This is a tale that the coachman told,
As he flicked the flies from Marigold
And flattered and fondled Pharaoh.
The sun swung low in the western skies;
Out on a plain, just over a rise,
Stood Nimitybell, on Monaro;
Cold as charity, cold as Hell,
Bleak, bare, barren Nimitybell --
Nimitybell on Monaro.
"Now this 'ere 'appened in eighty-three,
The coldest winter ever
Strewth, it was
cold, as cold as could be
Out 'ere on Monaro:
It froze the blankets, it froze the fleas,
It froze the sap in the blinkin' trees.
I made a grindstone out of cheese,
Right 'ere in Monaro!
"Freezin' an' snowin' -- ask the old hands
They seen, they knows, an' they
The ploughs was froze, and the cattle brands,
Down 'ere in Monaro:
It froze our fingers and froze our toes:I
seen a passenger's breath so froze
Icicles 'ung from 'is bloomin' nose
Long as the tail on Pharaoh!
"I ketched a curlew down by the creek;
His feet was froze to his blessed beak;
'E stayed like that for over a week --
Why, even the air
got froze that tight
You'd 'ear the awfullest sounds at night,
When things was put to a fire or light,
Out 'ere on Monaro.
"For the sounds
was froze. At Haydon's Bog
A cove 'e crosscut a big back-log,
An' carted 'er 'ome ('e wants to jog --
Stiddy, go stiddy there, Pharaoh!).
As soon as his log begins to thaw
They 'ears the sound of the crosscut saw
A-thawin' out. Yes, his name was Law.
Old hands, them Laws, on Monaro.
"The second week of this 'ere cold snap
I'm drivin' the coach. A Sydney chap,
'E strikes this part o' the bloomin' map,
A new hand 'ere on Monaro:
'Is name or game I never heard tell,
But 'e gets of at Nimitybell;
Blowin' like Bluey, freezin' like 'ell,
At Nimitybell on Monaro.
"The drinks was froze, o' course, in the bar:
a bottle of old Three Star,
An' the barman sezs, 'Now, there y' are,
You can't beat that
The stranger bloke, 'e was tall an' thin,
Sez 'Strike me blue, but I think you
We'll 'ave another an' I'll turn in --
It's blitherin' cold
"'E borrowed a book an' went to bed
To read awhile, so the missus said,
By the candle-light. 'E must ha' read
(These nights is long on Monaro)
Past closin' time. Then 'e starts an' blows
The candle out: but the wick 'ad froze!
Leastways, that's what folks round 'ere suppose
Old hands as lived on Monaro.
"So bein' tired, an' a stranger, new
To these mountain ways, they think he threw
'Is coat on the wick; an' maybe, too,
Any odd clothes 'e'd to spare. Oh,
This ain't no fairy, an' don't you
Next day came warmer, an' set in wet --
There's some out 'ere as can mind it yet,
The real old 'ands on Monaro.
"The wick must ha' thawed. The fire began
At breakfast time. The neighbors all ran
To save the pub`.....an' forgot the man
(Stiddy, go stiddy there, mare-oh).
The pub was burned to the blanky ground;
'Is buttons was all they ever found.
The blinkin' cow, 'e owed me a pound
From Cooma his blinkin' fare, oh!
"That ain't no fairy, not what I've told;
l'm gettin' shaky an' growin' old,
An' I hope I
never again see cold,
Like that down 'ere 'on Monaro!"
He drives his horses, he drives them well,
And this is the tale he loves to tell
Nearing the town of Nimitybell,
Nimitybell on Monaro.First published
in The Bulletin
, 20 April 1922;
and later inFrom the Ballads to Brennan
edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;The Illustrated History of Australian Verse
edited by Beatrice Davis, 1984;My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years
edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;Old Ballads from the Bush
edited by Bill Scott, 1987;Two Centuries of Australian Poetry
edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007; and 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know
edited by Jamie Grant, 2008.Author reference sites: Austlit
, Australian Dictionary of Biography
, Australian Poetry Library