RIO GRANDE'S LAST RACE AND OTHER VERSES
by A. B. Paterson
Original 1902 Sydney edition
The verses in this collection have appeared in papers in various parts of the world—"Rio Grande" in London; most of the war verses in Bloemfontein; others in Sydney.
A. B. Paterson.
Contents with First Lines:
Rio Grande's Last Race Now this was what Macpherson told
By the Grey Gulf-water Far to the Northward there lies a land,
With the Cattle The drought is down on field and flock,
The First Surveyor 'The opening of the railway line! — the Governor and all!
Mulga Bill's Bicycle 'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
The Pearl Diver Kanzo Makame, the diver, sturdy and small Japanee,
The City of Dreadful Thirst The stranger came from Narromine and made his little joke —
Saltbush Bill's Gamecock 'Twas Saltbush Bill, with his travelling sheep, was making his way to town;
Hay and Hell and Booligal 'You come and see me, boys,' he said;
A Walgett Episode The sun strikes down with a blinding glare,
Father Riley's Horse 'Twas the horse thief, Andy Regan, that was hunted like a dog
The Scotch Engineer With eyes that searched in the dark,
Song of the Future 'Tis strange that in a land so strong,
Anthony Considine Out in the wastes of the West countrie,
Song of the Artesian Water Now the stock have started dying, for the Lord has sent a drought;
A Disqualified Jockey's Story You see, the thing was this way — there was me,
The Road to Gundagai The mountain road goes up and down,
Saltbush Bill's Second Fight The news came down on the Castlereagh, and went to the world at large,
Hard Luck I left the course, and by my side
Song of the Federation As the nations sat together, grimly waiting —
The Old Australian Ways The London lights are far abeam
The Ballad of the 'Calliope' By the far Samoan shore,
Do They Know Do they know? At the turn to the straight
The Passing of Gundagai 'I'll introdooce a friend!' he said,
The Wargeilah Handicap Wargeilah town is very small,
Any Other Time All of us play our very best game —
The Last Trump 'You led the trump,' the old man said
Tar and Feathers Oh! the circus swooped down
It's Grand It's grand to be a squatter
Out of Sight They held a polo meeting at a little country town,
The Road to Old Man's Town The fields of youth are filled with flowers,
The Old Timer's Steeplechase The sheep were shorn and the wool went down
In the Stable What! You don't like him; well, maybe — we all have our fancies, of course:
"He Giveth His Beloved Sleep" The long day passes with its load of sorrow:
Driver Smith 'Twas Driver Smith of Battery A was anxious to see a fight;
There's Another Blessed Horse Fell Down When you're lying in your hammock, sleeping soft and sleeping sound,
On the Trek Oh, the weary, weary journey on the trek, day after day,
The Last Parade With never a sound of trumpet,
With French to Kimberley The Boers were down on Kimberley with siege and Maxim gun;
Johnny Boer Men fight all shapes and sizes as the racing horses run,
What Have the Cavalry Done What have the cavalry done?
Right in the Front of the Army 'Where 'ave you been this week or more,
That V.C. 'Twas in the days of front attack,
Fed Up I ain't a timid man at all, I'm just as brave as most,
Jock! There's a soldier that's been doing of his share
Santa Claus Halt! Who goes there? The sentry's call
RIO GRANDE'S LAST RACE AND OTHER VERSES
Rio Grande's Last Race
Now this was what Macpherson told While waiting in the stand; A reckless rider, over-bold, The only man with hands to hold The rushing Rio Grande.
He said, 'This day I bid good-bye To bit and bridle rein, To ditches deep and fences high, For I have dreamed a dream, and I Shall never ride again.
'I dreamt last night I rode this race That I to-day must ride, And cant'ring down to take my place I saw full many an old friend's face Come stealing to my side.
'Dead men on horses long since dead, They clustered on the track; The champions of the days long fled, They moved around with noiseless tread — Bay, chestnut, brown, and black.
'And one man on a big grey steed Rode up and waved his hand; Said he, "We help a friend in need, And we have come to give a lead To you and Rio Grande.
'"For you must give the field the slip, So never draw the rein, But keep him moving with the whip, And if he falter — set your lip And rouse him up again.
'"But when you reach the big stone wall, Put down your bridle hand And let him sail — he cannot fall — But don't you interfere at all; You trust old Rio Grande."
'We started, and in front we showed, The big horse running free: Right fearlessly and game he strode, And by my side those dead men rode Whom no one else could see.
'As silently as flies a bird, They rode on either hand; At every fence I plainly heard The phantom leader give the word, "Make room for Rio Grande!"
'I spurred him on to get the lead, I chanced full many a fall; But swifter still each phantom steed Kept with me, and at racing speed We reached the big stone wall.
'And there the phantoms on each side Drew in and blocked his leap; "Make room! make room!" I loudly cried, But right in front they seemed to ride — I cursed them in my sleep.
'He never flinched, he faced it game, He struck it with his chest, And every stone burst out in flame, And Rio Grande and I became As phantoms with the rest.
'And then I woke, and for a space All nerveless did I seem; For I have ridden many a race, But never one at such a pace As in that fearful dream.
'And I am sure as man can be That out upon the track, Those phantoms that men cannot see Are waiting now to ride with me, And I shall not come back.
'For I must ride the dead men's race, And follow their command; 'Twere worse than death, the foul disgrace If I should fear to take my place To-day on Rio Grande.'
He mounted, and a jest he threw, With never sign of gloom; But all who heard the story knew That Jack Macpherson, brave and true, Was going to his doom.
They started, and the big black steed Came flashing past the stand; All single-handed in the lead He strode along at racing speed, The mighty Rio Grande.
But on his ribs the whalebone stung, A madness it did seem! And soon it rose on every tongue That Jack Macpherson rode among The creatures of his dream.
He looked to left and looked to right, As though men rode beside; And Rio Grande, with foam-flecks white, Raced at his jumps in headlong flight And cleared them in his stride.
But when they reached the big stone wall, Down went the bridle-hand, And loud we heard Macpherson call, 'Make room, or half the field will fall! Make room for Rio Grande!'
. . . . .
'He's down! he's down!' And horse and man Lay quiet side by side! No need the pallid face to scan, We knew with Rio Grande he ran The race the dead men ride.
By the Grey Gulf-water
Far to the Northward there lies a land, A wonderful land that the winds blow over, And none may fathom nor understand The charm it holds for the restless rover; A great grey chaos — a land half made, Where endless space is and no life stirreth; And the soul of a man will recoil afraid From the sphinx-like visage that Nature weareth. But old Dame Nature, though scornful, craves Her dole of death and her share of slaughter; Many indeed are the nameless graves Where her victims sleep by the Grey Gulf-water.
Slowly and slowly those grey streams glide, Drifting along with a languid motion, Lapping the reed-beds on either side, Wending their way to the Northern Ocean. Grey are the plains where the emus pass Silent and slow, with their staid demeanour; Over the dead men's graves the grass Maybe is waving a trifle greener. Down in the world where men toil and spin Dame Nature smiles as man's hand has taught her; Only the dead men her smiles can win In the great lone land by the Grey Gulf-water.
For the strength of man is an insect's strength In the face of that mighty plain and river, And the life of a man is a moment's length To the life of the stream that will run for ever. And so it cometh they take no part In small-world worries; each hardy rover Rideth abroad and is light of heart, With the plains around and the blue sky over. And up in the heavens the brown lark sings The songs that the strange wild land has taught her; Full of thanksgiving her sweet song rings — And I wish I were back by the Grey Gulf-water.
With the Cattle
The drought is down on field and flock, The river-bed is dry; And we must shift the starving stock Before the cattle die. We muster up with weary hearts At breaking of the day, And turn our heads to foreign parts, To take the stock away. And it's hunt 'em up and dog 'em, And it's get the whip and flog 'em, For it's weary work is droving when they're dying every day; By stock-routes bare and eaten, On dusty roads and beaten, With half a chance to save their lives we take the stock away.
We cannot use the whip for shame On beasts that crawl along; We have to drop the weak and lame, And try to save the strong; The wrath of God is on the track, The drought fiend holds his sway, With blows and cries and stockwhip crack We take the stock away. As they fall we leave them lying, With the crows to watch them dying, Grim sextons of the Overland that fasten on their prey; By the fiery dust-storm drifting, And the mocking mirage shifting, In heat and drought and hopeless pain we take the stock away.
In dull despair the days go by With never hope of change, But every stage we draw more nigh Towards the mountain range; And some may live to climb the pass, And reach the great plateau, And revel in the mountain grass, By streamlets fed with snow. As the mountain wind is blowing It starts the cattle lowing, And calling to each other down the dusty long array; And there speaks a grizzled drover: 'Well, thank God, the worst is over, The creatures smell the mountain grass that's twenty miles away.'
They press towards the mountain grass, They look with eager eyes Along the rugged stony pass, That slopes towards the skies; Their feet may bleed from rocks and stones, But though the blood-drop starts, They struggle on with stifled groans, For hope is in their hearts. And the cattle that are leading, Though their feet are worn and bleeding, Are breaking to a kind of run — pull up, and let them go! For the mountain wind is blowing, And the mountain grass is growing, They settle down by running streams ice-cold with melted snow.
. . . . .
The days are done of heat and drought Upon the stricken plain; The wind has shifted right about, And brought the welcome rain; The river runs with sullen roar, All flecked with yellow foam, And we must take the road once more, To bring the cattle home. And it's 'Lads! we'll raise a chorus, There's a pleasant trip before us.' And the horses bound beneath us as we start them down the track; And the drovers canter, singing, Through the sweet green grasses springing, Towards the far-off mountain-land, to bring the cattle back.
Are these the beasts we brought away That move so lively now? They scatter off like flying spray Across the mountain's brow; And dashing down the rugged range We hear the stockwhip crack, Good faith, it is a welcome change To bring such cattle back. And it's 'Steady down the lead there!' And it's 'Let 'em stop and feed there!' For they're wild as mountain eagles and their sides are all afoam; But they're settling down already, And they'll travel nice and steady, With cheery call and jest and song we fetch the cattle home.
We have to watch them close at night For fear they'll make a rush, And break away in headlong flight Across the open bush; And by the camp-fire's cheery blaze, With mellow voice and strong, We hear the lonely watchman raise The Overlander's song: 'Oh! it's when we're done with roving, With the camping and the droving, It's homeward down the Bland we'll go, and never more we'll roam;' While the stars shine out above us, Like the eyes of those who love us — The eyes of those who watch and wait to greet the cattle home.
The plains are all awave with grass, The skies are deepest blue; And leisurely the cattle pass And feed the long day through; But when we sight the station gate, We make the stockwhips crack, A welcome sound to those who wait To greet the cattle back: And through the twilight falling We hear their voices calling, As the cattle splash across the ford and churn it into foam; And the children run to meet us, And our wives and sweethearts greet us, Their heroes from the Overland who brought the cattle home.
The First Surveyor
'The opening of the railway line! — the Governor and all! With flags and banners down the street, a banquet and a ball. Hark to 'em at the station now! They're raising cheer on cheer! "The man who brought the railway through — our friend the engineer!"
'They cheer HIS pluck and enterprise and engineering skill! 'Twas my old husband found the pass behind that big Red Hill. Before the engineer was grown we settled with our stock Behind that great big mountain chain, a line of range and rock — A line that kept us starving there in weary weeks of drought, With ne'er a track across the range to let the cattle out.
''Twas then, with horses starved and weak and scarcely fit to crawl, My husband went to find a way across that rocky wall. He vanished in the wilderness, God knows where he was gone, He hunted till his food gave out, but still he battled on. His horses strayed — 'twas well they did — they made towards the grass, And down behind that big red hill they found an easy pass.
'He followed up and blazed the trees, to show the safest track, Then drew his belt another hole and turned and started back. His horses died — just one pulled through with nothing much to spare; God bless the beast that brought him home, the old white Arab mare! We drove the cattle through the hills, along the new-found way, And this was our first camping-ground — just where I live to-day.
'Then others came across the range and built the township here, And then there came the railway line and this young engineer. He drove about with tents and traps, a cook to cook his meals, A bath to wash himself at night, a chain-man at his heels. And that was all the pluck and skill for which he's cheered and praised, For after all he took the track, the same my husband blazed!
'My poor old husband, dead and gone with never feast nor cheer; He's buried by the railway line! — I wonder can he hear When down the very track he marked, and close to where he's laid, The cattle trains go roaring down the one-in-thirty grade. I wonder does he hear them pass and can he see the sight, When through the dark the fast express goes flaming by at night.
'I think 'twould comfort him to know there's someone left to care, I'll take some things this very night and hold a banquet there! The hard old fare we've often shared together, him and me, Some damper and a bite of beef, a pannikin of tea: We'll do without the bands and flags, the speeches and the fuss, We know who OUGHT to get the cheers and that's enough for us.
'What's that? They wish that I'd come down — the oldest settler here! Present me to the Governor and that young engineer! Well, just you tell his Excellence and put the thing polite, I'm sorry, but I can't come down — I'm dining out to-night!'
Mulga Bill's Bicycle
'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 wild cat 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 the 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 streak, 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 Dead 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.'
The Pearl Diver
Kanzo Makame, the diver, sturdy and small Japanee, Seeker of pearls and of pearl-shell down in the depths of the sea, Trudged o'er the bed of the ocean, searching industriously.
Over the pearl-grounds, the lugger drifted — a little white speck: Joe Nagasaki, the 'tender', holding the life-line on deck, Talked through the rope to the diver, knew when to drift or to check.
Kanzo was king of his lugger, master and diver in one, Diving wherever it pleased him, taking instructions from none; Hither and thither he wandered, steering by stars and by sun.
Fearless he was beyond credence, looking at death eye to eye: This was his formula always, 'All man go dead by-and-bye — S'posing time come no can help it — s'pose time no come, then no die.'
Dived in the depths of the Darnleys, down twenty fathom and five; Down where by law and by reason, men are forbidden to dive; Down in a pressure so awful that only the strongest survive:
Sweated four men at the air pumps, fast as the handles could go, Forcing the air down that reached him heated, and tainted, and slow — Kanzo Makame the diver stayed seven minutes below;
Came up on deck like a dead man, paralysed body and brain; Suffered, while blood was returning, infinite tortures of pain: Sailed once again to the Darnleys — laughed and descended again!
. . . . .
Scarce grew the shell in the shallows, rarely a patch could they touch; Always the take was so little, always the labour so much; Always they thought of the Islands held by the lumbering Dutch,
Islands where shell was in plenty lying in passage and bay, Islands where divers could gather hundreds of shell in a day: But the lumbering Dutch, with their gunboats, hunted the divers away.
Joe Nagasaki, the 'tender', finding the profits grow small, Said, 'Let us go to the Islands, try for a number one haul! If we get caught, go to prison — let them take lugger and all!'
Kanzo Makame, the diver — knowing full well what it meant — Fatalist, gambler, and stoic, smiled a broad smile of content, Flattened in mainsail and foresail, and off to the Islands they went.
Close to the headlands they drifted, picking up shell by the ton, Piled up on deck were the oysters, opening wide in the sun, When, from the lee of the headland, boomed the report of a gun.
Once that the diver was sighted pearl-shell and lugger must go. Joe Nagasaki decided — quick was the word and the blow — Cut both the pipe and the life-line, leaving the diver below!
Kanzo Makame, the diver, failing to quite understand, Pulled the 'haul up' on the life-line, found it was slack in his hand; Then, like a little brown stoic, lay down and died on the sand.
Joe Nagasaki, the 'tender', smiling a sanctified smile, Headed her straight for the gunboat — throwing out shells all the while — Then went aboard and reported, 'No makee dive in three mile!
'Dress no have got and no helmet — diver go shore on the spree; Plenty wind come and break rudder — lugger get blown out to sea: Take me to Japanee Consul, he help a poor Japanee!'
. . . . .
So the Dutch let him go, and they watched him, as off from the Islands he ran, Doubting him much, but what would you? You have to be sure of your man Ere you wake up that nest-full of hornets — the little brown men of Japan.
Down in the ooze and the coral, down where earth's wonders are spread, Helmeted, ghastly, and swollen, Kanzo Makame lies dead: Joe Nagasaki, his 'tender', is owner and diver instead.
Wearer of pearls in your necklace, comfort yourself if you can, These are the risks of the pearling — these are the ways of Japan, 'Plenty more Japanee diver, plenty more little brown man!'
The City of Dreadful Thirst
The stranger came from Narromine and made his little joke — 'They say we folks in Narromine are narrow-minded folk. But all the smartest men down here are puzzled to define A kind of new phenomenon that came to Narromine.
'Last summer up in Narromine 'twas gettin' rather warm — Two hundred in the water-bag, and lookin' like a storm — We all were in the private bar, the coolest place in town, When out across the stretch of plain a cloud came rollin' down,
'We don't respect the clouds up there, they fill us with disgust, They mostly bring a Bogan shower — three rain-drops and some dust; But each man, simultaneous-like, to each man said, "I think That cloud suggests it's up to us to have another drink!"
'There's clouds of rain and clouds of dust — we'd heard of them before, And sometimes in the daily press we read of "clouds of war": But — if this ain't the Gospel truth I hope that I may burst — That cloud that came to Narromine was just a cloud of thirst.
'It wasn't like a common cloud, 'twas more a sort of haze; It settled down about the streets, and stopped for days and days, And not a drop of dew could fall and not a sunbeam shine To pierce that dismal sort of mist that hung on Narromine.
'Oh, Lord! we had a dreadful time beneath that cloud of thirst! We all chucked-up our daily work and went upon the burst. The very blacks about the town that used to cadge for grub, They made an organised attack and tried to loot the pub.
'We couldn't leave the private bar no matter how we tried; Shearers and squatters, union-men and blacklegs side by side Were drinkin' there and dursn't move, for each was sure, he said, Before he'd get a half-a-mile the thirst would strike him dead!
'We drank until the drink gave out, we searched from room to room, And round the pub, like drunken ghosts, went howling through the gloom. The shearers found some kerosene and settled down again, But all the squatter chaps and I, we staggered to the train.
'And, once outside the cloud of thirst, we felt as right as pie, But while we stopped about the town we had to drink or die. But now I hear it's safe enough, I'm going back to work Because they say the cloud of thirst has shifted on to Bourke.
'But when you see those clouds about — like this one over here — All white and frothy at the top, just like a pint of beer, It's time to go and have a drink, for if that cloud should burst You'd find the drink would all be gone, for that's a cloud of thirst!'
. . . . .
We stood the man from Narromine a pint of half-and-half; He drank it off without a gasp in one tremendous quaff; 'I joined some friends last night,' he said, 'in what THEY called a spree; But after Narromine 'twas just a holiday to me.'
And now beyond the Western Range, where sunset skies are red, And clouds of dust, and clouds of thirst, go drifting overhead, The railway-train is taking back, along the Western Line, That narrow-minded person on his road to Narromine.
Saltbush Bill's Gamecock
'Twas Saltbush Bill, with his travelling sheep, was making his way to town; He crossed them over the Hard Times Run, and he came to the Take 'Em Down; He counted through at the boundary gate, and camped at the drafting yard: For Stingy Smith, of the Hard Times Run, had hunted him rather hard. He bore no malice to Stingy Smith — 'twas simply the hand of fate That caused his waggon to swerve aside and shatter old Stingy's gate; And, being only the hand of fate, it follows, without a doubt, It wasn't the fault of Saltbush Bill that Stingy's sheep got out. So Saltbush Bill, with an easy heart, prepared for what might befall, Commenced his stages on Take 'Em Down, the station of Rooster Hall.
'Tis strange how often the men out back will take to some curious craft, Some ruling passion to keep their thoughts away from the overdraft; And Rooster Hall, of the Take 'Em Down, was widely known to fame As breeder of champion fighting cocks — his 'forte' was the British Game. The passing stranger within his gates that camped with old Rooster Hall Was forced to talk about fowls all night, or else not talk at all. Though droughts should come, and though sheep should die, his fowls were his sole delight; He left his shed in the flood of work to watch two gamecocks fight. He held in scorn the Australian Game, that long-legged child of sin; In a desperate fight, with the steel-tipped spurs, the British Game must win! The Australian bird was a mongrel bird, with a touch of the jungle cock; The want of breeding must find him out, when facing the English stock; For British breeding, and British pluck, must triumph it over all — And that was the root of the simple creed that governed old Rooster Hall.
. . . . .
'Twas Saltbush Bill to the station rode ahead of his travelling sheep, And sent a message to Rooster Hall that wakened him out of his sleep — A crafty message that fetched him out, and hurried him as he came — 'A drover has an Australian Bird to match with your British Game.' 'Twas done, and done in a half a trice; a five-pound note aside; Old Rooster Hall, with his champion bird, and the drover's bird untried. 'Steel spurs, of course?' said old Rooster Hall; 'you'll need 'em, without a doubt!' 'You stick the spurs on your bird!' said Bill, 'but mine fights best without.' 'Fights best without?' said old Rooster Hall; 'he can't fight best unspurred! You must be crazy!' But Saltbush Bill said, 'Wait till you see my bird!' So Rooster Hall to his fowlyard went, and quickly back he came, Bearing a clipt and a shaven cock, the pride of his English Game. With an eye as fierce as an eaglehawk, and a crow like a trumpet call, He strutted about on the garden walk, and cackled at Rooster Hall. Then Rooster Hall sent off a boy with word to his cronies two, McCrae (the boss of the Black Police) and Father Donahoo. Full many a cockfight old McCrae had held in his empty Court, With Father D. as a picker-up — a regular all-round Sport! They got the message of Rooster Hall, and down to his run they came, Prepared to scoff at the drover's bird, and to bet on the English Game; They hied them off to the drover's camp, while Saltbush rode before — Old Rooster Hall was a blithesome man, when he thought of the treat in store. They reached the camp, where the drover's cook, with countenance all serene, Was boiling beef in an iron pot, but never a fowl was seen.
'Take off the beef from the fire,' said Bill, 'and wait till you see the fight; There's something fresh for the bill-of-fare — there's game-fowl stew to-night! For Mister Hall has a fighting cock, all feathered and clipped and spurred; And he's fetched him here, for a bit of sport, to fight our Australian bird. I've made a match that our pet will win, though he's hardly a fighting cock, But he's game enough, and it's many a mile that he's tramped with the travelling stock.' The cook he banged on a saucepan lid; and, soon as the sound was heard, Under the dray, in the shadows hid, a something moved and stirred: A great tame Emu strutted out. Said Saltbush, 'Here's our bird!' But Rooster Hall, and his cronies two, drove home without a word.
The passing stranger within his gates that camps with old Rooster Hall Must talk about something else than fowls, if he wishes to talk at all. For the record lies in the local Court, and filed in its deepest vault, That Peter Hall, of the Take 'Em Down, was tried for a fierce assault On a stranger man, who, in all good faith, and prompted by what he heard, Had asked old Hall if a British Game could beat an Australian bird; And old McCrae, who was on the Bench, as soon as the case was tried, Remarked, 'Discharged with a clean discharge — the assault was justified!'
Hay and Hell and Booligal
'You come and see me, boys,' he said; 'You'll find a welcome and a bed And whisky any time you call; Although our township hasn't got The name of quite a lively spot — You see, I live in Booligal.
'And people have an awful down Upon the district and the town — Which worse than hell itself they call; In fact, the saying far and wide Along the Riverina side Is "Hay and Hell and Booligal".
'No doubt it suits 'em very well To say it's worse than Hay or Hell, But don't you heed their talk at all; Of course, there's heat — no one denies — And sand and dust and stacks of flies, And rabbits, too, at Booligal.
'But such a pleasant, quiet place, You never see a stranger's face — They hardly ever care to call; The drovers mostly pass it by; They reckon that they'd rather die Than spend a night in Booligal.
'The big mosquitoes frighten some — You'll lie awake to hear 'em hum — And snakes about the township crawl; But shearers, when they get their cheque, They never come along and wreck The blessed town of Booligal.
'But down in Hay the shearers come And fill themselves with fighting-rum, And chase blue devils up the wall, And fight the snaggers every day, Until there is the deuce to pay — There's none of that in Booligal.
'Of course, there isn't much to see — The billiard-table used to be The great attraction for us all, Until some careless, drunken curs Got sleeping on it in their spurs, And ruined it, in Booligal.
'Just now there is a howling drought That pretty near has starved us out — It never seems to rain at all; But, if there SHOULD come any rain, You couldn't cross the black-soil plain — You'd have to stop in Booligal.'
. . . . .
'WE'D HAVE TO STOP!' With bated breath We prayed that both in life and death Our fate in other lines might fall: 'Oh, send us to our just reward In Hay or Hell, but, gracious Lord, Deliver us from Booligal!'
A Walgett Episode
The sun strikes down with a blinding glare, The skies are blue and the plains are wide, The saltbush plains that are burnt and bare By Walgett out on the Barwon side — The Barwon river that wanders down In a leisurely manner by Walgett Town.
There came a stranger — a 'Cockatoo' — The word means farmer, as all men know Who dwell in the land where the kangaroo Barks loud at dawn, and the white-eyed crow Uplifts his song on the stock-yard fence As he watches the lambkins passing hence.
The sunburnt stranger was gaunt and brown, But it soon appeared that he meant to flout The iron law of the country town, Which is — that the stranger has got to shout: 'If he will not shout we must take him down,' Remarked the yokels of Walgett Town.
They baited a trap with a crafty bait, With a crafty bait, for they held discourse Concerning a new chum who of late Had bought such a thoroughly lazy horse; They would wager that no one could ride him down The length of the city of Walgett Town.
The stranger was born on a horse's hide; So he took the wagers, and made them good With his hard-earned cash — but his hopes they died, For the horse was a clothes-horse, made of wood! — 'Twas a well-known horse that had taken down Full many a stranger in Walgett Town.
The stranger smiled with a sickly smile — 'Tis a sickly smile that the loser grins — And he said he had travelled for quite a while In trying to sell some marsupial skins. 'And I thought that perhaps, as you've took me down, You would buy them from me, in Walgett Town!'
He said that his home was at Wingadee, At Wingadee where he had for sale Some fifty skins and would guarantee They were full-sized skins, with the ears and tail Complete, and he sold them for money down To a venturesome buyer in Walgett Town.
Then he smiled a smile as he pouched the pelf, 'I'm glad that I'm quit of them, win or lose: You can fetch them in when it suits yourself, And you'll find the skins — on the kangaroos!' Then he left — and the silence settled down Like a tangible thing upon Walgett Town.
Father Riley's Horse
'Twas the horse thief, Andy Regan, that was hunted like a dog By the troopers of the Upper Murray side, They had searched in every gully — they had looked in every log, But never sight or track of him they spied, Till the priest at Kiley's Crossing heard a knocking very late And a whisper 'Father Riley — come across!' So his Rev'rence in pyjamas trotted softly to the gate And admitted Andy Regan — and a horse!
'Now, it's listen, Father Riley, to the words I've got to say, For its close upon my death I am to-night. With the troopers hard behind me I've been hiding all the day In the gullies keeping close and out of sight. But they're watching all the ranges till there's not a bird could fly, And I'm fairly worn to pieces with the strife, So I'm taking no more trouble, but I'm going home to die, 'Tis the only way I see to save my life.
'Yes, I'm making home to mother's, and I'll die o' Tuesday next An' be buried on the Thursday — and, of course, I'm prepared to meet my penance, but with one thing I'm perplexed And it's — Father, it's this jewel of a horse! He was never bought nor paid for, and there's not a man can swear To his owner or his breeder, but I know, That his sire was by Pedantic from the Old Pretender mare And his dam was close related to The Roe.
'And there's nothing in the district that can race him for a step, He could canter while they're going at their top: He's the king of all the leppers that was ever seen to lep, A five-foot fence — he'd clear it in a hop! So I'll leave him with you, Father, till the dead shall rise again, 'Tis yourself that knows a good 'un; and, of course, You can say he's got by Moonlight out of Paddy Murphy's plain If you're ever asked the breeding of the horse!
'But it's getting on to daylight and it's time to say good-bye, For the stars above the East are growing pale. And I'm making home to mother — and it's hard for me to die! But it's harder still, is keeping out of gaol! You can ride the old horse over to my grave across the dip Where the wattle bloom is waving overhead. Sure he'll jump them fences easy — you must never raise the whip Or he'll rush 'em! — now, good-bye!' and he had fled!
So they buried Andy Regan, and they buried him to rights, In the graveyard at the back of Kiley's Hill; There were five-and-twenty mourners who had five-and-twenty fights Till the very boldest fighters had their fill. There were fifty horses racing from the graveyard to the pub, And their riders flogged each other all the while. And the lashins of the liquor! And the lavins of the grub! Oh, poor Andy went to rest in proper style.
Then the races came to Kiley's — with a steeplechase and all, For the folk were mostly Irish round about, And it takes an Irish rider to be fearless of a fall, They were training morning in and morning out. But they never started training till the sun was on the course For a superstitious story kept 'em back, That the ghost of Andy Regan on a slashing chestnut horse, Had been training by the starlight on the track.
And they read the nominations for the races with surprise And amusement at the Father's little joke, For a novice had been entered for the steeplechasing prize, And they found that it was Father Riley's moke! He was neat enough to gallop, he was strong enough to stay! But his owner's views of training were immense, For the Reverend Father Riley used to ride him every day, And he never saw a hurdle nor a fence.
And the priest would join the laughter; 'Oh,' said he, 'I put him in, For there's five and twenty sovereigns to be won. And the poor would find it useful, if the chestnut chanced to win, And he'll maybe win when all is said and done!' He had called him Faugh-a-ballagh, which is French for clear the course, And his colours were a vivid shade of green: All the Dooleys and O'Donnells were on Father Riley's horse, While the Orangemen were backing Mandarin!
It was Hogan, the dog poisoner — aged man and very wise, Who was camping in the racecourse with his swag, And who ventured the opinion, to the township's great surprise, That the race would go to Father Riley's nag. 'You can talk about your riders — and the horse has not been schooled, And the fences is terrific, and the rest! When the field is fairly going, then ye'll see ye've all been fooled, And the chestnut horse will battle with the best.
'For there's some has got condition, and they think the race is sure, And the chestnut horse will fall beneath the weight, But the hopes of all the helpless, and the prayers of all the poor, Will be running by his side to keep him straight. And it's what's the need of schoolin' or of workin' on the track, Whin the saints are there to guide him round the course! I've prayed him over every fence — I've prayed him out and back! And I'll bet my cash on Father Riley's horse!'
. . . . .
Oh, the steeple was a caution! They went tearin' round and round, And the fences rang and rattled where they struck. There was some that cleared the water — there was more fell in and drowned, Some blamed the men and others blamed the luck! But the whips were flying freely when the field came into view, For the finish down the long green stretch of course, And in front of all the flyers — jumpin' like a kangaroo, Came the rank outsider — Father Riley's horse!
Oh, the shouting and the cheering as he rattled past the post! For he left the others standing, in the straight; And the rider — well they reckoned it was Andy Regan's ghost, And it beat 'em how a ghost would draw the weight! But he weighed it, nine stone seven, then he laughed and disappeared, Like a Banshee (which is Spanish for an elf), And old Hogan muttered sagely, 'If it wasn't for the beard They'd be thinking it was Andy Regan's self!'
And the poor of Kiley's Crossing drank the health at Christmastide Of the chestnut and his rider dressed in green. There was never such a rider, not since Andy Regan died, And they wondered who on earth he could have been. But they settled it among 'em, for the story got about, 'Mongst the bushmen and the people on the course, That the Devil had been ordered to let Andy Regan out For the steeplechase on Father Riley's horse!
The Scotch Engineer
With eyes that searched in the dark, Peering along the line, Stood the grim Scotchman, Hector Clark, Driver of 'Forty-nine', And the veldt-fire flamed on the hills ahead, Like a blood-red beacon sign.
There was word of a fight to the north, And a column hard-pressed, So they started the Highlanders forth, Without food, without rest.
But the pipers gaily played, Chanting their fierce delight, And the armoured carriages rocked and swayed, Laden with men of the Scotch Brigade, Hurrying up to the fight, And the grim, grey Highland engineer, Driving them into the night.
Then a signal light glowed red, And a picket came to the track. 'Enemy holding the line ahead, Three of our mates we have left for dead, Only we two got back.' And far to the north through the still night air, They heard the rifles crack.
And the boom of a gun rang out, Like the sound of a deep appeal, And the picket stood in doubt By the side of the driving-wheel.
But the Engineer looked down, With his hand on the starting-bar, 'Ride ye back to the town, Ye know what my orders are, Maybe they're wanting the Scotch Brigade Up on those hills afar.
'I am no soldier at all, Only an engineer, But I could not bear that the folk should say, Over in Scotland — Glasgow way — That Hector Clark stayed here With the Scotch Brigade till the foe were gone, With ever a rail to run her on. Ready behind! Stand clear!
'Fireman, get you gone Into the armoured train, I will drive her alone; One more trip — and perhaps the last — With a well-raked fire and an open blast — Hark to the rifles again.'
. . . . .
On through the choking dark, Never a lamp nor a light, Never an engine spark, Showing her hurried flight. Over the lonely plain Rushed the great armoured train, Hurrying up to the fight.
Then with her living freight On to the foe she came, And the rifles snapped their hate, And the darkness spouted flame.
Over the roar of the fray The hungry bullets whined, As she dashed through the foe that lay Loading and firing blind, Till the glare of the furnace burning clear Showed them the form of the engineer, Sharply and well defined.
Through! They were safely through! Hark to the column's cheer! Surely the driver knew He was to halt her here; But he took no heed of the signals red, And the fireman found, when he climbed ahead, There on the floor of his engine — dead, Lay the Scotch Engineer!
Song of the Future
'Tis strange that in a land so strong, So strong and bold in mighty youth, We have no poet's voice of truth To sing for us a wondrous song.
Our chiefest singer yet has sung In wild, sweet notes a passing strain, All carelessly and sadly flung To that dull world he thought so vain.
'I care for nothing, good nor bad, My hopes are gone, my pleasures fled, I am but sifting sand,' he said: What wonder Gordon's songs were sad!
And yet, not always sad and hard; In cheerful mood and light of heart He told the tale of Britomarte, And wrote the Rhyme of Joyous Guard.
And some have said that Nature's face To us is always sad; but these Have never felt the smiling grace Of waving grass and forest trees On sunlit plains as wide as seas.
'A land where dull Despair is king O'er scentless flower and songless bird!' But we have heard the bell-birds ring Their silver bells at eventide, Like fairies on the mountain side, The sweetest note man ever heard.
The wild thrush lifts a note of mirth; The bronzewing pigeons call and coo Beside their nests the long day through; The magpie warbles clear and strong A joyous, glad, thanksgiving song, For all God's mercies upon earth.
And many voices such as these Are joyful sounds for those to tell, Who know the Bush and love it well, With all its hidden mysteries.
We cannot love the restless sea, That rolls and tosses to and fro Like some fierce creature in its glee; For human weal or human woe It has no touch of sympathy.
For us the bush is never sad: Its myriad voices whisper low, In tones the bushmen only know, Its sympathy and welcome glad.
For us the roving breezes bring From many a blossom-tufted tree — Where wild bees murmur dreamily — The honey-laden breath of Spring.
. . . . .
We have no tales of other days, No bygone history to tell; Our tales are told where camp-fires blaze At midnight, when the solemn hush Of that vast wonderland, the Bush, Hath laid on every heart its spell.
Although we have no songs of strife, Of bloodshed reddening the land, We yet may find achievements grand Within the bushman's quiet life.
Lift ye your faces to the sky Ye far blue mountains of the West, Who lie so peacefully at rest Enshrouded in a haze of blue; 'Tis hard to feel that years went by Before the pioneers broke through Your rocky heights and walls of stone, And made your secrets all their own.
For years the fertile Western plains Were hid behind your sullen walls, Your cliffs and crags and waterfalls All weatherworn with tropic rains.
Between the mountains and the sea, Like Israelites with staff in hand, The people waited restlessly: They looked towards the mountains old And saw the sunsets come and go With gorgeous golden afterglow, That made the West a fairyland, And marvelled what that West might be Of which such wondrous tales were told.
For tales were told of inland seas Like sullen oceans, salt and dead, And sandy deserts, white and wan, Where never trod the foot of man, Nor bird went winging overhead, Nor ever stirred a gracious breeze To wake the silence with its breath — A land of loneliness and death.
At length the hardy pioneers By rock and crag found out the way, And woke with voices of to-day, A silence kept for years and years.
Upon the Western slope they stood And saw — a wide expanse of plain As far as eye could stretch or see Go rolling westward endlessly. The native grasses, tall as grain, Were waved and rippled in the breeze; From boughs of blossom-laden trees The parrots answered back again. They saw the land that it was good, A land of fatness all untrod, And gave their silent thanks to God.
The way is won! The way is won! And straightway from the barren coast There came a westward-marching host, That aye and ever onward prest With eager faces to the West, Along the pathway of the sun.
The mountains saw them marching by: They faced the all-consuming drought, They would not rest in settled land: But, taking each his life in hand, Their faces ever westward bent Beyond the farthest settlement, Responding to the challenge cry Of 'better country further out.'
And lo a miracle! the land But yesterday was all unknown, The wild man's boomerang was thrown Where now great busy cities stand. It was not much, you say, that these Should win their way where none withstood; In sooth there was not much of blood No war was fought between the seas.
It was not much! but we who know The strange capricious land they trod — At times a stricken, parching sod, At times with raging floods beset — Through which they found their lonely way, Are quite content that you should say It was not much, while we can feel That nothing in the ages old, In song or story written yet On Grecian urn or Roman arch, Though it should ring with clash of steel, Could braver histories unfold Than this bush story, yet untold — The story of their westward march.
. . . . .
But times are changed, and changes rung From old to new — the olden days, The old bush life and all its ways Are passing from us all unsung. The freedom, and the hopeful sense Of toil that brought due recompense, Of room for all, has passed away, And lies forgotten with the dead. Within our streets men cry for bread In cities built but yesterday.
About us stretches wealth of land, A boundless wealth of virgin soil As yet unfruitful and untilled! Our willing workmen, strong and skilled Within our cities idle stand, And cry aloud for leave to toil.
The stunted children come and go In squalid lanes and alleys black; We follow but the beaten track Of other nations, and we grow In wealth for some — for many, woe.
And it may be that we who live In this new land apart, beyond The hard old world grown fierce and fond And bound by precedent and bond, May read the riddle right and give New hope to those who dimly see That all things may be yet for good, And teach the world at length to be One vast united brotherhood.
. . . . .
So may it be, and he who sings In accents hopeful, clear, and strong, The glories which that future brings Shall sing, indeed, a wond'rous song.
Out in the wastes of the West countrie, Out where the white stars shine, Grim and silent as such men be, Rideth a man with a history — Anthony Considine.
For the ways of men they are manifold As their differing views in life; For some are sold for the lust of gold And some for the lust of strife: But this man counted the world well lost For the love of his neighbour's wife.
They fled together, as those must flee Whom all men hold in blame; Each to the other must all things be Who cross the gulf of iniquity And live in the land of shame.
But a light-o'-love, if she sins with one, She sinneth with ninety-nine: The rule holds good since the world begun — Since ever the streams began to run And the stars began to shine. The rule holds true, and he found it true — Anthony Considine.
A nobler spirit had turned in scorn From a love that was stained with mire; A weaker being might mourn and mourn For the loss of his Heart's Desire: But the anger of Anthony Considine Blazed up like a flaming fire.
And she, with her new love, presently Came past with her eyes ashine; And God so willed it, and God knows why, She turned and laughed as they passed him by — Anthony Considine.
Her laughter stung as a whip might sting; And mad with his wounded pride He turned and sprang with a panther's spring And struck at his rival's side: And only the woman, shuddering, Could tell how the dead man died!
She dared not speak — and the mystery Is buried in auld lang syne, But out on the wastes of the West countrie, Grim and silent as such men be, Rideth a man with a history — Anthony Considine.
Song of the Artesian Water
Now the stock have started dying, for the Lord has sent a drought; But we're sick of prayers and Providence — we're going to do without; With the derricks up above us and the solid earth below, We are waiting at the lever for the word to let her go. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we'll sink it deeper down: As the drill is plugging downward at a thousand feet of level, If the Lord won't send us water, oh, we'll get it from the devil; Yes, we'll get it from the devil deeper down.
Now, our engine's built in Glasgow by a very canny Scot, And he marked it twenty horse-power, but he don't know what is what: When Canadian Bill is firing with the sun-dried gidgee logs, She can equal thirty horses and a score or so of dogs. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we're going deeper down: If we fail to get the water then it's ruin to the squatter, For the drought is on the station and the weather's growing hotter, But we're bound to get the water deeper down.
But the shaft has started caving and the sinking's very slow, And the yellow rods are bending in the water down below, And the tubes are always jamming and they can't be made to shift Till we nearly burst the engine with a forty horse-power lift. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we're going deeper down Though the shaft is always caving, and the tubes are always jamming, Yet we'll fight our way to water while the stubborn drill is ramming — While the stubborn drill is ramming deeper down.
But there's no artesian water, though we've passed three thousand feet, And the contract price is growing and the boss is nearly beat. But it must be down beneath us, and it's down we've got to go, Though she's bumping on the solid rock four thousand feet below. Sinking down, deeper down, Oh, we're going deeper down: And it's time they heard us knocking on the roof of Satan's dwellin'; But we'll get artesian water if we cave the roof of hell in — Oh! we'll get artesian water deeper down.
But it's hark! the whistle's blowing with a wild, exultant blast, And the boys are madly cheering, for they've struck the flow at last, And it's rushing up the tubing from four thousand feet below Till it spouts above the casing in a million-gallon flow. And it's down, deeper down — Oh, it comes from deeper down; It is flowing, ever flowing, in a free, unstinted measure From the silent hidden places where the old earth hides her treasure — Where the old earth hides her treasure deeper down.
And it's clear away the timber, and it's let the water run: How it glimmers in the shadow, how it flashes in the sun! By the silent belts of timber, by the miles of blazing plain It is bringing hope and comfort to the thirsty land again. Flowing down, further down; It is flowing further down To the tortured thirsty cattle, bringing gladness in its going; Through the droughty days of summer it is flowing, ever flowing — It is flowing, ever flowing, further down.
A Disqualified Jockey's Story
You see, the thing was this way — there was me, That rode Panoppoly, the Splendor mare, And Ikey Chambers on the Iron Dook, And Smith, the half-caste rider, on Regret, And that long bloke from Wagga — him what rode Veronikew, the Snowy River horse. Well, none of them had chances — not a chance Among the lot, unless the rest fell dead Or wasn't trying — for a blind man's dog Could see Enchantress was a certain cop, And all the books was layin' six to four.
They brought her out to show our lot the road, Or so they said; but, then, Gord's truth! you know, You can't believe 'em, though they took an oath On forty Bibles that they'd tell the truth. But anyhow, an amateur was up On this Enchantress, and so Ike and me, We thought that we might frighten him a bit By asking if he minded riding rough — 'Oh, not at all,' says he, 'oh, not at all! I learnt at Robbo Park, and if it comes To bumping I'm your Moses! Strike me blue!' Says he, 'I'll bump you over either rail, The inside rail or outside — which you choose Is good enough for me' — which settled Ike; For he was shaky since he near got killed From being sent a buster on the rail, When some chap bumped his horse and fetched him down At Stony Bridge, so Ikey thought it best To leave this bloke alone, and I agreed.
So all the books was layin' six to four Against the favourite, and the amateur Was walking this Enchantress up and down, And me and Smithy backed him; for we thought We might as well get something for ourselves, Because we knew our horses couldn't win. But Ikey wouldn't back him for a bob; Because he said he reckoned he was stiff, And all the books was layin' six to four.
Well, anyhow, before the start, the news Got round that this here amateur was stiff, And our good stuff was blued, and all the books Was in it, and the prices lengthened out, And every book was bustin' of his throat, And layin' five to one the favourite. So there was we that couldn't win ourselves, And this here amateur that wouldn't try, And all the books was layin' five to one.
So Smithy says to me, 'You take a hold Of that there moke of yours, and round the turn Come up behind Enchantress with the whip And let her have it; that long bloke and me Will wait ahead, and when she comes to us We'll pass her on and belt her down the straight, And Ikey'll flog her home, because his boss Is judge and steward and the Lord knows what, And so he won't be touched — and, as for us, We'll swear we only hit her by mistake!' And all the books was layin' five to one.
Well, off we went, and comin' to the turn I saw the amateur was holding back And poking into every hole he could To get her blocked, and so I pulled behind And drew the whip and dropped it on the mare — I let her have it twice, and then she shot Ahead of me, and Smithy opened out And let her up beside him on the rails, And kept her there a-beltin' her like smoke Until she struggled past him pullin' hard And came to Ike; but Ikey drew his whip And hit her on the nose and sent her back And won the race himself — for, after all, It seems he had a fiver on the Dook And never told us — so our stuff was lost. And then they had us up for ridin' foul, And warned us off the tracks for twelve months each, To get our livin' any way we could; But Ikey wasn't touched, because his boss Was judge and steward and the Lord knows what.
But Mister — if you'll lend us half-a-crown, I know three certain winners at the Park — Three certain cops as no one knows but me; And — thank you, Mister, come an' have a beer (I always like a beer about this time) . . . Well, so long, Mister, till we meet again.
The Road to Gundagai
The mountain road goes up and down, From Gundagai to Tumut Town.
And branching off there runs a track, Across the foothills grim and black,
Across the plains and ranges grey To Sydney city far away.
. . . . .
It came by chance one day that I From Tumut rode to Gundagai.
And reached about the evening tide The crossing where the roads divide;
And, waiting at the crossing place, I saw a maiden fair of face,
With eyes of deepest violet blue, And cheeks to match the rose in hue —
The fairest maids Australia knows Are bred among the mountain snows.
Then, fearing I might go astray, I asked if she could show the way.
Her voice might well a man bewitch — Its tones so supple, deep, and rich.
'The tracks are clear,' she made reply, 'And this goes down to Sydney town, And that one goes to Gundagai.'
Then slowly, looking coyly back, She went along the Sydney track.
And I for one was well content To go the road the lady went;
But round the turn a swain she met — The kiss she gave him haunts me yet!
. . . . .
I turned and travelled with a sigh The lonely road to Gundagai.
Saltbush Bill's Second Fight
The news came down on the Castlereagh, and went to the world at large, That twenty thousand travelling sheep, with Saltbush Bill in charge, Were drifting down from a dried-out run to ravage the Castlereagh; And the squatters swore when they heard the news, and wished they were well away: For the name and the fame of Saltbush Bill were over the country side For the wonderful way that he fed his sheep, and the dodges and tricks he tried. He would lose his way on a Main Stock Route, and stray to the squatters' grass; He would come to a run with the boss away, and swear he had leave to pass; And back of all and behind it all, as well the squatters knew, If he had to fight, he would fight all day, so long as his sheep got through: But this is the story of Stingy Smith, the owner of Hard Times Hill, And the way that he chanced on a fighting man to reckon with Saltbush Bill.
. . . . .
'Twas Stingy Smith on his stockyard sat, and prayed for an early Spring, When he stared at sight of a clean-shaved tramp, who walked with jaunty swing; For a clean-shaved tramp with a jaunty walk a-swinging along the track Is as rare a thing as a feathered frog on the desolate roads out back. So the tramp he made for the travellers' hut, and asked could he camp the night; But Stingy Smith had a bright idea, and he said to him, 'Can you fight?' 'Why, what's the game?' said the clean-shaved tramp, as he looked at him up and down — 'If you want a battle, get off that fence, and I'll kill you for half-a-crown! But, Boss, you'd better not fight with me, it wouldn't be fair nor right; I'm Stiffener Joe, from the Rocks Brigade, and I killed a man in a fight: I served two years for it, fair and square, and now I'm a trampin' back, To look for a peaceful quiet life away on the outside track ——' 'Oh, it's not myself, but a drover chap,' said Stingy Smith with glee; 'A bullying fellow, called Saltbush Bill — and you are the man for me. He's on the road with his hungry sheep, and he's certain to raise a row, For he's bullied the whole of the Castlereagh till he's got them under cow — Just pick a quarrel and raise a fight, and leather him good and hard, And I'll take good care that his wretched sheep don't wander a half a yard. It's a five-pound job if you belt him well — do anything short of kill, For there isn't a beak on the Castlereagh will fine you for Saltbush Bill.'
'I'll take the job,' said the fighting man; 'and hot as this cove appears, He'll stand no chance with a bloke like me, what's lived on the game for years; For he's maybe learnt in a boxing school, and sparred for a round or so, But I've fought all hands in a ten-foot ring each night in a travelling show; They earned a pound if they stayed three rounds, and they tried for it every night — In a ten-foot ring! Oh, that's the game that teaches a bloke to fight, For they'd rush and clinch, it was Dublin Rules, and we drew no colour line; And they all tried hard for to earn the pound, but they got no pound of mine: If I saw no chance in the opening round I'd slog at their wind, and wait Till an opening came — and it ALWAYS came — and I settled 'em, sure as fate; Left on the ribs and right on the jaw — and, when the chance comes, MAKE SURE! And it's there a professional bloke like me gets home on an amateur: For it's my experience every day, and I make no doubt it's yours, That a third-class pro is an over-match for the best of the amateurs ——' 'Oh, take your swag to the travellers' hut,' said Smith, 'for you waste your breath; You've a first-class chance, if you lose the fight, of talking your man to death. I'll tell the cook you're to have your grub, and see that you eat your fill, And come to the scratch all fit and well to leather this Saltbush Bill.'
. . . . .
'Twas Saltbush Bill, and his travelling sheep were wending their weary way On the Main Stock Route, through the Hard Times Run, on their six-mile stage a day; And he strayed a mile from the Main Stock Route, and started to feed along, And, when Stingy Smith came up, Bill said that the Route was surveyed wrong; And he tried to prove that the sheep had rushed and strayed from their camp at night, But the fighting man he kicked Bill's dog, and of course that meant a fight: So they sparred and fought, and they shifted ground and never a sound was heard But the thudding fists on their brawny ribs, and the seconds' muttered word, Till the fighting man shot home his left on the ribs with a mighty clout, And his right flashed up with a half-arm blow — and Saltbush Bill 'went out'. He fell face down, and towards the blow; and their hearts with fear were filled, For he lay as still as a fallen tree, and they thought that he must be killed. So Stingy Smith and the fighting man, they lifted him from the ground, And sent to home for a brandy-flask, and they slowly fetched him round; But his head was bad, and his jaw was hurt — in fact, he could scarcely speak — So they let him spell till he got his wits, and he camped on the run a week, While the travelling sheep went here and there, wherever they liked to stray, Till Saltbush Bill was fit once more for the track to the Castlereagh.
. . . . .
Then Stingy Smith he wrote a note, and gave to the fighting man: 'Twas writ to the boss of the neighbouring run, and thus the missive ran: 'The man with this is a fighting man, one Stiffener Joe by name; He came near murdering Saltbush Bill, and I found it a costly game: But it's worth your while to employ the chap, for there isn't the slightest doubt You'll have no trouble from Saltbush Bill while this man hangs about ——' But an answer came by the next week's mail, with news that might well appal: 'The man you sent with a note is not a fighting man at all! He has shaved his beard, and has cut his hair, but I spotted him at a look; He is Tom Devine, who has worked for years for Saltbush Bill as cook. Bill coached him up in the fighting yarn, and taught him the tale by rote, And they shammed to fight, and they got your grass and divided your five-pound note. 'Twas a clean take-in, and you'll find it wise — 'twill save you a lot of pelf — When next you're hiring a fighting man, just fight him a round yourself.'
. . . . .
And the teamsters out on the Castlereagh, when they meet with a week of rain, And the waggon sinks to its axle-tree, deep down in the black soil plain, When the bullocks wade in a sea of mud, and strain at the load of wool, And the cattle-dogs at the bullocks' heels are biting to make them pull, When the off-side driver flays the team, and curses them while he flogs, And the air is thick with the language used, and the clamour of men and dogs — The teamsters say, as they pause to rest and moisten each hairy throat, They wish they could swear like Stingy Smith when he read that neighbour's note.
I left the course, and by my side There walked a ruined tout — A hungry creature evil-eyed, Who poured this story out.
'You see,' he said, 'there came a swell To Kensington to-day, And if I picked the winners well, A crown at least he'd pay.
'I picked three winners straight, I did, I filled his purse with pelf, And then he gave me half-a-quid, To back one for myself.
'A half-a-quid to me he cast, I wanted it indeed. So help me Bob, for two days past I haven't had a feed.
'But still I thought my luck was in, I couldn't go astray, I put it all on Little Min, And lost it straightaway.
'I haven't got a bite or bed, I'm absolutely stuck, So keep this lesson in your head: Don't over-trust your luck!'
The folks went homeward, near and far, The tout, Oh! where was he? Ask where the empty boilers are, Beside the Circular Quay.
Song of the Federation
As the nations sat together, grimly waiting — The fierce old nations battle-scarred — Grown grey in their lusting and their hating, Ever armed and ever ready keeping guard, Through the tumult of their warlike preparation And the half-stilled clamour of the drums Came a voice crying, 'Lo! a new-made nation, To her place in the sisterhood she comes!'
And she came — she was beautiful as morning, With the bloom of the roses in her mouth, Like a young queen lavishly adorning Her charms with the splendours of the South. And the fierce old nations, looking on her, Said, 'Nay, surely she were quickly overthrown, Hath she strength for the burden laid upon her, Hath she power to protect and guard her own?
Then she spoke, and her voice was clear and ringing In the ears of the nations old and gray, Saying, 'Hark, and ye shall hear my children singing Their war-song in countries far away. They are strangers to the tumult of the battle, They are few but their hearts are very strong, 'Twas but yesterday they called unto the cattle, But they now sing Australia's marching song.'
Song of the Australians in Action
For the honour of Australia, our mother, Side by side with our kin from over sea, We have fought and we have tested one another, And enrolled among the brotherhood are we.
There was never post of danger but we sought it In the fighting, through the fire, and through the flood. There was never prize so costly but we bought it, Though we paid for its purchase with our blood.
Was there any road too rough for us to travel? Was there any path too far for us to tread? You can track us by the blood drops on the gravel On the roads that we milestoned with our dead!
And for you, oh our young and anxious mother, O'er your great gains keeping watch and ward, Neither fearing nor despising any other, We will hold your possessions with the sword.
. . . . .
Then they passed to the place of world-long sleeping, The grey-clad figures with their dead, To the sound of their women softly weeping And the Dead March moaning at their head: And the Nations, as the grim procession ended, Whispered, 'Child! But ye have seen the price we pay, From War may we ever be defended, Kneel ye down, new-made Sister — Let us Pray!'
The Old Australian Ways
The London lights are far abeam Behind a bank of cloud, Along the shore the gaslights gleam, The gale is piping loud; And down the Channel, groping blind, We drive her through the haze Towards the land we left behind — The good old land of 'never mind', And old Australian ways.
The narrow ways of English folk Are not for such as we; They bear the long-accustomed yoke Of staid conservancy: But all our roads are new and strange, And through our blood there runs The vagabonding love of change That drove us westward of the range And westward of the suns.
The city folk go to and fro Behind a prison's bars, They never feel the breezes blow And never see the stars; They never hear in blossomed trees The music low and sweet Of wild birds making melodies, Nor catch the little laughing breeze That whispers in the wheat.
Our fathers came of roving stock That could not fixed abide: And we have followed field and flock Since e'er we learnt to ride; By miner's camp and shearing shed, In land of heat and drought, We followed where our fortunes led, With fortune always on ahead And always further out.
The wind is in the barley-grass, The wattles are in bloom; The breezes greet us as they pass With honey-sweet perfume; The parakeets go screaming by With flash of golden wing, And from the swamp the wild-ducks cry Their long-drawn note of revelry, Rejoicing at the Spring.
So throw the weary pen aside And let the papers rest, For we must saddle up and ride Towards the blue hill's breast; And we must travel far and fast Across their rugged maze, To find the Spring of Youth at last, And call back from the buried past The old Australian ways.
When Clancy took the drover's track In years of long ago, He drifted to the outer back Beyond the Overflow; By rolling plain and rocky shelf, With stockwhip in his hand, He reached at last, oh lucky elf, The Town of Come-and-help-yourself In Rough-and-ready Land.
And if it be that you would know The tracks he used to ride, Then you must saddle up and go Beyond the Queensland side — Beyond the reach of rule or law, To ride the long day through, In Nature's homestead — filled with awe You then might see what Clancy saw And know what Clancy knew.
The Ballad of the 'Calliope'
By the far Samoan shore, Where the league-long rollers pour All the wash of the Pacific on the coral-guarded bay, Riding lightly at their ease, In the calm of tropic seas, The three great nations' warships at their anchors proudly lay.
Riding lightly, head to wind, With the coral reefs behind, Three Germans and three Yankee ships were mirrored in the blue; And on one ship unfurled Was the flag that rules the world — For on the old 'Calliope' the flag of England flew.
When the gentle off-shore breeze, That had scarcely stirred the trees, Dropped down to utter stillness, and the glass began to fall, Away across the main Lowered the coming hurricane, And far away to seaward hung the cloud wrack like a pall.
If the word had passed around, 'Let us move to safer ground; Let us steam away to seaward' — then this tale were not to tell! But each Captain seemed to say 'If the others stay, I stay!' And they lingered at their moorings till the shades of evening fell.
Then the cloud wrack neared them fast, And there came a sudden blast, And the hurricane came leaping down a thousand miles of main! Like a lion on its prey, Leapt the storm fiend on the bay, And the vessels shook and shivered as their cables felt the strain.
As the surging seas came by, That were running mountains high, The vessels started dragging, drifting slowly to the lee; And the darkness of the night Hid the coral reefs from sight, And the Captains dared not risk the chance to grope their way to sea.
In the dark they dared not shift! They were forced to wait and drift; All hands stood by uncertain would the anchors hold or no. But the men on deck could see If a chance of hope might be — There was little chance of safety for the men who were below.
Through that long, long night of dread, While the storm raged overhead, They were waiting by their engines, with the furnace fires aroar. So they waited, staunch and true, Though they knew, and well they knew, They must drown like rats imprisoned if the vessel touched the shore.
When the grey dawn broke at last, And the long, long night was past, While the hurricane redoubled, lest its prey should steal away, On the rocks, all smashed and strewn, Were the German vessels thrown, While the Yankees, swamped and helpless, drifted shorewards down the bay.
Then at last spoke Captain Kane, 'All our anchors are in vain, And the Germans and the Yankees they have drifted to the lee! Cut the cables at the bow! We must trust the engines now! Give her steam, and let her have it, lads, we'll fight her out to sea!'
And the answer came with cheers From the stalwart engineers, From the grim and grimy firemen at the furnaces below; And above the sullen roar Of the breakers on the shore Came the throbbing of the engines as they laboured to and fro.
If the strain should find a flaw, Should a bolt or rivet draw, Then — God help them! for the vessel were a plaything in the tide! With a face of honest cheer, Quoth an English engineer, 'I will answer for the engines that were built on old Thames side!
'For the stays and stanchions taut, For the rivets truly wrought, For the valves that fit their faces as a glove should fit the hand. Give her every ounce of power, If we make a knot an hour Then it's way enough to steer her and we'll drive her from the land.'
Like a foam flake tossed and thrown, She could barely hold her own, While the other ships all helplessly were drifting to the lee. Through the smother and the rout The 'Calliope' steamed out — And they cheered her from the Trenton that was foundering in the sea.
Aye! drifting shoreward there, All helpless as they were, Their vessel hurled upon the reefs as weed ashore is hurled. Without a thought of fear The Yankees raised a cheer — A cheer that English-speaking folk should echo round the world.
Do They Know
Do they know? At the turn to the straight Where the favourites fail, And every atom of weight Is telling its tale; As some grim old stayer hard-pressed Runs true to his breed, And with head just in front of the rest Fights on in the lead; When the jockeys are out with the whips, With a furlong to go; And the backers grow white to the lips — Do you think THEY don't know?
Do they know? As they come back to weigh In a whirlwind of cheers, Though the spurs have left marks of the fray, Though the sweat on the ears Gathers cold, and they sob with distress As they roll up the track, They know just as well their success As the man on their back. As they walk through a dense human lane, That sways to and fro, And cheers them again and again, Do you think THEY don't know?
The Passing of Gundagai
'I'll introdooce a friend!' he said, And if you've got a vacant pen You'd better take him in the shed And start him shearing straight ahead, He's one of these here quiet men.
'He never strikes — that ain't his game; No matter what the others try HE goes on shearing just the same. I never rightly knew his name — We always call him "Gundagai"!'
Our flashest shearer then had gone To train a racehorse for a race, And while his sporting fit was on He couldn't be relied upon, So 'Gundagai' shore in his place.
Alas for man's veracity! For reputations false and true! This 'Gundagai' turned out to be, For strife and all-round villainy, The very worst I ever knew!
He started racing Jack Devine, And grumbled when I made him stop. The pace he showed was extra fine, But all those pure-bred ewes of mine Were bleeding like a butcher's shop.
He cursed the sheep, he cursed the shed, From roof to rafter, floor to shelf; As for my mongrel ewes, he said, I ought to get a razor blade And shave the blooming things myself.
On Sundays he controlled a 'school', And played 'two-up' the livelong day; And many a young confiding fool He shore of his financial wool; And when he lost he would not pay.
He organised a shearers' race, And 'touched' me to provide the prize. His packhorse showed surprising pace And won hands down — he was The Ace, A well-known racehorse in disguise.
Next day the bruiser of the shed Displayed an opal-tinted eye, With large contusions on his head. He smiled a sickly smile, and said He'd 'had a cut at "Gundagai"!'
But just as we were getting full Of 'Gundagai' and all his ways, A telegram for 'Henry Bull' Arrived. Said he, 'That's me — all wool! Let's see what this here message says.'
He opened it, his face grew white, He dropped the shears and turned away. It ran, 'Your wife took bad last night; Come home at once — no time to write, We fear she may not last the day.'
He got his cheque — I didn't care To dock him for my mangled ewes; His store account — we 'called it square'. Poor wretch! he had enough to bear, Confronted by such dreadful news.
The shearers raised a little purse To help a mate, as shearers will, 'To pay the doctor and the nurse, And if there should be something worse — To pay the undertaker's bill.'
They wrung his hand in sympathy, He rode away without a word, His head hung down in misery. A wandering hawker passing by Was told of what had just occurred.
'Well! that's a curious thing,' he said, 'I've known that feller all his life — He's had the loan of this here shed! I know his wife ain't nearly dead, Because he HASN'T GOT A WIFE!'
. . . . .
You should have heard the whipcord crack As angry shearers galloped by, In vain they tried to fetch him back. A little dust along the track Was all they saw of 'Gundagai'.
The Wargeilah Handicap
Wargeilah town is very small, There's no cathedral nor a club, In fact the township, all in all, Is just one unpretentious pub; And there, from all the stations round, The local sportsmen can be found.
The sportsmen of Wargeilah side Are very few but very fit: There's scarcely any sport been tried But what they held their own at it In fact, to search their records o'er, They held their own and something more.
'Twas round about Wargeilah town An English new-chum did infest: He used to wander up and down In baggy English breeches drest — His mental aspect seemed to be Just stolid self-sufficiency.
The local sportsmen vainly sought His tranquil calm to counteract, By urging that he should be brought Within the Noxious Creatures Act. 'Nay, harm him not,' said one more wise, 'He is a blessing in disguise!
'You see, he wants to buy a horse, To ride, and hunt, and steeplechase, And carry ladies, too, of course, And pull a cart and win a race. Good gracious! he must be a flat To think he'll get a horse like that!
'But since he has so little sense And such a lot of cash to burn, We'll sell him some experience By which alone a fool can learn. Suppose we let him have The Trap To win Wargeilah Handicap!'
And here, I must explain to you That, round about Wargeilah run, There lived a very aged screw Whose days of brilliancy were done: A grand old warrior in his prime — But age will beat us all in time.
A trooper's horse in seasons past He did his share to keep the peace, But took to falling, and at last Was cast for age from the Police. A publican at Conroy's Gap Then bought and christened him The Trap.
When grass was good, and horses dear, He changed his owner now and then At prices ranging somewhere near The neighbourhood of two pound ten: And manfully he earned his keep By yarding cows and ration sheep.
They brought him in from off the grass And fed and groomed the old horse up; His coat began to shine like glass — You'd think he'd win the Melbourne Cup. And when they'd got him fat and flash They asked the new-chum — fifty — cash!
And when he said the price was high, Their indignation knew no bounds. They said, 'It's seldom you can buy A horse like that for fifty pounds! We'll refund twenty if The Trap Should fail to win the handicap!'
The deed was done, the price was paid, The new-chum put the horse in train: The local sports were much afraid That he would sad experience gain, By racing with some shearer's hack, Who'd beat him half-way round the track.
So, on this guileless English spark They did most fervently impress That he must keep the matter dark, And not let any person guess That he was purchasing The Trap To win Wargeilah Handicap.
They spoke of 'spielers from The Bland', And 'champions from the Castlereagh', And gave the youth to understand That all of these would stop away, And spoil the race, if they should hear That they had got The Trap to fear.
'Keep dark! They'll muster thick as flies When once the news gets sent around We're giving such a splendid prize — A Snowdon horse worth fifty pound! They'll come right in from Dandaloo, And find — that it's a gift to you!'
. . . . .
The race came on — with no display, Nor any calling of the card, But round about the pub all day A crowd of shearers, drinking hard, And using language in a strain 'Twere flattery to call profane.
Our hero, dressed in silk attire — Blue jacket and a scarlet cap — With boots that shone like flames of fire, Now did his canter on The Trap, And walked him up and round about, Until the other steeds came out.
He eyed them with a haughty look, But saw a sight that caught his breath! It was! Ah John! The Chinee cook! In boots and breeches! Pale as death! Tied with a rope, like any sack, Upon a piebald pony's back!
The next, a colt — all mud and burrs! Half-broken, with a black boy up, Who said, 'You gim'me pair o' spurs, I win the bloomin' Melbourne Cup!' These two were to oppose The Trap For the Wargeilah Handicap!
They're off! The colt whipped down his head, And humped his back and gave a squeal, And bucked into the drinking shed, Revolving like a Cath'rine wheel! Men ran like rats! The atmosphere Was filled with oaths and pints of beer!
But up the course the bold Ah John Beside The Trap raced neck and neck: The boys had tied him firmly on, Which ultimately proved his wreck, The saddle turned, and, like a clown, He rode some distance upside down.
His legs around the horse were tied, His feet towards the heavens were spread, He swung and bumped at every stride And ploughed the ground up with his head! And when they rescued him, The Trap Had won Wargeilah Handicap!
And no enquiries we could make Could tell by what false statements swayed Ah John was led to undertake A task so foreign to his trade! He only smiled and said, 'Hoo Ki! I stop topside, I win all 'li!'
But never, in Wargeilah Town, Was heard so eloquent a cheer As when the President came down, And toasted, in Colonial Beer, 'The finest rider on the course! The winner of the Snowdon Horse!'
'You go and get your prize,' he said, 'He's with a wild mob, somewhere round The mountains near The Watershed; He's honestly worth fifty pound, A noble horse, indeed, to win, But none of US can run him in!