Poem: In Answer to "Banjo," and Otherwise by Henry Lawson - Part 1

It was pleasant up the country, Mr. Banjo, where you went,
For you sought the greener patches and you travelled like a gent.,
And you curse the trams and 'busses and the turmoil and the "push,"
Tho' you know the "squalid city" needn't keep you from the bush;
But we lately heard you singing of the "plains where shade is not,"
And you mentioned it was dusty - "all is dry and all is hot."

True, the bush "hath moods and changes," and the bushman hath 'em, too --
For he's not a poet's dummy -- he's a man, the same as you;
But his back is growing rounder -- slaving for the "absentee" --
And his toiling wife is thinner than a country wife should be,
For we noticed that the faces of the folks we chanced to meet
Should have made a stronger contrast to the faces in the street;
And, in short, we think the bushman's being driven to the wall,
But it's doubtful if his spirit will be "loyal thro' it all."

Tho' the bush has been romantic and it's nice to sing about,
There's a lot of patriotism that the land could do without --
Sort of BRITSH WORKMAN nonsense that shall perish in the scorn
Of the drover who is driven and the shearer who is shorn --
Of the struggling western farmers who have little time for rest,
And are ruin'd on selections in the squatter-ridden west --
Droving songs are very pretty, but they merit little thanks
From the people of country which is ridden by the Banks.

And the "rise and fall of seasons" suits the rise and fall of rhyme,
But we know that western seasons do not run on "schedule time;"
For the drought will go on drying while there's anything to dry,
Then it rains until you'd fancy it would bleach the "sunny sky" --
Then it pelters out of reason, for the downpour day and night
Nearly sweeps the population to the Great Australian Bight,
It is up in Northern Queensland that the "seasons" do their best,
But its doubtful if you ever saw a season in the west,
There are years without an autumn or a winter or a spring,
There are broiling Junes -- and summers when it rains like anything.

In the bush my ears were opened to the singing of the bird,
But the "carol of the magpie" was a thing I never heard.
Once the beggar roused my slumbers in a shanty, it is true,
But I only heard him asking, "Who the blanky blank are you?"
And the bell-bird in the ranges -- but his "silver chime" is harsh
When it's heard beside the solo of the curlew in the marsh.

Yes, I heard the shearers singing "William Riley" out of tune
(Saw 'em fighting round a shanty on a Sunday afternoon),
But the bushman isn't always "trapping bunnies in the night,"
Nor is he ever riding when "the morn is fresh and bright,"
And he isn't always singing in the humpies on the run --
And the camp-fire's "cheery blazes" are a trifle overdone;
We have grumbled with the bushmen round the fire on rainy days,
When the smoke would blind a bullock and there wasn't any blaze,
Save the blazes of our language, for we cursed the fire in turn
Till the atmosphere was heated and the wood began to burn.
Then we had to wring our blueys which were rotting in the swags,
And we saw the sugar leaking thro' the bottoms of the bags,
And we couldn't raise a "chorus," for the toothache and the cramp,
While we spent the hours of darkness draining puddles round the camp.

First published in The Bulletin, 6 August 1892
Bulletin debate poem #4
(The second part of this poem will be published next week.)

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 18, 2006 9:08 AM.

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