Recently in Country Life Category

Little Town by Zora Cross

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All so blue and green and brown,
The lazy, lonely little town
Invited nothing much when I
Came down the hill to hurry by.

And then I heard a pixie sing. 
Was it a child upon a swing?
A woman waved from a white door, 
Or Spring in flowery pinafore?

My heart grew light. I know not why, 
And I sang, too, as I passed by 
That lazy, lonely little town,
All so blue and green and brown.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1938

A Wanderer's Song by Myra Morris

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For me, the open wastes of sky, 
   Far from the surging street!
A wild, fast wind that trumpets by,  
   And grass beneath my feet!
Mine are the misty roads that break  
   The distant, phantom blue,        
And mine the first-glad steps that shake
   From jewelled turf, the dew!  

O singing wind from sunset cones,   
   What hast thou whispered me?
What secrets breathed into my bones? 
   What have I seen with thee?
The first frail clematis that wreathes
   The amethystine woods,    
The first pale harbinger that breathes,  
   The curling orchid-buds!  

The bronzed beetle have I found,
   The rich leaf-mould beneath,   
The sunburnt bracken raindrop browned, 
   The earliest spikes of heath!  
The first brave flash of robin's wings --
   Have heard the cuckoos' notes
Thrill plaintive through the twitterings
   Of pulsing, feathered throats! 

For me the waning afternoon,
   The stormy sunset sky,
The tired winds that trailing croon 
   A mother's lullaby;  
And mine the peace of tracks that twine,
   And vanish down the hill,
Where through the rustling dark there shine,
   Upon the evening still,

The little lights in windows set,
   The lights of little homes;
And on the hearth the flames that fret, 
   And mock the heart that roams.   
For me the road that fancy rides,
   The feet that may not rest;
The far blue hill that always hides
   For wanderers -- the best!

First published in The Australasian, 10 July 1920

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Desert Bred by Mabel Forrest

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Pent in a garden of flowers; grown drunk with the wine of the rose,
   In the damp gold cups of lilies the night moths make their homes;  
And over the sodden grasses, where the squandering fountain flows,
   From the mouth of the graven lion, the smell of the desert comes.

A boat goes up to Philae with a shadowy pointed sail;
   The wind of muffled, valleys has sped the craft along,
From the deck a drift of laughter: then the slender reed pipes trail
   Over the twilight waters a quivering link of song.    

Figs that the red wasp harried, palms with their rasping sigh;    
   Owls by the Little Window where the grape vines stand;  
But beyond the leafy ramparts, the Nile is wandering by,
   And though I wade thro' grasses, my feet shall find the sand.

First published in The Australasian, 31 May 1924

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Surprised by C.J. Dennis

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Dad, don't yeh go fur out to-day,
   Jus' stay around about the place;
The parson's riding out this way,
   So you 'ad best be 'ere, in case.
Poll Smith wus over yesterdee,
   An' top' me then as 'ow she 'ear
That 'e would very likely be
   To call on us if 'e come near.
So you best keep about the 'ouse,
   An' get the -- wot? Oh, do 'ave sense!
Aw, Dad, there' ain't no need to rouse.
   W'y, yeh kin stop an' men' the fence --
It surely wants it bad enough.
   Ther's plenty 'ere fer yeh to do.
Now, don't yeh go an' cut up rough.
   Sich silly talk I never knoo!
W'y, 'e ain't go'n' to eat yeh. Wot?
   Me do the talking'? Yes, o' course;
So when he comes be on the spot,
   An' don't forget to take 'is 'orse.
An' if 'e -- 'Ere, where's Mary gone?
   'Ere, Mary, you best change yer clothes,
An' wear that sash thet you 'ad on
   At Johnson's party. Goodness knows
When I'll 'ave time fer gettin' dressed
   Meself, an' see that things -- where's Bill?
'Ere, you put on yer Sundee best.
   Oh, yes, indeed, me lad, ye will!
An' do take off that dirty rag,
   An' put a collar round yer neck.
Now, father, I ain't goin' to nag,
   But don't 'e look a shameful wreck?
Matilder, get yet 'air in curl.
   Now, don't yeh be impertinent,
An' don't show off too much, me girl.
   Nell, you kin wear yer spotted print.
Be careful uv yer language, Dad,
   An' do yer best ted talk perlite.
Leave out them stories that yeh 'ad
   Las' time 'e come. They wasn't right.
No, I ain't arstin' yeh to sham;
   But when 'e ses, "Now, shall we pray?"
Don't say, "Oh, I don't give a damn,"
   Like las' time. 'Taint the proper way.
O' course, the baby'll be baptised.
   No, Nell; 'e'll just be called the same's
'Is uncle Sam, as I advised.   
   'E don't need no new-fangled names.
There's Bill; 'e ain't been christened yet --
   Stop givin' me back answers, now!
You'll 'ave to be. A little wet
   Won't 'urt. Yeh need it, anyhow,
A boy your age! I'm just ashamed
   The neighbours round about should know
We 'aven't 'ad yeh properly named.
   'Ere! Where's Matilder? Off yeh go,
An' get that front room dusted out.
   An' tie an apron round yer dress
To keep it -- Wot's that row about?
   You've wot? Broke wot? Well, there's a mess
Lor', you beat all I ever see!
   Yeh'll 'ave to wear yer green one now.
An' it's that shabby -- goodness me!
   It's getting' late. I dunno how
I look meself. 'Ere, Bill, you go
   An' 'ave a look along the track.  
Aw, Nell. I ain't got time to sew --
   'Ere, Mary! Bring them 'airpins back!
Well, the idear! A girl your size!
   Indeed, you'll leave it 'angin' down.
Wot next? Nell, where's yer father's ties?
   Oh, drat yer fastnin's, girl! Turn roun'.
Why, 'alf the 'ooks and eyes is gone!
   There's no time now. Jes serves yeh right.
'Ere, Mary, put this pinny on,
   An' get the kitchen fire alight.
An' put that pork -- Ay? What's that, Bill?
   'Ow fur away? What sort uv man?
Did 'e 'ave -- Mary, do be still!
   Wot ribbon? Yes, uv course yeh can.
Now, Bill? Oh, never mind the 'orse!
   What sort uv man is on 'is back?
'Igh collar! Yes, that's 'im, uv course.
   Wot's that? Long coat, an' all in black!
That's 'I'm! Matilder, 'urry up.
   Now, father, put yer pipe away.
An', Nell, where's that best china cup?
   Wot shelf? I can't 'ear wot yeh say.
Oh, Bill! Yer nuff to break one's 'eart!
   See that great 'ole there in yer sock.
Now, are yeh ready, Nell? Look smart;
   'E'll soon be -- Goodness, there's 'is knock!
'Ere, Mary, clear them cards away.
   Now, Dad, take care uv yer replies.
Sh-h! Goodness! Fancy you to-day!
   My word, this is a glad surprise! 

First published in Melbourne Punch, 5 December 1905 

"Mac" by C.J. Dennis

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In every little country place, all up and down the land,
From ageing cradles of the race to Never-Never Land --
From the towns about the cities to the little towns out back,
There dwells a man of all trades; and he's mostly known as "Mac."
He's dwelt there since the Lord knows when and never seems to die;
And everybody, now and then, when his present job is thro' --
And twenty other little jobs that he has still to do.

A plumbing job, a painting job, a bit of fence to mend;
They want him in a hurry; and he's everybody's friend.
Kettle-mending, carpentry, a bit of scrub to cut --
There's nothing comes amiss to him -- a door that will not shut,
A safe that will not open, or a roof that hangs askew,
A plough to mend, a pump to tend - there's nothing he can't do.
He has never learned a single trade, yet somehow has the knack;
And, no matter what the trouble is, it's safe to send for "Mac."

He never makes much money, yet he never seems to care,
Tho' a dozen jobs await him, he has heaps of time to spare -
A friendly yarn, a cup of tea, a piece of sage advice,
He's willing for them every day, and never counts the price
Of half an hour or half a day spent in a neighbor's need.
He sells his toil, but not his time.  For what is time, indeed,
Save for a man to labor in just as he feels inclined?
So, if Smith's job amuses him, Brown's job can lag behind.

In every little country place he's known, or once was known,
Ere the urge that men call Progress claimed the broad earth for its own,
When man found pride in labor and the cunning of his hand,
Nor set a price in money on the arts he could command.
And many a little country place with pride today can show
Some sturdy structure "built by 'Mac' nigh fifty year ago."
Oh, they jerry-built their palaces; but many a stout bush shack
Shall stand to honor workmanship of that proud workman, "Mac." 

First published in The Herald, 26 November 1934

'Urry by C.J. Dennis

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Now, Ma-til-der! Ain't cher dressed yet? I declare, the girl ain't up!
Last as ushul. Move yerself, you sleepy'-ead!
Are you goin' to lie there lazin',
W'ile I -- Nell, put down that basin;
Go an' see if Bill has got the poddies fed;
Tell 'im not to move that clucky -- ho, yer up, me lady, eh?
That's wot comes from gallivantin' lat ut night.
Why, the sun is nearly -- see now,
Don't chu dare talk back at me now!
Set the table, Nell!  Where's Nell?  Put out that light!

Now then, 'urry, goodness, 'urry! Mary, tell the men to come.
Oh there, drat the girl!  MA-TIL-DER! where's the jam?
You fergot it? Well, uv all ther ...
Mary! 'Ear me tell you call ther ...
Lord! there's Baldy TANGLED IN THE BARB'-WIRE -- SAM!
Now, then, take 'er steady, clumsy, or she'll cut herself -- LEAVE OFF!
Do you want the cow to -- There!  I never did!
Well, you mighter took 'er steady.
Sit up, Dad, yer late already.
Did ju put the tea in, Mary? Where's the lid?

Oh, do 'urry!  Where's them buckets? Nell, 'as Bill brought in the cows?
Where's that boy?  Ain't finished eatin' yet, uv course;
Eat all day if 'e wus let to.
Mary, where'd yer father get to?
Gone!  Wot! Call 'im back! DAD!  Wot about that 'orse?
No, indeed, it ain't my business; you kin see the man yerself.
No, I won't! I'm sure I've quite enough to do.
If 'e calls ter-day about it,
'E kin either go without it,
Or lest walk acrost the paddick out to you.

Are the cows in, B-i-ll? Oh, there they are.  Well, nearly time they -- Nell,
Feed the calves, an' pack the -- Yes, indeed ju will!
Get the sepy-rater ready.
Woa, there, Baldy -- steady, steady.
Bail up. Stop-er! Hi, Matilder! MARY!  BILL!
Well, uv all th' . . . Now you've done it.
Wait till Dad comes 'ome to-night;
When 'e sees the mess you've -- Don't stand starin' there!
Go an' get the cart an' neddy;
An' the cream cans - are they ready?
Where's the ... There!  Fergot the fowls, I do declare!

Chuck! -- Chook! -- CHOOK!  Why, there's that white un lost another chick to-day!
Nell, 'ow many did I count? -- Oh, stop that row!
Wot's 'e doin'?  Oh, you daisy!
Do you mean to tell me, lazy,
Thet you 'aven't fed the pigs until jus' now?
Oh, do 'urry! There's the men ull soon be knockin' off fer lunch.
An' we 'aven't got the ... Reach that bacon down.
Get the billies, Nell, an' - Mary,
Go an' fetch the ... Wot? 'Ow dare 'e!
Bill, yer NOT to wear yer best 'at inter town!

'Ave you washed the things, Matilder? Oh, do 'urry, girl, yer late!
Seems to me you trouble more -- TAKE CARE! -- You dunce!
Now you've broke it!  Well I never!
Ain't chu mighty smart an' clever;
Try'n to carry arf a dozen things at once.
No back answers now! You hussy!  Don't chu dare talk back at me
Or I'll ... Nelly, did ju give them eggs to Bill?
Wot? CHU NEVER? Well I ... Mary,
Bring them dishes frum the dairy;
No, not them, the ... Lord, the sun's be'ind the hill!

'Ave you cleaned the sepy-rater, Nell? Well, get along to bed.
No; you can't go 'crost to Thompson's place to-night;
You wus there las' Chusday - See, miss,
Don't chu toss your head at me, miss!
I won't 'ave it. Mary, 'urry with that light!
Now then, get yer Dad the paper. Set down, Dad -- ju must be tired.
'Ere, Matilder, put that almanick away!
Where's them stockin's I wus darnin'?
Bill an' Mary, stop yer yarnin'!
Now then, Dad.  Heigh-ho!  Me fust sit down ter-day.

First published in The Bulletin, 19 November 1903;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1918;
Selected Works of C.J. Dennis introduced by Barry Watts, 1988; and
Favourite Poems of C.J. Dennis, 1989.

On the Farm at Brady's Gap by C.J. Dennis

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There's hills to the north, an' south, an' aste,
   An' a dusty plain on the west;
A small lean-to, wid a shed or two,
   'Tis a lonesome place at best;
But all the houses in this broad town,
   To me, aint worth a rap
Beside the dear ould tumble-down
   On the farm at Brady's Gap.

In a smart suburban villa,
   In a trim suburban street,
Before the fire sat Dad Maguire,
   With neatly slippered feet;
Dressed in a suit of broadcloth,
   And a fancy velvet cap,
He told the tale, in a plaintive wail,
   Of the farm on Brady's Gap. 

'Tis not f'r me to grumble
   At the life I lade down here,
Wid niver a care f'r crops to bear,
   An' niver a drought to fear,
I've all that man cud want for,
   Wid me house, an' horse an' trap --
'Twas a knock-knee'd grey, and an ould spring-dray,
   On the farm at Brady's Gap.

'Tis twinty years last August
   Since first we tuk the land --
A barren, thirsty counthry --
   But Lord, we thought it grand;
For we was young and hopeful,
   Me an' the missus thin;
An' our only son (God rest his soul)
   Was a child of nine or tin.

'Twas a peaceful lonesome life we led;
   Our luck now in now out,
A daily fight for mate an' bread,
   Wid frost, an' wind, an' drought.
An' bit by bit our bye grew up,
   A lively smart young chap,
Wid whips of go -- an' life was slow
   For him at Brady's Gap.

An' after much persuadin'
   An' pleadin' wid the wife,
I gave the lad me promise
   To let him start in life.
I'd save a bit o' money
   Whin things was at their best;
An' most of that I gave to Pat,
   An' shipped him to the West.

'Twas there the made the money
   That keeps us livin' here,
Contint an' indipindent;
   But the price we paid was dear.
Fur Paddy tuk the typhoid
   An' died of it over there,
Leavin' us rich an' wealthy.
   But a childless lonely air.

There' a hilly waste north, south, an' aste,
   An' a dusty plain out West;
An' ould lean-to wid a tree or two,
   'Tis a dreary place at best.
But often now when I'm sittin' here
   Fur me after-dinner nap;
A tear starts out, when I drame about
   The farm at Brady's Gap.

First published in The Evening Journal, 18 November 1899

The Old Farm by C.J Dennis

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On his chair set in the sunlight old Dad takes his hard-earned ease,
White head pillowed mid the cushions, children playing round his knees;
And his old voice halts and quavers as the dead days he'll recall,
When Matt Mullen played the fiddle by the ould barn wall.

Oh, 'tis queer ways they have with them, an' 'tis queer the things they do,
Since the boys came into manhood, an' the girls got married, too.
An' the tots that call him "grand-da" seem to multiply and grow,
Till he's lost all count entirely of those names he ought to know.

Norah's Tom and Peter's Norah, Mary's Peter - every year
Seems to bring a score of new ones.  "Queer it is.  An' faith, 'tis queer."
Men they are - young men an' women, who have ne'er a thought at all
Of Matt Mullen with his fiddle by the ould barn wall.

An' they'd try to teach him farmin'!  Him, that learned it years ago,
When young Tom - or was it Peter?  Faith, 'tis hard these days to know.
For they sold the horses on him, an' that fine three-furrow plough,
For their tractors and their motors.  Farmin'?  'Tis not farmin' now.

Music, is it, he is hearin'?  Or their silly gramophone?
Just a music-box to plague him with no tune at all, or tone.
Shure, their records an' their wireless - how could these compare at all
With Matt Mullen an' his fiddle by the ould barn wall.

Is this Tom or Mary's Peter comin' from the motor car
With his legs dressed up in stockin's?  Like a woman's, so they are.
He'll be playin' with the women, knocking round a little ball,
When he might be pitchin' horseshoes out beyant the ould barn wall!

Shure, the old farm's rooned completely.  'Tis the young, the restless young;
All too quick to spend the money; all too ready with the tongue.
An' their pleasures - could their pleasures ever match the Harvest ball,
With Mat Mullen and his fiddle by the ould barn wall.

Hark, now, to that puffin' engine, where the old pump used to be,
Shure, the farm is cluttered over with their mad machinery,
With their golfin' an' their tennis, an' their motor cars to drive.
'Twas the bay mare an' the buggy "whin me missus was alive."

"Whin your mother she was livin', rest her soul" . . . she loved the farm;
Worked, she did, with axe an' shovel, nor took shame of it, nor harm.
An' the gay dance she'd be treadin' - feet the lightest of them all,
When Matt Mullen played the fiddle by the ould barn wall.

Old Matt Mullen and his fiddle, he's with Dad the oft'nest now,
When the light winds shake the tree-tops, and the saplings bend and bow -
Old Matt Mullen, dead and buried, many, many years ago,
Playing on a ghostly fiddle all the tunes they used to know.

'Tis "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "The Hat Me Father Wore."
Shure, he fiddles just as bravely as he ever did of yore.
'Tis "The Minstrel Boy" he's playin', as he played in 'ninety-five;
Fiddlin' at the silver weddin', "Whin me missus was alive."

Old Dad sittin' in the sunlight "Childer, Hist!  Leave be your row,
Let yeh come an' stand beside me.  Listen, can yeh hear him now?
Tell me, can yeh hear it childer?  How the swate notes rise an' fall?
'Tis Matt Mullen wid his fiddle by the ould barn wall."

First published in The Weekly Times Annual, 5 October 1929

The Broken Teapot by C.J. Dennis

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Farm-wives are complaining bitterly in the press that the new Egg Board regulations, virtually banning the barndoor egg, have deprived them of a traditional source of income and forced them to go to niggardly husbands for pin-money.

Mum's bit of egg money on the mantelpiece
   In the broken teapot in the olden days,
Hardly earned and hoarded there,
Much content afforded there
   Long before inspectors came and bureaucratic ways.
But science by the barn-door rules the farmer's lot
And Mum's bit of egg-money dwindles in the pot.

Ever since the first years this was mother's perquisite,
   Eggs daily gathered by the old barn door,
From the stable gathered in,
From the shed and fodder bin,
   Carted in and traded at the small town store;
Gathered from the wayward hen laying far afield
As the new-cleared acres gave their golden yield.

Long it was a stand-by while the kids were little ones --
   Mum's broken teapot resting on the shelf --
Some print to make a dress for Lil,
Sunday boots for Joe and Bill,
   A loan to Dad and, now and then, a  trifle for herself:
Growing heavy Christmas time by dint of watchful thrift
To buy a little Christmas cheer and here and there a gift.

But Mum's bit of egg-money grows a thing of history,
   And Mum's broken teapot an heirloom now indeed,
Since Science ousts the picturesque;
And Dad has bought an office desk
   To puzzle o'er official rules and size and weight and breed.
But Mum is brooding darkly o'er the forbidden egg,
Which, like a furtive gangsteress, she threatens to bootleg.

First published in The Herald, 27 September 1937

"Kalangadoo!" by C.J. Dennis

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Oh, come, ye townsmen, gather near,
   And country dwellers, come ye, too,
And lend a sympathetic ear
   The while I tell my story true --
Of Dad, and Mum, and Bill, and Joe,
   And little Jim, and Nell, and Sue,
Who came to town to see the Show,
   From far, from far Kalangadoo.
 
      Oh, list, ye men of Oodnadatta,
      Nantawarra, Boolcomatta,
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o!
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo.
 
Now, Dad, and Mum, and Bill, and Joe,
   And little Jim, and Nell, and Sue,
They travelled up to see the Show,
   As simple country-folk will do.
Alas, the town they did not know --
   They came from where the whiskers grew.
 
      Hark ye, men of Murnpeowie,
      Warrakimbo, Marachowie!
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo.
 
Happy were Dad, Mum, Bill, Joe,
   Jim, and Nell, and Sue, until
Some rude man they didn't know
   Snatched the carpet-bag from Bill.
William chased the fleeing foe,
   Till he vanished from their view;
Leaving Dad, and Mum, and Joe,
   Little Jim, and Nell, and Sue.
 
      Hearken, men of Yudnapinna,
      Men of Tidnacoordooninna!
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo.
 
Dad, and Mum, and Joe, and Nell,
   Jim, and Sue, searched everywhere,
Till they missed their Nell as well,
   In a crowded thoroughfare.
Lost their Nell and William, too --
   How, or where, they did not know:
Leaving, lonely, Jim and Sue,
   Poor old Dad, and Mum, and Joe.
 
      List ye men of Parachilna,
      Wergerowgerangerilna,
      Pepegoona, Balkanoona,
      Men of distant Mutooroo,
      Hearken men of Booborowie,
      Of Nepowie and Willowie.
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo!
 
Dad, and Mum, and little Jim --
   Not forgetting Sue and Joe --
Walked till Joe -  ah, pity him! --
   Met a man he did not know;
Met a spieler, bold and bad,
   One who lured him out of view,
To the lasting grief of Dad,
   Mum, and little Jim, and Sue.
 
      Hark ye, men of Dulkaninna,
      Men of Killalapaninna,
      Angipena, Karaweena,
      Kangarilla, Kanmantoo.
      List ye folk of Andamooka,
      Wipipipee, Taltabooka,
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo!
 
Dad, and Mum, and Jim, and Sue,
   Walked till they were fit to drop;
Susan, with a hat in view,
   Ventured in a draper's shop.
Hours and hours they seemed to wait,
   But then Susan did not come;
They were left all desolate,
   Little Jim, and dad, and Mum.
 
      List ye, men, of Arkaroola,
      Winnininnie, Tantanoola,
      Men of Yacka, Gumeracha,
      Wirrawilla, Waukaloo.
      Hark, ye men of Wangianna,
      Men of Wintabatinyanna!
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo!
 
Dad, and Mum, and little Jim --
   Sole survivors of the day --
Wandered in the twilight din,
   Till a tramcar came their way.
Jimmy got aboard a car;
   'Twas the wrong one - luckless lad;
Travelled to a suburb far,
   Far from poor old Mum and Dad.
 
      Oh, ye men of Thackarinya!
      Populace of far Aldinga!
      Men of Yarrah!  Gomalara!
      Oodla Wirra!  Orroroo!
      Patriots of Warrioota!
      Oratunga!  Kalioota!
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo!
 
Dad and Mum -- Oh, luckless day! --
   (This is where the tale is sad)
Passed a bar-room on their way,
   Where the liquor's strong and bad.
Dad went in to have a "taste,"
   Lingered there to sample "some,"
Since, he never has been traced.
   Luckless, longing, lonely Mum!
 
      Rise, ye men of Edeowie!
      Heroes, rise at Italowie!
      Rise and fight, Kybybolite!
      Great Bopeechee, hear my ditty!
      Oh, the city!   Oh, the pity!
      Willo, willo, way-lee-o;
      Alack, alack, Kalangadoo!

First published in The Gadfly, 11 September 1907

Up 'Long the Billabong by C.J. Dennis

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Oh, the pleasures of the city were beguilin' me;
The pleasant ways of spendin' got a-spilin' me;
The rugged road of earnin' it was rilin' me;
   Fer farmin' in the wayback isn't play.
But now the 'orny 'and of care is maulin' me;
I 'ear the voice of 'omeland sof'ly callin' me,
An' feel the strings of memory a-haulin' me
   Back 'long the billabong, afar away.

Born I was afar away frum 'ere,
   Out way back frum any noisy town.
I've knocked around the city fer a year,
   An' cursed meself each day fer comin' down.
Keepin' sheep 'n' things up there I was,
   Sold me 'appy 'ome fer most a song;
Left, an' travelled citywards becos
   Times was slow along the billabong.

An' I've knocked around the city fer a year 'r so,
An' 'ardly made me tucker an' a beer 'r so;
Until I'm startin' now to 'ave a fear 'r so
   I'll never know the dawnin' of the day
When I see again the shepherds slowly follerin'
Their dusty flocks, an' to their dogs a-hollerin';
Or watch the lazy workin' bullocks wanderin',
   Up 'long the billabong afar away.

I wasn't nohow used to city ways,
   An' started on a roarin' jamboree,
An' spent a week of wild an' wicked days,
   An' likewise, 'alf me savin's in a spree.
Since then I've drifted down frum bad to worse,
   An' ev'ry game I tackled turned out wrong,
Till now ther's nothin' left me but to curse
   The fool thet left up 'long the billabong.

I on'y need a good square feed inside o' me,
An' decent togs to hide the blessed hide o' me,
Jes' so as not to 'urt the bloomin' pride o' me
   Are the folks, an' fear o' wot they'd say;
I'll buckle to, an' roll me blessed drum, I will;
An' leave me noisy shanty in the slum, I will;
An' either land, dead beat, in Kingdom Come, I will,
   Or 'long the billabong afar away.

First published in The Critic, 7 September 1901;
and later in
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Travellin' Light by C.J. Dennis

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In a recent sermon a bishop declared that more than half of the present world troubles was due to a mad scramble for useless wealth, yet no man grew happier in proportion to the growth of his possessions.

I'm travellin' light (said old George Jones),  
   For I gits no joy from a hamperin' load:
So the further I goes the less I owns,
   An' the free-er I feels on life's long road.
I have knowed a many who gathered great wealth,
   But I feels no envy, I claims no right.
All that I needs is me tucker an' health;
   So I'm travellin' light.

There is many a time as I've heard it said
   He's the happiest man whose wants are few.
I've found what I want. So, why worry me head
   With other men's wants or what other men do?  
When I was a striplin' I set great store
   By this gettin' an' havin'; but as years went
I had little of gold; but I gathered much more,
   For I gathered content.

Travellin' light (said old George Jones),
   Oh I learnt the knack of it none too soon;
A bit of a bunk for me weary bones,
   In a bit of a house, an' the priceless boon
Of a bit of content, with the day's work done,
   An' a bit of a yarn with a friend at night,
It's a long, long road to the set o' the sun;
   So I'm travellin' light.

First published in The Herald, 31 August 1933;
and later in
The Courier-Mail, 16 September 1933.

Country Doctors by C.J. Dennis

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Cases have been published recently of gallant work done by country doctors who, without hope of reward, have performed self-sacrificing deeds in the service of suffering humanity.  Opportunities rarely occur to praise such men as these, the most truly altruistic workers in remote places of the land.

The quiet country doctors
   Of many a country town,
Whose lives are spent to service bent,
   With scant hope of renown -
Those sturdy country doctors,
   That walk the healer's way,
At beck and call of one and all
   That pain be smoothed away.

Those patient country doctors,
   That journey day and night
By country roads to far abodes
   To ease some sufferer's plight;
Thro' fire and flood and tempest
   They make their pilgrimage
To bring release and healing peace,
   The comforters of age.

Those modern country doctors,
   They do not advertise;
Surcease they bring for suffering
   And hope to pain-filled eyes.
These be their ends to be man's friends,
   And so they shape and plan,
Divorced from greed to serve man's need,
   And give their lives to man.

Those quiet country doctors,
   Unsung, unknown to fame,
Refusing none what may be done
   In skilful healing's name -
Philosophers, friends, mentors,
   Thro' pain and death and birth,
And who shall say that such as they
   Are not salt of the earth?

First published in The Herald, 16 July 1934;
and later in
The Queenslander, 9 August 1934.

Repatriation by C.J. Dennis

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A speaker recently pointed out that one of the blessings of the depression is that it keeps men from retiring and rotting.  Young framers of 35 to 40 who had retired are now back at the plough in useful life and service.

The blue sky and the brown earth
   And my hand to the plough once more,
I have found again life's only worth,
   And the deadening dream is o'er.
The good nag's rhythmic, muffled plod
   And the cloven furrow's roll;
The brave smell of the new-turned sod --
   I'm a man again! And whole.

Oh, I had dreamed in the olden days,
   As a man dreams, lacking sense,
Of a carefree life of easy days
   And the lure of indolence.
For I counted care an unmixed harm
   And toil an evil thing;
So I left the plough, and I left the farm,
   And fain would be a King --

A King without his kingdom. Soon,
   A lonely road I went
To find in ease an empty boon,
   In leisure, discontent.
A thousand little niggling cares
   Made mock of indolence.
And apprehension set its snares
   Around my hoarded fence. 

Oh, brown earth and blue sky!
   I'm home again, and King
No longer doomed to live and die
   A rusting, rotting thing.
Aching no more to plan and toil
   For visions worlds away.
My dream is here on this kind soil.
   My kingdom is today!

First published in The Herald, 19 April 1933

Our Town Awakes by C.J. Dennis

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Six o'clock.  From the railway yard
      The engine toots; careering hard,
   A milk-cart rattles by and stops;
   A magpie calls from the gum-tree tops;
The pub "boots", sweeping out the bar,
Waves to the early service-car,
   While the town's chief toper waits outside,
   Woe-begone and bleary-eyed;
Two cows go lowing down the way;
A rooster crows.  It's another day.

Eight o'clock.  The tradesmen come --
      Shop-boys whistling, masters glum,
   To stand at doors and stretch and yawn;
   Fronts are swept and blinds are drawn;
The washerwoman, Mrs Dubbs,
Slip-slops off to her taps and tubs,
   Washing clothes for other folk;
   The cheery barber cracks a joke,
But the day's first client fails to laugh --
Fresh from a tiff from his better half.

Nine o'clock.  Precise and neat,
      Miss Miggs comes mincing down the street,
   The town's dressmaker, pert and prim,
   Sly eyes, from under her hat's brim,
Gathering gossip by the way:
The same old goings-on today --
   That grocer off for his morning nip;
   The chemist, too, that married rip,
Flirting again with the girl next door.
Miss Miggs gleans twenty tales to store.

Ten o'clock.  The town grows brisk;
      Down the main street motors whisk;
   Jinkers, carts and farmers' drays
   Stop at shops and go their ways;
In solemn talk with the town surveyor
Comes Mr Mullinger, our mayor,
   Pausing at doors for a friendly chat;
   He bows, he smiles, he lifts his hat ...
Now a brisker rush and a sudden din:
"That's her!" And the city train comes in.

First published in The Herald, 13 April 1937;
and later in
The Queenslander, 29 April 1937; and
Random Verse edited by Margaret Herron, 1952.

Barley Grass by C.J. Dennis

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Wavin' corn upon the hillside,
Twinklin' daisies on the rise,
Mystic bushes across the ranges,
Wattle in its spring-time guise,
Stately gums that mark the twinin's
Of the ole creek -- let 'em pass.
Leave me here to lie, a-lazin'
In the noddin' barley grass.

Barley grass was noddin', noddin'
'Long the dear ole township track
Where, in school days, we were ploddin':
Four mile there an' four mile back.
Teacher, on the summer mornin's,
Called us, scoldin', from the class,
An' we wasted precious moments
Pickin' out the barley grass.

Barley grass insinuatin',
In a summer long ago,
Gained a girl maternal ratin',
Made a chap a holy show.
"Some one's been to walk with some one --
Down the creek-side with a lass.
Fie, it ain't no use denyin'
Tell-tale seeds of barley grass."

Came a time, when fortune frownin'
Sent a spring in cruel guise:
Wilted corn upon the hillside,
Brown soil barren on the rise,
Droopin' gums along the ole creek
Dry beneath a sky of brass;
An' we longed for just the sight of
One green tuft of barley grass.

But we battle on together,
Her an' me that mockin' spring,
Never losin' faith or doubting'
What the future was to bring.
Watchin', waitin' for the dawnin',
For the time of trial to pass;
An' 'twas her that found one mornin'
That first peep of barley grass.

We don't want no wreath of roses,
We don't want no immortelles,
When the last of us reposes
In the last of earthly spells.
Plant above - we ain't presumin'
To be writ on stone or brass --
Just a modest, unassumin',
Simple bit of barley grass.

First published in The Critic, 24 February 1904;
and later in 
Backblock Ballads and Other Verses by C.J. Dennis, 1913.

Country Pubs by C.J. Dennis

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Recent severe criticism of the catering arrangements in country hotels uttered by Mr. Menzies, M.L.A., has revived the demand for improvement in such places.  But one is moved to wonder if this protest will do any more than dozens of others in getting real improvements.

We know those little country pubs,
   By cross-road and by creek,
Where faithfully the landlord scrubs
   His counter once a week,
And stands before his shining bar
   To cater for man's thirst
With all the best; but where the meals are
   He caters with the worst.
 
"Wottle you 'ave?"  There's beer or brandy,
Rum or half-and-half or shandy.
   Wine or whisky.  Bottles wink --
   "Wottle you 'ave, boys?  Name your drink" ...
But in the grimy dining room
A slattern lass of grease and gloom
   Intones in accents charged with grief:
   "Wottle you 'ave?  There's corn-beef." 
 
In the bar the talk grows gay,
   The landlord beams, for trade agog,
And yokels wile dull hours away
   Idly yarning o'er their grog ...
But in that cave of gastric woes
   Grimly the hungry traveller eats,
To end by turning up his nose
   And hoping to fill up on sweets.
 
"Wottle you 'ave?" -- The cups are cloudy.
Linen soiled.  The waitress dowdy,
   Comes like an avenging fate
   Snatching at the greasy plate --
Soggy cabbage; soapy "spuds" --
Droning flies and smell of suds.
   Now she whines, like some lost soul:
   "Wottle you 'ave?  There's jam-roll."

First published in The Herald, 23 February 1933

I'm a Poor Down-Trodden Cockie by C.J. Dennis

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I'm a poor down-trodden cockie, an' I'm gettin' on in years;
   I have held this bit of land since eighty-three;
And in that time I thought I'd seen most all the cares an' fears
   It was possible a farmin' man could see.

I've been eaten out be rabbits, an' a time or two with rust;
   An' the seasons have been mostly out of joint.
I've been worried with the locusts, and the heat, an' wind, an' dust,
   An' the prices have been down to starvin' point.

   An' now me sons have 'listed,
   Fer it couldn't be resisted;
Such a chance to get some shootin' ev'ry day.
   So they're marchin' to the wars,
   For to have a cut at Boers;
Gone to find a better like an' better pay --
                  So they say --
An' the farm can mind itself while they're away.

I've been loaded up with mortgages an' bound by bills o' sale;
   I have had me turn of fire an' flood an' drought.
There's me crops been choked with oats, an' nipped by frost, an' spoilt by hail;
   I've been visited by ev'ry curse about.

But, spite of all me troubles, I have brought up Jack an' Ned,
   So that useful, handy farmin' men they've grown;
But they've chucked away their chances to do soldierin' instead,
   An' they've left their poor old father on his own.

For me sons have gone away now,
   An' mother chucks the hay now,
While Mary does the ploughin' 'sted of Jack;
   An' Sissy lumps the wheat,
   An' father kills the meat,
For me sons have gone to strike a burger's track --
                  Ned an' Jack --
An' the farm can go to h__l till they come back.

First published in The Critic, 8 February 1902

Our Corrugated Iron Tank by James Hackston (Hal Gye)

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Our tank stood on a crazy stand,
Bare to the burning sun,
White hot as glares the desert sand,
And dismal to the eye.
Its lid was like a rakish hat,
The tap bent all awry,
And with a drip so constant that
It almost dripped when dry.

It was a most convenient tank
Wherein most things could fall;
Where snakes came from the bush and drank,
And rabbits used to call,
The mice committed suicide,
The gum leaves sank to rest,
And in it possums dropped and died
And hornets made their nest.

But stark within my memory
I see it once again
When we all looked at it anxiously --
Days when we hoped for rain;
I hear the hollow sounds it made,
Like some prophetic drum,
As I tapped rung on rung, afraid
Of dreadful days to come,

When mother in despair would pray
As low the water sank:
Four rungs, three rungs, two rungs, and, aye,
How miserly we drank;
And there was none for face and hands,
Waste was a wicked thing,
There in the baked and parching lands,
With hope our only spring.

Next came the fatal "One rung left!"
(How cruel words can be!)
As we all stood for joys bereft,
Dumb in out misery:
And then I tapped the tank in pain --
Those knells of drought and doom:
Our tank at last gone dry again,
Our home cast down in gloom;

But, oh, the joy that filled our hearts
When came the bounteous rain
And the drain-pipe sang in fits and starts
And we filled the tank again!
We felt as if we'd riches won,
That life again was sweet;
And overjoyed then, everyone,
We even washed our feet!

First published in The Bulletin, 12 December 1956;
and later in
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963; and
Old Ballads from the Bush edited by Bill Scott, 1987.

Author reference sites: AustlitAustralian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

When Dad Drives Home from Town by Edward S. Sorenson

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When Dad goes into town he takes 
   The old selection dray,
And carefully attends the brakes, 
   While dawdling all the way;
But when he's interviewed the shops,
   And liquor'd at "The Crown" --
You bet there's no such thing as stops
   As Dad drives home from town.

A careful man he starts away,
   All watchfulness and joy;
"Now, mind your pinny, Sis," he'll say;
   "Don't soil your coat, me boy;"
"Take care there, Tom, you don't fall out;"
   And "Minnie, do sit down!"
But all who will may roll about
   When Dad drives home from town.

And roll we do, by gum, we do;
   And bump from side to side;
We yell and howl -- and so would you
   If fated thus to ride;
'Tis over logs and foul of stumps,
   And knocking saplings down,
For waddles ply and Spanker jumps
   When Dad drives home from town.

The kangaroos beat right and left,
The 'possums rush for trees,
As Dad stands up like one bereft,
With coat tails in the breeze;
While Spanker's shod hoofs clout and ring,
   And youngsters grasp and frown;
Dad's hurry's quite astonishing
   When driving home from town.

The tail-board was the first to go,
   And with it went the toys;
Then one by one the girls dropped low,
   And after them the boys;
While 'cross the creek he dashed, and then
  "Hold tight," he cried, "or drown!"
'Tis really interesting when
   The "Guv'nor" drives from town.

We're holding tight-to mother earth,
   A-sprawl in twos and throes,
While clocking cart wheels drown our mirth,
   Till swallowed in the trees.
Then, gathering spoil from log and rut, 
   With swags addressed "J. Brown," 
We "pad the hoof" to Bargo Hut,
   While Dad drives home from town.

A slush-lamp at the window burns,
   To guide the travellers back;
It dies and glows as Spanker turns
   The windings of the track;
And mother hastens towards the sound
   To throw the slipralls down --
She knows what whirls the wheels around
   When Dad comes home from town.

With empty cart, and minus hat,
   He draws the reins a-foam; 
In Indian file across the fiat
   The "kids" come toddling home -- 
With packages and bags a-back,
   With mother's boots and gown,
And other things that blaze the track
   When Dad drives home from town.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 9 December 1903

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

Tar and Feathers by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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      Oh! the circus swooped down
      On the Narrabri town,
For the Narrabri populace moneyed are;
      And the showman he smiled
      At the folk he beguiled
To come all the distance from Gunnedah.

      But a juvenile smart,
      Who objected to "part",
Went in "on the nod", and to do it he
      Crawled in through a crack
      In the tent at the back,
For the boy had no slight ingenuity.

      And says he with a grin,
      "That's the way to get in;
But I reckon I'd better be quiet or
      They'll spiflicate me,"
      And he chuckled, for he
Had the loan of the circus proprietor.

      But the showman astute
      On that wily galoot
Soon dropped, and you'll say that he leathered him --
      Not he; with a grim
      Sort of humorous whim,
He took him and tarred him and feathered him.

      Says he, "You can go
      Round the world with a show,
And knock every Injun and Arab wry;
      With your name and your trade,
      On the posters displayed,
The feathered what-is-it from Narrabri."

      Next day for his freak,
      By a Narrabri beak,
He was jawed with a deal of verbosity;
      For his only appeal
      Was "professional zeal" --
He wanted another monstrosity.

      Said his worship, "Begob!
      You are fined forty bob,
And six shillin's costs to the clurk!" he says.
      And the Narrabri joy,
      Half bird and half boy,
Has a "down" on himself and on circuses.

First published in The Bulletin, 21 September 1889;
and later in
Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1902;
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; and
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;

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

See also.

"The Mallee Fire" by Charles Henry Souter

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I suppose it just depends on where you're raised.
Once I met a cove as swore by green belar!
Couldn't sight the good old mallee-stump I praised:
Well -- I couldn't sight belar, and there you are!
But the faces in the fire where the mallee-stump's a-blinking
Are the friendliest I ever seen, to my way o' thinking!

In the city where the fires is mostly coal --
There! I can't abear to go and warm my feet!
Spitting, fizzing things as hasn't got no soul!
Things as puffs out yaller smoke instead of heat!
But at home -- well, it is home when the mallee-stump's a-burning
And the evening's drawing chilly and the season is a-turning!

And there's some as runs them down because they're tough.
Well? And what's the good of anythink as ain't?
No. It's nary use to serve 'em any bluff,
For they'd use up all the patience of a saint.
But they'll split as sweet as sugar if you know the way to take 'em.
If you don't, there isn't nothink in the world as'll make 'em!

They're tremenjus hard to kindle, tho', at first:
Like a friendship of the kind as comes to stay.
You can blow and blow and blow until you burst,
And when they won't, they won't burn, anyway!
But once they gets a start, tho' they make no showy flashes,
Well, they'll serve you true and honest to the last pinch of ashes!

First published in The Bulletin, 6 May 1899;
and later in
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963; and
Two Centuries of Australian Poetry edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Sundowner by John Shaw Neilson

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I know not when this tiresome man
With his shrewd, sable billy-can
And his unwashed Democracy
His boomed-up Pilgrimage began.

Sometimes he wandered far outback
On a precarious Tucker Track;
Sometimes he lacked Necessities
No gentleman would like to lack.

Tall was the grass, I understand,
When the old Squatter ruled the land.
Why were the Conquerors kind to him?
Ah, the Wax Matches in his hand!

Where bullockies with oaths intense
Made of the dragged-up trees a fence,
Gambling with scorpions he rolled
His Swag, conspicuous, immense.

In the full splendour of his power
Rarely he touched one mile an hour,
Dawdling at sunset, History says,
For the Pint Pannikin of flour.

Seldom he worked; he was, I fear,
Unreasonably slow and dear;
Little he earned, and that he spent
Deliberately drinking Beer.

Cheerful, sorefooted child of chance,
Swiftly we knew him at a glance;
Boastful and self-compassionate,
Australia's Interstate Romance.

Shall he not live in Robust Rhyme,
Soliloquies and Odes Sublime?
Strictly between ourselves, he was
A rare old Humbug all the time.

In many a book of Bushland dim
Mopokes shall give him greeting grim;
The old swans pottering in the reeds
Shall pass the time of day to him.

On many a page our Friend shall take
Small sticks his evening fire to make;
Shedding his waistcoat, he shall mix
On its smooth back his Johnny-Cake.

'Mid the dry leaves and silvery bark
Often at nightfall will he park
Close to a homeless creek, and hear
The Bunyip paddling in the dark.

First published in The Clarion, 15 September 1908;
and later in
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934;
Beauty Imposes: Some Recent Verse by John Shaw Neilson, 1938;
Jindyworobak Anthology, 1942 edited by Victor Kennedy, 1942;
New Song in an Old Land edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;
Spoils of Time: Some Poems of the English Speaking Peoples edited by Rex Ingamells, 1948;
The Penguin Book of Australian Verse edited by John Thompson, Kenneth Slessor and R.G. Howarth, 1958;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Australian Kaleidoscope edited by Barbara Ker Wilson, 1968;
The Jindyworobaks edited by Brian Elliot, 1979;
Green Days and Cherries: the early verses of Shaw Neilson edited by Hugh Anderson and Leslie James Blake, 1981;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991;
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001; and
Hell and After: Four Early English Language Poets of Australia edited by Les Murray, 2005.

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

See also.

Billy Barlow in Australia by Benjamin Griffin

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When I was at home I was down on my luck,
And I yearnt a poor living by drawing a truck;
But old aunt died and left me a thousand --' Oh, oh,
I'll start on my travels,' said Billy Barlow.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh;
   So off to Australia came Billy Barlow.

When to Sydney I got, there a merchant I met,
Who said he could teach me a fortune to get;
He'd cattle and sheep past the colony's bounds,
Which he sold with the station for my thousand pounds.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   He gammon'd the cash out of Billy Barlow.

When the bargain was struck, and the money was paid,
He said, 'My dear fellow, your fortune is made;
I can furnish supplies for the station, you know,
And your bill is sufficient, good Mr. Barlow.'
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   A gentleman settler was Billy Barlow.

So I got my supplies, and I gave him my bill,
And for New England started, my pockets to fill;
But by bushrangers met, with my traps they made free,
Took my horse, and left Billy bailed up to a tree.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   I shall die of starvation, thought Billy Barlow.

At last I got loose, and I walked on my way;
A constable came up, and to me did say,
'Are you free?' Says I 'Yes, to be sure, don't you know?'
And I handed my card, 'Mr. William Barlow.'
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   He said 'That's all gammon' to Billy Barlow.

Then he put on the handcuffs, and brought me away
Right back down to Maitland, before Mr. Day;
When I said I was free, why the J.P. replied,
'I must send you down to be i-dentified.'
   Oh dear, lackaday oh,
   So to Sydney once more went poor Billy Barlow.

They at last let me go, and I then did repair
For my station once more, and at length I got there;
But a few days before the blacks, you must know,
Had spear'd all the cattle of Billy Barlow.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   It's a beautiful country, said Billy Barlow.

And for nine months before no rain there had been,
So the devil a blade of grass could be seen;
And one third of my wethers the scab they had got,
And the other two-thirds had just died of the rot.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   I shall soon be a settler, said Billy Barlow.

And the matter to mend, now my bill was near due,
So I wrote to my friend, and just asked to renew;
He replied he was sorry he couldn't, because
The bill had pass'd into Tom Burdekin's claws.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   But perhaps he'll renew it, said Billy Barlow.

I applied ; to renew it he was quite content,
If secured, and allowed just 300 per cent;
But as I couldn't do it, Carr, Rogers, and Co.,
Soon sent up a summons for Billy Barlow.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
They soon settled the business of Billy Barlow.

For a month or six weeks I stewed over my loss,
And a tall man rode up one day on a black horse;
He asked 'Don't you know me?' I answered him ' No.'
'Why,' says he, 'my name's Kingsmill ; how are you, Barlow?'
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   He'd got a fi. fa. for poor Billy Barlow.

What I'd left of my sheep, and my traps, he did seize,
And he said, 'They won't pay all the costs and my fees:'
Then he sold off the lot, and I'm sure 'twas a sin,
At sixpence a head, and the station given in.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   I'll go back to England, said Billy Barlow.

ENCORE VERSES.

My sheep being sold, and my money all gone,
Oh, I wandered about then quite sad and forlorn
How I managed to live it would shock you to know,   
And as thin as a lath got poor Billy Barlow.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   Quite down on his luck was poor Billy Barlow.

And in a few weeks more the sheriff, you see,
Sent the 'tall man on horseback' once more unto me,
Having got all he could by the writ of fi. fa.,
By way of a change he'd brought up a ca. sa.
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   He seized on the body of Billy Barlow.

He took me to Sydney, and there they did lock
Poor unfortunate Billy fast 'under the clock ;'
And to get myself out I was forced, you must know,
The schedule to file of poor Billy Barlow.

   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   In the list of insolvents was Billy Barlow.

Then once more I got free, but in poverty's toil;
I've no 'cattle for salting,' no 'sheep for to boil;'
I can't get a job -- tho' to any I'd stoop,
If 'twas only the making of 'portable soup.'
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   Pray give some employment to Billy Barlow.

But there's still 'a spec' left may set me on my stumps,
If a wife I could get with a few of the dumps;
So if any lass here has 'ten thousand,' or so,
She can just drop a line addressed 'Mr. Barlow.'
   Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
   The dear angel shall be 'Mrs. William Barlow.'

First published in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 2 September 1843;
and later in
Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in Bushranging, Digging and Overlanding Days edited by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson, 1905;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Songs of Billy Barlow edited by Hugh Anderson, 1956;
The Penguin Australian Song Book compiled by J. S. Manifold, 1964;
The Overlander Songbook edited by Ronald George Edwards, 1971; and
Old Bush Songs and Rhymes of Colonial Times edited by Douglas Stewart, 1976.

Note: "fi. fa.", or "fieri facias" is a writ ordering a levy on the belongings of a debtor to satisfy the debt;
"Ca. sa", or "capias ad satisfaciendum" a writ or process commanding an officer to place a person (as a debtor) under civil arrest until a claim is satisfied.

Author: nothing is known about the author of this poem.

The Vagabond by Henry Lawson

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White handkerchiefs wave from the short black pier
   As we glide to the grand old sea --
But the song of my heart is for none to hear
   If one of them waves for me.
A roving, roaming life is mine,
   Ever by field or flood --
For not far back in my father's line
   Was a dash of the Gipsy blood.

Flax and tussock and fern,
   Gum and mulga and sand,
Reef and palm -- but my fancies turn
   Ever away from land;
Strange wild cities in ancient state,
   Range and river and tree,
Snow and ice.  But my star of fate
   Is ever across the sea.

A god-like ride on a thundering sea,
   When all but the stars are blind --
A desperate race from Eternity
   With a gale-and-a-half behind.
A jovial spree in the cabin at night,
   A song on the rolling deck,
A lark ashore with the ships in sight,
   Till -- a wreck goes down with a wreck.

A smoke and a yarn on the deck by day,
   When life is a waking dream,
And care and trouble so far away
   That out of your life they seem.
A roving spirit in sympathy,
   Who has travelled the whole world o'er --
My heart forgets, in a week at sea,
   The trouble of years on shore.

A rolling stone! -- 'tis a saw for slaves --
   Philosophy false as old --
Wear out or break 'neath the feet of knaves,
   Or rot in your bed of mould!
But I'd rather trust to the darkest skies
   And the wildest seas that roar,
Or die, where the stars of Nations rise,
   In the stormy clouds of war.

Cleave to your country, home, and friends,
   Die in a sordid strife --
You can count your friends on your finger ends
   In the critical hours of life.
Sacrifice all for the family's sake,
   Bow to their selfish rule!
Slave till your big soft heart they break --
   The heart of the family fool.

Domestic quarrels, and family spite,
   And your Native Land may be
Controlled by custom, but, come what might,
   The rest of the world for me.
I'd sail with money, or sail without! --
   If your love be forced from home,
And you dare enough, and your heart be stout,
   The world is your own to roam.

I've never a love that can sting my pride,
   Nor a friend to prove untrue;
For I leave my love ere the turning tide,
   And my friends are all too new.
The curse of the Powers on a peace like ours,
   With its greed and its treachery --
A stranger's hand, and a stranger land,
   And the rest of the world for me!

But why be bitter?  The world is cold
   To one with a frozen heart;
New friends are often so like the old,
   They seem of the past a part --
As a better part of the past appears,
   When enemies, parted long,
Are come together in kinder years,
   With their better nature strong.

I had a friend, ere my first ship sailed,
   A friend that I never deserved --
For the selfish strain in my blood prevailed
   As soon as my turn was served.
And the memory haunts my heart with shame --
   Or, rather, the pride that's there;
In different guises, but soul the same,
   I meet him everywhere.

I had a chum.  When the times were tight
   We starved in Australian scrubs;
We froze together in parks at night,
   And laughed together in pubs.
And I often hear a laugh like his
   From a sense of humour keen,
And catch a glimpse in a passing phiz
   Of his broad, good-humoured grin.

And I had a love -- 'twas a love to prize --
   But I never went back again . . .
I have seen the light of her kind brown eyes
   In many a face since then.

     .    .    .    .    .

The sailors say 'twill be rough to-night,
   As they fasten the hatches down,
The south is black, and the bar is white,
   And the drifting smoke is brown.
The gold has gone from the western haze,
   The sea-birds circle and swarm --
But we shall have plenty of sunny days,
   And little enough of storm.

The hill is hiding the short black pier,
   As the last white signal's seen;
The points run in, and the houses veer,
   And the great bluff stands between.
So darkness swallows each far white speck
   On many a wharf and quay.
The night comes down on a restless deck, --
   Grim cliffs -- and -- The Open Sea!

First published in The Bulletin, 31 August 1895;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1907;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
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.

Mulga Bill's Bicycle by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

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'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But 'ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dean Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."

First published in The Sydney Mail, 25 July 1896;
and later in
Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson, 1902;
New Song in an Old Land edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
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;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Humour edited by Michael Sharkey, 1988;
The Book of Australian Ballads, 1989;
A Collection of Australian Bush Verse, 1989;
The Banjo's Best-Loved Poems edited by Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie, 1989;
A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 1990;
The Macquarie Bedtime Story Book edited by Rosalind Price and Walter McVitty, 1990;
The Advertiser, 27 January 1992;
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;
Big Rig and Other Poems, 1995;
Classic Australian Verse edited by Maggie Pinkney, 2001;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Jim Haynes, 2002;
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004;
Mulga Bill's Bicycle and Other Classics by A.B. Paterson, 2005;
The Bush Poems of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson by A.B. Paterson, 2008; and
Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009.

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

See also.

The Broken-Down Squatter by Charles A. Flower

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Come, Stumpy, old man, we must shift while we can;
   All our mates in the paddock are dead.
Let us wave our farewells to Glen Eva's sweet dells
   And the hills where your lordship was bred;
Together to roam from our drought-stricken home --
   It seems hard that such things have to be,
And it's hard on a "hoss" when he's nought for a boss
   But a broken-down squatter like me!

No more shall we muster the river for fats,
   Or spell on the Fifteen-mile plain,
Or rip through the scrub by the light of the moon,
   Or see the old stockyard again.
Leave the slip-panels down, it won't matter much now,
   There are none but the crows left to see,
Perching gaunt in yon pine, as though longing to dine
   On a broken-down squatter like me.

When the country was cursed with the drought at its worst,
   And the cattle were dying in scores,
Though down on my luck, I kept up my pluck,
   Thinking justice might temper the laws.
But the farce has been played, and the Government aid
   Ain't extended to squatters, old son;
When my dollars were spent they doubled the rent,
   And resumed the best half of the run.   

'Twas done without reason, for leaving the season
   No squatter could stand such a rub;
For its useless to squat, when the rents are so hot
   That one can't save the price of one's grub;
And there's not much to choose 'twixt the banks and the Jews
   Once a fellow gets put up a tree;
No odds what I feel, there's no court of appeal
   For a broken-down squatter like me.

First published in The Queenslander, 30 June 1894;
and later in
Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging and Overlanding Days edited by A. B. Paterson, 1905;
The North Queensland Register, 25 February 1924;
The Bulletin, 17 January 1951;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The Penguin Australian Song Book edited by J.S. Manifold, 1964;
Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them edited by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson, 1967;
The Overlander Songbook edited by Ronald George Edwards, 1971;
Complete Book of Australian Folk Lore edited by Bill Scott, 1976;
Old Bush Songs and Rhymes of Colonial Times edited by Douglas Stewart and Nancy Keesing, 1976; and
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993.

Author:  Charles Augustus Flower (1856-1948) was born in Port Fairy, Victoria and worked as a jackaroo there until moving to South West Queensland. He owned and ran properties in that area until his death in 1948.

Author reference sites:
Austlit

The River Road by Ella McFadyen

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With the cut hill rising over,
   And the gully drop below,
Where the surly, burly drover
   Or the trudging swagmen go,
Or the teamster with his load,
      And the bell-birds high are calling,
      And the echoes falling, falling
   Down the winding River Road.

Or perhaps some country maiden,
   In her finery arrayed,
Or the bullocks, heavy-laden,
   Pausing briefly in the shade,
Ere he driver plies the goad,
      And the morning air is bringing
      Tidings of an axe-blade ringing
   Down the dusty River Road.

Here at noon a picnic party
   Spread their hamper on the grass,
With a greeting free and hearty
   For the travellers as they pass,
In the ready country mode;
      And the hills grow blue and hazy,
      And the hot air still and lazy,
   By the rutted River Road.

Then the evening shades caressing,
   Slowly down the hill-side creep,
Breathing sorely as a blessing,
   To the gully dark and deep,
Place of shadowy abode;
      Then the children come, returning.
      From some bush-built shrine of learning,
   Singing down the River Road.

Sinks the sun, red lances falling
   'Twixt the silhouetted trees,
And the plaintive plovers, calling,
   Blend their evening minstrelsies;
Rest, my pilgrims, shed your load,
      What is life beyond a passing?
      A dispensing, an amassing?
   And our path the River Road.

First published in The Sydney Mail, 27 June 1906

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

The Austral "Light!" by Harry "Breaker" Morant

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We were standing by the fireside at the pub. one wintry night,
Drinking grog and "pitching fairies" while the lengthening hours took flight,
And a stranger there was present, one who seemed quite city-bred --
There was little showed about him to denote him "mulga fed."

For he wore a four-inch collar, tucked-up pants, and boots of tan --
You might take him for a new-chum or a Sydney-city man --
But in spite of cuff and collar, Lord! he gave himself away
When he cut and rubbed a pipe-full, and had filled his colored clay!

For he never asked for matches -- - although in that boozing band
There was more than one man standing with a match-box in his hand;
And I knew him for a bushman 'spite his tailor-made attire
As I saw him stoop and fossick for a fire-stick from the fire.

And that mode of weed ignition to my memory brought back
The long nights when nags were hobbled on a far North-Western track:
Recalled camp fires in the timber, when the stars shone big and bright,
And we learnt the matchless virtues of a glowing gidgee light.

And I thought of piny sand-ridges! --- and somehow I could swear
That this tailor-made young johnnie had at one time been "out there"!
And as he blew the white ash from the tapering, glowing coal --
Faith! my heart went out towards him for a kindred country soul!

First published in The Bulletin, 19 June 1897, and again in the same magazine on 23-30 December 1980;
and later in
Bushman and Buccaneer: Harry Morant: His 'Ventures and Verses by Breaker Morant, 1902
The Poetry of 'Breaker' Morant: from "The Bulletin" 1891-1903 with original illustrations by Breaker Morant, 1980.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Song of the Shingle-Splitters by Henry Kendall

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In dark, wild woods, where the lone owl broods,
   And the dingoes nightly yell--
Where the curlew's cry goes floating by--
   We Splitters of Shingles dwell.
And all day through, from the time of the dew,
   To the hour when the mopoke calls,
Our mallets ring where the woodbirds sing
   Sweet hymns by the waterfalls.
And all night long we are lulled by the song
   Of gales in the grand old trees;
And in the breaks we can hear the lakes,
   And the moan of distant seas.

         For afar from heat, and dust of street,
            And hall; and turret, and dome--
         In forests deep, where the torrents leap,
            Is the Shingle-splitters' Home.

The dweller in town may lie on down,
   And own his palace and park;
We envy him not his pleasant lot,
   Though we sleep on sheets of bark.
Our food is rough but we have enough--
   Our drink is litter than wine;
For cool creeks flow wherever we go,
   Shut in from the hot sunshine.
Though rude our roof, it is weather-proof;
   And, at the end of the days,
We sit and smoke over yarn and joke,
   By the bushfire`s sturdy blaze.

         For away from din, and sorrow, and sin,
            Where troubles but rarely come,
         We jog along, like a merry song,
            In the Shingle-splitters' Home.

What though our work be heavy, we shirk
   From nothing beneath the sun;
And toil is sweet to those who can eat,
   And rest when the day is done.
In the Sabbath-time we hear no chime--
   No sound of the Sunday-bells;
But Heaven smiles on the forest aisles,
   And God in the woodland dwells.
We listen to notes from the million throats
   Of chorister-birds on high;
Our psalm is the breeze in the lordly trees,
   And our dome--the broad blue sky.

         O, a brave, frank life, unsmitten by strife,
            We live wherever we roam;
         And hearts are free as the great strong sea
            In the Shingle-splitters' Home.

First published in Australian Town and Country Journal, 2 May 1874, again in the same newspaper on 7 April 1888;
and also in
The Eagle, 19 October 1895;
The Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;
Australian Bush Songs and Ballads edited by Will Lawson, 1944;
Selected Poems of Henry Kendall edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1957; and
Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson edited by Michael Cook, 2004.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Station Bell by Ethel Mills

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Clang, clang, goes the station bell;
   Six o'clock, and the work is done.
Lily buds in the bathing pool
   All aglow from the setting sun,
Slanting rays thro' the willow boughs,
   Woolshed windows a blaze of gold,
While afar in the myall scrub
   Sweet night flowers to the dark unfold.

"Home! home!" says the station bell,     
   Silhouetted against the sky;
Tired horses and weary men
   Pass the gate of the stockyard by.
Thro' the trees by the winding creek   
   Cottage windows are all aglow;
Across the door of one firelit room
   A woman's figure flits to and fro.

"Night comes," says the station bell,
   Ringing out on the scented air;
Far away in the forest's heart
   A dingo howls in his secret lair;
Over the trees and the clustered roofs
   A white bird flies with a mournful cry,   
That mingies sweet with the crooning song
   A mother sings as a lullaby.

"Rest, rest," says the station bell;   
   It echoes even across the hill,
Where the graves of the station dead
   Are green with grass --- Is their sleep so still
That they are not stirred by the music sweet
   Of children's voices in mirthful play,     
Or the well-known clang as the station bell
   Rings "Angelus" for the workers' day?  

First published in The Queenslander, 8 April 1899

Author: Ethel Mills (1878? - ??) was the sister of Mabel Forrest.  Other than that little is known about the author of this poem.

Author reference sites: Austlit

A Little Bush Girl by Robert Richardson

| No TrackBacks
Madge sits alone at the close of day
   By the edge of the blue lagoon;
Among the reeds the breezes play
   A wandering woodland tune.
A magpie lights on a red-gum bough,
   And whistles clear and shrill;
The woods with gold and crimson glow
O'er gully, plain, and hill.

The wattle shakes its honey scent
   Upon the warm, sweet breeze;
The clematis its drift white tent
   Spreads for the roving bees.
Under a log a lizard slips
   Quick as a gleam of light.
Madge watches it with parted lips,
   And brown eyes wide and bright.

The sun drops in a crimson haze,
   The wind grows fresh and cool;
The frogs their long, quaint chorus raise
   From creek and marshy pool;
The cricket tunes his tiny trump
   As the short twilight falls;
And from the distant willow clump
   A lonely curlew calls.

Madge scans the sandy cattle track
   Until the cows appear;
She hears her father's stockwhip crack,
   Startling the evening air.
The patient cows -- Jess, Meg, and Pearl --
   Approach the milking rails,
Where mother and the dairy girl
   Wait with the shining pails.

The pageant of the stars unrolled,
   Makes the night glow like noon;
The Southern Cross gleams like pure gold,
   Gilding the dim lagoon.
Madge from her window waits to see
   The stars rise one by one;  
Then, with her prayer at mother's knee,
   Her day is sweetly done.

First published in Australian Town and Country Journal, 23 March 1901

Author: Robert Richardson (1850-1901) was born in New South Wales and completed a B.A. at the University of Sydney.  Best known as a writer for children - and possibly the first Australian born writer to be so titled - he wrote poetry mainly for the Sydney newspapers, especially the Australian Town and Country Journal.  He died in Armidale, New South Wales, in 1901.

Author reference site: Austlit

Waiting for the Mail by E. J. Brady

| No TrackBacks
Three times a week the mail-car, across the coastal hills,
Comes rattling with our letters, our papers and -- our bills.
The village lights assembled,
Their eagerness dissembled,
Won't know until they've sorted what disappointments, thrills,
In those sealed bags await them
To please or irritate them,
To elevate their spirits or aggravate their ills.

They crowd the office counter -- an agent's note for Joe
(The hairy rabbit-trapper) with cheque from So and So!
Joe grins, and in his pocket
Crams envelope and docket,
Departing in a hurry. The others rightly know
That Joe, unkempt and leery,
Benevolent and beery,
Has gone to greet the barman and bid the liquor flow.

Fred Fielding pushes forward; he grabs a slender mail;
His features, fat and florid, revert from red to pale --
"For three-pun-ten and under!"
He shouts in tones of thunder,
"They've sold them pigs in Melbun! Too late to cancel sale!
I'll wire the wicked robbers
That me and all me cobbers
Will send our stuff to Sydney, the whole of it, for sale!"

Old Mother Jones approaches, she wheezes and she moans,
Rheumatics nip and grind her, she creaks in all her bones.
But now her face hard-bitten
In cheerful smirks is litten --
A bottle of the Cure-All may even cure Ma Jones.
By parcel post arriving
It points to her surviving
The cold of coming winter with mild and mellow groans.

Miss Sally Smith trips lightly two awkward youths between;
She has no brains whatever, but, turning seventeen,
The males declare her pretty
As flash girls from the city;
At all the district dances she holds her own I ween.
And this, the last mail order,
Will make her, round the Border,
Despite the jealous females an undisputed queen.

At last I breast the counter, my fortune I rehearse;
Two bills, a seedsman's pamphlet, and some rejected verse!
Avaunt this inky scrapping,
I'm going rabbit trapping!
As soon as Joe is sober, with that unlettered curse
A partnership I'll wangle;
Surveyed from any angle
No other occupation than writing could be worse.

First published in The Bulletin, 5 March 1947

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

See also.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Country Life category.

Convicts is the previous category.

Country vs City is the next category.

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