Recently in Characters Category

Violets by Mabel Forrest

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A little, wizened, old-man face,
   Seamed with a thousand futile cares, 
And as I pass I idly note
That, in the lapel of his coat,
   A bunch of violets he wears.

A sparse white beard his chin adorns;
   His decent clothes are thin and worn 
Not able from the ranks to rise;  
No hustler he, not over wise;
   Firm in the groove where he was born. 

The shiny elbow of his sleeve,
   The pale complexion shows the clerk, 
Then why should he those flowers wear 
That speak to me of perfumed hair  
   And starpoints shim'ring in the dark! 

That show to me the sunken fence,
   The long lush grass about our feet, 
And her hot cheek against my own,
While night as warm as day has grown,
   All overpowered with violets sweet. 

That little wizened, old-man face,
   Where only sordid cares I note,
May hide, like mine, an old heart-break 
He, too, for some lost woman's sake
   May wear those violets in his coat.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 21 September 1904

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also

Barbara Jane by Myra Morris

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When I walked through the paddocks
   With cuddly Barbara Jane, 
She said she saw a robin,
   All wet with shining rain, 
That sat upon a thistle,
   And talked to her quite plain.

When I walked through the paddocks 
   With laughing Barbara Jane, 
She looked at me all scarey,
   And said she saw quite plain 
A snake among the grasses,
   Beside the gurgling drain.

When I walked through the paddocks
   And romped with Barbara Jane, 
She showed me tumbled tussocks,
   Where a fairy queen bad lain.
"Her wings were shut," she whispered,
   "But I saw her face quite plain."

As I walked through the paddocks 
   With dancing Barbara Jane, 
I wondered was she fibbing,
   But dared not ask again;
For queer things sometimes happen
   That no one can explain!

First published in The Australasian, 20 July 1929

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

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Ah Foo by Myra Morris

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Before his little shop stands old Ah Foo,
   Smoothing ms wrinkled hands, his yellow face
   Inscrutable; and in that noisy place
      Watches the heavy traffic rolling by
Under the great bridge-arches shadowed blue,
      To where the river masts prick all the sky.

Within the little shop of old Ah Foo
   Stand canisters of tea in green and red --
   Fat ginger-jars with lovely glazes spread;
      Old scarlet lacquer lids. and bits of jade,
Like pools at evening; shallow bowls of blue,
   And tall, black cabinets with pearl inlaid.

Watching the street, unmoving, stands Ah Foo.
   The flooded rice-fields stretch before his eyes!
   He hears the coolies' chants, remembered cries;
      Sees dim, lost places 'neath his gaze unfold ....
Then fumbles for the door, and shuffles through,
      And sits and feels that he is old -- so old!

First published in The Bulletin, 24 February 1927

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Going Home by C.J. Dennis

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Believing himself near death, Henry Isaac Williams, an old bush pensioner, slipped unobserved from, Murwillumbah hospital on Wednesday night and went into the bush to die.  "I want to get it over out there," he had said.  "I don't want to die in a house."

When I set out for the West (said he)
   On my last big tramp alone,
I could start the journey best (said he)
   From the land I call my own.
For I want the skies and the friendly trees
   And the bush-bound tracks I know,
And I want the bush birds' melodies
   To cheer me as I go.

For there's none to point the way (said he)
   When a soul sets forth to range;
And a soul might drift astray (said he)
   In a city grim and strange.
For I'd head me east or head me west,
  And I'd veer, and double back;
But in the land I know the best
   I'd head straight up the track.

So set me free in the bush (said he)
   Where the way is plain and straight;
And I'll need no urging push (said he)
   Nor halt, nor hesitate.
But where the golden sun-shafts fall
   Thro' fretted shades I'll roam
Till I hear the old gatekeeper's call,
   Then I'll know that I've come home.

First published in The Herald, 17 November 1931

Here With My Flowers by C.J Dennis

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An old man of 85, Mr George Cecil Morris, a market gardener, of Mona Vale, N.S.W., on being told of his succession to the title and estates of a baronet, is reported to have said recently: "I don't want a title. I have seen enough of titles. I don't want estates. I want to be left here with my flowers."

I have drunk of life, of the sweet and the bitter,
   Dreamed of broad acres and gold and glittering gauds,
And the eyes of my youth found lure in the spurious glitter;
   But my flowers are no frauds.
For the sown seed, and the young shoot, and the glory
   Of blossom that comes to greet returning Springs
Hold no false promise in their recurring story.
   These be true things.

Now I am old and have done with the dream of greatness,
   Of preferment's doubtful glamor and man-wrought dowers,
Of the pomp of place and a courtier's stiff sedateness.
   Leave me here with my flowers,
And the brave smell of the brown earth in the furrow,
   And a blown rose, and lilac after rain;
Where wrens sing and the humble field-mice burrow,
   Let me be lain.

I have found dignity in a tall bloom nodding,
   Jewels in hedgerows aglow from their dewy bath.
These be God-given things where I go plodding
   Adown my garden path.
And the sun shines, and the rain falls, and perfection
   Springs for a season; even as it dies
Giving fresh promise of glad resurrection.
   All else is lies.

First published in The Herald, 8 October 1937

The City "Willie" by C.J Dennis

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Under the spreading panama,
   The city "Willie" strides,
Now up the street, now down the street,
   Wherever fashion guides;
He weareth clocks on gaudy socks,
   And other things besides.

His hair is fine and fair and neat,
   His face is simply "such"!
His brow is white; he's most polite;
   And labelled, "Do not touch."
And he looks the whole world in the face,
   And owes his tailor much.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
   He followeth a frock;
You can see him swing his little cane,
   What time he does the block,
Just like a little pendulum
   Upon an eight-day clock.

And the children coming home from school,
   They look him o'er and o'er,
They love to see his flaming tie,
   And hear his waistcoat roar.
And catch the burning butts that drop
   Like the "H" of a Councillor.

He goes on Sunday to the beach
   With the maiden of his choice;
He hears the seagull scream and screech,
   He hears his own sweet voice,
Singing of his own renown,
   And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like and angel's voice,
   Singing in Paradise!
He needs must watch himself, of course,
   As to his girl he lies,
And with his soft white hand he wipes
   The sand from out his eyes.

Posing -- rejoicing -- borrowing,
   Onward thro' life he goes,
Each morning sees some suit put on,
   Each eve he doffs his clothes;
Something attempted, something worn,
   Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my Willie friend,
   For the lesson thou hast taught;
Thus in the tailor's shop of life,
   Our fortunes must be bought;
And if we think nought of ourselves,
   Nought of us will be thought.  

First published in The Gadfly, 2 October 1907

Scrap Iron by C.J Dennis

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Old Pete Parraday is back from the Show.
"Wastin' of a man's time," he says, "it was, to go.
New things, an' strange things, an' funny things they've planned:
Muddled-up machinery a man can't understand,
With doo-dads an' dinky-doos an' gadgets fancy-faked;
I stared at 'em an' studied till me poor head ached.
A man to be a farmer now, with them coniptions queer,
Has got to go to college first an' be a ingineer.

"I s'pose they calls it progress, but it fair makes me sick,
This buildin' somethink cute an' queer for doin' somethink quick:
Savin' time an' savin' space they've sweated an' they've slaved;
An' don't do nothink with it much when once they've got it saved,
Ixcep' to slaughter honest folk, in peace-time an' war,
With motey cars an' airyplanes much quicker than afore.
A man is scarcely born today afore he's dead an' done.
(A-crossin' of them city streets ain't no man's fun.)

"I s'pose I'm of an old age, a age that's nigh on past.
'Good riddance, too,' they'll say of us when all is gone at last:
The safe men, the slow men, who done nowt big or new --
'Cep' pioneerin' continents, an' that ain't much to do.
But they can have their sky-scrapers towerin' to the skies.
These wise, old hills o' mine is quite a tidy size!
An' they have taught me many a thing of mankind an' his ways
That's like to send these modrin folk fair dumbstruck with amaze.

"Oh, I dessay I had me fun. But what pained most in town;
I never seen an old friend the whole time I was down --
Them old mates out o' Gippsland an' back o' Bungaree,
With long beards an' carpet bags, they've stole a march on me.
They've gone an' stole a march on me, since thirty year ago,
An' I'm a stranger in the world that men don't know.
So back I comes to my old hills to hid me silly face --
A stranger in a new world; scrap-iron out o' place."

First published in The Herald, 28 September 1936

The Looting of Jim by C.J. Dennis

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Jim Johnson is a farmin' man -- he is a farmin' man --
And all year round the skin peels off his nose,
For up that way, I've heard them say, the sun is wont to tan
      The farmin' man.
         And oh, to see his clothes!
He wears the strangest cast-ir'n lookin' clothes.

For when he's dressed up in his best -- that is his very best --
Jim Johnson is the weirdest sight to see.
You'd be inclined to call to mind, when you beheld his vest,
      And -- er -- the rest,
         The local founderee --
A casting from the local founderee.

Now, do not think me rude; I'm not.  I certainly am not;
For Jim was honest, tho' his style amused;
Aye, as the sun, or any one; and sometimes just as hot --
      That's when he got
         Excited or confused.
And he was most pathetic when confused.

Well, just to cut the story short -- (I'm sure you like it short) --
Jim Johnson recently said to his wife,
He thought he'd go and see the Show.  He said he really ought
      He ought, he thought,
         Just one time in his life.
He said he'd like to just for once in his life.

And so she brushed his Berlin suit -- his cast-ir'n Sunday suit --
And Jimmy brushed his whiskers various ways;
Then got his nag and carpet bag, and after some dispute,
      Got on the brute,
         And faced the city maze --
Went, via railway station, to the maze.

Now, Jimmy knew a thing or two -- a thing or two he knew :
In fact, he wasn't quite the jay he seemed;
For he had heard a warning word -- a friendly word or two
      About the crew
         Of spieling men who schemed --
Of how to rob poor farming men they schemed.

So, thinkin' hard, he kept his guard -- kept closely on his guard.
No purse-trick person had a chance with him.
He sort of thought he didn't ought to have his pleasure marred
      In this regard,
         Considered cunnin' Jim.
"I'll floor 'em if they tackle me," said Jim.

He viewed the city Show with glee -- with most abounding glee.
The pigs and cattle interested him;
And there he ran against a man who strangely seemed to be
         Delighted to see Jim,
Tho' Jim could not remember knowin' him.

The stranger was extremely free -- familiarly free;
In fact, he was most intimate indeed.
He had, he told, an uncle old, and then explained that he
      Was in Fiji;
         But he did not proceed.
He was too bruised and battered to proceed.

For Jim -- well, you will understand -- I'm sure you'll understand;
"Revoltin' details best not written down."
Jim gave him fits, then wiped the bits of stranger off his hand --
      His hairy hand -
         And strolled around the town --
Went out the gates to stroll around the town.

And it was there he met the gal -- a very pretty gal;
But whether he met her or she met him
Up to this day he cannot say.  "Please, for the Hospi-tal."
      This said the gal;
         And then she smiled at Jim.
The damsel sweetly smiled.  That finished Jim.

And such a charming girl was she -- a perfect peach was she.
The sort that sort of takes your breath away --
Your breath and things -- small offerings.  Her sphere appeared to be
         And, say, her smile was gay;
Her smile was most embarrassing and gay.

He blushed behind his whiskers, and -- his bushy whiskers -- and
Remarked -- well, he ain't quite sure what he said,
Altho', poor bloke, he must have spoke; for you will understand
      He was unmanned
         And queer about the head.
Nice girls, they always queered him in the head.

She wanted money for a cause -- a most deserving cause;
At least, I've gathered facts to that extent.
And in his pockets Jim he socks his large and hairy paws,
      And then withdraws,
         And gives her ev'ry cent --
Except his railway ticket -- ev'ry cent.

Of course, there's no excuse for Jim -- I ain't excusin' Jim;
But picture if you think there's cause for blame --
A charming imp, and him all limp.  Supposing you were him --
      If you were Jim --
         I think you'd do the same.
You would if you had whiskers just the same.

And afterwards, when Jim he fled -- back to his home he fled --
(I think I told you he was on the land) --
His missus she, well - seems to me that -- anyhow, "Nuff sed" --
      The past is dead.
         I'm sure you'll understand --
You'll surely have the sense to understand.

First published in The Critic, 14 September 1904

Toolangi by C.J. Dennis

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He was obviously English, in his Harris tweeds and stockings.
And his accent was of Oxford, and his swagger and his style
Seemed to hint at halls baronial.  He despised the "demned Colonial";
But he praised the things of England with a large and toothful smile.

He'd discourse for hours together on old England's splendid weather;
On her flowers and fruits and fashions, and her wild-fowl and her game.
At all Austral things he snorted; pinned his faith to the imported.
And he said the land was rotten.  But he stayed here just the same.

Why, he came or why he lingered he was never keen to mention;
But he hinted at connections 'mid old England's nobly grand.
Seems he drew a vague remittance -- some folk said a meagre pittance --
And he sought to supplement it by a venture on the land.

So he journeyed to Toolangi, where the mountain ash yearns skyward,
And the messmate and the blue-gum grow to quite abnormal size.
'Spite the "stately homes" he vaunted, 'twas the simple life he wanted;
And he got it, good and plenty, at Toolangi on the rise.

It appears he had a notion that his "breeding" and his "culture"
Would assure him some position as a sort of country squire;
And he built a little chalet in a pretty, fern-clad valley,
And prepared to squire it nobly in imported farm attire.

But the "breeding" is in bullocks that they prize upon Toolangi.
Where the forelock-touching habit hasn't grown to any size.
And he found, as on he plodded, and the natives curtly nodded,
That their "culture's" agriculture at Toolangi on the rise.

First he started poultry farming, as a mild, genteel employment;
For the business promised profit, and the labor wasn't hard;
But he wondered what the dickens was becoming of his chickens,
Till he found some English foxes prowling round his poultry yard.

So he cursed at things Australian, and invested in an orchard
That adjoined his little holding: and foresaw a life of ease.
But a flock of English starlings -- pretty, "harmless" little darlings --
Ate his apples and his peaches as they ripened on the trees.

Once again he cursed the country, and fell back on cabbage-growing --
He had heard of fortunes gathered while the price was at the top
So he started, quite forgetting to erect the needful netting,
And some cheerful English rabbits finished off his cabbage crop.

Then his language grew tremendous, and he cursed at all the country;
Cursed its flora and its fauna north and south, from coast to coast:
Sat and cursed for hours together, at the "demned colonial weather";
Till an English snow-storm bit him just as he was cursing most.

When the snow falls on Toolangi wise folk look to beam and rafter.
For the fall is ofttimes heavy as upon the roof it lies;
And it crushed the dainty chalet nestling in the pretty valley,
In the little fern-clad valley at Toolangi on the rise.

He was cursing yet, and loudly, as he crawled from out the wreckage:
Cursing as he packed his baggage and departed for his club,
For his club down in the city.  Vulgar folk -- it seems a pity --
Hinted meanly that his club-house was a little back-street pub.

Now, away in far Toolangi, where the mountain peaks yearn skyward,
Folk will drop the dexter eyelid and the case epitomise;
"Yes, 'the Duke' has gone for ever.  British pests are far too clever.
And the English climate crushed him at Toolangi on the rise." 

First published in The Bulletin, 18 July 1912;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Later Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918.

Father Jim by C.J. Dennis

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We ain't much shook on parsons up on the Wareo;
But, fer a parson, Father Jim's the whitest man I know.
'E works around the stations, and without no fuss or noise,
'E sorter gains the confidence of nearly all the boys.
'E's got no sniv'lin', cantin' ways or 'abits of that kind,
But ups and lets you know straight out jus' wot 'e 'as in mind.
There ain't no beatin' round the bush, or splittin' 'airs with 'im,
'E's a good, confidin', straight, 'ard ridin' cove is Father Jim.

"The world, me boys," 'e says, "is like a rampin', rearin' colt;
But sit down in the saddle 'ard, an' get a good firm holt;
A-tighten up the girths o' faith, an' see they ain't too thin,
Or else 'e'll land you on yer 'ead into the mire o' sin.
'E'll pig an' rear, but never fear; grip tight yer bloomin' knee,
And 'ang on to the monkey strap of Christianitee." 

'E strolls into the shearin' shed an' meets you like a man;
'E's rounded up ole "Bill the Lad," an' yarded "Whiskey Dan."
'E 'elps us with the musterin' an' joins in any fun,
An' ain't afraid to sit the biggest outlaw on the run.
In fact, 'e's pals with every one from rouseabout to boss,
An' even John, the cook's, begun to doubt 'is favourite joss.
'E'll meet you in a pub, an' shout and 'ave 'is glass of beer,
But if 'e 'as a notion that yer getting on yer ear,
"Come on," 'e says, "yer goin' ome."  It's no use sayin' no,
'E 'as a sorter way with 'im thet simply makes you go.
'E ain't no chicken with the gloves, an' moves 'is maulers slick,
In 'alf a dozen rounds 'e makes the best of us look sick,
But if bare fists is wanted in a row 'e's alus there,
'E stouched Long Joe a week ago fer interruptin' prayer.

Like draftin' sheep on Judgement Day, 'e tells us it'll be,
"An' either to the right or left you'll 'ave to go," ses 'e.
"If you've the devil's ear-mark you'll be put into 'is fold;
You'll no require no fleeces there to keep you from the cold.
The scabby ones," ses 'e, "'ll go to blazes in a heap,
An' ther' ain't no pleasant pastures where the devil runs 'is sheep."

"Then buckle up yer girth," ses 'e, "an' see ther' firm and strong;
Grip 'ard the kneepads all you know, an' then you can't go wrong.
You'll bump about, ther' ain't no doubt, but take advice from me,
And 'ang on to the monkey strap o' Christianitee." 

First published in The Evening Journal, 1 July 1899;
and later in
The Critic, 29 June 1901.

The Battler by C.J. Dennis

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"Could you give me a bite to eat?" said he,
   As he tarried by my back door.
And I thought of the dull, lean days that be
   As I glanced at the clothes he wore:
Patched in places, and worn and old,
Yet cosy enough to fend the cold.
   And I caught the glint of his gay blue eye,
   Sure sign of his slogan: "Never say die".

"Could you spare me a trifle to eat?" said he;
   "For it's tough on a man these days."
Then, somehow or other it seemed to me,
   Some trick of his voice, or ways,
Stirred half lost thought.  But I let it go,
As he said that his tea was "pretty low":
   And his sugar-bag, too, was "well-nigh out".
   "Tho' I'd hate", he added, "to put you about."

"Could you do with a couple of chops?" said I.
   "Some eggs and a ration of bread?"
"Why, mister, that would be comin' it high!
   It's a feed for a king!" he said.
So with this, and a trifle of sugar and tea,
Tucked under his arm: "Thanks, boss", said he.
   "It's hard on the roads when yer out of a job ... 
   D'yeh think yeh'd be missin' a couple o' bob?"

"One minute!" I bade him, as memory stirred.
   "Have I ever seen you before?"
"Seen me?" said he.  "Why, upon my word!
   For the half o' my life or more,
I been comin' round nigh every year.
An' I never yet drawed a blank - not 'ere.
   An' I'll say this for yeh: you ain't too bad
   As a regular customer - best I've 'ad."

First published in The Herald, 29 June 1933;
and later in
More Than a Sentimental Bloke: A Performance, 1990.

The Bore by C.J. Dennis

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Ah, prithee friend, if thou has ought
   Of love and kind regard for me
Tell not you bore the stories droll
   That yesternight I told to thee.

Nor tell him stories of thine own,
   Nor chestnut of antiquitee;
Nor quip, nor crank, nor anything
   If thou has ought of love for me.

For sense of humour hath he none,
   No gift for telling tales hath he:
Yet thinks himself within his heart
   A wit of wondrous drolleree.

And in the golden summer-time
   With ear a-cock he roameth free,
Collecting quibble, quip, and crank;
   And anecdotes collecteth he.

Then in the dreary winter nights
   He sits him down 'neath my roof tree,
And in a coarse, ungently voice
   He tells those stories back to me.

He hath no wit for telling tales,
   He laughs where ne'er a point there be;
But sits and murders honest yarns,
   And claims them as his propertee.

When he laughs I rock and roar;
   Ay, laugh both loud and merrilee;
And, mark thou, friend, my martyrdom
   He is a creditor to me.

He is a man of mighty power;
   In very fact, a great J.P.;
And I, his debtor, rock and roar,
   And vow he'll be the death o' me.

Ay, prithee, friend, if thou hast love
   For goodly jests or care for me,
Then tell him not the merry tale
   That yesternight I told to thee.

First published in The Gadfly, 30 May 1906;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

The Fortunes of Grandison-Lee by C.J. Dennis

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Now Percival Gregory Grandison-Lee
   He came of a fine old stock.
His sire was an eminent K.C.B,
But Percival never appeared to be
   A chip off that shrewd old block.
In spite of the strain
He was weak of brain,
   Though a jolly good fellow was he.
And, to tell the truth,
In his gilded youth
   His manner of living was free.

Now Percival's father, the elder Lee,
   Aspired to the House of Lords;
So he earnestly sought for the £ s. d.
Becoming a prominent guinea-pig, he
   Was chairman of numerous Boards.
But the game was rash,
And there came a smash,
   And he perished of felo-de-se.
And up to his neck,
In the subsequent wreck
   Was Percival Grandison-Lee.

So Percy resigned from the King's armee;
   He couldn't maintain the style.
And, after a harrowing period, he
Was faced by the spectre of bank-rupt-cee,
   His schedule he had to file.
He smiled through court
   Like a hardy sport,
   But he sorrowed in privacee;
For an easy job
For a hard-up nob
   Isn't growing on every tree.

He touched then for tenners so frequentlee
   That the friends of Lee, deceased,
A length procession of loans could see,
And they whispered to one of the Ministree
   As Percival's plans increased.
Thus they shipped him off
As a gilded toff
   On the staff of a high grandee
To earn his bread
As a figurehead --
   And a Governor's A.D.C.

In that country of democrats o'er the sea
   The cream of Society's cream
They worship a feathered and frilled grandee,
And e'er on his gorgeous A.D.C.
   The "nicest" are ready to beam.
His boots were tight,
And his hat was bright,
   And his tie was a fantasee;
And the wealthiest girls --
Society's pearls --
   Just loved his refulgency.

He strolled in the wake of the high grandee
   In his glittering uniform;
At frivols and functions and afternoon tea
He lolled with a manner so easy and free
   That he took the girls by storm.
And he wooed a maid
Of the sheep brigade,
   One of the squatocracee,
With a station Outback
And a house at Toorak,
   And they wedded right merrilee.

Now Percival Gregory Grandison-Lee
   In his London club doth dwell;
He squats at his ease through a deputee
That idle and valueless absentee,
   And says that this land is Hell;
But once every year
For the Cup he's here,
   As the master of Bungabaree;
Our well-equipped courses
And galloping horses
   Are all that appeal to Lee.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 May 1912

A Wreck by C.J. Dennis

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'Is clothes wus 'angin' off 'im, an' 'is feet wus through 'is boots;
'Is trousis wanted washin', but 'e 'ad no change o' soots;
I met 'im awn the never, the other side o' Quawn,
An' travelled with 'im fer a week, but now, thank Gawd, he's gawn,

An' 'e's bin a bloomin' undergraduate,
            (So 'e says.)
But I wouldn't like to own 'im fer a mate.
            (Spare me days!)
   With 'is Oxford an' 'is 'Arrer, 'e's a badun to the marrer,
This Gawd-forgotten undergraduate.

Ther' ain't no doubt about it, 'e's bin eddicated well;
An' once upon a time 'e might 'ave bin a sorter swell;
But of all the bloomin' cadgers an' the beer sharks that I've met,
I've never seen the feller that wus equal to 'im yet.

For 'e'd steal the bit o' tucker in yer bag,
            (So 'e would!)
An' 'e'd sneak the bloomin' quart pot off yer swag,
            (If 'e could.)
   With 'is Latin an' 'is Greek, 'e's a thievin' crawlin' sneak;
'E's a scholard; but 'e ain't got room to brag.

'E used to be a barrister at 'Ome, that's wot 'e sed;
An' there's some that might believe 'im, 'cos 'e 'ad a clever 'ead.
If 'e gets a chaunce to take ye down, you bet yer life 'e will;
Fer 'e's known around the country be the name of "Crooked Bill."

An' 'e gits a bit o' money frum 'is friends,
            (Once a year.)
An' while 'e 'as a striver then 'e spends 
            (All in beer.)
   But all 'is bloomin' wealf 'e spends upon 'imself,
An' never thinks o' treatin' of 'is friends.

First published in The Critic, 6 May 1899

The Sonnets We've Never Sung by C. J. Dennis

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A journalist approached us the other day and said there was nobody in Adelaide to write about.

There's a song for Mr. Deakin, with a pretty power for speakin'
   On the things that have been done and are to be;
There's a song for Mr. Waring, filled with little words of swearing,
   On the Out-and-Outer Harbour, and you'll see.
We are sure to find a ditty for Foster, Richard Witty,
   And some other legislators in our mind;
There'll be psalms for Candy Cohen from the Opposition goin',
   And for Tories who are bigoted and blind.
Should we beg the public's pardon as we mention Mr. Vardon,
   And the subject of the local option fuss. 
To pass from scenes of talk and strife to quite another walk of life,
   To warble of the Reid who built the 'bus?
There's a sonnet for Abe Shannon, and for William Foote, and Canon
   Wise, and clergymen who point the way to right;
There's a line for Archie Beviss, for it would for ever grieve us,
   Should we leave him out of anything we skite.
Here's a yell for Kidman's Sidney, and some others of his kidney
   Living restless lives in cattleyard and camp;
There are songs for vet'rans glorious, like Crispe the meritorious,
   And auctioneers like Bedford and Bill Hamp;
There's an ode to Jimmy Marshall, and to prove we're quite impartial
   Let us sing to Dudley Hayward while we can;
Let's write odes to Mr. Waddy and his stamps with gum so shoddy,
   And to Mr. Pendelton, the railway man;
While to fierce teetotal terrors, such as Lord and Charlie Ferors,
   We will sing about their fame that doesn't Ware.
There'll be songs for Mr. Stanton, and Conservatives who rant on
   Giving State schools into Mr. Williams' care;
In a cultivated rich key let us sing of Charlie Nitschke,
   Bawl a chorus song for Flannagan and Green;
As our pen the subject dwells on, let us write of Carr and Nelson,
   Strike the harp and hum a line to Harry Dean;
Or, in tones that grow ecstatic, sing of Gordon the emphatic,
   Dealing sentences upon the Police Court bench.
When our voice the skylark mocks, well, let us sing of Johnny Coxell
   (This song supply I'm sure we'll never quench);
If this paper's space alloweth, we can warble of Chenoweth,
   We may sing to William, Silver, if we like;
Or, in sporty manner lusty, sing to Blacker, true and trusty,
   And the deeds of daring Deards upon the bike.
There are songs for politicians, for policemen and patricians,
   There is e'en a song for Ebenezer Ward;
There are ditties for musiscians and for stately statisticians,
   And for men whose names the space we can't afford;
We could warble on so brightly ever morn and even nightly,
   But a cloud is coming o'er the printer's brow;
So we'll take a top note ringing, and forthwith we'll stop our singing,
   And, modesty becoming, make our bow.

First published in The Gadfly, 4 April 1906

My Mate Bates by C.J. Dennis

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Schoolmates -- me an' Billy Bates,
      Sixty year ago;
Though our schoolin' was but foolin' --
      Short an' sweet, ye know.
Workin' when we was but ten
      (Folks was poor, ye see).
Drivin' ploughs an' mindin' cows --
      Billy Bates an' me.

Shipmates -- me an' Billy Bates,
      Forty year ago;
Came out 'ere in the "Boundin' Deer,"
      Straight to Bendigo.
Made a pile in a little while --
      Struck it rich did we;
Knocked it down when we got to town --
      Billy Bates an' me.

Bedmates -- me an' Billy Bates,
      Thirty year ago; 
Shearin' sheep an' livin' cheap,
      Up on Wareko.
Nohow never 'ad a row,
      Even in a spree;
Friends we'd bin through thick an' thin --
      Billy Bates an' me.

Billy Bates an' me wus mates,
      Twenty year ago;
Then old Billy acted silly,
      Got a girl in tow.
Men thet's wed's as good as dead,
      No more use fur me;
Saw 'em started, then we parted --
      Billy Bates an' me.

Room-mates -- me an' Billy Bates --
      Come 'ere yesterday.
Wife is dead.  The life 'e led
      With 'er was cruel, they say.
Cut up rough, an' spent 'is stuff,
      Acted like a brute.
So Billy Bates an' me is mates --
      In the Destitute.

First published in The Critic, 2 April 1898;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Note: this poem was also known by the title Me 'an Bates.

The Boss's Cousin Frum 'Ome by C.J. Dennis

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The boss 'as a relation residin' at the station,
   Come out frum 'Ome about a month ago;
An' of all the 'owlin' swells, an' of all the bloomin' sells
   'E's the biggest that I ever got to know.
'Is moustache an' 'air is sandy, and 'e's sich a blessed dandy;
   'Is trousis!  Lord!  They're like a pair o' bags.
I like to dress up trim, but afore I'd look like 'im
   I'd go rig me persin out in rags.

When first 'e showed 'is 'ead inside the shearin' shed,
   The boys just smiles an' nudged at one another;
But when we seen 'is walk, an' when we 'eard 'im talk,
   Our laughcher was as much as we could smother.
We used to roar with fun, when the Chinese cook -- Ah Wun,
   'Oo in 'is way's a bit of a take-off;
With 'is yeller 'ead on high, an' a 'ap'ny in 'is eye,
   Would strut about an' ape this bloomin' toff.

But it wasn't very long afore we changed our song;
   An' seen the other side o' this 'ere swell.
'Twas along of 'Arry Wright, 'oo is alwa's gittin' tight:
   He's a shearer, an' a fightin' man as well.
He was copped one day last week an' fined afore the beak.
   An' went an' got blind drunk fur consolation --
Got fairly on 'is ear on Casey's fightin' beer,
   An' then came roarin' back into the station.

Then a cheeky young wool-picker, be the name of Billy Dicker,
   Commenced chiakin' Wright an' got 'im riled.
An' quicker'n it's wrote, 'Arry 'ad 'im be the throat,
   An' I thought 'e'd choke the life out o' the child.
We durstn't interfere, fur when 'Arry's on the beer
   'E's a demon; then all at once we 'eard --
"Drop that boy, you cowardly pup!" an' the swell came runnin' up,
   An' was into Wright without another word.

We reckoned 'e'd be killed, fur 'e didn't seem the build
   To stand a round with such a man as Wright;
But talk of a surpise, you might think I'm tellin' lies,
   But I never seen a more one-sided fight.
'E went fur Wright an' bashed 'im; 'pon me oath 'e fairly smashed 'im;
   I reely thought 'e'd break 'is bloomin' neck;
Then with a final clout, 'e fairly laid 'im out,
   An' left 'im on the ground a bleedin' wreck.

So 'ere's to this relation residin' at the station,
   With 'is collar, eye-glass, stick, an' pants so neat;
Fur of all the 'owlin's swells, an' of all the bloomin' sells,
   'E's the biggest thet I ever chanced to meet.

First published in The Critic, 12 March 1898

Return of a Hero by C.J. Dennis

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Mr Fitzmickle, the martinet, is furious,
The ways
(He says),
Of jumped-up Jacks-in-Office and officialdom generally are certainly curious.
Positively (he says) positively injurious
To civil discipline and respect for the law.
(Says Mr Fitzmickle, just like that)
I tell you flat,
Such a degrading display of blatant bureaucracy I have seldom seen
That is to say, I mean,
Am I a sardine?

I ask you (says Mr Fitzmickle am I a sardine?
Have I ever been
A man to be trodden under?
(And upon his audience, held spellbound,
He gazes round,
His brow as black as thunder)
To our present form of free democratic government (says Mr Fitzmickle)
I have never been fickle.
My resolve to uphold the Law, the Throne and the Empire has been and ever will be 
(His audience waits breathless.)

Yet what do we find?
   I, with other citizens of my kind --
Persons of some standing in the community --
Seize the opportunity
To witness the Test.
So I, with the rest,
Having paid for a seat,
Sit there in the heat
And the sun
For hours before play has begun.

And then (says Mr Fitzmickle) then
They have the colossal nerve to ask us to stand on our feet --
In the sun, mark you, and the heat --
To make room for others who just chanced to arrive.
The soul of Freedom leapt alive.
Did they regard us as worms?
In no uncertain terms

(A vulgar display, no doubt.
But I make no apology.)
It was crass, official ignorance of the rudiments of mass psychology
That created such a disgraceful scene.
And, I ask you again: Am I a sardine?

So speaks Mr Fitzmickle.
   His stern eyes flash.
Each individual hair upon his small moustache
Appears to prickle,
To stand out stiff.
Just as if
He were indeed a fretful porcupine.
Never be it said (he declaims) that I or mine
Ever submitted to a despotism so intolerably mean!
Again I ask: AM I A SARDINE?

He looks about, triumphant, having done.
   And his small son
Says admiringly: "I bet not, Pa.
You wouldn't be a sardine for anybody. Would he, Ma?"
And Mrs Fitzmickle says quietly: "Why, of course not. It seems quite ridiculous to me.
And now, please dear, will you begin your tea?"

First published in The Herald, 3 March 1937

The Hangman by C.J. Dennis

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[Alec. Taylor, a Naval Reserve man, has been appointed to the post of public hangman rendered vacant by the death of Mr. Billington.  He is of a humorous disposition, and made an application for the position on a previous occasion. - English newspaper.]

Hark to the sound of my tuneful lay,
   Sing hey for the merry hangman!
I looked for a billet and found it to-day,
   Sing hey for the merry hangman!
I've tried for the job for years and years;
I'm not a fellow of squeamish fears,
And I damped the earth with my grateful tears
   When I got the job as a hangman.

Hark to the song I'm singing to you,
   The cheerful song of the hangman,
Who never was dull and never looked blue,
   The jolly old public hangman;
For if I put in my spoke, you see,
Adjusting the rope real joking-lee
The criminal will murmur choking-lee:
   "What a jolly old chap for a hangman!"

Hearken awhile to the song I sing,
   Hurrah for the merry hangman!
Who laughs aloud as the corpses swing
   At the touch of the cheery hangman;
For what is the use of looking sad
And making the convict feel it bad?
Better be merry and make him glad
   To be hanged by the jolly old hangman.

This is the end of my joyful song,
   Three cheers for the merry hangman!
Who winks his eye as he says good-bye
   To the man who's hanged by the hangman.
Oh, I often think as I lie in bed
What joy it must be to be led, led, led,
And hanged by the neck till you're dead, dead, dead,
   At the hands of a cheerful hangman.

First published in The Critic, 10 January 1906

One Happy Man by C. J. Dennis

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Today I met a happy man
   Greeting the glad new year.
About his face the sunbeams ran
And danced, as straightaway he began
   To laugh with right good cheer.
His garb was mean, tho' neat and clean;
   No scarf, no hat had he.
He seemed indeed to be in need
  And touched by poverty.

"Good friend," said I, "why do you laugh
   And chortle in the sun,
When we've a bitter cut to quaff.
With profits down to less than half
   And gloom for every one?
Know you that these are troublous days,
   And life a stern affair,
And all must tread uncertain ways,
   Haunted by grim despair?"

The merry rogue looked up at me,
   And grinned from ear to ear.
"Why should I not be glad?" said he,
"And strive to greet right merrily
   The birth of this glad year?"
"Because," said I - and frowned again -
   "Of losses grave and great
That you and I and other men
   Have had to bear of late.

"Think well," I said; "the times are grave,
   And we may lose yet more.
We must give thought on how to save . . . "
He lifted up his head and gave
   A long, loud, merry roar.
"I'd like," said he, when he had pause,
   "To share your gloomy views.
But I don't care a whit, because
   I've not a thing to lose!"

First published in The Herald, 1 January 1931

Author reference sites: C.J. DennisAustlitAustralian Dictionary of BiographyAustralian Poetry Library

See also.  

The Man from Ironbark by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop,
Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop.
"'Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark,
I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark."

The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar;
He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee,
He laid the odds and kept a "tote", whatever that may be,
And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered, "Here's a lark!
Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark."

There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber's wall.
Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all;
To them the barber passed the wink, his dexter eyelid shut,
"I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut."
And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark:
"I s'pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark."

A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman's chin,
Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in.
He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat,
Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat:
Upon the newly-shaven skin it made a livid mark -
No doubt it fairly took him in - the man from Ironbark.

He fetched a wild up-country yell might wake the dead to hear,
And though his throat, he knew full well, was cut from ear to ear,
He struggled gamely to his feet, and faced the murd'rous foe:
"You've done for me! you dog, I'm beat! one hit before I go!
I only wish I had a knife, you blessed murdering shark!
But you'll remember all your life the man from Ironbark."

He lifted up his hairy paw, with one tremendous clout
He landed on the barber's jaw, and knocked the barber out.
He set to work with nail and tooth, he made the place a wreck;
He grabbed the nearest gilded youth, and tried to break his neck.
And all the while his throat he held to save his vital spark,
And "Murder! Bloody murder!" yelled the man from Ironbark.

A peeler man who heard the din came in to see the show;
He tried to run the bushman in, but he refused to go.
And when at last the barber spoke, and said "'Twas all in fun--
'Twas just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone."
"A joke!" he cried, "By George, that's fine; a lively sort of lark;
I'd like to catch that murdering swine some night in Ironbark."

And now while round the shearing floor the list'ning shearers gape,
He tells the story o'er and o'er, and brags of his escape.
"Them barber chaps what keeps a tote, By George, I've had enough,
One tried to cut my bloomin' throat, but thank the Lord it's tough."
And whether he's believed or no, there's one thing to remark,
That flowing beards are all the go way up in Ironbark.

First published in The Bulletin, 17 December 1892, and again in the same magazine on 23 December 1980, 22 December 1981, and 23 December 1986;
and later in
The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1895;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Silence into Song: An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Clifford O'Brien, 1968;
The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1982;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
Singer of the Bush, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson: Complete Works 1885-1900 compiled by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1983; 
The Penguin Book of Australian Humorous Verse edited by Bill Scott, 1984;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
The Bushwackers Australian Song Book edited by Jan Wositzky and Dobe Newton, 1988;
The Banjo's Best-Loved Poems edited by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1989;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;
A Treasury of Bush Verse edited by G.A. Wilkes, 1991;
A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson: Bush Ballads, Poems, Stories and Journalism edited by Clement Semmler, 1992;
Selected Poems: A. B. Paterson compiled by Les Murray, 1992;
The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson edited by Clement Semmler, 1993;
Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall, 1993;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant, 2008; and
The Penguin Book of Australian Poetry edited by John Kinsella, 2009.

Since Then by Henry Lawson

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I met Jack Ellis in town to-day --
   Jack Ellis -- my old mate, Jack --
Ten years ago, from the Castlereagh,
We carried our swags together away
   To the Never-Again, Out Back.

But times have altered since those old days,
   And the times have changed the men.
Ah, well! there's little to blame or praise --
Jack Ellis and I have tramped long ways
   On different tracks since then.

His hat was battered, his coat was green,
   The toes of his boots were through,
But the pride was his!  It was I felt mean --
I wished that my collar was not so clean,
   Nor the clothes I wore so new.

He saw me first, and he knew 'twas I --
   The holiday swell he met.
Why have we no faith in each other?  Ah, why? --
He made as though he would pass me by,
   For he thought that I might forget.

He ought to have known me better than that,
   By the tracks we tramped far out --
The sweltering scrub and the blazing flat,
When the heat came down through each old felt hat
   In the hell-born western drought.

The cheques we made and the shanty sprees,
   The camps in the great blind scrub,
The long wet tramps when the plains were seas,
And the oracles worked in days like these
   For rum and tobacco and grub.

Could I forget how we struck "the same
   Old tale" in the nearer West,
When the first great test of our friendship came --
But -- well, there's little to praise or blame
   If our mateship stood the test.

"Heads!" he laughed (but his face was stern) --
   "Tails!" and a friendly oath;
We loved her fair, we had much to learn --
And each was stabbed to the heart in turn
   By the girl who -- loved us both.

Or the last day lost on the lignum plain,
   When I staggered, half-blind, half-dead,
With a burning throat and a tortured brain;
And the tank when we came to the track again
   Was seventeen miles ahead.

Then life seemed finished -- then death began
    As down in the dust I sank,
But he stuck to his mate as a bushman can,
Till I heard him saying, "Bear up, old man!"
   In the shade by the mulga tank.

     .    .    .    .    .

He took my hand in a distant way
   (I thought how we parted last),
And we seemed like men who have nought to say
And who meet -- "Good-day", and who part -- "Good-day",
   Who never have shared the past.

I asked him in for a drink with me --
   Jack Ellis -- my old mate, Jack --
But his manner no longer was careless and free,
He followed, but not with the grin that he
   Wore always in days Out Back.

I tried to live in the past once more --
   Or the present and past combine,
But the days between I could not ignore --
I couldn't help notice the clothes he wore,
   And he couldn't but notice mine.

He placed his glass on the polished bar,
   And he wouldn't fill up again;
For he is prouder than most men are --
Jack Ellis and I have tramped too far
   On different tracks since then.

He said that he had a mate to meet,
   And "I'll see you again," said he,
Then he hurried away through the crowded street
And the rattle of buses and scrape of feet
   Seemed suddenly loud to me.

And I almost wished that the time were come
   When less will be left to Fate --
When boys will start on the track from home
With equal chances, and no old chum
   Have more or less than his mate.

First published in The Bulletin, 23 November 1895;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
The Sun (Kalgoorlie), 6 September 1903;
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 23 August 1903;
Silence Into Song: An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Clifford O'Brien, 1968;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974; and
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984.

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

See also.

The Prodigal's Reply by Harry "Breaker" Morant

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Some time ago Bob crossed the foam
   And sailed for Cool-gar-dee,
And when our hard-up boy came home,
   No wealthier was he!

We saw him -- at "the Rising Sun,"
   And o'er an "s.-and-b."
We asked if Dad his prodigal son
   Was mighty pleased to see?

"Perchance now you have been, old chap,
   So long -- and far -- away.
The Guvnor's put the wine on tap,
   And killed the calf to-day?"

The Prodigal laughed a weary laugh
   Whilst sadly answered he:
"Dad didn't kill no fatted calf,
   But d---d near slaughtered me!"

First published in The Bulletin, 20 November 1897;
and later in
The Poetry of 'Breaker' Morant: from "The Bulletin" 1891-1903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant, 1980.
Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Posted Missing - Kingsford Smith by Emily Bulcock

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Live dully; guarding well the coward flesh
Safe in well-trodden paths, through easy years,
Barren of fire and splendour; in their mesh
Catching no glint of glory; this were wisdom.
The Earthworm knows not risk of upper spheres!

But, ah! the flashing moment in the sun!
The dragon-fly that shames all sober things!        
Lark-song that ceased not till the heights were won.    
Flesh clothed with flame, that burnt its fleshly barriers  
And dared the royal challenge danger flings.
So these quick souls who, while we breathless stare,          
Wave to their plodding fellows, and are gone.  
Give us new paths on land and sea and air,                            
Give us unbounded worlds to dream upon.                    
Lyric or laurel-- it were poor repayment.
Chafed with Earth's bounds, have they flown further on?  

First published in The Courier-Mail, 18 November 1935

Note: The subject of this poem is the Australian aviator Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935) who was reported missing over the sea to the north of Darwin on 8 November 1935.

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

A Law-Abiding Citizen and the Betting Act by W. T. Goodge

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Of all the worthy gentlemen
   Whom one would wish to see
There was no better citizen  
   Than William J. Magee.

His character was so precise,
   It seemed without a flaw,
And he was full of sound advice
   To those who loved the law!

He was a private gentleman
   Of independent means;
Or, as the coarse expression ran,
   "A cove with whips o' beans!"

Some men would lead a life of ease
   If they were in his place!
(Don't think he was a lawyer, please,
   For such was not the case!)

Of moral Acts of Parliament
   He stood in constant awe,
And wrathfully would he resent
   Infractions of the law!

He never was a man to scoff
   At any law! In fact,
He was a strict observer of
   The Sunday Closing Act!

Supreme Court Judgments he'd obey
   Just as they came along,   
Until the High Court said that they
   Were absolutely wrong!
To local laws, good, bad, and worse
   One always found him leal
Until the usual reverse 
   Was granted on appeal!

He often said he really thought
   (This was his playful way)
That many Bills were merely brought
   For leading him astray!

Yet every time he would obey
   What laws they might arrange,
And read the papers every day,
   To note the slightest change!

Perhaps you'll say: "Well, that's all right!"
   But just you wait a bit!
That might be right, perhaps it might,
   But that's not all of it!

Not only did this person hold
   A breach of law a shame;
He also held, or so I'm told,
   That all should think the same!

And when a citizen began
   To be a trifle "slim,"
This very worthy gentleman
   Would soon admonish him!

I cannot say this always pleased
   The folks he would correct;
But if he felt his conscience eased,
   What more could man expect?

The bookies used to pull his leg,
   And ask in anxious tone
If it were wrong to lay an egg
   Or a foundation stone!

He'd watch the builders at their tricks,
   And say, with knowing nods,
"I's right enough to lay the bricks,
   But do not lay the hods!"

One day his buggy-wheel got jammed,
   Right in the tramway track.
A car came up, and it was crammed! 
   The tramguard cried, "Pull back!"

"Pull back your dromedary!" cried
   The passengers in force.
"I can't!" the worthy man replied;
   "It's wrong to back a horse!"

When someone else backed out the horse
   With promptitude and tact,
Our hero "took a certain course!"
   Under the Gaming Act!

And William J.
Magee would say,
   When he had time to pause:
"At least I am as sensible
   As those who make the Laws!"

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 7 November 1906

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Poetry Library

See also.  

The Unfortunate King of Annam! by W.T. Goodge

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They say he's taken many lives
   Of daughters and of mothers,
And that he's murdered thirty wives
   And killed and eaten others!
These stories may, of course, be true
   But still there's no denying
That women are (give him his due!)
   At times extremely trying!

First published
in The Bulletin, 25 October 1906

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

"To Seek and to Save" by Mary Hannay Foott

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Affectionately Inscribed to Annie Hutchinson, Salvation Army

The light within her casement woke ere yet
The shrouded East revived at breath of morn;
Her candle burned when midnight moons had set.
Yet never laurel hath this watcher worn;
'Twas never crabbed character of eld,
Sign of the Greek, or symbol of the Moor,
Her womanly eyes to bond of vigil held;
Nor Fame, nor Gain, from slumber did allure.
She threaded our dark places unafraid --
Alone, save for the Presences unseen
Who joyful leave the Bliss Beyond to aid
The Angels of the Earth --- and stood between
The living and the dead, with suppliant mien,
Like Israel's Leader when "the plague was stayed."

First published in The Queenslander, 4 October 1890

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

Dirty Dick's Dilemma by Will Lawson

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Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
   Lived in a hut apart from men;
Marked by the years and seared by sin,
   He swore he'd never see town again;
Talked to the trees and talked to his dog,
Or the sheep or a snake or a hollow log ---
   He lived like a dog in his den.

There came a wag to his hut one day
   When Dirty Dick was out,
Who chalked on his door ere he went his way
   Through the burning, blazing drought,
"Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
Keeps the dirtiest hut I've ever seen,
   Of that there is no doubt."

When Dirty Dick came home that night
   He saw the message there;
But he could neither read nor write
   And he could only stare
And say "It's something the boss wants done;
I'll have to find some son-of-a-gun
   To settle this affair."

He pulled the door from its hinges down
   And slung it on his back,
And started off for Budgery Town
   Along the Budgery track.
Eighteen miles it was, no less,
Of heat and thirst and weariness ---
   It made Dick's muscles crack.

"Read what's wrote on me door," said Dick
   To the boss of the Budgery pub.
Whose heart was kind and whose brain was quick
   To save old Dick a snub.
He said "It says I'm to give you two
Of the biggest beers a man can brew
   To sleep off in the scrub."

When Dirty Dick of Yalgobin,
   Who lives in a hut apart from men.
Gets thirsty now, he says with a grin,
   "I'd better get back to the pub again."
He shoulders his door and they yell with fun
To see him coming in storm or sun
   Where Budgery's streets close in.

The message that's written on old Dick's door
   Has faded in storm and drought;
But he sits and reads it as if he was sure
   He knew what 'twas all about.
"Dirty Dick of Yalgobin
Has had more free beer than you've ever seen ---
   That's how he makes it out.

First published
in The Bulletin, 21 August 1940;
and later in
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Old Ballads From the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Katherine Bell, 2007.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Misanthrope by Henry Halloran

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Dark as the raven's wing his hair --
And dark as night his haughty brow --
His piercing eyes like meteors glare --
And sternly, on the world's vain show,
He turns their searching glance:- e'en now   
I mark his wild phrenetic mood --
I hear the deep and bitter curse
He breathes upon the universe,
And its demoniac brood.  

Atossa died -- and he has felt; --
Friends have betrayed -- and he has sigh'd;--
The joys on which his fancy dwelt  
Have perish'd-and a tow'ring pride,
And high disdain, now seem to guide  
His solitary wanderings:
Amidst the mountain crags he roams --
Or plunges wherw the whirlpool foams --
Or muses where the death-owl sings.  

The fountains of his tears are dry --
The feelings of his heart have fled --
But, rankling in his memory,
He bears the scorn the world has shed,
The calumnies that man has spread,
To blight his injur'd, ruin'd name:
No social feelings now can charm --  
No mirth excite, no fear alarm,
His heart-where dwells hate's quenchless flame.  

E'en when a child, his spirit spurn'd
To mingle with the heartless throng;
To wildest solitudes he turn'd,
With feelings deep, refin'd, and strong: --
He brooded o'er the deathless song   
Of ancient bards-and, as his mind
Drank inspiration from their verse,
He with their spirits would converse,
And wander, proud and unconfin'd.  

His friends were few-yet one he lov'd --  
And she was nature's fairest child:  
Thro' wilds their kindred spirits rov'd --
For minds, bv slavery undefil'd,   
Will ever seek their native wild.
She perish'd!-he ne'er wept, nor sigh'd --
For noble souls disdain to show  
Their deep, corroding, madd'ning woe,
Or bear the pitying scorn of pride.

But Malice rear'd her gorgon crest,
And Calumny anssail'd his fame;
And fiends who friendship once profest,
Heap'd odium on his injur'd name,
And strove to couple it with shame:--
His high unshackled spirit spurns
The visor'd world's hypocrisy --   
Its sneer, its scorn, its artful lie, --
But with a deathless hatred burns.

First published
in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 2 July 1831

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

"Ginger Mick" by C. J. Dennis

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Wot price ole Ginger Mick?  'E's done a break --
   Gone to the flamin' war to stoush the foe.
Wus it fer glory, or a woman's sake?
   Ar, arst me somethin' easy! I dunno.
'Is Kharki clobber set 'im off a treat,
That's all I know; 'is motive's got me beat.

Ole Mick 'e's trainin' up in Cairo now;
   An' all the cops in Spadger's Lane is sad.
They miss 'is music in the midnight row
   Wot time the pushes mix it good an' glad.
Fer 'e wus one o' them, you understand,
Wot "soils the soshul life uv this fair land."

A peb wus Mick; a leery bloke wus 'e,
   Low down, an' given to the brinnin' cup;
The sort o' chap that coves like you an' me
   Don't mix wiv, 'cos of our strick bringin's-up.
An' 'e wus sich becos unseein' Fate
Lobbed 'im in life a 'undred years too late.

'E wus a man uv vierlence, wus Mick,
   Coarse wiv 'is speech an' in 'is manner low,
Slick wiv 'is 'ands, an' 'andy wiv a brick
   When bricks wus needful to defeat a foe.
An' now 'e's gone an' mizzled to the war,
An' some blokes 'as the nerve to arst "Wot for?"

Wot for? gawstruth! 'E wus no patriot
   That sits an' brays advice in days uv strife;
'E never flapped no flags nor sich like rot;
   'E never sung "Gawsave" in all 'is life.
'E wus dispised be them that make sich noise:
But now - O strike! - 'e's "one uv our brave boys."

'E's one uv our brave boys, all right, all right.
   'Is early trainin' down in Spadgers Lane
Done 'im no 'arm fer this 'ere orl-in fight:
   'Is loss o' culcher is 'is country's gain.
'Im wiv 'is carst-ir'n chiv an' leery ways -
An' swell tarts 'eavin' 'im sweet words o' praise.

Why did 'e go?  'E 'ad a decent job,
   'Is tart an' 'im they could 'a' made it right.
Why does a wild bull fight to guard the mob?
   Why does a bloomin' bull-ant look fer fight?
Why does a rooster scrap an' flap an' crow?
'E went becos 'e dam well <i>'ad</i> to go.

'E never spouted no 'igh-soundin' stuff
   About stern jooty an' 'is country's call;
But, in 'is way, 'e 'eard it right enough
   A-callin' like the shout uv "On the Ball!"
Wot time the footer brings the clicks great joy,
An' Saints or Carlton roughs it up wiv 'Roy.

The call wot came to cave-men in the days
   When rocks wus stylish in the scrappin' line;
The call wot knights 'eard in the minstrel's lays,
   That sent 'em in tin soots to Palerstine;
The call wot draws all fighters to the fray
It come to Mick, an' Mick 'e must obey.

The Call uv Stoush! ... It's older than the 'ills.
   Lovin' an' fightin' - there's no more to tell
Concernin' men.  an' when that feelin' thrills
   The blood uv them 'oo's fathers mixed it well,
They 'ave to 'eed it - bein' 'ow they're built -
As traders 'ave to 'eed the clink uv gilt.

An' them whose gilt 'as stuffed 'em stiff wiv pride
   An' 'aughty scorn uv blokes like Ginger Mick -
I sez to them, put sich crook thorts aside,
   An' don't lay on the patronage too think.
Orl men is brothers when it comes to lash
An' 'aughty scorn an' Culcher does their lash.

War ain't no giddy garden feete - it's war:
   A game that calls up love an' 'atred both.
An' them that shudders at the sight o' gore,
   An' shrinks to 'ear a drunken soljer's oath,
Must 'ide be'ind the man wot 'eaves the bricks,
An' thank their Gawd for all their Ginger Micks.
Becos 'e never 'ad the chance to find
   The glory o' the world by land an' sea,
Becos the beauty 'idin' in 'is mind
   Wus not writ plain fer blokes like you an' me,
They calls 'im crook; but in 'im I 'ave found
Wot makes a man a man the world around.

Be'ind that dile uv 'is, as 'ard as sin,
   Wus strange, soft thorts that never yet showed out;
An' down in Spadger's Lane, in dirt an' din,
   'E dreamed sich dreams as poits sing about.
'E's 'ad 'is visions uv the Bonzer Tart;
An' stoushed some coot to ease 'is swellin' 'eart.

Lovin' an' fightin' . . . when the tale is told,
   That's all there is to it; an' in their way
Them brave an' noble 'ero blokes uv old
   Wus Ginger Micks - the crook 'uns uv their day.
Jist let the Call uv Stoush give 'im 'is chance
An' Ginger Mick's the 'ero of Romance.

So Ginger Mick 'e's mizzled to the war;
   Joy in 'is 'eart, an' wild dreams in 'is brain;
Gawd 'elp the foe that 'e goes gunnin' for
   If tales is true they tell in Spadger's Lane -
Tales that ud fairly freeze the gentle 'earts
Uv them 'oo knits 'is socks - the Culchered Tarts.

First published in The Bulletin, 10 June 1915;
and later in
The Moods of Ginger Mick by C.J. Dennis, 1916;
The Australian Experience of War: Illustrated Stories and Verse edited by J.T. Laird, 1988;
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1988;
Favorite Poems of C.J. Dennis by C.J. Dennis, 1989; and
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004.

Note: this poem is also known by the title "The Call of Stoush".

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Farewell by Mary Hannay Foott

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Respectfully inscribed to Alice Claudine, Lady Norman.

Farewell, dear Lady! Bright the hour
   That brought you; sad that bears away;
Yet --- English fields are all a-flower,
   And English hedgerows sweet with May;
Love there as here shall be your dower ---
   'Tis not for us to bid you stay.

Farewell ! Oh not alone the few
   Familiar friends will miss you here
How excellent soe'er the New   
   Be slow to place another peer
To her whom now they bid adieu ---
   Of all Vice-Queens the one most dear!

Your helpful care the couch has spread
   For suffering babes; angelic toil!
On wounds of women shamed you shed
   Samarian balm of wine and oil;
As Sister, with the scorned broke bread ---
   You, with white raiment free from soil!

And women-hands that toil your hand
   Has touched and strengthened. Mothers tell
Of the sweet Presence, come to stand
   By the new-born, where poor folk dwell,
With generous gifts. Throughout the Land
   Is none but grieves to say Farewell.

Farewell, dear Lady All good things
   Be yours the All-Giver may bestow.
Its folds abroad the Ensign flings;
   The sea-tide swells the river-flow;
The parting cheer around you rings;
   Farewell! God bless you where you go!    

First published in The Queenslander, 18 May 1895

Note: Alice Claudine was the wife of General Sir Henry Wylie Norman, Governor of Queensland 1889-1895.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Old Qld Poetry

See also.

Maloney's Motor Car by W. T. Goodge

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"The Bushman's Arms," whose liquid charms all western stock men know,
Was kept by Pat Maloney at a time when things were slow;
Dead slow, begad! For though it had seen flush times, I believe,
Yet things were mortal dull on this partic'lar Christmas Eve.
Maloney'd gone to Cobar on the usual Christmas quest
For liquors of a quality politely termed "the best;"
And there he sat, imbibing that which bushmen call "three star,"
Until two Sydney Johnnies walked inside to breast the bar.
'Twas then the hist'ry started of Maloney's Motor Car!

They had a car, a splendid car, the finest on the road!
'Twould beat a team of bullocks in the hauling of a load;
And as for speed, there was no need to talk of other power --
That car could bound, on level ground, its forty miles an hour!
And there he sat, did muddled Pat, and listened, till at last
His trap was sold, the car was bought, and thus the die was cast;
And forth he went, in great content, from out the hotel bar,
And mounted on his new machine, so proud as any Czar!
All Cobar gave a send-off to Maloney's Motor Car?

And there in fair Killara was a waiting thirsty throng,
Till Pat Maloney brought his stock of Christmas grog along;
But Mount McPherson, they'd aver, was scarce a hundred miles
From Cobar. "Now we shan't be long!" they said, exchanging smiles.
They still had some back-country rum; there still remained some beer,
Which they absorbed while waiting for the special Christmas cheer.
A sound, like demons flying past! it startled all the bar!
Then out they rushed with open mouths, and eyes that stared afar ---
The last of mortal eyes that saw Maloney's Motor Car!

Yet, day by day, the press would say, "There was important news,"
And forty fresh detectives had discovered forty clues!
In Adelaide fresh plans were made, and Normanton and Cue
Looked for the 'coming vehicle, and wondered what to do.
The police, of course, displayed resource, and ran in everyone
Who looked as if he'd done the deed, or could or would have done.
But ne'er a word there e'er was heard in special wire or par.
To clear this murky mystery, which was as black as tar.
A Budget Speech was simple to Maloney's Motor Car!

Shall I deceive? Each Christmas Eve, they say, the Bushman's Arms
Is now the meeting-place of persons filled with vague alarms.
If Pat was drowned, no corpse was found; all search was made in vain,
And ne'er was driver or machine by mortal seen again!
But folks believe on Christmas Eve, when wails the weird curlew
And moans the mopoke in the trees, MALONEY'S PASSING THROUGH!
They swear they hear, in quaking fear, a voice that cries - "Ha! Ha!"
A phantom voice and ghostly sound that all their pleasures mar ----
The Flying Dutchman of the Bush --- Maloney's Motor Car!

First published in The Bulletin, 20 April 1905

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Brigalow Mick by Harry "Breaker" Morant

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A dandy old horserman is Brigalow Mick --
   Which his name, sir, is Michael O'Dowd --
Whatever he's riding, when timber is thick,
   He is always in front of the crowd.

A few tangled locks that are fast turning white
   Crown a physog. the colour of brick,
But as keen as a kestrel's -- as bold and as bright --
   Is the blue eye of Brigalow Mick.

He is Martin's head-stockman, on Black-Cattle Creek --
   All the boys there are rare ones to ride --
But Mick is the "daddy"; and far you may seek
   Ere you find such an artist in hide.

He'll turn out a halter, or stockwhip can make,
   As you've seldom cast eyes on before;
And never the "nugget" was calved that could break
   Michael's whips, which he plaits by the score.

All the lads on the station are handy enough,
   Nor are frightened of grafting too hard,
But Mick, if the cattle are rowdy and rough,
   Is the pick of 'em all in a yard.

A bad colt to tackle -- a mad one to steer
   Through thick timber -- you'll hear Martin boast --
Mick yet is unrivalled, there isn't his peer
   Right from Camooweal in to the coast.

Ay! long may it be ere the scrubs are bereft
   Of the clearskins that give us the sport,
And long may the station have stock-riders left,
   Of the build of old Brigalow's sort.

First published
in The Bulletin, 9 April 1892, and in the same magazine on 23-30 December 1980;
and later in
The Poetry of "Breaker" Morant: from The Bulletin 1891-903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant; and
The Romance of the Stockman: The Lore, Legend and Literature of Australia's Outback Heroes, 1993.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also

The Old Shepherd by Ironbark (G. Herbert Gibson)

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The setting sun's departing beam was giving place to night,
And placid lay the Lachlan's stream beneath the fading light.
The shadows of the river-gum were stretching long and black,
As, far from Sydney's busy hum, I trod the narrow track.
I watched the coming twilight spread, and thought on many a plan,
I saw an object on a-head -- it seemed to be a man.
A venerable party sat upon a fallen log,
Upon him was a battered hat, and near him was a dog.
The look that on his features hung was anything but sweet,
His swag and billy lay among the grass beneath his feet.
And white and withered was his hair, and white and wan his face --
I'd rather not have met the pair in such a lonely place.  
I thought misfortune's heavy hand had done what it could do;
Despair was branded on the man, and on the dingo, too.
A hungry look that dingo wore ; he must have wanted "prog,"  
I think I never saw before so lean and lank a dog.
I said, "Old man, I fear that you are down upon your luck;
You very much resemble, too, a pig that has been stuck."
His answer wasn't quite distinct (I'm sure it wasn't true),
He said I was (at least I think) "a --something Jackeroo!"   
He said he didn't want my chaff, and (with an angry stamp)
Declared I made "too free by half, a-rushin' of his camp."
I begged him to be calm, and not apologise to me,
He told me I could go to pot (wherever that may be),
And growled a muttered curse or two, expressive of his views
Of men and things, and squatters, too, new chums and Jackeroos.
But economical he was, with his melodious voice,
I think the reason was because his epithets were choice.
I said, "Old man, I fain would know the cause of thy distress --
What sorrows cloud thine aged brow I cannot even guess.
There's anguish on thy wrinkled face, and passion in thine eye
Expressing anything but grace, but why, old man, oh! why?
A sympathising friend you'll find, old man," I said, "in me,
So, if you've might upon your mind, unburthened let it be."
He gravely shook his grizzled head (I rather touched him there,)
And something indistinct he said (I think he meant to swear.)
He made a gesture with his hand; he saw I meant him well,
He said he was a shepherd, and a-takin' of a spell.
He said he waa an ill-used bird, and squatters they might be
(He used a very naughty word, commencing with a "d.")
Of shepherds oft in poet's song I'd read, but none had known,
Except the china one upon the mantel-piece at home.
I'd read about their loves and hates, as hot as Yankee stoves,
And how they broke each other's pates in fair Arcadian groves.
But nothing in my ancient friend was like Arcadian types --
No fleecy flocks had he to tend, no crook or shepherds' pipes.
No shepherdess was near at hand; and if there were, I guessed,
She'd never suffer that old man to take her to his breast!
No raven locks had he to fall, and didn't seem to me
To be the sort of thing at all a shepherd ought to be.
I thought of all the history I'd studied, when a boy,
Of Paris and AEone, and of the siege of Troy.
I thought, could Helen contemplate this party on the log,
She would the race of shepherds hate like Brahmins hate a dog.
It seemed a very certain thing that, since the world began,
No shepherd ever was like him, from Abel down to Pan.
I said, "Old man, you've settled now another dream of youth,
I always understood, I vow, mythology was truth.
Until I saw thy bandy legs and sorrow-laden brow,
But sure as ever eggs is eggs, I cannot think so now.
For an a shepherd thou shouldst be, then very sure am I
The man that wrote mythology was guilty of a lie.
But never mind, old man," I said, "to sorrow we are born,
So tell us why thine aged head is bended and forlorn?"
With face as hard as Silas Wegg's, he said, "Young man, here goes,"
He lit his pipe and crossed his legs, and told me all his woes.
He said, "I've just been 'lammin'-down a flock of maiden ewes,
And had a little trip to town, to gather up the news,
But while in Bathurst's busy streets I got upon the spree,
And publicans is awful cheats, for soon they lammed-down me."
He said he'd " busted-up his cheque" (what's that, I'd like to know?)
And now his happiness was wrecked, to work he'd got to go.
He'd known the time, not long ago, when half the year he'd spend
In idleness and comfort, too, while camping in a bend.
No need to tread the weary track, or work his strength away,
He lay extended on his back, each happy summers's day.
When sun-set comes and daylight flags, and dusky looms the scrub,
He'd bundle up his ration-bags, and toddle for his grub,
And to some station-store he'd go, and get the traveller's dower,
"A pint o' dust "(that was his low expression, meaning flour.)
But now he couldn't cadge about, for squatters wasn't game
To give their tea and sugar out to every tramp that came.
The country's strength he thought was gone, or going very fast.
And feeding tramps now ranked among the glories of the past.
He'd seen the Yanko in its pride, when every night a host
Of hungry tramps at supper tried for who could eat the most.
For squatters then had feelings strong and tender in their breast,
And if a traveller came along, they'd ask him in to rest.
" But Squatters' now !"-he stamped the soil and muttered in his beard
He wished they'd got a whopping boil! for every sheep they sheared.
His language got so very bad it couldn't well be worse,
For every second word he had now seemed to be a curse.  
And shaking was his withered hand (with passion, not with age),
I never thought so old a man could get in such a rage.
His eyes seemed starting from his head, they glared in such a way,
And half the wicked words he said I shouldn't like to say.
But from his language I inferred there wasn't one in three
Of squatters worth that little word commencing with a D.
Alas! for my poetic lore I fear it was astray,
It never told me shepherds swore or talked in such a way.
The knotted cordage of his brow was tightened in a frown --
He seemed the sort of party now to burn a wool-shed down.
I don't believe he'd hesitate, or reckon the expense,
With "Bell and Black's " to operate upon a squatter's fence!     
He told me further (and his voice grow very plaintive here),
That, now he'd got to make the choice and work, or give up beer.
From heavy toil he'd always found 'twas healthiest to keep,
And always stuck to cadgin' round and lookin' after sheep.
"But shepherdin' is nearly cooked,"(I think he meant to say
That shepherd's prospects didn't look in quite a hopeful way.)
A new career he must begin, (and fresh it roused his ire,)
"For squatters they was fencin' in with that infernal wire."   
And sheep was paddocked every where, ('twas like them squatters' cheek).
And shepherds now, for all they care, might go to Cooper's Creek.
He said he couldn't use an axe, and wouldn't if he could,
He'd see 'em blistered on their backs 'fore he'd go choppin' wood.
That nappin' stones or "shovelin" they wouldn't do for he,
And work, it was a cussed thing as didn't ought to be.
He'd known the Lachlan, man and boy, for close on forty year,
But now they'd poisoned every joy he thought it time to clear.
They gave him sorrow's bitter cup, and filled his heart with woe,
And now at last his back was up he felt he ought to go.
He'd heard of regions far away, across the barren plains  
Where shepherds might be blithe and gay, and burst the squatters 'chains.
To reach that land he meant to try. he didn't care a cuss
If 'twasn't any better, why it couldn't be much wuss.
Amongst the blacks (though old and grey), existence he'd begin,
And give his ancient, hand away in marriage to a gin.
He really was so old and grim, the thought was in my mind,
That any gin to marry him would have to be stone blind!  
T'would make an undertaker smile; what tickled me was this,
The thought of such an ancient file indulging in a kiss!
And if it's true, as Shakespeare said, that "equal justice whirls,"   
He ought to think of "Nick," instead of thinking of the girls.
Then droopod his grim and aged head, and closed that glaring eye,
And not another word he said, except a grunt or sigh.
More lean he looks, and still more lank, such changes o'er him pass
And down his ancient body sank in slumber on the grass.
I thought, old chap, you're wearing out and not the sort of coon
To lead a blushing bride about or spend a honey-moon;
Or if indeed there were a bride for such a withered stick
With such a tough and wrinkled hide, that bride should be Old Nick.
As streaks of faintish light began to mark the coming day     
I left that grim mid aged mau and slowly stole away.
And when the winter nights are rough and shrieking is the wind,
Or when I've eaten too much duff and dreams afflict my mind,
In lonely watches of the night I see that trembling hand --   
I see (and horrid is the sight) the face of that old man.
And on my head in agony up rises every hair,
I see again his glaring eye, in fancy hear him swear.
At breakfast time when I come down to take that pleasant meal,
With pallid face and haggard frown into my place I steal,   
And when they say I'm far from bright, the truth I dare not tell,
I say I've passed a sleepless night and don't feel very well.  

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 12 February 1876

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

German Joe by Edward Dyson

| No TrackBacks
Skirting the swamp and the tangled scrub,
   Tramping and turning amidst the trees,
Carrying nothing but blankets and grub,
   Taking no heed of his health or ease,
Hither and thither with never a goal,
   Heavy, and solemn, and stiff, and slow,
Seeking a track and a long-lost line,
"Blazed avay to dot lead of mine," --
   Restless and ricketty German Joe.

Down in the gully and up the range,
   Stung by the gale and the hate-hot sun,
Never a greeting to give in change,
   Never a tip from the nearest run,
Seeking a guide to a golden hole,
   Lost in the lone land long ago,
Left in the keep of the hills and trees -
Jealous to have and to hold are these,
   Hope you may get it, though, German Joe.

"Likely old yarn for a darned marine!
   Struck it, you say, at the river head --
Back where the bellowing bunyip's seen,
   Out beyond everywhere -- rich and red;
Left it for tucker, and lost the track,
   Blazed till your arm couldn't strike a blow;
Gravel that gleams with the golden stuff,
Nuggets 'shust like as der plums in duff,' --
   What are you giving us, German Joe?"

"Blaze? Yes; you strike for the Granite Stair,
   Make to the left when you cross the creek,
South till you meet with a monkey bear,
   Tramp in his tracks for about a week;
Then you can travel the sky-line back.
   So long, old chap, if you're bound to go.
Don't you forget when you're rich and great
Who laid you on to the lost lead, mate, --
   Mad as a hatter is German Joe."

Laugh as they may, they will stand his friends,
   Right as rain when the old man takes
Down to his bunk in the hut, and spends
   Seven weeks fighting the fever and shakes,
Muttering still of his lucky lead:
   'Vhisper -- I leds you all in der know,
Den you pe richer nor as der pank."
Boys, he's a man if he is a crank --
   Whisky and physic for German Joe.

Now he's abroad in a wild dream-land,
   Baring his breast to the river breeze --
Out where the rock-ribbed ridges stand,
   Whispering his tale to the secret trees
Hither and fro with a phantom's speed,
   Over the plains where the mad winds blow.
Cover his face now, and carve a stone,
Henceforth his spirit must seek alone --
   Dead as a door-nail is German Joe.

Bushmen have yarned of a ghost that went
   Blazing a track from the Granite Stair
Down to a shaft and a tattered tent,
   Many days' journey from anywhere.
Others have said that the bushmen lied.
   Liars or not, it is true, we know,
Men have discovered a golden mine
Out in the track of an old blazed line,
   Led by the spirit of German Joe.

First published in The Bulletin, 27 January 1894, and again in the same magazine on 14 December 1932;
and later in
Rhymes From the Mines and Other Lines by Edward Dyson, 1896.

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

See also.

Johnson's Antidote by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

| No TrackBacks
Down along the Snakebite River, where the overlanders camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp;
Where the station-cook in terror, nearly every time he bakes,
Mixes up among the doughboys half-a-dozen poison-snakes:
Where the wily free-selector walks in armour-plated pants,
And defies the stings of scorpions, and the bites of bull-dog ants:
Where the adder and the viper tear each other by the throat,
There it was that William Johnson sought his snake-bite antidote.

Johnson was a free-selector, and his brain went rather queer,
For the constant sight of serpents filled him with a deadly fear;
So he tramped his free-selection, morning, afternoon and night,
Seeking for some great specific that would cure the serpent's bite.
Till King Billy, of the Mooki, chieftain of the flour-bag head,
Told him, "Spos'n snake bite pfeller, pfeller mostly drop down dead;
Spos'n snake bite old goanna, then you watch, a while you see,
Old goanna cure himself with eating little pfeller tree."
"That's the cure," said William Johnson, "point me out this plant sublime,"
But King Billy, feeling lazy, said he'd go another time.
Thus it came to pass that Johnson, having got the tale by rote,
Followed every stray goanna, seeking for the antidote.

              *            *            *            *            *

Loafing once beside the river, while he thought his heart would break,
There he saw a big goanna, fighting with a tiger-snake,
In and out they rolled and wriggled, bit each other, heart and soul,
Till the valiant old goanna swallowed his opponent whole.
Breathless, Johnson sat and watched him, saw him struggle up the bank,
Saw him nibbling at the branches of some bushes, green and rank;
Saw him, happy and contented, lick his lips, as off he crept,
While the bulging in his stomach showed where his opponent slept.
Then a cheer of exultation burst aloud from Johnson's throat;
"Luck at last," said he, "I've struck it! 'tis the famous antidote."

"Here it is, the Grand Elixir, greatest blessing ever known,
Twenty thousand men in India die each year of snakes alone.
Think of all the foreign nations, Negro, Chow, and blackamoor,
Saved from sudden expiration, by my wondrous snakebite cure.
It will bring me fame and fortune! In the happy days to be,
Men of every clime and nation will be round to gaze on me --
Scientific men in thousands, men of mark and men of note,
Rushing down the Mooki River, after Johnson's antidote.
It will cure delirium-tremens, when the patient's eyeballs stare
At imaginary spiders, snakes which really are not there.
When he thinks he sees them wriggle, when he thinks he sees them bloat,
It will cure him just to think of Johnson's Snakebite Antidote.'

Then he rushed to the museum, found a scientific man --
"Trot me out a deadly serpent, just the deadliest you can;
I intend to let him bite me, all the risk I will endure,
Just to prove the sterling value of my wondrous snakebite cure.
Even though an adder bit me, back to life again I'd float;
Snakes are out of date, I tell you, since I've found the antidote."

Said the scientific person, "If you really want to die,
Go ahead -- but, if you're doubtful, let your sheep-dog have a try.
Get a pair of dogs and try it, let the snake give both a nip;
Give your dog the snakebite mixture, let the other fellow rip;
If he dies and yours survives him, then it proves the thing is good.
Will you fetch your dog and try it?" Johnson rather thought he would.
So he went and fetched his canine, hauled him forward by the throat.
"Stump, old man," says he, "we'll show them we've the genwine antidote."

Both the dogs were duly loaded with the poison-gland's contents;
Johnson gave his dog the mixture, then sat down to wait events.
"Mark," he said, "in twenty minutes Stump'll be a-rushing round,
While the other wretched creature lies a corpse upon the ground."
But, alas for William Johnson! ere they'd watched a half-hour's spell
Stumpy was as dead as mutton, t'other dog was live and well.
And the scientific person hurried off with utmost speed,
Tested Johnson's drug and found it was a deadly poison-weed;
Half a tumbler killed an emu, half a spoonful killed a goat,
All the snakes on earth were harmless to that awful antidote.

              *            *            *            *            *

Down along the Mooki River, on the overlanders' camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp,
Wanders, daily, William Johnson, down among those poisonous hordes,
Shooting every stray goanna, calls them "black and yaller frauds".
And King Billy, of the Mooki, cadging for the cast-off coat,
Somehow seems to dodge the subject of the snake-bite antidote.   

First published in The Bulletin, 26 January 1895;
and later in
The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1895;
The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1982;
Singer of the Bush, A.B. (Banjo) Paterson: Complete Works 1885-1900 compiled by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1983;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;
The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson edited by Clement Semmler, 1993; and
Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall, 1993.

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

See also.

Drought and Doctrine by J. Brunton Stephens

| No TrackBacks
Come, take the tenner, doctor ... yes, I know the bill says "five,"
But it ain't as if you'd merely kep' our little 'un alive;
Man, you saved the mother's reason when you saved that babby's life,
An' it's thanks to you I ha'n't a ravin' idiot for a wife.

Let me tell you all the story, an' if then you think it strange
That I'd like to fee ye extry --- why, I'll take the bloomin' change.
If yer bill had said a hundred ... I'm a poor man, doo, an' yet
I'd 'a' slaved till I had squared it; ay, an' still been in yer debt.

Well, you see the wife's got notions on a heap o' things that ain't
To be handled by a man as don't pretend to be a saint;
So I minds "the cultivation," smokes my pipe, an' makes no stir,
An' religion an' such p'ints I lays entirely on to her.

Now, she's got it fixed within her that, if children die afore
They've been sprinkled by the parson, they've no show for evermore;
An' though they're spared the pitchforks, an' the brimstun', an' the smoke,
They ain't allowed to mix up there with other little folk.

So when our last began to pine, an' lost his pretty smile,
An' not a parson to be had within a hunder mile ---
(For though there is a chapel down at Bluegrass Greek, you know,
The clargy's there on dooty only thrice a year or so) ---

Well, when our yet unchristen'd mite grew limp an' thin an' pale,
It would 'a' cut you to the heart to hear the mother wail
About her "unregenerate babe," an' how, if it should go,
'Twould have no chance with them as had their registers to show.

Then awful quiet she grew, an' hadn't spoken for a week,
When in came brother Bill one day with news from Bluegrass Greek.
"I seen," says he, "a notion on the chapel railin' tied;
They'll have service there this evenin' --- can the youngster stand the ride!

"For we can't have parson here, if it be true, as I've heard say,
There's a dyin' man as wants him more'n twenty mile away;
So" --- He hadn't time to finish ere the child was out of bed
With a shawl about its body an' a hood upon its head.

"Saddle up," the missus said. I did her biddin' like a bird.
Perhaps I thought it foolish, but I never said a word;
For though I have a vote in what the kids eat, drink, or wear,
Their sperritual requirements are entirely her affair.

We started on our two hours' ride beneath a burnin' sun,
With Aunt Sal and Bill for sureties to renounce the Evil One;
An' a bottle in Sal's basket that was labelled "Fine Old Tom"
Held the water that regeneration was to follow from.

For Bluegrass Creek was dry, as Bill that very day had found,
An' not a sup o' water to be had for miles around;
So, to make salvation sartin for the babby's little soul,
We had filled a dead marine, sir, at the family waterhole.

Which every forty rods or so Sal raised it to her head,
An' took a snifter, "just enough to wet her lips," she said;
Whereby it came to pass that when we reached the chapel door
There was only what would serve the job, an' deuce a dribble more.

The service had begun --- we didn't like to carry in
A vessel with so evident a carritur for gin;
So we left it in the porch, an', havin' done our level best,
Went an' owned to bein' "mis'rable offenders" with the rest.

An' nigh upon the finish, when the parson had been told
That a lamb was waitin' there to be admitted to the fold,
Rememberin' the needful, I gets up an' quietly slips
To the porch to see --- a swagsman --- with our bottle at his lips!

Such a faintness came all over me, you might have then an' there
Knocked me down, sir, with a feather, or tied me with a hair.
Doc, I couldn't speak nor move; an' though I caught the beggar's eye,
With a wink he turned the bottle bottom up an' drank it dry.

An' then he flung it from him, bein' suddintly aware
That the label on't was merely a deloosion an' a snare;
An' the crash cut short the people in the middle of "A-men,"
An' all the congregation heard him holler "Sold again!"

So that christ'nin' was a failure; every water-flask was drained;
Ev'n the monkey in the vestry not a blessed drop contained;
An' the parson in a hurry cantered off upon his mare,
Leavin' baby unregenerate, an' missus in despair.

That night the child grew worse, but all my care was for the wife;
I feared more for her reason than for that wee spark o' life....
But you know the rest -- how Providence contrived that very night
That a doctor should come cadgin' at our shanty for a light....

Baby? Oh, he's chirpy, thank ye -- been baptized -- his name is Bill.
It's weeks an' weeks since parson came an' put him through the mill;
An' his mother's mighty vain upon the subjick of his weight,
An' reg'lar cock-a-hoop about his sperritual state.

So now you'll take the tenner. Oh, confound the bloomin' change!
Lord, had Billy died! --- but, doctor, don't you think it summut strange
That them as keeps the Gate would have refused to let him in
Because a fool mistook a drop of Adam's ale for gin?

First published in The Queenslander, 19 January 1884;
and later in
Convict Once and Other Poems by J. Brunton Stephens, 1885;
Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
A Century of Australian Song edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;
The Poetical Works of Brunton Stephens by J. Brunton Stephens, 1902;
The Coo-ee Reciter: Humorous, Pathetic, Dramatic, Dialect, Recitations and Readings edited by William T. Pyke, 1904;
The North Queensland Register, 13 May 1933;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982; and
The Poet's Discovery: Nineteenth Century Australia in Verse edited by Richard Douglas Jordan and Peter Pierce, 1990.

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

See also.

Pastor McTavish and Elder McPhail by W. T. Goodge

| No TrackBacks
Dunreekie, a town of some little fame
   Is neither teetotal not sottish.
Its people, as you would conclude from the name,
   Are largely (and stolidly) Scottish.
And nothing more Scottish you've met, I'll go bail,
Than Pastor McTavish and Elder McPhail.

The new Liquor Act required caution and tact,
   And made Sunday-trading more risky,
But don't think Dunreekie, because of this fact,
   Went short of its Sabbath-day whisky!
"'Tis fearsome, ye ken, an' a sight tae bewail!"
Said Pastor McTavish to Elder McPhail.

Now, Elder McPhail, though an excellent man,
   Had liking for "jist a wee drappie";
Aye, e'en on the Sabbath ere service began
   A "dram i' th' morn" made him happy!
Which caused a suspicion of frost to prevail
'Twixt Pastor McTavish and Elder McPhail!

"It's jist the example ye're settin', ye ken,"
   The Pastor remarked to the Elder.
"The mistress declares ye're misleading the men;
   Or so the guid wives o' them telled her.
An Elder o' kirk ought to never be frail,"
Said Pastor McTavish to Elder McPhail.

"I'll no' say ye're wrang tae tak' whuskey the day;
   'Tis jist for the sake o' example!
Ye micht get eneuch on a Saturday, say,
   That maybe ye'd find tae be ample.
A quart on a saturday nicht should avail!
Said Pastor McTavish to Elder McPhail.

"Losh, mon!" cried the Elder, "'tis haverin' a'!
   The Lord haud ye safe in his keepin'!
Wi' a quart o' guid whuskey beside o' him, wha
   The Deil dae ye think was be sleepin'?
It couldna be done, mon! Giver over yer tale!
Ye're daft for a Pastor!" said Elder McPhail.

First published in The Bulletin, 6 January 1910

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

The Travelling Barber by Edward Dyson

| No TrackBacks
Came one day to Willy-Nilly,
   On a broken-hearted crock,
With his soapsuds in a billy
   And his razors in a sock,
Harry Nott, the travelling barber
From Boonanga, 'Couta Harbour,
   And he said he'd shave the lot,
   Twenty shearers on the spot,
   For a quid and just the taste of
        Any liquor we had got.

Then big Bull M'Owen set him:
   "T'ave us clean within the hour,
Cash or quits I'm game to bet him
   That it isn't in his pow'r!"
Harry Nott unstrapped his lumber,
In a row he set the number,
   Touched his razor on a cone,
   Flung a mirror on the roan,
   Stropped the blade upon his horse's
         Tail, and tackled Tim Malone.

Frog M'Dougal spread the lather,
   And the barber at his heel
Leaped the Simpsons, son and father,
   With his free and flashing steel.
"Wool away here!" bellowed Harry.  
   "Tar, you swine!" cried Limping Larry.
   And then Nott improved his paces,
   Knocked the beards from off their faces,  
   And the trees were filled with whiskers
         All the way to Billy's Braces.

Nott had done; one minute saved him;
   But he'd overtaken Frog
In the rush and cleanly shaved him,
   Likewise Don M'Owen's dog.
Then he turned upon them proudly,
And he cursed his blinkers loudly,
   For the first three shearers sat
   In their places, fair and fat,
   Just the same three men, but beards
         They had, and long and thick at that.

Says M'Owen, "Who can doubt it?
   You don't know this fertile plain!
Why, you've been so long about it  
   That their beards have grown again!"
Then the barber, white with wonder,
Climbed his roan, and sighing, "Thunder!"
   Cantered off his bag of bones;
   But M'Owen never owns
   How they rang the changes on him
      With the fat and fair Malones.

First published
in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 13 December 1905

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

See also.

Dan Drew by C. J. Dennis

| No TrackBacks
I saw Dan Drew ride out last night;
And his steed in the moon was milky white.
   He rode like the wind on that Blackwood colt -
   A devil to shy and a brute to bolt.
A child like that!  Is the father mad
To risk the life of a tender lad?
   Has old John Drew gone raving wild
   To trust that colt with his only child?

"Dan Drew rode out at his father's call.
'Saddle the colt, and ride!'  'Twas all
   He said.  And Dan stayed not for breath;
   For a neighbor lay sick unto death;
And Dan Drew comes of the old Drew breed
That never has turned from a man in need,
   That never has shrunk from a risk - or a fight.
   That's why young Dan rode out last night."

"I saw Dan Drew ride out last night,
And his steed in the moon shone silver white.
   Galloping, galloping down the track;
   But his gait was a laggard's riding back.
Yet his eye was bright and his head was high:
'Twas a strange, soft light in that shining eye.
   Why does he ride, and where does he go,
   Out so eager and back so slow!"

"Dan Drew rides out at the call of love.
To the track below, to the stars above
   He gives small heed.  For, to greet her man,
   A girl by a slip-rail waits for Dan.
And they tell that her father says him nay.
Small odds, if a Drew should want his way.
   For a Drew can love as a Drew can fight.
   That's why Dan Drew rode out last night.

"I saw Dan Drew ride out last night,
And his steed in the moon was ghostly white.
   And ghostly white was the rider's face
   As he took the track at a frantic pace.
Aye, his face was drawn like a man's in pain,
For hill or river he drew not rein.
   Why did he ride like a man in fright,
   Galloping, galloping, into the night."

"Dan Drew rode out in hope and fear;
For Death and Joy were very near.
   Up in her chamber his young wife lay
   While he went galloping down the way ...
But Joy walks with him this smiling morn;
To another Drew is a man-child born
   To live, to ride, to love and to fight.
   That's why Dan Drew rode out last night."

"I saw Dan Drew ride out today,
His steed, in the morn's mist, old and grey;
   And grey Dan's hair, I marked as he went,
   And his head was bowed, and his back was bent.
But the light was there in his fine blue eye.
Lord!  Does the Drew breed never die?
   Yet why should he ride?  He is rich, they say.
   Why did old Dan ride out today?"

"Dan Drew rode out at the call of a friend,
Old and ailing, but staunch to the end.
   The Drews may age, but they never can change.
   A friend in trouble across the range -
Then quick to the saddle sprang old Dan Drew,
And the old grey horse, he surely knew
   As he bore him tenderly down the way.
   That's how old Dan rode out today."

"I saw Dan Drew go out today,
Slowly, solemnly down the way,
   Slowly, quietly down the track;
   And the steeds in his carriage were both coal black.
And black plumes tossed in the mountain breeze
That swept the forest; so that the trees
   Bowed at his passing.  'Twas rightly so,
   Yet why should Dan, of all men, go?

Dan Drew rode out, for his task was done,
Well was it ended, as well begun,
   Fine is the name that he leaves behind.
   And he leaves a son with the clean, straight mind
That has sweetened the forest since long years back
When the first Drew tackled the mountain track.
   Oh, men be many, but great hearts few;
   And the world's the better for good Dan Drew."

First published in The Weekly Times Annual, 6 October 1928;
and later in
The Bible of the Bush, 1869-1994: 125 Years of the Weekly Times edited by Hugh Jones, 1994.

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Shearing Shed Echoes by Henry O'Donnell

| No TrackBacks
"May be, you don't think," argued Peter the Ringer,
The dad of the shed as a "pitcher" and singer,
"That a shed, full of shearers both perky and fly,
Is the place for a man who is painfully shy.

"But, way back in Brunee, near Berrigan's Gap,
Somewhere in the eighties, I knew such a chap
With an eye-lid that drooped, and a delicate curl
In his lip, that made all of us think him a girl.

"When the 'tally' soon fell to his lightning-like shears,
And they dubbed him the 'ringer,' he blushed to his ears.
But, thunder! he just was a man you would love,
With the heart of a horse, and the eye of a dove.

"But -- the timidest man that the shed ever knew,
His diffidence almost to lunacy grew,
When the shed had 'cut out,' he so little would reck
That he hadn't the nerve, boys, to ask for his cheque.

"But, plucky? by snakes! 'twould have kindled your blood
When he swam the Bogung, when the creek was in flood,
To rescue a child; but, when just coming round,
He seemed half ashamed that he hadn't been drowned.

At last, when he lay on the banks of the Grumbie,
Stretched out out on the grass, by a kick from a brumby,
We knew that his very last 'jumbuck' was shorn,
And bitterly waited the first streak of dawn.

"When the priest cantered over from Crooked Creek Slip --
Thought the delicate curl has gone out of his lip,
Hang me! if he wasn't -- ask Father M'Minns --
Too timid to ask to be shrived of his sins."

First published in Melbourne Punch, 28 June 1906

Author reference site: Austlit.

See also.

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