Poem: In Answer to "Banjo," and Otherwise by Henry Lawson - Part 2

Would you like to change with Clancy -- go a-droving? tell us true,
For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you,
And be something in the city; but 'twould give your muse a shock
To be losing time and money thro' the foot-rot in the flock,
And you wouldn't mind the beauties underneath the starry dome
If you had a wife and children and a lot of bills at home.

Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky-black,
And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back
Till your saddle-weary backbone fell a-aching to the roots
And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots --
Sit and shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough
Till a squatter's irate dummy cantered up to warn you off?
Did you fight the drought and "pleuro" when the "seasons" were asleep --
Falling she-oaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep;
Drinking mud instead of water -- climbing trees and lopping boughs
For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?

Do you think the bush was better in the "good old droving days,"
When the squatter ruled supremely as the king of western ways,
When you got a slip of paper for the little you could earn,
But were forced to take provisions from the station in return --
When you couldn't keep a chicken at your humpy on the run,
For the squatter wouldn't let you -- and your work was never done:
When you had to leave the missus in a lonely hut forlorn
While you "rose up Willy Riley," in the days ere you were born?

Ah! we read about the drovers and the shearers and the like
Till we wonder why such happy and romantic fellows "strike."
Don't you fancy that the poets better give the bush a rest
Ere they raise a just rebellion in the over-written West?
Where the simple-minded bushman get a meal and bed and rum
Just by riding round reporting phantom flocks that never come;
Where the scalper -- never troubled by the "war-whoop of the push" --
Has a quiet little billet -- breeding rabbits in the bush;
Where the idle shanty-keeper never fails to make a "draw,"
And the dummy gets his tucker thro' provisions in the law;
Where the labour-agitator -- when the shearers rise in might
Makes his money sacrificing all his substance for the right;
Where the squatter makes his fortune, and the seasons "rise" and "fall,"
And the poor and honest bushman has to suffer for it all,
Where the drovers and the shearers and the bushmen and the rest
Never reach the Eldorado of the poets of the West.

And you think the bush is purer and that life is better there,
But it doesn't seem to pay you like the "squalid street and square,"
Pray inform us, "Mr. Banjo," where you read, in prose or verse,
Of the awful "city urchin" who would greet you with a curse.
There are golden hearts in gutters, tho' their owners lack the fat,
And we'll back a teamster's offspring to outswear a city brat;
Do you think we're never jolly where the trams and 'busses rage?
Did you hear the "gods" in chorus when "Ri-tooral" held the stage?
Did you catch a ring of sorrow in the city urchin's voice
When he yelled for "Billy Elton," when he thumped the floor for Royce?
Do the bushmen, down on pleasure, miss the everlasting stars
When they drink and flirt and so on in the glow of private bars?
What care you if fallen women "flaunt?" God help 'em -- let 'em fluant,
And the seamstress seems to haunt you -- to what purpose does she haunt?
You've a down on "trams and busses," or the "roar" of 'em, you said,
And the "filthy, dirty attic," where you never toiled for bread.
(And about that self-same attic, tell us, Banjo, where you've been?
For the struggling needlewoman mostly keeps her attic clean.)
But you'll find it very jolly with the cuff-and-collar push,
And the city seems to suit you, while you rave about the bush.

P.S. --

You'll admit that "up-the-country," more especially in drought,
Isn't quite the Eldorado that the poets rave about,
Yet at times we long to gallop where the reckless bushman rides
In the wake of startled brumbies that are flying for their hides;
Long to feel the saddle tremble once again between our knees
And to hear the stockwhips rattle just like rifles in the trees!
Long to feel the bridle-leather tugging strongly in the hand
And to feel once more a little like a "native of the land."
And the ring of bitter feeling in the jingling of our rhymes
Isn't suited to the country nor the spirit of the times.
Let's us go together droving and returning, if we live,
Try to understand each other while we liquor up the "div."

First published in The Bulletin, 6 August 1892
Bulletin debate poem #4

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 23, 2006 4:31 PM.

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