100 Australian Poems 7.0: "Are You the Cove?" by Joseph Furphy ("Tom Collins")

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The subject matter of "Are You the Cove?" by Joseph Furphy is probably about as slight as you can get.  The poem relates the encounter between a swagman and a squatter, and centres around a conversation in which the swaggie tries to figure out if the squatter is the right person to speak to regarding a place to sleep for the night.

It's not one that I could relate to at all until I looked up the meaning of the word "cove" in The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (1984).  The word is defined there as "1. a man; 2. a boss, especially the manager of a sheep station", the second definition of which I had never come across before.  So the swagman is attempting to ascertain if the squatter is the station manager; presumably he might then be able to ask permission to "doss" for the night.  If you wanted to stretch the point you could argue that the poem details the strained and suspicious relationship between squatters and men of the road, but it still comes across as a bit thin to me.

Joseph Furphy is a strange choice for a collection of this sort.  He is mainly known as the author of Such is Life under the pseudonym of "Tom Collins".  His poetry career was rather short and Austlit only lists some 28 poems under his name, which leads me to thhink this might be a favourite of the editor's.

Text: "Are You the Cove?" by Joseph Furphy ("Tom Collins")

Author bio: Australian Dictionary of Biography 

There are also a number of posts on this weblog regarding Furphy, his poetry and his life, which can be found here.

Publishing history:  First published in The Poems of Joseph Furphy (1916) which was edited by Kate Baker and included a foreword by Bernard O'Dowd.  The volume, containing only 26 works in 56 pp, appeared four years after the writer's death in 1912.  If it was published during Furphy's lifetime I can find no record of it.

Next five poems in the book:

"How McDougal Topped the Score" by Thomas E. Spencer

"The Wail of the Waiter" by Marcus Clarke

"Where the Pelican Builds" by Mary Hannay Foott

"Catching the Coach" by Alfred T. Chandler ("Spinifex")

"Narcissus and Some Tadpoles" by Victor Daley

Note: this post forms part of my series on the poems contained in the anthology 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant.  You can read the other posts in this series here.

1 Comment

Could you help me find apoem that was taught around 1916 in the Christian Brothers Toowoomba with the words "I awoke to know my blindness - I awoke to know your love. 32 verses I think

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 20, 2009 2:57 PM.

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