Recently in Country vs City Category

The Voice of the Bush by C.J. Dennis

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"Voice of the Bush! what doth it say?"
   Exclaimed the bard, in dreamy study.
The bushman stared in some dismay,
   But truthfully responded "___!"

First published in The Bulletin, 26 October 1905

The Confidence Man by C.J. Dennis

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[During Show week in Adelaide the National League hired the Town Hall, and gave a free show "by invitation" to the farmers.  For disinterested generosity, the National League is truly famous.]

Oh, farmer, when you come to town
   To spend a short vacation,
Be on your guard, and struggle hard,
   And watch against temptation.
Be careful of the wily bar,
   The toteshop and the races,
Keep out of range of Stock Exchange,
   And all such sinful places.

Be careful, too, whate'er you do,
   Of ev'ry smiling dealer,
And shun, oh, shun, the gentle "gun" --
   Ingratiating spieler.
But of the score of wiles or more
   That threaten your position,
Do not forget the cutest yet --
   The Tory politician!

Nay, do not by his smiling eye,
   Or suavity prodigious,
Be taken in: but, with a grin,
   Observe his mien religious.
For while you're down about the town
   He'll make your life worth living
With song and drink; but think, just think --
   Bears he a name for giving?

Is he to us so generous
   In all his little dealings?
Doe she eschew the business view
   With philanthropic feelings,
And strive alway, in manner gay,
   To be the gentle charmer,
With cash he's made in close, keen trade?
   Well, what do you think, farmer?

He'll flatter you, and vow your view
   Identical with his is;
Your family he'll treat, and be
   Attentive to "the missus";
He'll tell you of his boundless love,
  Undying, sir, and tested!
But -- just go slow.  Why is he so
   Infernally int'rested?

He'll take you out, he'll treat and shout,
   In a manner free and hearty.
And, 'tween the drinks, tell what he thinks
   About the "Labah Party";
That robber band, that wants the land,
   And suffers from illusions;
Don't take the bait, don't contemplate,
   And draw your own conclusions.

He is in truth a crafty sleuth,
   A spieler of finesse, sir;
With subtle art he plays the art,
   In manner and in dress, sir.
And, like them all, he keeps the ball
   A-rolling for your pleasure;
A day or two, deceiving you,
   Then plucks you at his leisure.

His talk is grand about "the land,"
   And "folks that want to steal it,"
And if some day they get their way,
   He tells how you will feel it.
And he is so unselfish; oh,
   Ingenuous his patter!
He may own miles, and yet, he smiles
   That's quite another matter.

Yet, 'spite his groans, maybe he owns
   Land that your sons are needing;
But, mark his plight, he holds it tight,
   And yet his heart is bleeding --
Aye, bleeding sore, all for the poor,
   Poor farmer with the hand hard
(But don't, I pray, have aught to say
   Of "cornstacks" or the "standard").

These things are small, no weight at all.
   "Tush, hardly worth a fig, sir!
Mere trifles quite.  We must unite!
   The question is so big, sir!"
So he will smile and talk the while.
   Of "theft" and 'confiscation,"
And weep anew at thoughts of you,
   "The backbone of the nation!"

So on, and on, while at the Show,
   You'll find him on you doting,
And if, perchance, he should advance,
   A hint concerning "Voting,"
Don't be in haste, and pledges waste,
   The while his wine you're drinking,
Just shake his hand then thank him, and --
   Go home and do some thinking.

First published in The Gadfly, 18 September 1907

The Madman by C.J. Dennis

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"I should go mad," he said, "in such a place!
   The lack of company, the loneliness!
Nothing but trees to stare you in the face;
Nothing to do; no life; no pep; no pace!
   I'd die of melancholy." I said "Yes?"
"Why, yes," said he.  "The suburbs can be bad.
But this?  Why, heavens, man!  I should go mad."
"What do you do?" he said.  "How find a way
   To pass the time?  Of course, the country's great
For rest and that" (I wished he'd go away;
I had a hundred things to do that day).
   "Oh, well," I said, "I think; I meditate
And -- " "Think?  A man can't always think  --
Not all the time.  Good lord!  I'd take to drink!
"I'd go stone mad," he said.  "I know the trees
   And birds and sky, and all that sort of stuff
Please for a while.  But man can't live on these.
I've got my love of nature's harmonies;
   But, spare me days, man, nature's not enough.
You work, you say.  But then, when work is done,
What in the thunder do you do for fun?
"Ah, well," he said.  "It's peaceful, that I'll say.
   Er -- what's the time?  Good heavens, I must go!
I've got a crowd of men to see to-day;
I'll miss the train!  I must be on my way.
   Can't spare another half a minute.  So,
Good-bye.  I wonder you're not dilly, lad."
"Ah, that's just it," I told him.  "I am mad."

First published in The Herald, 14 March 1933;
and later in
More Than a Sentimental Bloke edited by John Derum, 1990.

Mallee Wife by C.J. Dennis

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"Nice for a holiday," said a Mallee woman recently, after inspecting the hustle and show of the city for the first time.  "But to live in," she continued, "give us the Mallee."

Home's best (she said), and the tale
Of the hungering soil and the flail
   Of the sun and the shuddering threat
   Of the heat, and more heat yet;
Of more than a woman can stand,
Almost, in that merciless land,
   With its lifelong, lingering strife,
   For the Mallee mother and wife.

Oh, I've seen all the spurious zest
Of the city, and yet, home's best;
   The sweep of the plain's vast verge,
   And the calling of Life and the urge
To struggle and hope in vain,
Then struggle and hope again --
   That, and the faith that clings
   For the solving of human things.

Home's best (she said).  I have seen
The glamor of cities, the sheen
   Of the silken garments rare --
   And they spell for me despair;
Despair for the woman who cleaves
To luxury's yellowing leaves --
   Despair for the weakening race,
   Who, faltering, fall from grace.

Life, as I know it is stern;
And the seed of my seed must learn
   That nothing has life to give
   Save a man must labor to live --
Struggle and ache and toil
For the gifts that come of the soil,
   Since every treasure of worth
   Comes of the hard, kind earth.

Home's best (she said), and the dust
And the finger of God out-thrust,
   Saying, "You toil, or die
   Under this pitiless sky."
Even as long since said
To the Parents of Man long dead;
   Even as 'twas decreed
   In Man's first, passionate need.

Home's best.  For what do they know,
Who cleave to glitter and show,
   And strive in a strange excess
   Of pleasure for happiness?
What do they know of worth
Of the secret lure of the earth,
   And the peace, and the exquisite ache of the battle --
   For my man's sake?

First published in The Herald, 7 February 1935

Out to the Green Fields by John Shaw Neilson

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Here there is crying, cruelty, every tone:
Cruel is iron, and where is the pity in stone?
The ancient tyrannies tower, they cannot yield:
Let the tired eyes go to the green field!

Flowers are foreigners here, subdued and calm,
Standing as children under a heavy psalm:
My heart is ever impatient of standing so:
Out to the green fields the tired eyes go.

Out where the grasses hasten the resolute heart of man!
Out to the place of pity where all his tears began!
Only down with the young love are the fairy folk concealed:
Let the tired eyes go to the green field.

The leaves have listened to all the birds so long:
Every blossom has ridden out of a song:
Only low with the young love the olden hates are healed:
Let the tired eyes go to the green field!

First published in Bookfellow, 29 November 1924;
and later in
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson by John Shaw Neilson, 1934; and
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991.

Borderland by Henry Lawson

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I am back from up the country -- very sorry that I went --
Seeking for the Southern poets' land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have lost a lot of idols, which were broken on the track --
Burnt a lot of fancy verses, and I'm glad that I am back.
Further out may be the pleasant scenes of which our poets boast,
But I think the country's rather more inviting round the coast --
Anyway, I'll stay at present at a boarding-house in town
Drinking beer and lemon squashes, taking baths and cooling down.

Sunny plains! Great Scot! -- those burning wastes of barren soil and sand
With their everlasting fences strecthing out across the land!
Desolation where the crow is! Desert! where the eagle flies,
Paddocks where the luny bullock starts and stares with redden'd eyes;
Where, in clouds of dust enveloped, roasted bullock-drivers creep
Slowly past the sun-dried shepherd dragged behind his crawling sheep.
Stunted "peak" of granite gleaming, glaring! like a molten mass
Turned, from some infernal furnace, on a plain devoid of grass.

Miles and miles of thirsty gutters -- strings of muddy waterholes
In the place of "shining rivers" (walled by cliffs and forest boles).
"Range!" of ridges, gullies, ridges, barren! where the madden'ed flies --
Fiercer than the plagues of Egypt -- swarm about your blighted eyes!
Bush! where there is no horizon! where the buried bushman sees
Nothing. Nothing! but the madding sameness of the stunted trees!
Lonely hut where drought's eternal -- suffocating atmosphere --
Where the God forgotten hatter dreams of citylife and beer.

Treacherous tracks that trap the stranger, endless roads that gleam and glare,
Dark and evil-looking gullies -- hiding secrets here and there!
Dull, dumb flats and stony "rises," where the bullocks sweat and bake,
And the sinister "gohanna," and the lizard, and the snake.
Land of day and night -- no morning freshness, and no afternoon,
For the great, white sun in rising brings with him the heat of noon.
Dismal country for the exile, when the shades begin to fall
From the sad, heart-breaking sunset, to the new-chum, worst of all.

Dreary land in rainy weather, with the endless clouds that drift
O'er the busman like a blanket that the Lord will never lift --
Dismal land when it is raining -- growl of floods and oh! the "woosh"
Of the rain and wind together on the dark bed of the bush --
Ghastly fires in lonely humpies where the granite rocks are pil'd
In the rain-swept windernesses that are wildest of the wild.

Land where gaunt and haggard women live alone and work like men,
Till their husbands, gone a-droving, will return to them again --
Homes of men! if homes had ever such a God-forgotten place,
Where the wild selector's children fly before a stranger's face.
Home of tragedy applauded by the dingoes' dismal yell,
Heaven of the shanty-keeper -- fitting fiend for such a hell --
And the wallaroos and wombats, and, of course, the "curlew's call" --
And the lone sundowner tramping ever onward thro' it all!

I am back from up the country -- up the country where I went
Seeking for the Southern poets' land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have left a lot of broken idols out along the track,
Burnt a lot of fancy verses -- and I'm glad that I am back --
I believe the Southern poet's dream will not be realised
Till the plains are irrigated and the land is humanised.
I intend to stay at present -- as I said before -- in town
Drinking beer and lemon-squashes -- taking baths and cooling down.

First published in The Bulletin, 8 July 1892;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
Humorous Verses by Henry Lawson, 1941;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
The Penguin Book of Australian Satirical Verse edited by Philip Neilsen, 1986;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Note: this poem is also known by the title "Up the Country".

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

See also.

An Easter Hymn by Will H. Ogilvie

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The long-neck spurs are idle, and the shoes are off the brown;
The saddle-backs are spelling at the back of Boona Range;
The engine's fired and waiting, and it's hey for Sydney Town!
The sheep can go to blazes, for the shepherds want a change.
A twelve-month we've been toiling, as the best of sheep-men must,
Playing games of woolly billiards, with a pine-stick for a cue,
And wearing down the rollers of our long-necks in the dust,
And saying little prayers to the gentle full-mouth ewe!

Now --- the roaring of the traffic and the flashing of the lights!
Now --- the ships upon the harbor and the crowds upon the quay!
Now --- the revel of the mornings and the riot of the nights!
The long-worn fetters broken and --- the freedom of the free!
The crowds are keeping Easter and the shrines are overflowed:
We shall trouble not the churches or the chapels, comrades mine,
There are other altars hold us on the broad and flowery road,
And the gods we go to worship are the Gods of Love and Wine!

In a fortnight you'll be weary of the streets that slack and fill,
Of the nights of restless revel and the noons of languid ease,
And you'll wish that you were riding at the back of Boona Hill,
With the miljee at your stirrups and the gooma at your knees.
You can ride the bucking harbor when the tide rips thro' the Heads,
You can mount the moving tram-cars in a smoke too thick to see,
You can mash the merry barmaids, you can "do" the show-yard sheds --
A gallop down the Yarran flats is good enough for me.

First published in The Bulletin, 30 April 1898

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Men Upon the Land by George Essex Evans

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   The City folk, they whirl about
      In cab, and tram, and train.
   They grumble at the days of drought,
      They grumble at the rain.
   To comfort wed, and easy ways,
      They fear to soil a hand;
But the men who build the Nation are the men upon the land.

   The City calls, the streets are gay,
      Its pleasures well supplied,
   So of its life-blood every day
      It robs the country side.
   To banks, and shops, and offices,
      Men throng, an eager band:
But the hearts that build the Nation are the men upon the land.

   How shall we make Australia great
      And strong when danger calls
   When half the people of the State
      Are crammed in city walls?
   And the wide heritage we hold
      Lies empty and unmanned,
And the strength that makes a nation is not rooted in the land.

   Break off! Strike out! O -- Come away!
      Be master of your lie!
   A home for every heart to-day
      That fears not toil or strife!
   There's music in the axe's ring
      Swung by a strong right hand,
And the men who make the Nation are the men upon the land.

First published in The Brisbane Courier, 2 February 1906;
and later in
The Cairns Post, 6 November 1928.

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

See also.

Northward by E. J. Brady

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A wind blows up by Conran, with icy sweep and roll,
A Bird of Desolation, snow-feathered, from the Pole;
A stinging sleet behind it, a flying scund before,
It mourns among the forests, it wails along the shore;

When northward from Cape Byron the mangoes and the maize
To gracious breezes anthem a psalm of sapphire days;
When northward yet from Townsville is echoed warm and clear,
A pagan paean pulsing with Summer-all-the-year.

Your cowslips of St. Kilda their daintiness unfold,
Your tulips glad the gardens, your daffodils their gold
Display in florists' windows, soft show'r their blossoms down,
Those orchard trees that flatter the folks of Hobart town.

But North the white magnolias and red hibiscus throw
A gleam of blended glory like mingled flame and snow.
And oh, those Coral Islands along their seas of blue!
And oh, that strong nor'easter among the tall bamboo!

The daisies and the hawthorn in ordered walks of Kew,
The English oaks and beeches are comely sights to view,
'Tis pleasing, too, to frivol along the Esphinade ---
Encased in winter garments --- with some town-talking maid.

But Southern thought is straitened, as Southern skies are cold,
And South your social virtues are measured by your gold;
While North the ice of Custom is melted by the sun,
The waters of Convention in wider channels run.

The manners of Port Phillip would seem uncouth and strange
And somewhat out of focus beyond the Blackall Range;
As curry lacking powder, or custard wanting spice
The virtues of Port Phillip, at Cairns were merely --- vice.

I weary of your winters, their raw winds and their sleet;
Your blue-nosed sons of Business who crowd the hurried street;
Your stately stores and dwellings, bridge parties, functions, shows;
Dull thoughts like housemaids marching from villas all in rows.

Dull lines in ledgers volumed, dull loves and dull intrigues;
The crowded sub-divisions, the closed unpeopled leagues;
New riches furred and feathered, sleek sins and social ills;
The landlords and the "lydies," the beer and butchers' bills.

I weary of your wasters, who loaf in "Pitt" or "Bourke";
The punters picking doubles, the failures out of work,
The gloomy bards and artists who earn infrequent crowns
And browse on counter lunches and curse the luck of towns.

For mean and sordid worries, for jealousy and hate,
The railings at Ill Fortune, the whinings at sour Fate;
For these, or want of money, or over much of wine,
You cannot find, my cousin, a better core than mine:

Pull out, pull out, dear cousin; that narrow-chested crowd
Will dig along without you, nor shall it weep aloud
with grief at your departure; and when the distance drowns
The echoes of the tram-cars, you will not miss the towns.

And oh, the green plantations beneath Australian suns,
And oh, the Wide Australia beyond the cattle-runs,
To give you joy of motion, to give you sense of room
A pack-horse out of Bowen, a lugger out of Broome!

In singlets and cork helmets, in Assam pants arrayed,
We'll trek and travel nor'ward to join the White Brigade,
The Land of Free-and-Easy, where grows the sugar-cane
And rum and black molasses, has called us back again.

We're talking "Thursday pidgin," we're smoking fat cheroots,
With something at our heart-strings that pulls them by the roots.
We're "to our necks," fair cousins, of greedy Melb and Syd.,
The greasy business "guyver," the silly social "kid."

We're nor'ward bound, sweet cousins, unto a tropic clime
Of mangoes, maize and melons and Summer-all-the-time,
We've busted up our dollars. Well, let the gilt go hang,
There's loot in shell and rubber, there's silver in trepang.

The cowslips of St. Kilda, the ordered milks of Kew
Are always sweet and proper -- we leave them all to you;
We've pawned our winter garments, impenitent go forth,
To sword our oysters open, for pearls, along the North.

First published
in The Bulletin, 26 August 1909

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

See also.

The Call of the City by Victor J. Daley

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   There is a saying of renown ---
   "God made the country, man the town."
   Well, everybody to his trade!
   But man likes best the thing he made.
   The town has little space to spare;
   The country has both space and air;
   The town's confined, the country free ---
   Yet, spite of all, the town for me.

For when the hills are grey and night is falling,
   And the winds sigh drearily,
I hear the city calling, calling, calling,
   With a voice like the great sea.

   I used to think I'd like to be
   A hermit living lonesomely,
   Apart from human care or ken,
   Apart from all the haunts of men:
   Then I would read in Nature's book,
   And drink clear water from the brook,
   And live a life of sweet content,
   In hollow tree, or cave, or tent.

   This was a dream of callow Youth
   Which always overleaps the truth,
   And thinks, fond fool, it is the sum
   Of things that are and things to come.
   But now, when youth has gone from me,
   I crave for genial company.
   For Nature wild I still have zest,
   But human nature I love best.

   I know that hayseed in the hair
   Than grit and grime is healthier,
   And that the scent of gums is far
   More sweet than reek of pavement-tar.
   I know, too, that the breath of kine
   Is safer than the smell of wine;
   I know that here my days are free ---
   But, ah! the city calls to me.

   Let Zimmerman and all his brood
   Proclaim the charms of Solitude,
   I'd rather walk down Hunter-street
   And meet a man I like to meet,
   And talk with him about old times,
   And how the market is for rhymes,
   Between two drinks, than hold commune
   Upon a mountain with the moon.

   A soft wind in the gully deep
   Is singing all the trees to sleep;
   And in the sweet air there is balm,
   And Peace is here, and here is Calm.
   God knows how these I yearned to find!
   Yet I must leave them all behind,
   And rise and go --- come sun, come rain ---
   Back to the Sorceress again.

For at the dawn or when the night is falling,
   Or at noon when shadows flee,
I hear the city calling, calling, calling,
   Through the long lone hours to me.

First published in The Bulletin, 25 May 1905;
and then later in
Wine and Roses by Victor J. Daley, 1911;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985; and
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993.

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

See also.

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