A Drug in the Market by Garnet Walch

| No TrackBacks
I stood in the street in the noontide, precisely at midday time,
For the loud-mouthed bells of the G.P.O. had that moment ceased to chime
(I trust to the public dial, since the lever I used to wear,
The one cousin Amy gave me, my uncle has --- to repair).

Well, I stood in the street in the noontide, a breakfastless, lunchless wight,
No prospect of dinner before me, no hope of a bed for the night;
And I railed in good Anglo-Saxon at the luck which had brought me out
To seek that Australian fortune I'd dreamed so often about.

Thus I stood in the street in the noontide, heart, stomach,and pocket void,
A seedy but well-dressed loafer, respectably unemployed;
And I heard what was meant for music, and the rhythmical tramp of feet,
And many a blazoned banner I saw far down the street.

And up the street in the noontide, with the painfully solemn air
Which your Briton in full enjoyment is proverbially known to wear,
There trooped in the glory of broadcloth some hundreds of well-fed men,
With a score of aforesaid banners, and bands --- well, I counted ten.

Up, up that street in the noontide, like ants on their native hill,
These sorrowful revellers swarmed along at a pace that could hardly kill;
And the banners swayed in the sunshine as their bearers staggered beneath,
And the whole ten bands played different tunes, till I thought I should shed, my teeth.

Then I said to my next-hand neighbour, a citizen hale and stout,
"Pray pardon a new chum's wonder, but what is this all about?
Whose obsequies do we assist at; whom, whom do we follow round,
And oh? why are these mixed harmonics, these Gordian knots of sound?"

Unto which I received as answer, "A funeral! that be -- well?
It's the Height-Hour Demonstration, as any but Fools could tell,
It's the workmen of Melbourne city, they're a marching 'and in 'and,
All joining for self-protection, in one united band--."

Then the band that is so united, though severed by ten bands more,
Passes out of my sight and hearing as it turns by the White Hart door;
And my scornful neighbour in going, of his own free will, exclaims,
"They're off to the S'cieties' Gardens, t' enjoy their sports and games."

But I stand at the corner-kerbing, as loafers are wont to do,
And chew the cud of reflection, which is all I have to chew;
And I use some more Anglo-Saxon, of the strongest kind that's made,
The burden being translated, "Why wasn't I taught a trade?"

For these cornumanous parties, these eight-hour working bees,
Make honey (for "h" read "m" there), and sip its sweets at ease;
And with them the ancient adage acquires this reading new,
That "Jack's as good as his master, and a great deal better too!"

Ah yes! they are truly blessed, these octohoral gents,
Though their tipple in hardly Moet, and their ballrooms are but tents;
They can pay their way if they're careful, and, free from trouble and debt,
Can pity worse-off betters, fast trammelled by clique and set.

'Tis sweeter to spend a shilling that can purchase one homely smile
Than to buy up the sneers of the many by paying for spurious style,
As is done by those tinselled tilters who so often salute the ground
From astride of their counterfeit chargers in society's merry-go-round.

Pour moi --- self-imported, unordered, my chances must needs be small ---
I'm too heavily advaloremed to find a market at all.
Education and English polish are very unsaleable stuff --
The men that are wanted in Melbourne must be sent out here in the rough.

Perhaps if I gained experience of the sort that's colonial-made.
I might worship the charms of Protection, and learn to abhor Free Trade;
But, ad interim, comes starvation, and I feel I am hardly fit
To study political problems, while in want of a threepenny bit---.

As thus I was standing a-musing, on aught but amusing themes,
The chimes called the faithful to luncheon, and rudely dispelled my dreams;
And my irrepressible stomach reasserted its right to yearn,
So I started off at a tangent, for my thoughts took a practical turn.

I followed the Austral workman through the "golden afternoon,"
To the scene of his innocent revels, where his bands played out of tune;
And I promised a Celtic contractor to curry him bricks in a hod,
For a note a week and my tracker, and a half-a-crown down --- thank God!

First published in Australian Town and Country Journal, 14 October 1882;
and later in
A Little Tin Plate by Garnet Walch, 1881;
A Century of Australian Song edited by Douglas W. Sladen, 1888;
The Poet's Discovery: Nineteenth Century Australia in Verse edited by Richard Douglas Jordon and Peter Pierce.

Author: Garnet Walch (1843-1913) was born in Broadmarsh, Tasmania, in 1843.  After the death of his father in 1852, Walch travelled to England to complete his education there, and in Germany.  He returned to Australia in his late teens and finally settled in Sydney.  He wrote for a number of newspapers and was appointed editor of the Cumberland Mercury in 1867. In the early 1870s he began writing drama scripts for the stage and eventually moved to Melbourne in 1872.  Until his retirement in 1897 Walch was mainly known for his theatrical work, either writing original works or adaptations of novels by other writers.  He died in Surrey Hills in Melbourne in 1913.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.middlemiss.org/cgi-bin/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1268

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 14, 2011 7:27 AM.

Andy's Gone With Cattle by Henry Lawson was the previous entry in this blog.

The Camp Within the West by Roderic Quinn is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en