Jim's Whip by Barcroft Boake

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Yes, there it hangs upon the wall
And never gives a sound,
The hand that trimmed its greenhide fall
Is hidden underground,
There, in that patch of sally shade,
Beneath that grassy mound.

I never take it from the wall,
That whip belonged to him,
The man I singled from them all,
He was my husband, Jim;
I see him now, so straight and tall,
So long and lithe of limb.

That whip was with him night and day
When he was on the track;
I've often heard him laugh. and say
That when they heard its crack,
After the breaking of the drought,
The cattle all came back.

And all the time that Jim was here
A-working on the run
I'd hear that whip ring sharp and clear
Just about set of sun
To let me know that he was near
And that his work was done.

I was away that afternoon,
Penning the calves, when, bang!
I heard his whip, 'twas rather soon -
A thousand echoes rang
And died away among the hills,
As toward the hut I sprang.

I made the tea and waited, but,
Seized by a sudden whim,
I went and sat outside the hut
Watching the light grow dim -
I waited there till after dark,
But not a sign of Jim.

The evening air was damp with dew;
Just as the clock struck ten
His horse came riderless - I knew
What was the matter then.
Why should the Lord have singled out
My Jim from other men?

I took the horse and found him where
He lay beneath the sky
With blood all clotted on his hair;
I felt too dazed to cry -
I held him to me as I prayed
To God that I might die.

But sometimes now I seem to hear -
Just when the air grows chill -
A single whip-crack, sharp and clear,
Re-echo from the hill.
That's Jim, to let me know he's near
And thinking of me still.

First published in The Bulletin, 19 March 1892;
and later in
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems by Barcroft Boake, 1897;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
Australian Bush Poems, 1991;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Barcroft Henry Boake edited by Hugh Capel, 2002;
Where the Dead Men Lie: The Story of Barcroft Boake, Bush Poet of the Monaro: 1866-1892  by Hugh Capel, 2002;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson  edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007; and
Barcroft Boake: Collected Works, Edited, with a Life edited by W. F. Refshauge, 2007.

Author: Barcroft Henry Thomas Boake (1866-1892)  was born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1866. He received a better than usual education but turned his back on the city in favour of bush life, believing it to be 'the only life worth living.' He worked as assistant to a surveyor in the Snowy River country and later as a drover and boundary-rider in the Monaro and Western Queensland. He returned to Sydney in 1891 for family reasons but disappeared in May 1892. His body was found eight days later, hanging by the neck from a stockwhip, in scrub at Middle Harbour in Sydney.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 19, 2011 10:34 AM.

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