The Song of Old Joe Swallow by Henry Lawson

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When I was up the country, in the days o' long ago,
Along ov Jimmy Nowlett with the teams I uster go;
Then the reelroad wasn't heered on, an' the bush was wild an' strange,
An' we useter draw the timber from the saw-pits in the range;
An' we useter load provisions for the stations, an' we'd go
Thro' the plains an' o'er the ranges in the days of long ago.

Chorus:   Then it's yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside 'em slow,
          An' saddle up yer horses an' a-ridin' we will go,
             To the bullick-drivin', cattle-drovin',
             Nigger, digger, roarin', rovin'
          Days o' long ago.

Once me and Jimmy Nowlett loaded timber for the town,
But we hadn't gone a dozen mile before the rains come down,
An' me an' Jimmy Nowlett an' the bullicks an' the dray
Was cut off on some risin' ground while floods around us lay;
An' we soon run short of tucker an' terbacca, which was bad,
An' pertaters dipped in honey was the only tuck we had.

           But it's yoke up the bullicks, &c.

An' half our bullicks perished when the drought was on the land,
An' the burnin' heat that dazzles as it dances on the sand
When the sun-baked clay an' gravel paves for miles the burnin' creeks,
An' at ev'ry step yer travel there a rottin' carcase reeks --
But we pulled ourselves together, for we never used ter know
What a feather-bed was good for in those days o' long ago.

But in spite ov barren ridges an' in spite ov mud an' heat,
An' the dust that browned the bushes when it rose from bullicks' feet,
An' in spite ov cold an' chilblains when the bush was white with frost,
An' in spite ov muddy water where the burnin' plain was crossed,
An' in spite of modern progress, and in spite ov all their blow,
'Twas a better land to live in, in the days o' long ago.

Oft when the moon was shinin' o'er the ranges like a lamp,
An' a lot of bullick-drivers was a-campin' on the camp.                        
When the fire was blazin' cheery an' the pipes was drawin' well,
Then our songs we useter chorus an' our yarns we useter tell,
An' we'd talk ov lands we come from, and ov chaps we useter know,
For there always was behind us other days o' long ago.

Them early days was ended when the railroad crossed the plain,
But in dreams I often tramp beside the bullick-team again:
Still we pauses at the shanty just to have a drop er cheer,
Still I feels a kind ov pleasure when the campin'-ground is near;
Still I smells the old tarpaulin me an' Jimmy used ter throw
O'er the timber-truck for shelter in the days o' long ago.

Oh, I've been a-driftin' back'ards with the changes ov the land,
An' if I spoke ter bullicks now they wouldn't understand,
But when Mary wakes me sudden in the night I'll often say:                                                 
"Come here, Spot, an' stan' up, Bally, blank an' blank an' comeeerway."
An' she says that, when I'm sleepin', oft my elerquince 'ill flow
In the bullick-drivin' language ov the days o' long ago.

The pub will soon be closin', so I'll give the thing a rest;
But if you drop on Nowlett in the far an' distant west
If Jimmy drops a doubleyou instead of ar an' vee,
An' if he drops his aiches then yer sure to know it's he.
An' yer won't forgit to arsk him if he still remembers Joe
As knowed him up the country in the days o' long ago.

First published in The Bulletin, 24 May 1890;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
Humorous Verses by Henry Lawson, 1941;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;
Poems of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1973;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989; and
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 24, 2012 8:48 AM.

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