deep,
And to me the scarred hands of the dead seemed to work as I’d seen them in sleep.
And the mother who toiled by his side, through hardship and trouble and drought,
And who fought for the home when he died till her heart—not her spirit—wore out:
I am shamed for Australia and haunted by the face of the haggard bush wife—
She who fights her grim battle undaunted because she knows nothing of life.
By the barren track travelled by few men—poor victims of commerce, unknown—
E’en the troubles that woman tells woman she suffers, unpitied, alone;
Heart-dumbed and mind-dulled and benighted, Eve’s beauty in girlhood destroyed!
Till the wrongs never felt shall be righted—and the peace never missed be enjoyed.
There was no one to understand me. I was lonely and shy as a lad,
Or I lived in a world that was wider than ours; so of course I was ‘mad.’
Who is not understood is a ‘crank’—so I suffered the tortures of men
Doomed to think in the bush, till I drank and went wrong—I grew popular then.
There was Doctor Lebenski, my friend—and the friend, too, of all who were down—
Clever, gloomy, and generous drunkard—the pride and disgrace of the town.
He had been through the glory and shame of a wild life by city and sea,
And the tales of the land whence he came had a strong fascination for me.
And often in yarning or fancy, when she-oaks grew misty and dim,
From the forest and straight for the camp of the Cossack I’ve ridden with him:
Ridden out in the dusk with a score, ridden back ere the dawning with ten—
Have struck at three kingdoms and Fate for the fair land of Poland again!
He’d a sorrow that drink couldn’t drown—that his great heart was powerless to fight—
And I gathered the threads ’twixt the long, pregnant puffs of his last pipe at night;
For he’d say to me, sadly: ‘Jack Drew’—then he’d pause, as to watch the smoke curl—
‘If a good girl should love you, be true—though you die for it—true to the girl!
‘A man may be false to his country—a man may be false to his friend:
‘Be a vagabond, drunkard, a spieler—yet his soul may come right in the end;
‘But there is no prayer, no atonement, no drink that can banish the shade
‘From your side, if you’ve one spark of manhood, of a dead girl that you have betrayed.’
‘One chance for a fortune,’ we’re told, in the lives of the poorest of men—
There’s a chance for a heaven on earth that comes over and over again!
’Twas for Ruth, the bank manager’s niece, that the wretched old goldfield grew fair,
And she came like an angel of peace in an hour of revengeful despair.
A girl as God made her, and wise in a faith that was never estranged—
From childhood neglected and wronged, she had grown with her nature unchanged;
And she came as an angel of Hope as I crouched on Eternity’s brink,
And the loaded revolver and rope were parts of the horrors of drink.
I was not to be trusted, they said, within sight of a cheque or a horse,
And the worst that was said of my name all the gossips were glad to endorse.
But she loved me—she loved me! And why? Ask the she-oaks that sighed in the bends—
We had suffered alike, she and I, from the blindness of kinsfolk and friends.
A girlhood of hardship and care, for she gave the great heart of a child
To a brother whose idol was Self, and a brother good-natured but ‘wild;’—
And a father who left her behind when he’d suffered too much from the moan
Of a mother grown selfish and blind in her trouble—’twas always her own.
She was brave, and she never complained, for the hardships of youth that had driven
My soul to the brink of perdition, but strengthened the girl’s faith in Heaven.
In the home that her relatives gave she was tortured each hour of her life.
By her cruel dependence—the slave of her aunt, the bank-manager’s wife.
Does the world know how easy to lead and how hard to be driven are men?
She was leading me back with her love, to the faith of my childhood again!
To my boyhood’s neglected ideal—to the hopes that were strangled at birth,
To the good and the truth of the real—to the good that was left on the earth.
And the sigh of the oaks seemed a hymn, and the waters had music for me
As I sat on the grass at her feet, and rested my head on her knee;
And we seemed in a dreamland apart from the world’s discontent and despair,
For the cynic went out of my heart at the touch of her hand on my hair.
She would talk like a matron at times, and she prattled at times like a child:
‘I will trust you—I know you are good—you have only been careless and wild—
‘You are clever—you’ll rise in the world—you must think of your future and me—
‘You will give up the drink for my sake, and you don’t know how happy we’ll be!’
‘I can work, I will help you,’ she said, and she’d plan out our future and home,
But I found no response in my heart save the hungry old craving to roam.
Would I follow the paths of the dead? I was young yet. Would I settle down
To the life that our parents had led by the dull, paltry-spirited town?
For the ghost of the cynic was there, and he waited and triumphed at last—
One night—I’d been drinking, because of a spectre that rose from the past—
My trust had so oft been betrayed: that at last I had turned to distrust—
My sense of injustice so keen that my anger was always unjust.
Would I sacrifice all for a wife, who was free now to put on my hat
And to go far away from the life—from the home life of Specimen Flat?
Would I live as our fathers had lived to the finish? And what was it worth?
A woman’s reproach in the end—of all things most unjust on the earth.
The old rebel stirred in my blood, and he whispered, ‘What matter?’ ‘Why not?’
And she trembled and paled, for the kiss that I gave her was reckless and hot.
And the angel that watched o’er her slept, and the oaks sighed aloud in the creek
As we sat in a shadow that crept from a storm-cloud that rose on the Peak.
There’s a voice warns the purest and best of their danger in love or in strife,
But that voice is a knell to her honour who loves with the love of her life!
And ‘Ruth—Ruth!’ I whispered at last in a voice that was not like my own—
She trembled and clung to me fast with a sigh that was almost a moan.
While you listen and doubt, and incline to the devil that plucks at your sleeve—
When the whispers of angels have failed—then Heaven speaks once I believe.
The lightning leapt out—in a flash only seen by those ridges and creeks,
And the darkness shut down with a crash that I thought would have riven the peaks.
By the path through the saplings we ran, as the great drops came pattering down,
To the first of the low-lying ridges that lay between us and the town;
Where she suddenly drew me aside with that beautiful instinct of love
As the clatter of hoofs reached our ears—and a horseman loomed darkly above.
’Twas the Doctor: he reined up and sat for the first moment pallid and mute,
Then he lifted his hand to his hat with his old-fashioned martial salute,
And he said with a glance at the ridge, looming black with its pine-tops awhirl,
‘Take my coat, you are caught in the storm!’ and he whispered, ‘Be true to the girl!’
He rode on—to a sick bed, maybe some twenty miles back in the bush,
And we hurried on through the gloom, and I still seemed to hear in the ‘woosh’
Of the wind in the saplings and oaks, in the gums with their top boughs awhirl—
In the voice of the gathering tempest—the warning, ‘Be true to the girl!’
And I wrapped the coat round her, and held her so close that I felt her heart thump
When the lightning leapt out, as we crouched in the lee of the shell of a stump—
And there seemed a strange fear in her eyes and the colour had gone from her cheek—
And she scarcely had uttered a word since the hot brutal kiss by the creek.
The storm rushed away to the west—to the ridges drought-stricken and dry—
To the eastward loomed far-away peaks ’neath the still starry arch of the sky;
By the light of the full moon that swung from a curtain of cloud like a lamp,
I saw that my tent had gone down in the storm, as we passed by the camp.
’Tis a small thing, or chance, such as this, that decides between hero and cur
In one’s heart. I was wet to the skin, and my comfort was precious to her.
And her aunt was away in the city—the dining-room fire was alight,
And the uncle was absent—he drank with some friends at the Royal that night.
He came late, and passed to his room without glancing at her or at me—
Too straight and precise, be it said, for a man who was sober to be.
Then the drop of one boot on the floor (there was no wife to witness his guilt),
And a moment thereafter a snore that proclaimed that he slept on the quilt.
Was it vanity, love, or revolt? Was it joy that came into my life?
As I sat there with her in my arms, and caressed her and called her ‘My wife!’
Ah, the coward! But my heart shall bleed, though I live on for fifty long years,
For she could not cry out, only plead with eyes that were brimming with tears.
Not the passion so much brings remorse, but the thought of the treacherous part
I’d have played in a future already planned out—ay! endorsed in my heart!
When a good woman falls for the sake of a love that has blinded her eyes,
There is pardon, perhaps, for his lust; but what heaven could pardon the lies?
And ‘What does it matter?’ I said. ‘You are mine, I am yours—and for life.
‘He is drunk and asleep—he won’t hear, and to morrow you shall be my wife!’
There’s an hour in the memory of most that we hate ever after and loathe—
’Twas the daylight that came like a ghost to her window that startled us both.
Twixt the door of her room and the door of the office I stood for a space,
When a treacherous board in the floor sent a crack like a shot through the place!—
Then the creak of a step and the click of a lock in the manager’s room—
I grew cold to the stomach and sick, as I trembled and shrank in the gloom.
He faced me, revolver in hand—‘Now I know you, you treacherous whelp!
‘Stand still, where you are, or I’ll fire!’ and he suddenly shouted for help.
‘Help! Burglary!’ Yell after yell—such a voice would have wakened the tomb;
And I heard her scream once, and she fell like a log on the floor of her room!
And I thought of her then like a flash—of the foul fiend of gossip that drags
A soul to perdition—I thought of the treacherous tongues of the hags;
She would sacrifice all for my sake—she would tell the whole township the truth.
I’d escape, send the Doctor a message and die—ere they took me—for Ruth!
Then I rushed him—a struggle—a flash—I was down with a shot in my arm—
Up again, and a desperate fight—hurried footsteps and cries of alarm!
A mad struggle, a blow on the head—and the gossips will fill in the blank
With the tale of the capture of Drew on the night he broke into the bank.
In the cell at the lock-up all day and all night, without pause through my brain
Whirled the scenes of my life to the last one—and over and over again
I paced the small cell, till exhaustion brought sleep—and I woke to the past
Like a man metamorphosed—clear-headed, and strong in a purpose at last.
She would sacrifice all for my sake—she would tell the whole township the truth—
In the mood I was in I’d have given my life for a moment with Ruth;
But still, as I thought, from without came the voice of the constable’s wife;
‘They say it’s brain fever, poor girl, and the doctor despairs of her life.’
‘He has frightened the poor girl to death—such a pity—so pretty and young,’
So the voice of a gossip chimed in: ‘And the wretch! he deserves to be hung.
‘They were always a bad lot, the Drews, and I knowed he was more rogue than crank,
‘And he only pretended to court her so’s to know his way into the bank!’
Came the doctor at last with his voice hard and cold and a face like a stone—
Hands behind, but it mattered not then—’twas a fight I must fight out alone:
‘You have cause to be thankful,’ he said, as though speaking a line from the past—
‘She was conscious an hour; she is dead, and she called for you, Drew, till the last!
‘Ay! And I knew the truth, but I lied. She fought for the truth, but I lied;
‘And I said you were well and were coming, and, listening and waiting, she died.
‘God forgive you! I warned you in time. You will suffer while reason endures:
‘For the rest, you will know only I have the key of her story—and yours.’
The curious crowd in the court seemed to me but as ghosts from the past,
As the words of the charge were read out, like a hymn from the first to the last;
I repeated the words I’d rehearsed—in a voice that seemed strangely away—
In their place, ‘I am guilty,’ I said; and again, ‘I have nothing to say.’
I realised then, and stood straight—would I shrink from the eyes of the clown—
From the eyes of the sawney who’d boast of success with a girl of the town?
But there is human feeling in men which is easy, or hard, to define:
Every eye, as I glanced round the court, was cast down, or averted from mine.
Save the doctor’s—it seemed to me then as if he and I stood there alone—
For a moment he looked in my eyes with a wonderful smile in his own,
Slowly lifted his hand in salute, turned and walked from the court-room, and then
From the rear of the crowd came the whisper: ‘The Doctor’s been boozing again!’
I could laugh at it then from the depth of the bitterness still in my heart,
At the ignorant stare of surprise, at the constables’ ‘Arder in Car-rt!’
But I know. Oh, I understand now how the poor tortured heart cries aloud
For a flame from High Heaven to wither the grin on the face of a crowd.
Then the Judge spoke harshly; I stood with my fluttering senses awhirl:
My crime, he said sternly, had cost the young life of an innocent girl;
I’d brought sorrow and death to a home, I was worse than a murderer now;
And the sentence he passed on me there was the worst that the law would allow.
Let me rest—I grow weary and faint. Let me breathe—but what value is breath?
Ah! the pain in my heart—as of old; and I know what it is—it is death.
It is death—it is rest—it is sleep. ’Tis the world and I drifting apart.
I have been through a sorrow too deep to have passed without breaking my heart.
There’s a breeze! And a light without bars! Let me drink the free air till I drown.
’Tis the she-oaks—the Peak—and the stars. Lo, a dead angel’s spirit floats down!
This will pass—aye, and all things will pass. Oh, my love, have you come back to me?
I am tired—let me lie on the grass at your feet, with my head on your knee.
‘I was wrong’—the words lull me to sleep, like the words of a lullaby song—
I was wrong—but the iron went deep in my heart ere I knew I was wrong.
I rebelled, but I suffered in youth, and I suffer too deeply to live:
You’ll forgive me, and pray for me, Ruth—for you loved me—and God will forgive.
Joseph’s Dreams And Reuben's Brethren [a Recital In Six Chapters]
I cannot blame old Israel yet,
For I am not a sage—
I shall not know until I get
The son of my old age.
The mysteries of this Vale of Tears
We will perchance explain
When we have lived a thousand years
And died and come again.
No doubt old Jacob acted mean
Towards his father’s son;
But other hands were none too clean,
When all is said and done.
There were some things that had to be
In those old days, ’tis true—
But with old Jacob’s history
This tale has nought to do.
(They had to keep the birth-rate up,
And populate the land—
They did it, too, by simple means
That we can’t understand.
The Patriarchs’ way of fixing things
Would make an awful row,
And Sarah’s plain, straightforward plan
Would never answer now.)
his is a tale of simple men
And one precocious boy—
A spoilt kid, and, as usual,
His father’s hope and joy
(It mostly is the way in which
The younger sons behave
That brings the old man’s grey hairs down
In sorrow to the grave.)
Old Jacob loved the whelp, and made,
While meaning to be kind,
A coat of many colours that
Would strike a nigger blind!
It struck the brethren green, ’twas said—
I’d take a pinch of salt
Their coats had coloured patches too—
But that was not their fault.
Young Joseph had a soft thing on,
And, humbugged from his birth,
You may depend he worked the thing
For all that it was worth.
And that he grafted not but crowed,
You don’t need to be told,
And he was mighty cocky, with
His “Lo!” and his “Behold!”
He took in all his brothers said,
And went and told his Dad,
And then, when someone split on him,
No wonder they were mad.
But still he wasn’t satisfied,
And it would almost seem
He itched to rile his brethren, for
He went and dreamed a dream,
And told it to his brothers straight
(So Genesis believes):—
“Lo! we were working in the field,
And we were binding sheaves,
And my sheaf rose and stood upright,
And, straightway, for a sign,
Your sheaves came round about and made
Obeisance to mine!”
The brethren stared and made comment
In words that were not mild,
And when the meaning dawned on them
You bet that they were wild!
And Joseph left those angry men
To boil and blow off steam,
And ambled, chuckling, home agen
To dream another dream.
“Behold! I’ve dreamed a dream once more!”
He told ’em, frank and free—
“The sun, moon, and eleven stars
Have likewise bowed to me!”
(Perhaps Astronomy has changed
Since Joseph saw the light,
But I have wondered what the sun
Was doing out at night.)
And when they dropped!—you never heard,
In sheds or shanty bars,
Such awful language as escaped
From those eleven stars.
You know how Jacob-Israel loved
His hopeful youngest pup;
But, when he heard the latest dream,
It shook the old man up.
But Joseph talked his father round,
Who humoured every whim
(Perhaps old Jacob half-believed
They would bow down to him):
But, anyway, as always was,
He backed the youngest son,
And sent the others with the sheep
Out to the Check-’em run.
Now Jacob, with that wondrous tact
That doting parents show,
Or, anxious for his sons out back,
Sent, of all others, Joe!
To see if it was well with them
(And they were not asleep),
With one eye on his brothers’ camp,
And one eye on the sheep.
He drew a blank on Check-’em run—
Got bushed, too, you’ll be bound.
A certain cove—there’s always one—
Saw Joseph mooning round.
He asked him how it came to pass,
And what it was about,
And said, “They’re trav-lin’ now for grass
In Doothen—further out.”
He also muttered, “Strike me blue!”
While staring at the clothes—
He’d never seen a jackaroo
With such a coat as Joe’s.
He set the nameless on the track,
And scratched his head to think,
But gave it best, and, riding back,
Said firmly, “Strike me pink!”
’Twas blazing hot in Doothen then,
The sweat ran down in streams—
It melted out the memory
Of even Joseph’s dreams!
They’d had some trouble with the sheep,
Some Arabs and a “shirk”—
It was a favourable time
For Joe to get to work.
They saw him coming, “afar off”—
In this case, you might note,
Their eyesight wasn’t wonderful,
Considering the coat.
And what with sheep, and dust, and flies,
And damned shirks in the swim
With sheep stealers, the brethren were
For absenteeing him.
And, add to that, he scared the kine
With his infernal coat—
They trampled on the sheep and swine
And startled every goat.
The brethren had to round up then
As fast as ass could go,
And when they got to camp agen
They’d fixed it up for Joe.
Save poor old Rube—he had the blight,
But, grafting all the same,
He only looked on family rows
As just a blooming shame.
Like many an easy-going man,
He had a cunning soul.
He said, “We will not kill the kid,
But shove him in a hole,
And leave him there to dream o’ things”—
There’s not the slightest doubt
He meant to slip round after dark
And pull the youngster out,
And fill his gourd and tucker-bag,
And tell him “Not to mind”,
And start him on the back-track with
A gentle kick behind.
Some ’Tothersider prospectors
Had been there poking round;
You may depend that Reuben knew
’Twas “dry and shallow ground”.
They dropped young Joseph in a hole—
The giddy little goat—
And left him there, to cool his heels,
Without his overcoat.
(Don’t think that Moses, such a whale
On dry facts, thought it wet
To say, when they’d chucked Joseph in,
It was an empty pit!
So many things are preached and said
Where’er the Bible is
To prove that Moses never read
The “proofs” of Genesis.)
But let’s get on. While having grub,
A brethren sniffed and “seen”
Some Ishmaelites pass through the scrub—
Or O-asses, I mean.
They’d been right out to Gilead—
A rather longish trip—
For camel-loads of balm, and myrrh,
And spicery for ’Gyp.
(I’ve often seen the Afghans pass
With camel strings out back,
And thought ’twas somewhat similar
On that old Bible track.
I don’t know much of balm and myrrh,
Whatever they may be,
But e’en when sheepskins were not there,
I’ve smelt the spicery.)
It was the same in Canaan then
As it is here to-day:
A sudden thought jerked Judah up
For “brofit “ straight away.
The brethren got on one end too
When Judah jumped and said,
“We’ll sell the kid for what he brings!
He’s no good when he’s dead.”
And, to be short, they being Jews—
The “chosing” of the earth—
They sold him to the Ishmaelites
For more than twice his worth.
(Some Midianitish auctioneers
Were also on the job.)
’Twas “twenty bits of silver”, which
I s’pose was twenty bob.
So they most comfortably got
Young Joseph off their hands,
For Ishmael never bothered much
About receipts or brands.
(They spake not of his dreams and cheek,
His laziness, or “skite”;
No doubt they thought the Ishmaelites
Would see to that all right.)
Then Reuben came; he’d been around
To watch the sheep a bit,
And on his way back to the camp
He slipped round by the pit
To give young Joe a drink. He stared,
And, thinking Joe was dead,
He rent his gown like mad, and ran
For ashes for his head.
(As if that would do any good!
I only know that I
Cannot afford to rend my clothes
When my relations die.
I don’t suppose they would come back,
Or that the world would care,
If I went howling for a year
With ashes in my hair.)
You say he counted on a new
Rig-out? Yes? And you know
That Jacob tore his garment too,
So that old cock won’t crow.
Look here! You keep your smart remarks
Till after I am gone.
I won’t have Reuben silver-tailed—
Nor Pharaoh, later on.
The brethren humbugged Reuben well,
For fear he’d take the track,
And sneak in on the Ishmaelites,
And steal young Joseph back,
Or fight it out if he was caught,
And die—as it might be—
Or, at the best, go down with Joe
And into slavery.
Young Simeon slipped into the scrub,
To where the coat was hid,
And Judah stayed and wept with Rube,
While Levi killed a kid.
So they fixed up the wild-beast yarn,
And Hebrews sadly note—
Considering the price of cloth—
They had to spoil the coat.
(There was a yam about old Rube
That all true men despise,
Spread by his father’s concubines—
A vicious strumpet’s lies.
But I believe old Moses was,
As we are, well aware
That Reuben stood in this last scene
The central figure there.)
I feel for poor old Israel’s grief,
Believing all the same
(And not with atheist unbelief)
That Jacob was to blame.
’Twas ever so, and shall be done,
While one fond fool has breath—
Fond folly drives the youngest son
To ruin and to death.
The caravan went jogging on
To Pharaoh’s royal town,
But Genesis gives no account
Of Joseph’s journey down.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
He found it pretty rough,
But there’s a bare chance that his hide,
As well as cheek, was tough.
I see them toiling through the heat,
In patches and in dirt,
With sand-grooved sandals on their feet,
And slaves without a shirt—
The dust-caked thirst, the burning ground,
The mad and maddening flies,
That gathered like black goggles round
The piccaninnies’ eyes.
The Ishmaelites had tempers brief,
And whips of hide and gut,
And sometimes, p’raps, for Hagar’s sake,
Gave Joe an extra cut.
When, fainting by the way, he felt
The stimulating touch,
I have no doubt he often wished
He hadn’t dreamed so much.
He didn’t dream much on that trip,
Although he thought a lot.
However, they got down to ’Gyp
In good time, where he got
A wash and rest—he needed both—
And in the old slave-yard
Was sold to Captain Potiphar,
Of Pharaoh’s body-guard.
I PAUSE to state that later on
(And it seems worth the halt)
Smart Judah gat into a mess,
Though it was not his fault.
And I would only like to say,
In this most thankless task,
Wives sell to husbands every day,
And that without a mask.
But, what with family rows and drought,
And blessed women too,
The fathers of terrestrial tribes
Had quite enough to do.
They had to graft both day and night,
With no rest, save the last,
For when they were not grafting they
Were populating fast.
The Captain was a casual man,
But seemed a shrewd one too;
He got young Joseph’s measure soon,
And saw what he could do.
The Lord was with Joe, Moses said—
I know that Joe had pluck—
But I believe ’twas mostly check,
And his infernal luck.
The Captain made him manager,
And found that this arrangement paid—
That much at least is clear.
And what with merchants, clerks, and slaves,
Joe led a busy life,
With one eye on the maid-servants,
And “Jeames” and Potty’s wife.
The Captain seemed a casual man,
And “’Gyp” was on the glide:
There was a growing tendency
To live and let things slide.
He left all things in Joseph’s hands—
According to old Mose—
And knew not what he had besides
His tucker and his clothes.
I guess he had a shrewd idea,
For it is now, as then—
The world most often makes mistakes
With easy-going men.
The Captain often went away
For quietness and rest,
And, maybe, for some other things—
Well, Potiphar knew best.
Perhaps the missus knew it too—
At least, she should have known—
And Joe was handsome, strange, and new,
And she was much alone.
It seems a funny business now,
But I was never there—
Perhaps so long as cheques came in
The Captain didn’t care.
’Tis strange that Moses, such a whale
On details out of joint,
Should always come, in such a case,
So bluntly to the point.
He says Joe had a goodly form—
Or person it should be—
He says that she cast eyes on Joe,
And she said, “Lie with me.”
It took young Joseph sudden like.
He’d heard, while on the run,
Of other women who could lie,
And in more ways than one;
Of men who had been gaoled or hanged—
As they are here to-day—
(Likewise of lovers who were banged),
And so he edged away.
She never moved, and so he stayed
While she was there to hear,
For his infernal vanity
Was stronger than his fear.
He bragged his opportunity,
His strength, and godliness:
“There is no greater in the house
Than I.” (She made him less.)
’Twas cant to brag of purity
And right in that household,
For what was he if not a slave,
And basely bought and sold?
Unmanly for a man to treat
A love-starved woman so,
And cowardly to humiliate
A spirit thrust so low.
She knew that Joseph was a spy
On her and all the rest,
And this, with his outspoken “scorn”,
Made reasons manifest.
She had her passions (don’t be shocked,
For you have yours, no doubt),
And meant to take young Joseph down
And pay her husband out.
He was a slave, and bought and sold,
And I will say right here
His preaching was too manifold
And glib to be sincere,
When youth and “looks” turn goody-good—
You’ll see it at a glance—
They have one eye to woman’s help
And both on the main chance.
Now, had old Rube been in his place
(All honour to his name),
I’ll swear he would have taken things
Exactly as they came,
And kept it dark—or fought it out,
As the ungodly can—
But, whatsoe’er he might have done,
He would have been a man!
Howbeit, the missus stuck to Joe,
Vindictive, vicious, grim,
And bore his sermons and rebuffs
Until she cornered him. . . .
He left his garment in her hand,
And gat him out of that. . . .
About the merits of the case
I’ll say no more—that’s flat.
(He knew all right what she was at,
And Potiphar was out,
He went alone into the house
When no one was about.
He may have been half-drunk or mad,
He certainly was blind,
To run no further than the yard,
And leave his coat behind!)
But, seeing how our laws are fixed,
If I get in such dirt,
I’ll straightway get me out of that
If—I’ve to leave my shirt.
But I will keep the running up,
If I have common-sense,
Nor stop this side of Jericho
To think of my defence.
Joe should have streaked for Suez straight,
And tried his luck in flight
For Canaan, where they looked on things
In quite another light.
Old Jacob had experience,
And he’d have stuck to Joe.
He was a match for women’s lies
That flabbergast us so.
The missus told the self-same tale,
And in the self-same way,
As our enfranchised females do
In police courts every day.
Too cowardly to breathe a breath
Against the vilest rip,
We send straight men to gaol or death,
Just as they did in ’Gyp.
Now, Potiphar was wondrous mild—
Suspiciously, to say
The least. He didn’t operate
On Joseph straight away.
Perhaps he knew his wife no less
Than Joe, yet had regard
For his own peace and quietness—
So Joe got two years’ hard.
The Lord was with him, Moses said,
Yet his luck didn’t fail,
For he got on the right side of
The governor of the gaol.
Perhaps he’d heard of Mrs P.,
And cases like to Joe’s,
And knew as much of woman’s work
As anybody knows.
He made Joe super-lag—a sort
(The easy-going tendency
In Egypt seemed ingrained)—
Left everything in Joseph’s hands,
Except, maybe, the keys;
And thereafter he let things slide,
And smoked his pipe in peace.
Now Pharaoh had some trouble with
His butler and his cook,
But Pharaoh seemed most lenient
With asses bought to book—
He didn’t cut the weak end off
Each absent-minded wretch,
But mostly sent the idiots up
To “chokey” for a “stretch”.
They found themselves in Joseph’s care,
And it would almost seem
They’d got wind of his weaknesses,
For each one dreamed a dream.
“They dreamed a dream; both of them. Each
Man his dream in one night:
Each man according to his dream”
(And his own dream)—that’s right.
Next morning they made up their “mugs”,
And Joseph, passing through,
Asked them if they were feeling cronk,
And why they looked so blue?
They told him they had dreamed two dreams
(One each), and any dunce
Can understand how such remarks
Would int’rest Joe at once.
And there was no interpreter,
They said—and that was why
Joe said that that belonged to God—
But he would have a try.
I’ve noticed this with “Christians” since,
And often thought it odd—
They cannot keep their hands from things
They say belong to God.
The butler dreamed—or, anyway,
He said so (understand)—
He’d made some wine in Pharaoh’s cup,
And placed it in his hand—
And Pharaoh placed the wine inside,
I s’pose. But, anyways,
There were three branches in the dream,
Which were, of course, three days.
The butler might have one again,
And Joseph, going strong,
By evil chance get wind of it,
And diagnose it wrong!
The cook had been the butler’s mate,
And he thought (was it odd?)
That nightmare students such as Joe
Were safer far in quod.
He did repent him of his fault—
Though it was rather late—
For Pharaoh’s dreams had called a halt,
A reason of some weight.
The butler hoped to score, but ’twas
A risky thing to do,
And you will wonder, later on,
If Joe “forgat” him too.
’Twas plain to any fool, so Joe
Said: “Yet within three days
Shall Pharaoh lift thine head up, and
Restore thee to thy place.
Thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup
Into his hand once more.
(And he shall drink the liquor down
Just as it was before.)
“But promise, when thou art all right,
And nothing is amiss,
To speak to Pharaoh of my case,
And get me out of this.
For I was kidnapped, likewise gaoled,
For nothing that I know.”
(And, granting his celibacy,
’Twould seem that that was so.)
The cook, he was a godless cook,
But quietly he stood,
’Til Joseph’s inspiration came—
And he saw it was good.
And then his dream he did unfold,
All straight and unrehearsed
(Without a “Lo!” or a “Behold!”
Or windmill business first):
“I’d three old baskets on me ’ed—
Now I ain’t tellin’ lies!—
The top ’un full of fancy bread
An’ pork ’n’ kidney pies.
I didn’t bother looking up,
For it was blazin’ ’ot—
There come a flock of crimson crows
And scoffed the bleedin’ lot.”
The cook he was a clever cook,
But he’d been on the spree—
He put the case as man to man,
And put it frank and free.
He patted Joseph on the back,
Told him to go ahead,
And Joseph met the cook half way,
And (man to man) he said:
“Within three days shall Pharaoh lift
Thine head from off of thee,
And he shall hang thee by the heels
To the most handy tree.
A flock of crows shall pick thy bones
(And, to be trebly sure,
His slaves shall pound them up with stones
And use them for manure).”
The butler passed an anxious night—
He wanted matters fixed—
For what if Joe’s prescriptions should
By some fool chance get mixed?
The cook—who was a careless cook—
Wrote scoff words on the wall,
But, when the time was up, he wished
He hadn’t dreamed at all.
And Pharaoh gave a feast—he’d got
Another chef this trip—
And his old butler he restored
Unto his butlership;
But hanged the cook. And after that—
Or this is how it seems—
The butler straight away forgat
Young Joseph and his dreams.
And maybe he was wise, for all
That anybody knows,
He’d seen the headless baker hanged,
And picked clean by the crows.
It struck him, too, when looking back
While calm and free from cares,
That Joseph had an off hand way
Of fixing up nightmares.
The gaol did Joseph little good,
Except by starts and fits,
But saved old Egypt for a while,
And brightened up his wits.
And, lest you thought me most unjust
In matters lately gone,
You read and know how holy Joe
Sold Egypt later on.
Her weather prophets were as good
As ours are, every bit,
But Pharaoh took to dreaming dreams,
And made a mess of it.
(And but for that—I do not care
What anybody thinks—
I’d not have lost my overcoat,
And watch and chain, and links.)
Now Joseph’s and the prisoners’ dreams
Were plain as dreams could be,
And more especially Pharaoh’s dreams,
As far as I can see—
The same man who invented them
Could well have read them too,
But any third-rate showman knows
That that would never do.
There must be “Lo’s”, “Beholds”, and “Yets”,
And “It must come to pass”,
’Til floods are gone, and tanks are dry,
And there’s no crops nor grass.
And “Likewise”, “Alsoes”, “Says unto”,
And countless weary “Ands”,
Until Japan sends Chinamen
To irrigate the lands.
And Pharaoh must take off his ring
(The one from off his hand),
To put upon Joe’s little fin,
That all might understand.
And they must ride in chariots,
Have banquets everywhere,
And launch trips up the Hawkesbury,
To see Australia there.
(I dreamed last night that cattle fed
Along the river flats,
They bore the brands of all the States,
And looked like “Queensland fats”.
And lo! a mob of strangers came,
All bones, from horn to heel,
But they had nostrils breathing flame,
And they had horns of steel.
I dreamed that seven sheep were shorn
That went by seven tracks,
And strove to live the winter through
With sackcloth on their backs.
And lo! I dreamed, from east and west
There came two blades of heat—
One blackened all the towns like fire,
Like drought one burnt the wheat.
A black slave and a white slave laid
A golden carpet down,
And yellow guards stood round about,
And he that came was brown.
Men slaved beneath the whip in pits,
Who now slave willingly—
They sold their birthright for a “score”.
Now read those dreams for me!)
But Joseph fixed up Pharaoh’s dreams
As quick as I can tell—
And, for Australia’s sake, I wish
That mine were fixed as well,
And nationalized from trusts and rings
And shady covenants;
But—we have thirteen little kings
Of thirteen Parliaments.
The years of plenty soon run out,
And, from the cricket score,
We’ll turn to face the years of drought
And might-be years of war.
With neither money, men, nor guns,
With nothing but despair—
But I get tired of printing truths
For use—no matter where.
Joe said to seek a wise man out,
And Pharaoh took the Jew—
Adventurers fix up our dreams,
And we elect them too.
I mean no slur on any tribe
(My best friend was a Yid),
But we let boodlers shape our ends,
And just as Pharaoh did.
But Joseph did spy out the land,
If not for his own good
(He only boodled on the grand,
It must be understood).
He made a corner first in wheat,
And did it thoroughly—
No “trust” has ever seen since then
So great a shark as he.
And when the fearful famine came,
And corn was in demand,
He grabbed, in God’s and Pharaoh’s name,
The money, stock, and land.
(He knew the drought was very bad
In Canaan; crops were gone;
But never once inquired how his
Old Dad was getting on.)
And after many barren years
Of spirit-breaking work,
I see the brethren journeying down
From Canaan’s West-o’-Bourke
And into Egypt to buy corn—
As, at this very hour,
My brethren toil through blazing heat
The weary miles for flour.
’Twas noble of our Joseph then,
The Governor of the land,
To bait those weary, simple men,
With “monies” in their hand;
To gratify his secret spite,
As only cowards can;
And preen his blasted vanity,
And strike through Benjamin.
He put a cup in Benny’s sack,
And sent them on their way,
And sent the Pleece to bring ’em back
Before they’d gone a day.
The constable was well aware
Of Joseph’s little plan,
And most indignant when he caught
The wretched caravan.
He yelped: “Have such things come to pass?
Howld hard there! Jerk ’em up!
Put down yer packs from every ass,
And fork out Phairey’s cup!
It makes me sick, upon my soul,
The gratichood of man!
Ye had the feast, and then ye shtole
His silver billy-can.”
They swore that they had seen no cup,
And after each had sworn
They said the sandstorm coming up
Would simply spoil the corn.
They begged that he would wait until
They reached the nearest barn.
He said, “O that’s a wind that shook
The barley sort of yarn!
“(Now I’m no sergeant, understand—
Ye needn’t call me that—
Oi want no sugar wid me sand
Whin Joseph smells a rat.)
Take down yer sacks from off yer backs—
The other asses too—
And rip the neck of every sack—
The boys will see yer through.”
The cup was found in Benjamin’s,
As all the world’s aware—
The constable seemed most surprised,
Because he’d put it there.
“A greenhorn raised on asses’ milk!
Well, this beats all I know!”
And then, when he had cautioned them,
He took the gang in tow.
And when they started out to rend
Their turbans and their skirts,
He said, “Ye drunken lunatics,
Ye needn’t tear yer shirts—
Ye’re goin’ where there’s ladies now,
So keep yer shirts on, mind.
(The Guvnor got in trouble wanst
For leavin’ his behind.)”
And Joseph gaoled and frightened them.
(The “feast” was not amiss:
It showed him most magnanimous
With all that wasn’t his.)
He took some extra graveyard pulls
At his old Dad’s grey hairs,
’Til Judah spoke up like a man—
And spoke up unawares.
Then Joseph said that he was Joe,
With Egypt in his clutch—
You will not be surprised to know
It didn’t cheer them much.
And when he saw they were afraid,
And bowed beneath the rod,
He summoned snuffle to his aid,
And put it all on God.
And now the brethren understood,
With keen regret, no doubt,
That sin is seldom any good
Unless it’s carried out.
For after that heart-breaking trip
Across the scorching sands
They found themselves in Joseph’s grip,
With Benny on their hands.
(Poor Reuben, to persuade his dad
To let the youngster come,
Had left his own sons’ lives in pledge
For Benjamin, at home.
But life is made of many fires
And countless frying-pans—
As fast as we get rid of Joe’s
We’re plagued by Benjamin’s.)
Joe had a use for them, so he
Bade them to have no fear.
He said to them, “It was not you,
But God, who sent me here.
He sent me on to save your lives;
He hath sent you to me,
To see to you and all your wives,
And your posterity.
“The Lord God hath exalted me,
And made me His right hand—
A father unto Pharaoh, and
A ruler in the land,
And likewise lord of Egypt”—
He said a few things more,
And then he got to business straight—
I’ve heard such cant before.
Those who have read will understand
I never mean to scoff,
But I hate all hypocrisy
And blasted showing-off.
How cunningly our holy Joe
Fixed up his tribe’s affairs
For his own ends, and sprang the job
On Pharaoh unawares.
“The fame was heard in Pharaoh’s house,”
Where peace and kindness thrived,
Saying, “Joseph’s brethren are come”
(Joe’s brothers have arrived).
And Pharaoh heard, and was well pleased,
For he was white all through.
(And Moses says, without remark,
It pleased the servants too.)
But Pharaoh promptly put an end
To Joseph’s mummery.
He said, “Send waggons up, and bid
Thy people come to me.
Thou art commanded! Furnish them
With money and with food;
And say that I will give them land,
And see that it is good.”
And Jacob’s sons chucked up their runs
With blessings short and grim,
And Jacob took the stock and gear
And all his seed with him.
They sent the family tree ahead,
And Pharaoh read that same
(They found him very tired, ’twas said,
And misty when they came).
And Pharaoh unto Joseph spake
Most kind, though wearily:
“Thy father and thy brethren all
Are now come unto thee;
And Egypt is before thee now,
So in the best land make
Thy father and thy brethren dwell—
The land of Goshen take;
“And there, unhindered, let them thrive,
In comfort let them dwell,
Apart and free. My people love
All shepherds none too well—
But if thou knowest amongst them men
Of proved activity,
Then make them rulers over all
My flocks and herds for me.”
They brought five brethren unto him,
And he was very kind—
Perhaps he looked those brethren through,
And saw what lay behind.
His head he rested on his hand,
And smoothed his careworn brow,
He gazed on Israel thoughtfully,
And asked, “How old art thou?”
And Jacob told him, and was touched.
He said his days were few
And evil. They had not attained
To those his father knew.
But Jacob only had himself,
And no one else, to thank
If Joe had given his grey hairs
A second graveyard yank.
I think that Pharaoh was a man
Who always understood,
But was content to stand aside
If for his people’s good,
And seem not missed the while. He knew
His merits—and no pride—
And ’twas a grievous day for Jew
And Gentile when he died.
You know the rest of Joseph’s tale,
And well the poor Egyptians knew—
House agent on the grand old scale,
He boodled till the land was blue.
He squeezed them tight, and bled them white—
. . . . .
Until a Pharaoh came in sight
Who didn’t know him from a crow.
The Patriarchs, right back from Dad
To where the line begins,
Were great at passing “blessings” on,
Together with their sins.
Old Noah was about the first—
Cursed Ham till all was blue,
But ’twas with some effect he cursed,
And with good reason too.
And when the time had come to pass
For Jacob to be gone,
He polished up his father’s sins
And calmly passed them on.
He called his twelve sons round his bed
(Lest some good might befall),
He called his twelve sons to be blessed,
And cursed them, one and all
Save Joseph; and the rest had cause
To curse him ere they got
The English, who have every day
More cause to damn the lot.
And if they crossed the Red Sea now,
I guess we’d let them go,
With “Satan hurry Kohenstein”
And “God speed Ikey Mo!”
And lest my Jewish friends be wroth—
As they won’t be with me—
I’ll say that there is Jewish blood
In my posterity.
This verse, I trust, shall profit him
When he has ceased to grow—
My firstborn, who was known as “Jim”,
But whose true name is “Joe”.
I’ve written much that is to blame,
But I have only sought to show
That hearts of men were just the same
Some forty centuries ago.
All kindness comes with woman’s love—
That which she claims is due to her—
Not man! not man! but God above
Dare judge the wife of Potiphar.
And Jacob shall be ever blind
To reason and posterity,
In that “fond folly” of mankind
That is born of impotency.
No parents’ love or parents’ wealth
Shall ever fairly portioned be,
Faith shall not come, except by stealth,
Nor justice in one family.
And Joseph proved unto this hour—
Just what he was in Holy Writ—
A selfish tyrant in his power,
And, up or down, a hypocrite.
And Joseph still, whate’er befall,
But gives his place to Benjamin,
And Reuben bears the brunt of all,
Though Judah does the best he can.
The hearts of men shall never change
While one man dies and one is born,
We journey yet, though ways seem strange,
Down into Egypt to buy corn.
Some prosper there, and they forget;
And some go down, and are forgot;
And Pride and Self betray us yet,
Till Pharaohs rise that know us not.
But kindliness shall live for aye,
And, though we well our fate deserve,
Samaritans shall pass that way,
And kings like Pharaoh rule to serve.
We’re fighting out of Egypt’s track—
And, ah! the fight is ever grand—
Although, in Canaan or Out Back,
We never reach the Promised Land.