Reprint: Are Australian Readers Forgetting Edward Dyson? by N.E.G.

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Versatile Writer of "Rhymes From the Mines"

I never could quite understand the Australian neglect of Edward Dyson.  

Dyson was a man whose work, it would be expected, would be far more popular than that of Gordon, Kendall, Boake, Eden, or most of the old school of ballardists. And for this reason. That, whereas Gordon was much of a scholar and wrote for the lovers of horses, Kendall for the lovers of sweeter rhymes, and Boake for the harsher critics and men of the cattle country, Dyson set the scene of his rhymes in the bowels of the earth, in the mines, and among the men that worked them.

And it is because of the number of Australians who have either worked, or are working, in gold mines, and who, therefore, have snatched something of their atmosphere and their lure, that it is only natural to imagine that readers of Australian poetry would turn to Dyson.

Such, however, has not been the case, and 'Rhymes From the Mines' has become an all but forgotten book. What a pity is so!

Recently the Eastern States weeklies and other periodicals that boast a literary page made frantic endeavors to, obtain and publish all the information available on promising Australian poets. Everyone, from Barrington and Wentworth to Louis Lavater, was included in the list -- with


That exception was, of course, Edward Dyson. Not one of the papers mentioned the name of the Melbourne poet, who died only two or three years ago, and whose output was probably the largest of any Australian writer.

Why most of those who were included in the list should have been given precedence over Dyson it is difficult to see. The merit of his work is unquestionable, which is more than can be said for many of the honored ones.

Why is it, then, that Dyson, the rhymer from the mines and the


has been forgotten? ls it that his themes are out of date? Scarcely, for goldmining is a bigger industry today than it was when Dyson was at his top. Droving, the outback, and the unpopulated vastnesses of Boake, Gordon, and Paterson are fast fading from memory. Industry is choking the romance that was in them; and they live only in the verses of the old balladists. But goldmining shows no sign of a premature death. The men, the mines, the work and the worries in the fight for the yellow metal are as real to-day as they were the day Dyson first lifted his gifted pen. And it is only the interest in them that seems to have died. Perhaps it is that in a thing so closely connected with the grind for daily bread the men of Australia can find little romance. And even the rhymes of Dyson will not drag them from their apathy.

Dyson occupied a middle period between the present day and the


He spent his boyhood in the vicinity of the Ballarat and later the Bendigo rushes. He shook his "shaker" with the alluvial chasers that followed the rushes; and saw the passing of the old dryblower and the coming of the deep quartz mining. He knew this mining business as few, if any, writers have done. And even if there are among us the pedants that would cavil at the paucity of his classical allusions the fact remains that he gave us a wonderful picture of his period, as clear cut as a canvas by Longstaff.

Nor was it only in his verse that Dyson did this. His story, "The Golden Shanty," still stands as a classic of goldfields color and humor; and what is more it has the merit of a true and sound basis that was conceived from actual happenings in the Castlemaine district.

Dyson left the mines when he was still a comparatively young man and found a job in a factory. That remarkable little collection of stories, "Fact'ry Hands," was the outcome of his change, and it was this book that led him to the "Bulletin" and his success as a freelance journalist.

How many freelance men could boast that they had made a decent living at the game? Very, very few. But Dyson could. His paragraphs were gems of wit humor, and sarcasm.

Twelve hours a day he worked writing everything in longhand (until the day of his death he scorned a type-writer) and his industry was tremendous.

He would often start the day with a political quip. As soon as he finished he would probably get to work on a ballad, follow with a few humorous pars., and then, if the time remained, run off a short story. Australia has yet to produce a writer whose versatility could rival Dyson's.

Ideas for cartoons, a few joke blocks, personalities, articles on drama or sport, all came within the scope of his ability, and it is little wonder that he became the most popular paragraphist of his day.


And yet, strangely enough, his diversity of subject and the rush with which his work was executed did not cause it to suffer. Every line that left his desk was worthy of the name of Dyson, and his meanest paragraph showed the same finish as a completed story.

Why Dyson should be slipping into oblivion is incomprehensible. Perhaps, with the passing of these crazy years of hustle and bustle, men may have more time to think and the poet will receive his true estimate.

Meantime, apparently, his name must live only in the brilliant work performed by his younger brother, Will Dyson, for whom the dead poet did so much.

First published in The Sunday Times (Perth), 17 May 1936

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 25, 2011 9:37 AM.

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