Backblock Ballads and Other Verses
Lo, I listened to the bleating of the sheep --
            Squatters' sheep --
And I sat me down and pondered long and deep.
      And a cloud of gloom came o'er me
      At the empty leagues before me --
Yea, I marked the virgin grass-lands' mighty sweep --
      Land that called for cultivation;
      Cried aloud for population --
Land that carried trees and fences, grass and sheep.

0, I listened to their bleating on the plain --
            Virgin plain --
And I spoke to them with epithets profane.
      In the valley, on the hill,
      Yet were sheep, and more sheep still.
(Which annoyed me very much, I must explain.
      For one sheep may he a blessing,
      But a million are depressing.)
And I cursed them, but I knew I cursed in vain.

Lo! and then I fell a-dreaming where I sat
            Sadly sat --
Till I didn't see what I was looking at.
      And my dream was most alluring.
      Ah ! But, had it been enduring,
What a reckoning it would have been for Fat!
      What a blessing for Australia
      If my dream -- but inter alia,
I'll explain to you what I am driving at.

Lo! (excuse this weird redundancy of "lo,"
            Soulful "lo";
But I want to be impressive, you must know).
      Lo! instead of jumbucks bleating,
      I could hear the reaper's beating;
And I saw abundant milk and honey flow.
      I espied snug homesteads dotted
      O'er the plain.  I also spotted
Towns, with factories and workshops, rise and grow.

Ay, at busy line of commerce filled the place --
            Desert place --
And mine eyes beheld a happy populace
      Wresting from the land its treasure
      Loving work and earning leisure.
Industry and population grew apace.
      I could hear the hammers ringing;
      Happy housewives blithely singing;
And I read Prosperity in every face.

Then I saw a file of troops go marching past --
            Bravely past.
Adown the plain I heard the bugle's blast.
      I beheld the banners streaming,
      And I fancied in my dreaming
That our happy country owned an army vast.
      As each patriot marched proudly
      By, he cried, exulting loudly,
"Fair Australia is safely ours at last!"

Then a large, red man rode up upon a horse,
            (Large roan horse),
And spoke to me in strident tones and coarse.
      And his discourse was (diluted)
      "Wanderers are prosecuted
On this crimson run.  Now get!"  I got -- of course.
      As I've said, the man was bulky,
      And he seemed morose and sulky;
And it just occurred to me he might use force.

But, in spite of him, my dream I still may keep --
            Fondly keep.
And from out it sprouts the wisdom that I reap
      For the benefit of all men,
      But especially of little men.
(Meaning men whose wealth does not exceed one heap.)
      Ay, the lesson is before you --
      Pray forgive me if I bore you;
But, my brothers, heed the lesson of the sheep!

For, hark ye, hear the bleating of the sheep --
            Human sheep!
(O, my brothers, but their sheephood makes me weep!)
      Mark ye, how they flock together
      After some old, sly bell-wether --
One that Fat finds it convenient to keep;
      Watch them how they follow, follow.
      See the verbal weeds they swallow,
And the squatter keeps his grass for paying sheep.

O, the squatter has of woolly sheep a lot --
            Quite a lot;
But they're not the only sort of sheep he's got.
      How he profits by their fleeces
      And, when price of meat decreases -
Human meat -- the butcher, Fat, will take the lot.
      O, ye farmers and selectors!
      Landless voters!  Free electors!
Think, my brothers: are ye sheep, or are ye not?

The Bulletin, 22 July 1909, p7

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06