oAUSTRALIA'S MASTER RHYMING POETS

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A. B. PATERSON

HENRY LAWSON

WILL OGILVIE

DOROTHY MACKELLAR

C. J. DENNIS

JOHN O/BRIEN

BARCROFT BOAKE

A. L. GORDON

 

Andrew Barton [Banjo] Paterson

When his uncle died at Illalong, near Yass, the family then moved there to run the farm. He lived at Illalong station until he was ten, when he went to Sydney to attend school. He trained as a solicitor (a type of lawyer) but also contributed some verse to the Sydney “Bulletin” under the pseudonym of “The Banjo”, taken from the name of a horse. 

His first book, “The Man from Snowy River”, was published in 1895, and has sold more copies than any other book of Australian poetry. He later gave up law to become a journalist, and went to South Africa to report on the Boer War. When World War I broke out he sought work as a war correspondent, but failed to get it. He then went to work driving an ambulance in France, and later became a Remount Officer with the Australian forces then in Egypt. After returning to Australia in 1919 he continued as a writer, and in 1934 he wrote some memoirs of his time in South Africa and France titled "Happy Dispatches". He died of a heart attack in Sydney on 5 February 1941.

The works for which Paterson is famous were mostly written before the First World War, and are collected in three books of poems, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895), Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses (1902), and Saltbush Bill, J.P. and Other Verses (1917). His prose works include An Outback Marriage (1906), and Three Elephant Power and Other Stories (1917), the latter of which is a collection of tall tales and serious (but often humourous) reporting. In fact, above all else it is perhaps Paterson’s sense of humour that sets him apart from such balladists as Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service. It should also be noted that Paterson was writing his ballads before either of these became well-known, and there was little, if any, influence from either side. More likely, Paterson was influenced by the Scottish tradition of poetry (Paterson was of Scottish descent) which had been popularized in Australia by Adam Lindsay Gordon and others.

Paterson’s most famous work is “Waltzing Matilda”, written in 1895, and now an unofficial anthem of Australia. “The Man from Snowy River” has since become the inspiration for a well-known movie of the same name. “Clancy of the Overflow” is similarly well known.

For a more comprehensive selection of Paterson's poems go to 

http://www.uq.edu.au/~mlwham/banjo/alphabetical.html

 

IN THE DROVING DAYS

"Only a pound," said the auctioneer,
"Only a pound: and I'm standing here
Selling this animal, gain or loss.
Only a pound for the drover's horse?
One of the sort that was ne'er afraid,
One of the boys of the old Brigade;
Thoroughly honest and game, I'll swear
Only a little the worse for wear;
Plenty as bad to be seen in town,
Give me a bid and I'll knock him down;
Sold as be stands, and without recourse,
Give me a bid for the drover's horse."

Loitering there in an aimless way
Somehow I noticed the poor old grey,
Weary and battered and screwed, of course;
Yet when I noticed the old grey horse
The rough bush saddle, and single rein
Of the bridle laid on his tangled mane,
Straightway the crowd and the auctioneer
Seemed on a sudden to disappear,
Melted away in a kind of haze -
For my heart went back to the droving days.

Back to the road, and I crossed again
Over the miles of the saltbush plain -
The shining plain that is said to be
The dried-up bed of an inland sea.
Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
And out in the dim horizon makes
The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.

At dawn of day we could feel the breeze
That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
That comes and goes in that scented air;
For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
For those that love it and understand
The saltbush plain is a wonderland,
A wondrous country, where nature's ways
Were revealed to me in the droving days.

We saw the fleet wild horses pass,
And the kangaroos through the Mitchell grass;
The emu ran with her frightened brood
All unmolested and unpursued.
But there rose a shout and a wild hubbub
When the dingo raced for his native scrub,
And he paid right dear for his stolen meals
With the drover's dogs at his wretched heels.
For we ran him down at a rattling pace,
While the pack-horse joined in the stirring chase.
And a wild halloo at the kill we'd raise
We were light of heart in the droving days.

Twas a drover's horse, and my hand again
Made a move to close on a fancied rein.
For I felt the swing and the easy stride
Of the grand old horse that I used to ride.
In the drought or plenty, in good or ill,
The same old steed was my comrade still;
The old grey horse with his honest ways
Was a mate to me in the droving days.

When we kept our watch in the cold and damp,
If the cattle broke from the sleeping camp,
Over the flats and across the plain,
With my head bent down on his waving mane,
Through the boughs above and the stumps below,
On the darkest night I could let him go
At a racing speed; he would choose his course,
And my life was safe with the old grey horse.
But a man and horse had a favourite job,
When an outlaw broke from the station mob;
With a right good will was the stockwhip plied,
As the old horse raced at the straggler's side,
And the greenhide whip such a weal would raise
We could use the whip in the droving days.

"Only a pound and this was the end
Only a pound for the drover's friend.
The drover's friend that has seen his day,
And now worthless and cast away
With a broken knee and a broken heart
To be flogged and starved in a hawker's cart
Well, I made a bid for a sense of shame
And the memories dear of the good old game.

"Thank you? Guinea! and cheap at that
Against you there in the curly hat!
Only a guinea, and one more chance,
Down he goes if there's no advance,
Third, and the last time, one! two! three!"
And the old grey horse was knocked down to me.
And now he's wandering, fat and sleek,
On the lucerne flats by the Homestead Creek;
I dare not ride him for fear he'd fall,
But he does a journey to beat them all,
For though he scarcely a trot can raise,
He can take me back to the droving days.


Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

 

LOST

“HE ought to be home,” said the old man, “without there’s something amiss.
He only went to the Two-mile—he ought to be back by this.
He would ride the Reckless filly, he would have his wilful way;
And, here, he’s not back at sundown—and what will his mother say?

“He was always his mother’s idol, since ever his father died;
And there isn’t a horse on the station that he isn’t game to ride.
But that Reckless mare is vicious, and if once she gets away
He hasn’t got strength to hold her—and what will his mother say?”

The old man walked to the sliprail, and peered up the darkening track,
And looked and longed for the rider that would never more come back;
And the mother came and clutched him, with sudden, spasmodic fright:
“What has become of my Willie?—why isn’t he home to-night?”

Away in the gloomy ranges, at the foot of an ironbark,
The bonnie, winsome laddie was lying stiff and stark;
For the Reckless mare had smashed him against a leaning limb,
And his comely face was battered, and his merry eyes were dim.

And the thoroughbred chestnut filly, the saddle beneath her flanks,
Was away like fire through the ranges to join the wild mob’s ranks;
And a broken-hearted woman and an old man worn and grey
Were searching all night in the ranges till the sunrise brought the day.

And the mother kept feebly calling, with a hope that would not die,
“Willie! where are you, Willie?” But how can the dead reply;
And hope died out with the daylight, and the darkness brought despair,
God pity the stricken mother, and answer the widow’s prayer!

Though far and wide they sought him, they found not where he fell;
For the ranges held him precious, and guarded their treasure well.
The wattle blooms above him, and the blue bells blow close by,
And the brown bees buzz the secret, and the wild birds sing reply.

But the mother pined and faded, and cried, and took no rest,
And rode each day to the ranges on her hopeless, weary quest.
Seeking her loved one ever, she faded and pined away,
But with strength of her great affection she still sought every day.

“I know that sooner or later I shall find my boy,” she said.
But she came not home one evening, and they found her lying dead,
And stamped on the poor pale features, as the spirit homeward pass’d,
Was an angel smile of gladness—she had found the boy at last.

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

 

 

THE MAN FROM IRONBARK

IT WAS the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop,
Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber’s shop.

“’Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I’ll be a man of mark,
I’ll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.” 
The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar:

He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee,
He laid the odds and kept a ?tote”, whatever that may be,
And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered “Here’s a lark!
Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

 

 

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Henry Lawson 

HENRY LAWSON was born in a tent near Grenfell, New South Wales, on 17 June 1867. His birth is officially registered as Henry Lawson, but his name has sometimes been given as Henry Herzberg Lawson, sometimes as Henry Archibald Lawson. In his books it appears simply as Henry, and his usual practice was to sign his name in that form. His father, Peter Hertzberg Larsen, was a Norwegian sailor, a well-informed and educated man, who had much appreciation of the poetry of the Old Testament, but had no faculty for writing. As it was known that Lawson's father's second name was Hertzberg it has been suggested that Archibald may have been a mistake for Hertzberg made at Henry's christening, but there appears to be no evidence that he was ever baptized. His father, having tried his fortunes on various goldfields, came to Pipeclay, now Eurunderee, New South Wales, and there met Louisa Albury (1848-1920), daughter of Henry Albury, a timber-getter. He married her on 7 July 1866, being then 32 years of age and his wife 18. She was to become a remarkable woman, who, after rearing a family, took a prominent part in the women's movements, and edited a women's paper called Dawn which lasted from May 1888 to July 1905. She published her son's first volume, and about the year 1904 brought out a volume of her own, Dert and Do, a simple story of about 18,000 words. In 1905 she collected and published her own verses, The Lonely Crossing and other Poems, the work in which is of more than average quality. She died on 12 August 1920, a woman of unusual character and ability, who probably exercised a strong influence on her son's literary work in its earliest days. Lawson believed that through his mother he inherited gypsy blood, but there is no evidence for this. 

Peter Larsen was working at the diggings near Grenfell when Henry their first child was born, and apparently the family took the name of Lawson when Henry's birth was registered. The family soon returned to Eurunderee where the father took up a selection. The land was poor and little could be done with it, and as Henry grew up, like so many other bush children, he helped in the work; but, as he said in his autobiography, he "had no heart in it; perhaps I realized by instinct that the case was hopeless". Probably the strain of the hard life was partly responsible for his parents' married life becoming unhappy, but in the interview with Mrs Lawson, recorded on the Red Page of the Bulletin on 24 October 1896, she showed herself as a masterful woman with a strong prejudice against men in general, and one feels when reading it that even as a young woman she would probably have been difficult to live with. This is confirmed by private information from a relative of Mrs Lawson still alive at the time of writing. But the unhappiness of the family life re-acted on the child, and in his autobiography at the Mitchell library, Lawson said his home life "was miserably unhappy", and though he goes on to say, "there was no one to blame". the sketch in Triangles of Life, "A Child in the Dark and a Foreign Father", was in all probability founded on his own experience. 

In 1876 a little school was opened at Eurunderee and on 2 October 1876 Lawson became a pupil. It was about this time that he began to be deaf, but his master John Tierney was kind and appears to have done his best for the shy sensitive boy. Later on he went to a Roman Catholic school at Mudgee about five miles away. Here again the master, a Mr Kevan, was good to Lawson and would sometimes talk to him about poetry. The boy was steadily reading Dickens and Marryat and such novels as Robbery under Arms and For the Term of his Natural Life, when they appeared as serials. An aunt gave him a volume of stories by Bret Harte which fascinated him and introduced him to a new world. These books no doubt helped to educate him for writing, for handicapped by his deafness he could learn little at school, he was no good at arithmetic, and never learned to spell. 

When Henry was about 14 he left school and began working with his father who had got the contract to build a school at Canadian Lead. His childhood was now at an end. He had lived in poor country, where the selectors slaved for a wretched living, and his experiences were to colour the whole of his subsequent literary work. Some time after this his parents agreed to separate, the exact time is uncertain, but in 1884 Mrs Lawson and her family were living in Sydney. The house, however, seems to have been taken in the father's name as he appears in the Sydney Directory for both 1885 and 1886 as Peter Lawson, builder, 138 Phillip Street. Henry worked as a painter and at 17 years of age was earning thirty shillings a week. Though his hours were long he also worked at a night school, and twice entered for public examinations at the university of Sydney without success. He paid for his night-schooling himself, and when about 20 years old went to Melbourne and attended the eye and ear hospital there. But nothing could be done for him and he returned to Sydney. There he worked as a painter at the low wages of the time, saw something of the slums and how the poor lived, and "wished that he could write". He was working as a coach-painter's improver at five shillings a day when in June 1887 the Bulletin printed four lines of a poem he had submitted and advised him to "try again". In October his "Song of the Republic" was published in the Bulletin, and in the Christmas number two poems "Golden Gully" and "The Wreck of the Derry Castle" appeared. Lawson has told us with what excitement he opened this Bulletin and found his poems. Prefixed to the second was an editorial note:--"In publishing the subjoined verses we take pleasure in stating that the writer is a boy of 17 years, a young Australian, who has as yet had an imperfect education and is earning his living under some difficulties as a housepainter, a youth whose poetic genius here speaks eloquently for itself." Lawson was then 20 years of age, not 17, but the editor showed remarkable prescience in recognizing the poet's ability so early. Lawson's first story, "His Father's Mate", was published in the Bulletin for 22 December 1888 greatly to the pride of his father, who, however, died a few days later aged 54. Lawson in his autobiography said of him: "I don't believe that a kinder man in trouble, or a gentler nurse in sickness ever breathed. I've known him to work hard all day and then sit up all night by a neighbour's sick child." Though Lawson may have inherited his capacity for writing from his mother, he probably owed the love of humanity that illumines all his work to his father. 

Lawson went to Albany, Western Australia, in 1889, but found conditions no better there, and was in Sydney again for most of 1890. He then obtained a position on the Brisbane Boomerang at £2 a week, but the paper stopped about six months later, and Lawson was back in Sydney again working at his trade for the usual low wages, writing a good deal for the socialistic press, as a rule without pay, and getting an occasional guinea from the Bulletin and smaller sums from Truth. In 1892 he did some writing for the Sydney Worker at twelve and sixpence a column, and about the end of that year went by train to western New South Wales and carried his swag for six months doing odd jobs. Much of his experience of this period was afterwards included in his writings. Towards the end of 1893 Lawson landed in Wellington, New Zealand, with one pound in his pocket, worked in a sawmill for a short period, and tried his hand at a variety of tasks. He then found his way to Sydney again hoping to get work on the Daily Worker, which, however, had stopped publication before he arrived. In 1894 his Short Stories in Prose and Verse was published by his mother, a poorly-printed little volume of 96 pages, which was favourably received but brought in little money. He had made a life-long friend in J. Le Gay Brereton (q.v.), who had been introduced to him by Mary Gilmore, and other friends of his early literary days were Victor Daley (q.v.), E. J. Brady, and F. J. Broomfield. In April 1896, while In the Days When the World was Wide was in the press, he married Bertha Marie Louise Bredt, and soon afterwards took her to Western Australia. In August While the Billy Boils, a collection of his short stories mostly from the Bulletin, was published, and when Lawson returned to Sydney from Western Australia shortly afterwards, he found that both of his books had been cordially received by the critics and were selling well. He next went to New Zealand, where he and his wife were for a time in charge of a Maori school. There he met Bland Holt (q.v.) the well-known actor, who suggested that he should write a play. The play was written though Lawson had no knowledge of the technique of play-writing. Holt gave him an advance against it, and took it away hoping he might knock it into shape, but nothing more was heard of it. In January 1899 an article by Lawson appeared in the Bulletin which stated that in 12 years he estimated that he had made a total of about £700 by his writings. This included the receipts from his first three books. He had returned to Sydney and made a new friend in the governor of New South Wales, Earl Beauchamp, who gave him the financial help that enabled him to go to England with his wife and two young children. They sailed from Sydney on 20 April 1900. In the same year his Verses Popular and Humorous, and a collection of prose stories On the Track and Over the Sliprails, were both published at Sydney. 

Though it was not easy for either Lawson or his wife to fit themselves into the conventional pattern of the England of 1900, for a time everything went well. Blackwood and Sons took two books of prose for publication, The Country I Came From and Joe Wilson and his Mates, both of which appeared in 1901. Methuen and Company also took a book made up of prose and verse, Children of the Bush, which was published in 1902. Lawson stuck closely to his work at first, but for some time drink had been a temptation to him, and he began to have trouble with it again. His wife had a serious illness, both found the long winter months very trying, and both pined for the sunshine of Australia. They were glad to return to a little cottage at Manly before the end of 1902. But difficulties arose between husband and wife and they agreed to part. An account of their association, written by Mrs Lawson without rancour and with understanding of Lawson's temperament, will be found in Henry Lawson by his Mates. 

At 35 years of age most of Lawson's best work was done. When I was King and other Verses was published in 1905, The Rising of the Court and other Sketches in Prose and Verse, and The Skyline Riders and other Verses in 1910, Triangles of Life and Other Stories, and For Australia and other Poems in 1913. My Army, 0, My Army! was published in 1915, and reissued in England under the title of Song of the Dardanelles and other Verses in 1916. Various minor works, reprints, selections, and collected editions will be found listed in Miller's Australian Literature and Serle's Bibliography of Australasian Poetry and Verse. Lawson lived mostly in Sydney, but had a happy holiday in 1910 with his friend, T. D. Mutch, at the home of another friend, E. J. Brady, at Mallacoota, Victoria, and in 1917 Bertram Stevens (q.v.) and other friends arranged a deputation to the premier, W. A. Holman (q.v.), which resulted in Lawson being given a position at Leeton on the Yanco irrigation settlement. Lawson described it as the driest place he had ever been to, but his health improved very much while he was there. On his return to Sydney he reverted to his old habits, and became a rather pathetic though lovable figure in the streets of Sydney. He was only a shadow of his former self when he died on 2 September 1922. He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. He had a small allowance from his publishers and a small literary pension. That he did not lack friends may be gathered from the volume Henry Lawson by his Mates published nine years after his death. He was given a state funeral. A portrait by Longstaff (q.v.) is at the national gallery, Sydney, and there is a monument by Lambert (q.v.) in Hyde Park, Sydney, erected by public subscription. 

Lawson was tall, spare, good looking in his youth, with remarkable eyes. He was shy, diffident and very sensitive, with great powers of attracting friends to him. A convinced socialist as a young man, he was always passionately concerned about the under dog. There has been much discussion about his place as a poet, and opinions have ranged between those of people who consider him to be no more than a mere verse-writer, and those who speak of him as "Australia's greatest poet". The truth lies between these extremes. No one can surely deny the title of poet to the author of "The Sliprails and the Spur", "Past Carin'", passages in "The Star of Australasia", "The Drover's Sweetheart" and that pathetic little poem of his later days "Scots of the Riverina". But a large proportion of his poetry is merely good popular verse. However, every writer is justified in being judged by his best work, and in virtue of his best work Lawson is a poet. There is no difficulty about his position as a prose-writer. His short stories are practically all based on his own experience, and that a proportion of them are gloomy should give no surprise to anyone familiar with the struggling lives of the men on the land in Lawson's youth. He had had little education, and no doubt his earliest efforts were sub-edited to some extent by Archibald and others. But fundamentally he was an artist, and his absolute sincerity and sympathy with his fellows counted for much. He had a quiet sense of humour, his pathos came straight from the heart, his gift of narration is unfailing. The combination of these qualities has given him the foremost place in Australian literature as a writer of short stories. 

A basic outline of his major works. 

Books of Short Stories:

While the Billy Boils (1896)
On the Track (1900)
Over the Sliprails (1900)
The Country I Come From (1901)
Joe Wilson and His Mates (1901)
Children of the Bush (1902)
Send Round the Hat (1907)
The Romance of the Swag (1907)
The Rising of the Court (1910)
Poetry: 

In the Days When the World Was Wide (1896)
Verses Popular and Humorous (1900)
When I Was King and Other Verses (1905)
The Skyline Riders (1910)
Selected Poems of Henry Lawson (1918) 


“On the Track” and “Over the Sliprails” were both published at Sydney in 1900, the prefaces being dated March and June respectively—and so, though printed separately, a combined edition was printed the same year (the two separate, complete works were simply put together in one binding); hence they are sometimes referred to as “On the Track and Over the Sliprails”. The opposite occurred with “Joe Wilson and His Mates”, which was later divided into “Joe Wilson” and “Joe Wilson’s Mates” (1901). 

For a more comprehensive list ofLawson's poems go to

 http://members.ozemail.com.au/~natinfo/lawson/index3.html#1885

THE FACES IN THE STREET

THEY lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet —
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street. 

And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street. 

In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street —
Flowing in, flowing in,
To the beat of hurried feet —
Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street. 

The human river dwindles when ’Tis past the hour of eight,
Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street —
Grinding body, grinding soul,
Yielding scarce enough to eat —
Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street. 

And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street,
Tells of the city’s unemployed upon his weary beat —
Drifting round, drifting round,
To the tread of listless feet —
Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street. 

And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street —
Ebbing out, ebbing out,
To the drag of tired feet,
While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street. 

And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day’s sad pages end,
For while the short ‘large hours’ toward the longer ‘small hours’ trend,
With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street —
Sinking down, sinking down,
Battered wreck by tempests beat —
A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street. 

But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street —
Rotting out, rotting out,
For the lack of air and meat —
In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street. 

I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon’s slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
The wrong things and the bad things
And the sad things that we meet
In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street. 

I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me — the shadows of those faces in the street,
Flitting by, flitting by,
Flitting by with noiseless feet,
And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street. 

Once I cried: ‘Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.’
And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city’s street,
And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
Coming near, coming near,
To a drum’s dull distant beat,
And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street. 

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
Pouring on, pouring on,
To a drum’s loud threatening beat,
And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street. 

And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
But not until a city feels Red Revolution’s feet
Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street —
The dreadful everlasting strife
For scarcely clothes and meat
In that pent track of living death — the city’s cruel street. 

JULY 1888 Henry Laswon

In the Days When the World Was Wide

 

THE BALLAD OF THE DROVER

ACROSS the stony ridges,
Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old pack-horse
Is trotting by his knee. 
Up Queensland way with cattle
He travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished
Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
Keep jingling to the tune. 

Beyond the hazy dado
Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
The homestead station lies.
And thitherward the drover
Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
Are jingling to a tune. 

An hour has filled the heavens
With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
Around the drover’s track;
But Harry pushes onward,
His horses’ strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
Before the flood shall rise. 

The thunder from above him
Goes rolling o’er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
In torrents falls the rain.
And every creek and gully
Sends forth its little flood,
Till the river runs a banker,
All stained with yellow mud. 

Now Harry speaks to Rover,
The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
And strokes their shaggy manes;
‘We’ve breasted bigger rivers
When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
From getting home to-night!’ 

The thunder growls a warning,
The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As the drover turns his horses
To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
Than e’er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
And only half-way o’er! 

When flashes next the lightning,
The flood’s grey breast is blank,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse
Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
The girl will wait in vain —
He’ll never pass the stations
In charge of stock again. 

MAR 1889 Henry Laswon

In the Days When the World Was Wide

THE GLASS ON THE BAR

Three bushmen one morning rode up to an inn,
And one of them called for the drinks with a grin;
They'd only returned from a trip to the North,
And, eager to greet them, the landlord came forth.
He absently poured out a glass of Three Star,
And set down that drink with the rest on the bar.

"There, that is for Harry," he said, "and it's queer,
'Tis the very same glass that he drank from last year;
His name's on the glass, you can read it like print,
He scratched it himself with an old piece of flint;
I remember his drink - it was always Three Star" -
And the landlord looked out through the door of the bar.

He looked at the horses, and counted but three:
"You were always together - where's Harry?" cried he.
Oh, sadly they looked at the glass as they said,
"You may put it away, for our old mate is dead"
But one, gazing out o'er the ridges afar,
Said, "We owe him a shout - leave the glass on the bar.

They thought of the far away place on the plain
They thought of the comrade who came not again,
They lifted their glasses, and sadly they said:
"We drink to the name of our mate who is dead."
And the sunlight streamed in, and a light like a star
Seemed to glow in the depth of the glass on the bar.

And still in that shanty a tumbler is seen,
It stands by the clock, ever polished and clean;
And often the strangers will read as they pass
The name of the bushmen engraved on the glass;
And though on the shelf but a dozen there are,
That glass never stands with the rest on the bar.

APRIL 1890 Henry Laswon

In the Days When the World Was Wide

 

SWEENEY

IT WAS somewhere in September, and the sun was going down,
When I came, in search of ‘copy’, to a Darling-River town;
‘Come-and-have-a-drink’ we’ll call it—’Tis a fitting name, I think—
And ’twas raining, for a wonder, up at Come-and-have-a-drink. 

’Neath the public-house verandah I was resting on a bunk
When a stranger rose before me, and he said that he was drunk;
He apologised for speaking; there was no offence, he swore;
But he somehow seemed to fancy that he’d seen my face before. 

‘No erfence,’ he said. I told him that he needn’t mention it,
For I might have met him somewhere; I had travelled round a bit,
And I knew a lot of fellows in the bush and in the streets—
But a fellow can’t remember all the fellows that he meets. 

Very old and thin and dirty were the garments that he wore,
Just a shirt and pair of trousers, and a boot, and nothing more;
He was wringing-wet, and really in a sad and sinful plight,
And his hat was in his left hand, and a bottle in his right. 

His brow was broad and roomy, but its lines were somewhat harsh,
And a sensual mouth was hidden by a drooping, fair moustache;
(His hairy chest was open to what poets call the ‘wined’,
And I would have bet a thousand that his pants were gone behind). 

He agreed: ‘Yer can’t remember all the chaps yer chance to meet,’
And he said his name was Sweeney—people lived in Sussex-street.
He was campin’ in a stable, but he swore that he was right,
‘Only for the blanky horses walkin’ over him all night.’ 

He’d apparently been fighting, for his face was black-and-blue,
And he looked as though the horses had been treading on him, too;
But an honest, genial twinkle in the eye that wasn’t hurt
Seemed to hint of something better, spite of drink and rags and dirt. 

It appeared that he mistook me for a long-lost mate of his—
One of whom I was the image, both in figure and in phiz—
(He’d have had a letter from him if the chap were living still,
For they’d carried swags together from the Gulf to Broken Hill.) 

Sweeney yarned awhile and hinted that his folks were doing well,
And he told me that his father kept the Southern Cross Hotel;
And I wondered if his absence was regarded as a loss
When he left the elder Sweeney—landlord of the Southern Cross. 

He was born in Parramatta, and he said, with humour grim,
That he’d like to see the city ere the liquor finished him,
But he couldn’t raise the money. He was damned if he could think
What the Government was doing. Here he offered me a drink. 

I declined—’twas self-denial—and I lectured him on booze,
Using all the hackneyed arguments that preachers mostly use;
Things I’d heard in temperance lectures (I was young and rather green),
And I ended by referring to the man he might have been. 

Then a wise expression struggled with the bruises on his face,
Though his argument had scarcely any bearing on the case:
‘What’s the good o’ keepin’ sober? Fellers rise and fellers fall;
What I might have been and wasn’t doesn’t trouble me at all.’ 

But he couldn’t stay to argue, for his beer was nearly gone.
He was glad, he said, to meet me, and he’d see me later on;
He guessed he’d have to go and get his bottle filled again,
And he gave a lurch and vanished in the darkness and the rain. 


. . . . .
And of afternoons in cities, when the rain is on the land,
Visions come to me of Sweeney with his bottle in his hand,
With the stormy night behind him, and the pub verandah-post—
And I wonder why he haunts me more than any other ghost. 

Still I see the shearers drinking at the township in the scrub,
And the army praying nightly at the door of every pub,
And the girls who flirt and giggle with the bushmen from the west—
But the memory of Sweeney overshadows all the rest. 

Well, perhaps, it isn’t funny; there were links between us two—
He had memories of cities, he had been a jackeroo;
And, perhaps, his face forewarned me of a face that I might see
From a bitter cup reflected in the wretched days to be. 


. . . . .
I suppose he’s tramping somewhere where the bushmen carry swags,
Cadging round the wretched stations with his empty tucker-bags;
And I fancy that of evenings, when the track is growing dim,
What he ‘might have been and wasn’t’ comes along and troubles him.

DEC 1893  Henry Laswon

In the Days When the World Was Wide

 

FREEDOM ON THE WALLABY

AUSTRALIA’S a big country
An’ Freedom’s humping bluey,
An’ Freedom’s on the wallaby
Oh! don’t you hear ’er cooey?
She’s just begun to boomerang,
She’ll knock the tyrants silly,
She’s goin’ to light another fire
And boil another billy. 
Our fathers toiled for bitter bread
While loafers thrived beside ’em,
But food to eat and clothes to wear,
Their native land denied ’em.
An’ so they left their native land
In spite of their devotion,
An’ so they came, or if they stole,
Were sent across the ocean. 

Then Freedom couldn’t stand the glare
O’ Royalty’s regalia,
She left the loafers where they were,
An’ came out to Australia.
But now across the mighty main
The chains have come ter bind her—
She little thought to see again
The wrongs she left behind her. 

Our parents toil’d to make a home—
Hard grubbin’ ’twas an’ clearin’—
They wasn’t crowded much with lords
When they was pioneering.
But now that we have made the land
A garden full of promise,
Old Greed must crook ’is dirty hand
And come ter take it from us. 

So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!

1913 Henry Laswon

For Australia

 

 

THE SECRET WHISKY CURE

’TIS no tale of heroism, ’tis no tale of storm and strife,
But of ordinary boozing, and of dull domestic life—
Of the everlasting friction that most husbands must endure—
Tale of nagging and of drinking—and a secret whisky cure. 

Name of Jones—perhaps you know him—small house-agent here in town—
(Friend of Smith, you know him also—likewise Robinson and Brown),
Just a hopeless little husband, whose deep sorrows were obscure,
And a bitter nagging Missis—and death seemed the only cure. 

’Twas a common sordid marriage, and there’s little new to tell—
Save the pub to him was Heaven and his own home was a hell:
With the office in between them—purgatory to be sure—
And, as far as Jones could make out—well, there wasn’t any cure. 

’Twas drink and nag—or nag and drink—whichever you prefer—
Till at last she couldn’t stand him any more than he could her.
Friends and relatives assisted, telling her (with motives pure)
That a legal separation was the only earthly cure. 

So she went and saw a lawyer, who, in accents soft and low,
Asked her firstly if her husband had a bank account or no;
But he hadn’t and she hadn’t, they in fact were very poor,
So he bowed her out suggesting she should try some liquor cure. 

She saw a drink cure advertised in the Sydney Bulletin—
Cure for brandy, cure for whisky, cure for rum and beer and gin,
And it could be given secret, it was tasteless, swift and sure—
So she purchased half a gallon of that Secret Whisky Cure. 

And she put some in his coffee, smiling sweetly all the while,
And he started for the office rather puzzled by the smile—
Smile or frown he’d have a whisky, and you’ll say he was a boor—
But perhaps his wife had given him an overdose of Cure. 

And he met a friend he hadn’t seen for seven years or more—
It was just upon the threshold of a private bar-room door—
And they coalised and entered straight away, you may be sure—
But of course they hadn’t reckoned with a Secret Whisky Cure. 

Jones, he drank, turned pale, and, gasping, hurried out the back way quick,
Where, to his old chum’s amazement, he was violently sick;
Then they interviewed the landlord, but he swore the drink was pure—
It was only the beginning of the Secret Whisky Cure. 

For Jones couldn’t stand the smell of even special whisky blends,
And shunned bar-rooms to the sorrow of his trusty drinking friends:
And they wondered, too, what evil genius had chanced to lure
Him from paths of booze and friendship—never dreaming of a Cure.


He had noticed, too, with terror that a something turned his feet,
When a pub was near, and swung him to the other side the street,
Till he thought the devils had him, and his person they’d immure
In a lunatic asylum where there wasn’t any Cure. 

He consulted several doctors who were puzzled by the case—
As they mostly are, but never tell the patient to his face—
Some advised him ‘Try the Mountains for this malady obscure:’
But there wasn’t one could diagnose a Secret Whisky Cure. 

And his wife, when he was sober?—Well, she nagged him all the more!
And he couldn’t drown his sorrow in the pewter as of yore:
So he shot himself at Manly and was sat upon by Woore,
And found rest amongst the spirits from the Secret Whisky Cure. 

. . . . .
And the moral?—well, ’tis funny—or ’tis woman’s way with men—
She’s remarried to a publican who whacks her now and then,
And they get on fairly happy, he’s a brute and he’s a boor,
But she’s never tried her second with a Secret Whisky Cure. 

1905 Henry Laswon

When I was King and Other Verses

 

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Will H. Ogilive

William Henry Ogilvie was born in 1869, at Holefield, near Kelso in Scotland.  He came to Australia from Scotland at the end of 1889 and remained in this country during the golden years of Australian literature, the 1890's.  When he returned to his homeland after an absence of eleven years he was farewelled as one of our leading bush balladists.    Will died in Scotland at the age of ninety-three on the 30th January, 1962.

 

HIS GIPPSLAND GIRL

Now, money was scarce and work was slack
     And love to his heart Crept in,
And he rode away on the Northern track
     To war with the world and win;
And he vowed by the locket upon his breast
     And its treasure, one red gold curl,
To work with with a will in the fartherest West
     For the sake of his Gippsland girl.

The hot wind blows on the dusty plain 
     And the red sun burns above,
But he sees her face at his side again,
     And he strikes each blow for love.
He toils by the light of one far-off star
     For the winning of one white pearl,
And the swinging pick and the driving bar
     Strike home for the Gippsland girl.

With an aching wrist and a back that's bent,
     With salt sweat blinding eyes,
'Tis little he'd reek if his life were spent
     In the winning so grand a prize.
His shear blades flash and over his hand
     The folds of the white fleece curl,
And all day long he sticks to his stand
     For the love of his Gippsland girl.

When the shearing's done and the shed's cut out
     On Barwon and Narran and Bree;
When the shearer mates with the rouseabout
     And the Union man with the free;
When the doors of the shanty, open wide,
     An uproarious welcome hurl,
He passes by on the other side
     For the sake of his gippsland girl.

When summer lay brown on the Western Land
     He rode once more to the South,
Athirst for the touch of a lily hand
     And the kiss of a rosebud mouth;
And he sang the songs that shorten the way,
     And he envied not king or earl, 
And he spared not the spur in his dappled grey
     For the sake of his Gippsland girl.

At the garden gate when the shadows fell
     His hopes in the dusk lay dead;
'Nelli? Oh! Surely you heard that Nell
     Is married a month' they said.
He spoke no word; with a dull, dumb pain
     At his heart, and his brain awhirl
He turned his grey to the North again
     For the sake of his Gippsland girl.

And he rung the board in a Paroo shed
     By the sweat of his aching brow,
But he blued his cheque, for he grimly said,
     'There is nothing to live for now.'
And out and away where the big floods start
     And the Darling dust-showers swirl,
There's a drunken shearer who broke his heart
     Over a Gippsland girl!

Will H. Ogilvie

DROUGHT


My road is fenced with the bleached, white bones
And strewn with the blind, white sand,
Beside me a suffering, dumb world moans
On the breast of a lonely land.

On the rim of the world the lightnings play,
The heat-waves quiver and dance,
And the breath of the wind is a sword to slay
And the sunbeams each a lance.

I have withered the grass where my hot hoofs tread,
I have whitened the sapless trees,
I have driven the faint-heart rains ahead
To hide in their soft green seas.

I have bound the plains with an iron band,
I have stricken the slow streams dumb!
To the charge of my vanguards who shall stand?
Who stay when my cohorts come?

The dust-storms follow and wrap me round;
The hot winds ride as a guard;
Before me the fret of the swamps is bound
And the way of the wild-fowl barred.

I drop the whips on the loose-flanked steers;
I burnt their necks with the bow;
And the green-hide rips and the iron sears
Where the staggering, lean beasts go.

I lure the swagman out of the road
To the gleam of a phantom lake;
I have laid him down, I have taken his load,
And he sleeps till the dead men wake.

My hurrying hoofs in the night go by,
And the great flocks bleat their fear
And follow the curve of the creeks burnt dry
And the plains scorched brown and sere.

The worn men start from their sleepless rest
With faces haggard and drawn;
They cursed the red Sun into the west
And they curse him out of the dawn.

They have carried their outposts far, far out,
But - blade of my sword for a sign! -
I am the Master, the dread King Drought,
And the great West Land is mine!


William H. Ogilvie

The Bushman's Book 

All roughly bound together
   The red-brown pages lie
In red sirroco leather
   With scored lines to the sky:
The Western suns have burned them,
   The desert winds dog's-eared,
And winter rains have turned them
   With wanton hands and weird!

They flutter, torn and lonely,
   Far out, like lost brown birds;
The Western stockmen only
   Can spell their wondrous words;
And gifted souls and sages
   May gather round and look,
They cannot read the pages
   That fill the Bushman's Book!

But open, night and day-time,
   It spreads with witching art
A picture-book of playtime
   To hold the Bushman's heart,
And learnèd in the lore of it,
   And lessoned in its signs,
He reads the scroll, and more of it,
   That lies between the lines.

He sees the well-filled purses,
   From Abbot-tracks like wires,
And hears the deep-drawn curses
   That dog the four-inch tyres!
He knows the busy super
   By worn hoofs flat as plates,
And tracks the mounted tooper
   By shod hoofs at the gates!

He knows the tracks unsteady,
   Of riders "on the bust,"
Of nags "knocked up already"
   By toes that drag the dust;
The "split" hoofs and the "quartered,"
   He'll show you on the spot,
And brumbies that have watered,
   And brumbies that have not!

So, North and West o' westward,
   Nor'-West and North again,
The Bush Book is the best word
   Among the Western men;
They find her lines and hail them,
   And read with trusting eyes:
They know if old mates fail them.
   The Bush Book never lies!

by Will Ogilvie

First published in The Bulletin, 14 December 1905

 

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Dorothy Mackellar

Dorothy Mackellar was born in Sydney, NSW into a prosperous and notable family. She received a private education before attending Sydney university. After her studies Mackellar travelled widely in Australia and abroad. 'My Country', which she wrote at the age of nineteen, was published in 1908, It appeared in the London Spectator entitled 'Core of My Heart'. The poem was revised for her first book of poetry The Closed Door (1911). Although she has written three other works of poetry and three novels, The Little Blue Devil (1914) and Two's Company (1914) in collaboration with Ruth Bedford and Outlaw's Luck (1913) as sole author, it is 'My Country' that springs to the mind of most Australians when Dorothea Mackellar's name is mentioned. She ceased to write in the 1920's due to constant ill-health but was patron, and involved the organisation, of the English Association for several years. Mackellar passed away in 1968 and was the recipient of an OBE in 1968 for her service to the Commonwealth. 

 

MY COUNTRY

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins;
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies -
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror-
This wide brown land for me.

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The saphirre misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart around us
We watch the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze

An opal hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar

COLOUR

The lovely things that I have watched unthinking,
Unknowing, day by day,
That their soft dyes have steeped my soul in colour
That will not pass away -

Great saffron sunset clouds, and larkspur mountains,
And fenceless miles of plain,
And hillsides golden-green in that unearthly
Clear shining after rain;

And nights of blue and pearl, and long smooth beaches,
Yellow as sunburnt wheat,
Edged with a line of foam that creams and hisses,
Enticing weary feet.

And emeralds, and sunset-hearted opals,
And Asian marble, veined
With scarlet flame, and cool green jade, and moonstones
Misty and azure-stained;

And almond trees in bloom, and oleanders,
Or a wide purple sea,
Of plain-land gorgeous with a lovely poison,
The evil Darling pea.

If I am tired I call on these to help me
To dream -and dawn-lit skies,
Lemon and pink, or faintest, coolest lilac,
Float on my soothed eyes.

There is no night so black but you shine through it,
There is no morn so drear,
O Colour of the World, but I can find you,
Most tender, pure and clear.

Thanks be to God, Who gave this gift of colour,
Which who shall seek shall find;
Thanks be to God, Who gives me strength to hold it,
Though I were stricken blind.

Dorothea Mackellar

DAWN

At the dawning of the day,
On the road to Gunnedah,
When the sky is pink and grey
As the wings of a wild galah,
And the last night-shadow ebbs
From the trees like a falling tide,
And the dew-hung spiderwebs
On the grass-blades spread far and wide -
Each sharp spike loaded well,
Bent down low with the heavy dew -
Wait the daily miracle
When the world is all made anew:
When the sun's rim lifts beyond
The horizon turned crystal-white,
And a sea of diamond
Is the plain to the dazzled sight.

At the dawning of the day,
To my happiness thus it fell:
That 1 went the common way,
And 1 witnessed a miracle.

Dorothea Mackellar

 

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C. J. Dennis

Clarence (Clarrie or Den) Michael James Stanislaus Dennis was born in Auburn, South Australia on September 7, 1876, to James Dennis and his second wife Catherine (Kate) Tobin. For reasons that are unclear, though which are probably due to the boy's and the mother's ill-health and frailty, Dennis was looked after in his early years by his mother's aunts who lived nearby. In 1883, James Dennis took up the lease on a hotel in Gladstone in South Australia's mid-North and, a couple of years later, moved again, this time seven miles further north to the township of Laura, and the Beetaloo Hotel.

Dennis's mother died in 1890 leaving his father with 3 sons and a hotel to look after. This was never going to work successfully so two of Kate's unmarried sisters left their home in Mintaro (in the Clare Valley) and moved to Laura to help with the children's upbringing. For some time in his teens Dennis attended the Christian Brothers' College in Adelaide but had returned to Laura by the age of 17. At that time he took a job as a clerk to a local solicitor, and it was during this period that he published his first poem, when 19, titled "The Singular Experiences of Six Sturdy Sportsmen" - which concerned the exploits of Dennis and a group of his mates when lost in the Beetaloo Hills just outside Laura. The verse was published in the local Laura newspaper The Laura Standard. Some time later he worked on the staff of the Critic, an Adelaide weekly newspaper. By the age of 21 he was back in Laura working as a barman in his father's hotel, and a year or so later left Laura for Broken Hill in New South Wales.

In the early 1900s he was back in Adelaide and back on the staff of the Critic, finally ending up as the journal's editor. In 1905 he started a threepenny weekly newspaper with A.E. Martin called the Gadfly, which was to have a life-span of about three years. About 18 months into that time, however, Dennis left the paper and Adelaide and headed to Melbourne. He kept himself employed (though not very well) as a freelance journalist in Melbourne, until he came under the influence of the artist Hal Waugh who took him off to a camp he had established in the Dandenong Ranges about 40 miles east of Melbourne at a place called Toolangi. Dennis was to remain here or in this vicinity for the bulk of the rest of his life. 
Over the next five years Dennis published a series of poems in various publications (such as The Bulletin) which would later be collected in his first book, Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, published in 1913. Although the book received favourable reviews, it did not sell very well and Dennis decided to try his luck in Sydney where he joined the staff of the union journal, The Call: The Ha'penny Daily. Again this sojourn did not last very long and he returned to Melbourne where he took up employment in the Public Service. 

It was shortly after he left Sydney that he wrote to Angus and Robertson, the Sydney-based publisher, with his ideas for a book entitled The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, based on several of the pieces in his first book. After a series of misunderstandings between Dennis and George Robertson of the publishers, the book was published in mid-October 1915. By 5 November 1915 the first edition of 2,480 copies (of which 2,166 were for sale) was sold out. A second edition of 5,000 copies in November also rapidly sold out, as did a third published on 3 December 1915. After nine months the book had sold approximately 51,000 copies. Later this grew to 66,148 copies of the book sold in Australia and New Zealand alone and did not include the totals for any copies of the editions published in Britain, Canada or the USA. The Bloke struck a nerve with Australian audiences and by September 1916 they had been dramatised for the stage, were performed in Sydney and Melbourne and were probably as popular as it was possible to be at that time. 

On 9th October 1916 Dennis published The Moods of Ginger Mick based on a character from The Sentimental Bloke which was to sell 42,349 copies within six months. Dennis had become, by sales and by general sentiment, the Laureate of the Larrikin, and the best-known poet in Australia. 

Dennis's next book, The Glugs of Gosh, broke with the tradition of The Bloke and presented a mixture of satire and fantasy masquerading as a book for children. It originally started life as a present for the son of a close friend who was recovering from a shooting accident. The book was a major departure in style for Dennis and aptly showed the breadth of his talent. 
By 1917 Dennis was the most prosperous poet in Australian history and decided to marry Olive (Biddy) Herron of Melbourne. He and his wife applied for the lease of the property on which he had been living in Toolangi, and a short time later was able to gain definitive ownership of the land. Dennis had originally wanted to name the place "Seaview", which, given the distance from the sea seems something of a joke, but finally decided on the name "Arden". As Dennis wrote later: "There's the lit'ry association, there's the forest, there's my pen-name in the second syllable, and there's a character called Dennis in As You Like It. So 'Arden" it had to be." 

Dennis's attachment to The Bloke continued with the publication of Doreen and Digger Smith, over the next few years, to be followed later by Rose of Spadgers in 1924. In the interim he wrote a book concerned with the men and the area of the Dandenong Ranges in Jim of the Hills. Dennis became attached to the staff of the Melbourne Herald in 1922 and the bulk of his work from that time on was devoted to pieces for the newspaper. Over the next sixteen years Dennis was to produce some 3,000-odd pieces of poems and prose pieces, the vast majority of which were never collected in his lifetime. The exception was the publication of his last book The Singing Garden. Dennis's wife, Margaret Herron, compiled a collection entitled Random Verses in 1952, and the Melbourne journalist, Garrie Hutchinson produced another collection from this period (with an effort being made to not duplicate Herron's work) titled The C.J. Dennis Collection in 1987. 

CJ Dennis died on 22 June, 1938 at the age of 61. He was buried in Box Hill cemetary the next day. The inscription on his tombstone reads: 

Now is the healing, quiet hour that fills
This gay green world with peace and grateful rest.

After his death, J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia at the time, said: "I am sure that I speak for all Australians in expressing deep regret at the death of CJ Dennis. He was the Robert Burns of Australia. He created characters which have become immortal and he captured the true Australian spirit. Already his work is world-famous, and future generations will treasure it." 

For a more comprehensive list of Denni's poetry go to:

http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/denniscj/denniscj.html

THE SILENT MEMBER

He lived in Mundaloo, and Bill McClosky was his name,
But folks that knew him well had little knowledge of that same;
For he some'ow lost his surname, and he had so much to say -
He was called "The Silent Member" in a mild, sarcastic way.

He could talk on any subjects - from the weather and the crops
To astronomy and Euclid, and he never minded stops;
And the lack of a companion didn't lay him on the shelf,
For he'd stand before a looking-glass and argue with himself.

He would talk for hours on lit'rature, or calves, or art, or wheat;
There was not a bally subject you could say had got him beat;
And when strangers brought up topics that they reckoned he would baulk,
He'd remark, "I never heard of that." But all the same - he'd talk.

He'd talk at christ'nings by the yard; at weddings by the mile;
And he used to pride himself upon his choice of words and style.
In a funeral procession his remarks would never end
On the qualities and virtues of the dear departed friend.

We got quite used to hearing him, and no one seemed to care -
In fact, no happ'ning seemed complete unless his voice was there.
For close on thirty year he talked, and none could talk him down,
Until one day an agent for insurance struck the town.

Well, we knew The Silent Member, and we knew what he could do,
And it wasn't very long before we knew the agent too,
As a crack long-distance talker that was pretty hard to catch;
So we called a hasty meeting and decided on a match.

Of course, we didn't tell them we were putting up the game;
But we fixed it up between us, and made bets upon the same.
We named a time-keep and a referee to see it through;
Then strolled around, just casual, and introduced the two.

The agent got first off the mark, while our man stood and grinned;
He talked for just one solid hour, then stopped to get his wind.
"Yes but - " sez Bill; that's all he said; he couldn't say no more;
The agent got right on again, and fairly held the floor.

On policies, and bonuses, and premiums, and all that,
He talked and talked until we thought he had our man out flat.
"I think - " Bill got in edgeways, but that there insurance chap
Just filled himself with atmosphere, and took the second lap.

I saw our man was getting dazed, and sort of hypnotized,
And they oughter pulled the agent up right there, as I advised.
"See here - " Bill started, husky; but the agent came again,
And talked right on for four hours good - from six o'clock to ten.

Then Bill began to crumble up, and weaken at the knees,
When all at once he ups and shouts, "Here, give a bloke a breeze!
Just take a pull for half a tick and let me have the floor,
And I'll take out a policy." The agent said no more.

The Silent Member swallowed hard, then coughed and cleared his throat,
But not a single word would come - no; not a blessed note.
His face looked something dreadful - such a look of pained dismay;
Then he gave us one pathetic glance, and turned and walked away.

He's hardly spoken since that day- not more than "Yes" or "No".
We miss his voice a good bit too; the town seems rather slow.
He was called "The Silent Member" just sarcastic, I'll allow;
But since that agent handled him it sort o' fits him now.

Backblock Ballads and Later Verses
C.J. Dennis
1918

 

 

 

THE CULTURED CONSTABLE

Five nights agone I lay at rest
On my suburban couch.
My trousers on the bedpost hung,
Red gold within their pouch.
The twin-gods Law and Order seemed
To me all powerful as I dreamed.

My life was staid, my rates were paid,
And peace was in my mind.
Nor recked I of unruly men
To evil deeds inclined --
Strange, primal atavistic men
Who shock the peaceful citizen.

But all the same by stealth he came,
A man of vile intent.
What cared he that my life was pure,
Or that I paid my rent?
He willed to violate my shrine
For household treasures that were mine.

With purpose vile and with a file
My window he attacked.
A stealthy scratch upon the catch
Awoke me to the fact.
Softly, with sudden fear amazed,
A corner of the blind I raised.

I saw his face!...Oh, what a man
His manhood should degrade,
And seek to rob (I checked a sob)
Except in honest trade!
A predatory face I saw
That showed no reverence for Law.

With whirring head I slid from bed,
Crept from my peaceful couch;
Forsook my trousers hanging there,
Red gold within their pouch.
Out through my chamber door I fled
And up the hallway softly sped.

Into the murky night I stole
To see a certain cop,
Whose forthright feet patrol the beat
A stone's throw from my shop.
In my pyjama suit went I....
Across the moon dark clouds swept by.

I saw him draped upon a post,
Like someone in a swoon.
His buttons gleamed what time the clouds
Released the troubled moon.
He gazed upon the changing sky,
A strange light in his dreamy eye.

"Now, haste thee cop!" I called aloud,
And seized him by the arm.
"There is a wretch without my house
Who bodes my treasure harm" ....
Toward the sky he waved a hand
And answered, "Ain't that background grand?"

"Nay, gentle John," said I, "attend
A thief my goods and gold
Seeks to purloin. Go, seize the man
Before the trail is cold!"
"Those spires against the sky," said he,
"Surcharged with beauty are to me."

"I give the man in charge!" I cried,
"He is on evil bent!
He seeks of all its treasured art
To strip my tenement!"
He answered, as one in a dream,
"Ain't that a bonzer colour-scheme? 

"Them tortured clouds agen the moon,"
The foolish cop pursued,
"Remind me of some Whistler thing;
But I prefer the nood."
Said I, "Arrest this man of vice!"
Said he, "The nood is very nice."

"My pants," cried I, "unguarded lie
Beside my peaceful couch --
My second-best pair, with the stripes,
Red gold within their pouch!
Thieves! Murder! Burglars! FIRE!" cried I.
Sighed he, "Oh, spires against the sky!"

Then, in my pink pyjamas clad,
I danced before his eyes.
In anger impotent I sought
His car with savage cries.
He pushed me from him with a moan.
"Go 'way!" he said. "You're out of tone."

"Why do I pay my rates?" I yelled --
"The wages that you draw!
Come, I demand, good cop, demand
Protection from the law!"
"You're out of drorin', too," said he.
"Still, s'pose I better go an' see."

I guided him a-down the street;
And now he stayed to view
The changing sky, and now he paused
Before some aspect new.
And thus, at length, we gained my gate.
"Too late!" I cried. "Alas, too late!"

Too late to save my household gods,
My treasures rich and rare.
My ransacked cupboards yawned agape,
My sideboard, too, was bare.
And there, beside my tumbled couch,
My trousers lay with rifled pouch.

"Now, haste thee, cop!" I called again,
"Let not thy footsteps lag!
The thief can not be far away.
Haste to regain the swag!" ...
His arms I saw him outward fling.
He moaned, "Where did you get that thing?"

With startled state I looked to where
His anguished gaze was bent,
And, hanging by my wardrobe, was
A Christmas Supplement --
A thing I'd got for little price
And framed because I thought it nice.

It was a Coloured Supplement
(The frame, I thought, was neat).
It showed a dog, a little maid --
Whose face was very sweet --
A kitten, and some odds and ends.
The title, rather apt, was "Friends."

"Accursed Philistine!" I heard
The strange policeman hiss
Between his teeth. "O wretched man,
Was I hired here for this?
O Goth! Suburbanite! Repent!
Tear down that Christmas Supplement!"

And, as athwart my burgled pane
The tortured storm-wrack raced,
That man of Coptic Culture grew
All limp and ashen-faced.
Then to my window seat he crept,
And bowed his head, and wept, and wept.

Backblock Ballads and Later Verses
C.J. Dennis
1918

 

"GOT-A-FAG"

He was tall and tough and stringy, with the shoulders of an axe-man,
Broad and loose, with greenhide muscles; and a hand shaped to the reins;
He was slow of speech and prudent, something of a Nature student,
With the eye of one who gazes long across the saltbush plains.

Smith by name, but long forgotten was his legal patronymic
In a land where every bushman wears some unbaptismal tag;
And, through frequent repetition of a well-worn requisition,
"Smith" had long retired in favor of the title, "Got-a-Fag." 

Not until the war was waging for a month, or may be longer,
Did the tidings reach the station, blest with quite unfrequent mails;
And, though still a steady grafter, he grew restless ever after,
And he pondered long of evenings, seated on the stockyard rails.

Primed with sudden resolution, he arose one summer morning,
Casually mentioned fighting as he deftly rolled his swag;
Then, in accents almost hearty, bade his mate, "So long, old Party!
Goin' to do some Square-head huntin'. See you later. Got a fag?"

Ten long, sunburned days in saddle, down through spinifex and saltbush,
Then a two-days' railroad journey landed him at last in town,
Charged with an aggressive feeling, heightened by his forthright dealing
With a shrewd but chastened spieler who had sought to take him down.

"Smart and stern" describes the war-lord who presided at recruiting.
To him slouched an apparition, drawling, "Boss, I've got a nag --
Risin' four -- good prad he's counted. Better shove me in the mounted.
Done a little bit o' shootin' -- gun an' rifle. Got a fag?"

Two months later, drilled and kneaded to a shape approaching martial,
Yet with hints of that lithe looseness discipline can never kill,
With that keen eye grown yet shrewder, and example to the cruder,
Private Smith (and, later, Sergeant) stinted speech and studied drill.

"Smith," indeed, but briefly served him; for his former appellation
In its aptness seized the fancy of the regimental wag,
When an apoplectic colonel gasped, "Of all the dashed infernal"....
As this Private Smith saluted, with "Ribuck, boss! Got a fag?"

What he thought, or how he marvelled at the familiar customs
Of those ancient and historic lands that later met his eyes,
He was never heard to mention; though he voiced one bold contention,
That the absence of wire fences marked a lack of enterprise.

Soon his shrewd resourse, his deftness, won him fame in many places;
Things he did with wire and whipcord moved his company to brag.
And when aught concerning horses called for knowledge in the forces
Came a hurred, anxious message: "Hang the Vet! Send Got-a-Fag!"

Then, one morning, he was missing, and a soldier who had seen him
Riding for the foe's entrenchments bade his mates abandon hope.
Calm he seemed, but strangely daring: some weird weapons he was bearing
Built of twisted wire and iron, and a dozen yards of rope.

At the dawn a startled sentry, through the early morn-mists peering,
Saw a dozen shackled foemen down the sand dunes slowly drag.
Sore they seemed, and quite dejected, while behind them, cool, collected,
Swearing at a busy sheep-dog, rode their drover, Got-a-Fag.

To the Colonel's tent he drove them, bransishing a stockwhip featly,
Bristly calling, "Heel 'em, Laddie!" While the warrior of rank
Sniffed, and then exclaimed with loathing: "What's this smell of clothing burning?"
Said the drover: "Got 'em branded: 'A -- Broad Arrow,' off-side flank."

"A," he drawled, stan's for Australia, an' the Gov'ment brand's in order.
'Crown - G.R.' upon the shoulder marks 'em for the King an' flag.
Roped the blighters same as how we fix the calves on Kinchacowie.
But it's dead slow sorter must'rin'," he concluded. "Got a fag?"

When the weary war is over, back to his old cattle station,
If luck holds, he'll one day journey, casually drop his swag,
Drawling, "Been up yonder - fightin'....Not much doin' mostly skitin'....
Gimme drovin' for excitement...Rain seems wantin'....Got a fag?"

Backblock Ballads and Later Verses
C.J. Dennis
1918

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John O'Brien

John O'Brien was the pen name used by Patrick Joseph Hartigan who was born on the 13th October 1878 in O'Connel Town, Yass in N.S.W.  Hartigan took on the vocation of the priesthood and served 23 years of his life with his parish at St Mel's Church, Narrandera.  His poetry became popular with the people and his book Around the Boree Log contains many favourite verses.  Hartigan passed away in 1952.

For a more comprehensive list of O'Brien's poem go to

http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/obrienj/boreelog.html

 

JOHN O'BRIEN FESTIVAL

 

THE ROAD TO DANAHEY'S

The rambling road to Danahey's it goes by hill and plain,
It wanders in among the trees and wanders out again.
It does a lap around the map just as it feels inclined,
And through the West they all confessed that road was hard to find.

"It's not too good to find," they said, "it sort o' twists along,
But keep on keepin' straight ahead and then you won't go wrong."
And every man drew out a plan with all the filigrees
Of track and lane to try explain that road to Danahy's.

So when the man himself I met enthroned upon his dray,
I sought the salient facts to get about the winding way.
"Now briefly show me where to go," said I to Danahey,
He waved a hand around the land and thus directed me:

"You go down past the Catholic church and round be Mrs. Flynn's,
Then keep on straight for twenty perch to where the road begins".
And lest I might not grasp aright the landmarks thus discussed
He did a reel across the wheel and drew it in the dust.

"This here," said he, "'s the Catholic church, that there is Mrs. Flynn's,
Down here along, say forty perch, is where the road begins.
Ye folly that, 'twill land you at Mrs. Brady's little store,
You'll know it be a pepper-tree she have outside the door.

"Now carry her upon your right and go on straight along,
Keep goin' till at last you sight a milepost pointin' wrong;
The peg has been uprooted clean, it's leanin' be a tree
Two miles from there, but this is where the beggarin' thing should be.

"Well, anyway, 'tain't your concern, it don't do any harm;
You ups and takes the left-hand turn to Tom McDonough's farm;
From there to here is five miles clear, or p'raps it may be more-
You'll know it be a pepper-tree, he have outside the door.

"Upon your left you carry that, and through the fence you pass,
And then you come to Casey's Flat with cattle on the grass.
Good colours, too, beef through and through, and nigh a hundred head,
Man, on their deep broad backs you sleep, like in a feather bed.

"Now keep them cattle on your back and, mind you, if in case
You're sorta bushed and off the track you ask at Regan's place;
That's Peter's lot, not Dinny's what the Ryans owned before-
You'll know it be a pepper-tree he have outside the door.

"But Dinny's house is miles away, around by Bindyguy-
You'll know it be, now what'll I say, you'll know it be-," Said I,
"I'll know it be the pepper-tree." Said Danahey, "You're wrong,
No pepper-tree at all have he- he have a kurrajong.

"Now mind, the track he used to go is not too good to find,
It's right enough for them that know but them that don't, you mind,
Might lose their way or get astray and end where it begins,
For that there track will land you back down here at Mrs. Flynn's.

"So don't take that, forget it like, and make sou'-east be east,
'There's four or five roads here but strike the one that's used the least.
Go right along, you can't go wrong; keep keepin' straight ahead,
Take every track that branches back from what you're on," he said.

"From there you see six miles away an openin' in the trees,
And if you don't go all astray you'll get there by degrees.
You can't go wrong, go straight along, there's two tracks you might take
And both 'em steer doo west from here- but one's the firebreak.

"Then make for old MacPherson's pub; there's no pub there, you know,
But Mac he had one in the scrub some twenty years ago.
Now run a line to where the pine is growin' pretty dense,
Go straight along, you can't go wrong, until you hit a fence.

"Now run that fence down twenty chain to where the wires is cut,
'Twill let you out in Kelly's lane not four mile from me hut.
At any rate you'll strike the gate; the house is pretty poor-
You'll know it be a pepper-tree that grows outside the door."

And then my noble Danahey rose slowly to his feet,
He lit his pipe triumphantly- the lesson was complete:
A maze of lines and cryptic signs and leads and runner-ups,
Like visions high imagined by a spider in his cups.

He gripped me warmly by the hand and friendship lit his eye.
Said he, "I hope you'll understand, before I say good-bye,
That when you stray along that way, you're always welcome quite
If bushed ye be, five miles from me, to stop there for the night."

Patrick Joseph Hartigan

 

 

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Barcroft Boake 

BARCROFT BOAKE was born in Sydney, NSW, in 1866. His father was a photographer who had migrated from Ireland.  Boake received an education that was superior to the norm of the time and took work, in 1886, as a surveyors assistant in the Snowy river country.  He then took a position as boundary rider and drover on a cattle station.  

He believed life in the bush to be ‘the only life worth living.’ In 1888 a joke hanging went badly wrong and Boake nearly died. He seems to have been obsessed with the experience, and wrote at least two separate accounts of it. He returned to Sydney in 1891, despite his love of the bush, due to family circumstances.  Boake failed to manage the personal and financial problems which beset him on his return and, being of a depressive personality, on May 2nd, 1892 he disappeared from home. 

Eight days later his body was found, at Folly Point in the Middle Harbour scrub, hanging by the neck from a stockwhip.  In this action he reflected the passing of his idol Adam Lindsay Gordon twenty-two years prior to his own death. 


Boake believed that the ‘romance of the outback’ was a grim one as shown in his well-known poem ‘Where the Dead Men Lie’.  He used the pseudonym, ‘Surcingle’, when publishing what was to become his most well-known poem, and the title poem of his only volume of work which was published after Boake’s death by A.G. Stephens.  His dark conception aligns him more with Henry Lawson and Barbara Baynton than the spirited and sardonic view of most bush poets. 

 For a more comprehensive list of Boake's poems go to 

http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/B/BoakeBarcroft/index.html

WHERE THE DEAD MEN LIE

Out on the wastes of the Never Never -
That's where the dead men lie!
There where the heat-waves dance forever -
That's where the dead men lie!
That's where the Earth's loved sons are keeping
Endless tryst: not the west wind sweeping
Feverish pinions can wake their sleeping -
Out where the dead men lie!

Where brown Summer and Death have mated -
That's where the dead men lie!
Loving with fiery lust unsated -
That's where the dead men lie!
Out where the grinning skulls bleach whitely
Under the saltbush sparkling brightly;
Out where the wild dogs chorus nightly -
That's where the dead men lie!

Deep in the yellow, flowing river -
That's where the dead men lie!
Under the banks where the shadows quiver -
That's where the dead men he!
Where the platypus twists and doubles,
Leaving a train of tiny bubbles.
Rid at last of their earthly troubles -
That's where the dead men lie!

East and backward pale faces turning -
That's how the dead men lie!
Gaunt arms stretched with a voiceless yearning -
That's how the dead men lie!
Oft in the fragrant hush of nooning
Hearing again their mother's crooning,
Wrapt for aye in a dreamful swooning -
That's how the dead men lie!

Only the hand of Night can free them -
That's when the dead men fly!
Only the frightened cattle see them -
See the dead men go by!
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
Bidding the stockmen know no leisure -
That's when the dead men take their pleasure!
That's when the dead men fly!

Ask, too, the never-sleeping drover:
He sees the dead pass by;
Hearing them call to their friends - the plover,
Hearing the dead men cry;
Seeing their faces stealing, stealing,
Hearing their laughter, pealing, pealing,
Watching their grey forms wheeling, wheeling
Round where the cattle lie!

Strangled by thirst and fierce privation -
That's how the dead men die!
Out on Moncygrub's farthest station -
That's how the dead men die!
Hard-faced greybeards, youngsters callow;
Some mounds cared for, some left fallow;
Some deep down, yet others shallow.
Some having but the sky.

Moncygrub, as he sips his claret,
Looks with complacent eye
Down at his watch-chain, eighteen carat -
There, in his club, hard by:
Recks not that every link is stamped with
Names of the men whose limbs are cramped with
Too long lying in grave-mould, cramped with
Death where the dead men lie.

Barcroft Boake 

 

JACK'S LAST MUSTER

THE FIRST flush of grey light, the herald of daylight,
Is dimly outlining the musterer’s camp,
Where over the sleeping, the stealthily creeping
Breath of the morning lies chilly and damp, 

As, blankets forsaking, ’twixt sleeping and waking,
The black-boys turn out to the manager’s call;
Whose order, of course, is, “Be after the horses,
And take all sorts of care you unhobble them all.” 

Then, each with a bridle (provokingly idle)
They saunter away his commands to fulfil—
Where, cheerily chiming, the musical rhyming
From equine bell-ringers comes over the hill. 

But now the dull dawning gives place to the morning,
The sun, springing up in a glorious flood
Of golden-shot fire, mounts higher and higher,
Till the crests of the sandhills are stained with his blood. 

Now the hobble-chains’ jingling, with the thud of hoofs mingling,
Though distant, sound near—the cool air is so still—
As, urged by their whooping, the horses come trooping
In front of the boys round the point of the hill. 

What searching and rushing for bridles and brushing
Of saddle marks, tight’ning of breastplate and girth;
And what a strange jumble of laughter and grumble—
Some comrade’s misfortune the subject of mirth. 

I recollect well how that morning Jack Bell
Had an argument over the age of a mare,
That C O B gray one, the dam of that bay one
Which Brown the storekeeper calls the young Lady Clare. 

How Tomboy and Vanity caused much profanity,
Scamping away with their tales in the air,
Till after a chase, at a deuce of a pace,
They ran back in the mob and we collared them there. 

Then the laugh and the banter, as gaily we canter,
With a pause for the nags at a miniature lake,
Where the ?yellowtop? catches the sunlight in patches,
And lies like a mirror of gold in our wake. 

Oh! the rush and the rattle of fast-fleeing cattle,
Whose hoofs beat a mad rataplan on the earth;
Their hot headed flight in! Who would not delight in
The gallop that seems to hold all that life is worth. 

And over the rolling plains, slowly patrolling
To the sound of the cattle’s monotonous tramp,
Till we hear the sharp pealing of stockwhips, revealing
The fact that our comrades have put on the camp. 

From the spot where they’re drafting the wind rises, wafting
The dust, till it hides man and beast from our gaze,
Till, suddenly lifting and easterly drifting,
We catch a short glimpse of the scene through the haze. 

What a blending and blurring of swiftly recurring
Colour and movement, that pass on their way
An intricate weaving of sights and sounds, leaving
An eager desire to take part in the fray: 

A dusty procession, in circling succession,
Of bullocks that bellow in impotent rage;
A bright panorama, a soul stirring drama,
The sky for its background, the earth for its stage. 

How well I remember that twelfth of November,
When Jack and his little mare, Vanity, fell;
On the Diamantina there never was seen a
Pair who could cut out a beast half so well. 

And yet in one second Death’s finger had beckoned,
And horse and bold rider had answered the call
Brooking no hesitation, without preparation,
That sooner or later must come to us all. 

Thrice a big curly horned Cobb bullock had scorned
To meekly acknowledge the ruling of fate;
Thrice Jack with a clout of his whip cut him out,
But each time the beast galloped back to his mate. 

Once more, he came blund’ring along, with Jack thund’ring
Beside him, his spurs in poor Vanity’s flanks,
As, from some cause or other forsaking its mother,
A little white calf trotted out from the ranks. 

’Twas useless, I knew it, yet I turned to pursue it;
At the same time, I gave a loud warning to Jack:
It was all unavailing, I saw him come sailing
Along as the weaner ran into his track. 

Little Vanity tried to turn off on one side,
Then altered her mind and attempted to leap;
The pace was too fast, that jump was her last,
For she and her rider fell all in a heap. 

I was quickly down kneeling beside him, and feeling
With tremulous hand for the throb of his heart.
“The mare—is she dead?” were the first words he said,
As he suddenly opened his eyes with a start. 

He spoke to the creature, his hand could just reach her,
Gently caressing her lean Arab head;
She acknowledged his praising with eyes quickly glazing,
A whinny, a struggle, and there she lay dead. 

I sat there and nursed his head, for we durst
Not remove him, we knew where he fell he would die.
As I watched his life flicker, his breath growing thicker,
I’d have given the world to be able to cry. 

Roughvoiced, sunburnt men, far away beyond ken
Of civilisation, our comrades, stood nigh,
All true hearted mourners, and sadly forlorn, as
He gave them a handshake and bade them goodbye. 

In my loving embrace there he finished life’s race,
And nobly and gamely that long course was run;
Though a man and a sinner he weighed out a winner,
And God, the Great Judge, will declare he has won.

Barcroft Boake 

 

 

 ON THE BOUNDARY

 I LOVE the ancient boundary-fence,
That mouldering chock-and-log.
When I go ride the boundary
I let the old horse jog
And take his pleasure in and out
Where the sandalwood grows dense,
And tender pines clasp hands across
The log that tops the fence. 
’Tis pleasant on the boundary-fence,
These sultry summer days;
A mile away, outside the scrub,
The plain is all ablaze,
The sheep are panting on the camps,
The heat is so intense;
But here the shade is cool and sweet
Along the boundary-fence. 

I love to loaf along the fence,
So does my collie dog,
He often finds a spotted cat
Hid in a hollow log;
He’s very near as old as I
And ought to have more sense,
I’ve hammered him so many times
Along the boundary-fence. 

My mother says that boundary fence
Must surely be bewitched;
The old man says that through that fence
The neighbours are enriched;
It’s always down, and through the gaps
Our stock all get them hence,
I takes me half my time to watch
The doings of that fence. 

But should you seek the reason
You won’t travel very far,
’Tis there a mile away among
The murmuring Belar:
The Jones’s block joins on to ours,
And so, in consequence,
It’s part of Polly’s work to ride
Their side the boundary-fence. 

Barcroft Boake 

 

 

 

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Adam Lindsay Gordon

Early life

Gordon was born at Fayal in the Azores, son of Captain Adam Durnford Gordon who had married his first cousin, Harriet Gordon, both of whom were descended from Adam of Gordon of the ballad. Captain Gordon, who had retired from the Bengal cavalry and taught Hindustani, was then staying at the Azores for the sake of his wife's health. After living on the island of Madeira, they went to England and lived at Cheltenham in 1840, and in 1841 Gordon entered Cheltenham College in 1847, but the following year he was sent to a school kept by the Rev. Samuel Ollis Garrard in Gloucestershire. In 1848 he attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. There Gordon appears to have been good at sports, but not studious and certainly undisciplined — and like Richard Henry Horne, he was asked to leave. Gordon was again admitted a pupil at Cheltenham College. He was not there for long, he appears to have left in the middle of 1852, but the story that he was expelled from Cheltenham is without foundation. Then Gordon was sent to the Royal Grammar School Worcester in 1852. Gordon began to lead a wild and aimless life, contracted debts, and was a great anxiety to his father, who at last decided that his son should go to Australia and make a fresh start in 1853 to join the mounted Police with a letter of introduction to the Governor.
Gordon had fallen in love with Jane Bridges, a girl of 17 who was able to tell the story 60 years afterwards to his biographers. Gordon did not declare his love until he came to say good-bye to her before leaving for Australia on 7 August 1853. "With characteristic recklessness he offered to sacrifice the passage he had taken to Australia, and all his father's plans for giving him a fresh start in life, if she would tell him not to go, or promise to be his wife, or even give him some hope." This Miss Bridges could not do, though she liked the shy handsome boy and remembered him with affection to the end of a long life. It was the one romance of Gordon's life. That Gordon realized his conduct had fallen much below what it might have been can be seen in his poems ... "To my Sister", written three days before he left England, and "Early Adieux", evidently written about the same time.

To Australia

Gordon was just over 20 years old when he arrived at Adelaide on 14 November 1853. He immediately obtained a position in the South Australian mounted police and was stationed at Mount Gambier and Penola. On 4 November 1855 he resigned from the force and took up horse-breaking in the south-eastern district of South Australia. The interest in horse-racing which he had shown as a youth in England was continued in Australia, and in a letter written in November 1854 he mentioned that he had a horse for the steeplechase at the next meeting. In 1857 he met the Rev. Julian Tenison Woods who lent him books and talked poetry with him. He then had the reputation of being "a good steady lad and a splendid horseman". In this year his father died and he also lost his mother about two years later. From her estate he received £6944-18-1 on 26 October 1861. He was making a reputation as a rider over hurdles, and several times either won or was placed in local hurdle races and steeplechases. On 20 October 1862 he married Margaret Park, then a girl of 17. In March 1864 Gordon bought a cottage, Dingley Dell, near Port MacDonnell, and, in this same year, inspired by six engravings after Noel Paton illustrating "The Dowie Dens O' Yarrow", Gordon wrote a poem The Feud, of which 30 copies were printed at Mount Gambier. On 11 January 1865 he received a deputation asking him to stand for parliament and was elected by three votes to the South Australian House of Assembly on 16 March 1865. In politics, Gordon was a maverick. His semi-classical speeches were colourful and entertaining but largely irrelevant, and he resigned his seat on 20 November 1866. Gordon's time in politics stimulated him to greater activity – poetry, horse racing and speculation. He was contributing verse to the Australasian and Bell's Life in Victoria and doing a fair amount of riding. He bought some land in Western Australia, but returned from a visit to it early in 1867 and went to live at Mount Gambier. On 10 June 1867 he published Ashtaroth, a Dramatic Lyric, and on the nineteenth of the same month Sea Spray and Smoke Drift.

Move to Victoria


With his failures behind him, Gordon turned to Victoria, not to Melbourne which had ignored his poetry, but to Ballarat. In November he rented Craig's livery stables at Ballarat in partnership with Harry Mount, but he had no head for business and the venture was a failure. In March 1868 he had a serious accident, a horse smashing his head against a gatepost of his own yard. His daughter, born on 3 May 1867, died at the age of 11 months, his financial difficulties were increasing, and he fell into very low spirits. In spite of short sight he was becoming very well known as a gentleman rider, and on 10 October 1868 actually won three races in one day at the Melbourne Hunt Club steeplechase meeting. He rode with great patience and judgment, but his want of good sight was always a handicap. He began riding for money but was not fortunate and had more than one serious fall. He sold his business and left Ballarat in October 1868 and came to Melbourne and eventually found lodgings at 10 Lewis Street, Brighton. He had succeeded in straightening his financial affairs and was more cheerful. He made a little money out of his racing and became a member of the Yorick Club, where he was friendly with Marcus Clarke, George Gordon McCrae, and a little later Henry Kendall. On 12 March 1870 Gordon had a bad fall while riding in a steeplechase at Flemington Racecourse. His head was injured and he never completely recovered. He had for some time been endeavouring to show that he was heir to the estate of Esslemont in Scotland, but there was a flaw in the entail, and in June he learnt that his claim must be abandoned. He had seen his last book, Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes, through the press, and it was published on 23 June 1870; it was not successful at the time, but is now regarded as one of the most important pieces of Australian literature. Gordon on that day met Kendall who showed him the proof of the favourable review he had written for the Australasian. But Gordon had just asked his publishers what he owed them for printing the book, and realized that he had no money to pay them and no prospects. He went home to his cottage at 10 Lewis Street Brighton carrying a package of cartridges for his rifle. Next morning he rose early, walked into the tea-tree scrub and shot himself. His wife went back to South Australia, married Peter Low, and lived until November 1919. In October 1870 a monument was erected over his grave at the Brighton General Cemetery by his close friends, and in 1932 a statue to his memory by Paul Montford was unveiled near parliament house, Melbourne; and many other statues and monuments throughout Australia. In May 1934 his bust was placed in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, being the only Australian poet to have one.

Legacy

Gordon was tall and handsome (see portrait prefixed to The Laureate of the Centaurs). But he stooped and held himself badly, partly on account of his short sight. He was shy, sensitive and, even before he was overwhelmed with troubles, inclined to be moody. After his head was injured at Ballarat he was never the same man again, and subsequent accidents aggravated his condition. Any suggestion that drink was a contributing cause may be disregarded. Sir Frank Madden, who was with him the day before his death, said that he was then absolutely sober, "he never cared for it [drink] and so far as I know seldom took it at all". The Rev. Tenison Woods in his "Personal Reminiscences" said "Those who did not know Gordon attributed his suicide to drink, but I repeat he was most temperate and disliked the company of drinking men".


Gordon's death drew much attention to his work and especially in Melbourne the appreciation of it became overdone. This led to a revulsion of feeling among better judges and for a time it was underrated in some quarters. George Bernard Shaw jokes about Gordon's verse in his play Shakes versus Shav, a dialogue between Shakespeare and himself during which Shakespeare laughs at a quotation from Gordon. Much of his verse is careless and banal, there are passages in Ashtaroth for instance that are almost unbelievably bad, but at his best he is a poet of importance, who on occasions wrote some magnificent lines. Douglas Sladen, a life-long admirer, in his Adam Lindsay Gordon, The Westminster Abbey Memorial Volume has made a selection of 27 poems which occupy about 90 pages. Without subscribing to every poem selected it may be said that Gordon is most adequately represented in a sheaf of this kind. His most sustained effort, the "Rhyme of Joyous Garde", has some glorious stanzas, and on it and some 20 other poems Gordon's fame may be allowed to rest.
One of Gordon's poems, The Swimmer forms the libretto for the fifth movement of Edward Elgar's song cycle Sea Pictures. After a particularly trying year for the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II quoted from one of Gordon's more famous poems in her Christmas Message of 1992, "Kindness in another's trouble, courage in one's own..", but did not mention the poet's name.


Dingley Dell, Gordon's property and home from 1862 to 1866, is preserved as a museum and a conservation park. The museum houses early volumes of his work, personal effects and a display of his horse riding equipment.


In 1970 he was honoured on a postage stamp bearing his portrait issued by Australia Post.

For a more comprehensive list of Gordon's poems go to

http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/gordonal/selectedalg.html

THE SICK STOCKRIDER

Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide
Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I sway'd,
All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.

The dawn at 'Moorabinda' was a mist rack dull and dense,
The sunrise was a sullen, sluggish lamp:
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence,
I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze,
And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth;
To southward lay 'Katawa' with the sandpeaks all ablaze,
And the flush'd fields of Glen Lomond lay to the north.
Now westward winds the bridle path that leads to Lindisfarm,
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
Yon can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch;
'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase
Eight yeats ago - or was it nine - last March.

'Twas merry in the glowing morn,among the gleaming grass,
To wander as we'vewandered many a mile,
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass,
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.

'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs,
To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stockwhips and a fiery run of hoofs;
Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!

Aye! we had a glorious gallop after 'Starlight' and his gang,
When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat;
How the sun-dried reed beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang
To the strokes of 'Mountaineer' and 'Acrobat.'
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath!
And the honeysuckle oisers, how they crash'd!

We led the hunt throughout, Ned on the chestnut and the grey,
And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay,
In the creek with stunted box-tree for a blind!
There you grappled with the ladder, man to man and horse to horse,
And you roll'd together when the chestnut reared;
He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course -
A narrow shave - his powder singed your beard!

In the hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young
Come back to us; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung;
And where are now Jem roper and Jack Hall?

Aye! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned are gone;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.

There was Hughes who got in trouble through that business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him;
But a steer ripp'd up MacPherson in the Cooraminta yards,
And Sullivan was drowned at Sink-or-swim.

And Mostyn - poor Frank Mostyn - died at last a fearful wreck,
In 'the horrors' at the Upper Wandinong;
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck,
Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!
Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen -
The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then;
And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.

I've done my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil,
And life is short - the longest life a span;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for the wine that makest glad the heart of man.
For ggod undone and gifts misspent and resolutins vain,
'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know -
I should live the same life over, if I had tolive again;
And the chances are I go to where most men go.

The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim,
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall;
and sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepysunlight swim,
and on the very sun's face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
With never a stone or rail to fence my bed;
Should the sturdy station childrenpull the bush flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

Selected Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon
1912

HOW WE BEAT THE FAVOURITE

A LAY OF THE LOAMSHIRE HUNT CUP

"Aye, squire," said Stevens, "they back him at evens;
The race is all over, bar shouting, they say;
The Clown ought to beat her; Dick Neville is sweeter
Than ever - he swears he can win all the way.

"A gentleman rider - well, I'm an outsider,
But if he's a gent who the mischief's a jock?
You swells mostly blunder, Dick rides for the plunder,
He rides, too, like thunder - he sits like a rock.

"He calls 'hunted fairly' a horse that has barely
Been stripp'd for a trot within sight of the hounds,
A horse that at Warwick beat Birdlime and Yorick,
And gave Abdelkader at Aintree nine pounds.

"They say they have no test to warrant a protest;
Dick rides for a lord and stands in with a steward;
The light of their faces they show him - his case is
Prejudged and his verdict already secured.

"But none can outlast her, and few travel faster,
She strides in her work clean away from The Drag;
You hold her and sit her, she couldn't be fitter,
Whenever you hit her she'll spring like a stag.

"And p'rhaps the green jacket, at odds though they back it,
May fall, or there's no knowing what may turn up.
The mare is quite ready, sit still and ride steady,
Keep cool; and I think you may just win the Cup."

Dark-brown with tan muzzle, just stripped for the tussle,
Stood Iseault, arching her neck to the curb,
A lean head and fiery, strong quarters and wiry,
A loin rather light, but a shoulder superb.

Some parting injunction, bestowed with great unction,
I tried to recall, but forgot like a dunce,
When Reginald Murray, full tilt on White Surrey,
Came down in a hurry to start us at once.

"Keep back in the yellow! Come up on Othello!
Hold hard on the chestnut! Turn round on The Drag!
Keep back there on Spartan! Back you, sir, in tartan!
So, steady there, easy!" and down went the flag.

We stared, and Kerr made strong running on Mermaid,
Through furrows that led to the first stake-and-bound,
The crack, half extended, look'd bloodlike and splendid,
Held wide on the right where the headland was sound.

I pulled hard to baffle her rush with the snaffle,
Before her two-thirds of the field got away;
All through the wet pasture where floods of the last year
Still loitered, they clotted my crimson with clay.

The fourth fence, a wattle, floor'd Monk and Bluebottle;
The Drag came to grief at the blackthorn and ditch,
The rails toppled over Redoubt and Red Rover,
The lane stopped Lycurgus and Leicestershire Witch.

She passed like an arrow Kildare and Cock Sparrow,
And Mantrap and Mermaid refused the stone wall;
And Giles on The Greyling came down at the paling,
And I was left sailing in front of them all.

I took them a burster, nor eased her nor nursed her
Until the Black Bullfinch led into the plough,
And through the strong bramble we bored with a scramble -
My cap was knock'd off by the hazel-tree bough.

Where furrows looked lighter I drew the rein tighter -
Her dark chest all dappled with flakes of white foam,
Her flanks mud-bespattered, a weak rail she shattered -
We landed on turf with our heads turn'd for home.

Then crash'd a low binder, and then close behind her
The sward to the strokes of the favourite shook;
His rush roused her mettle, yet ever so little
She shorten'd her stride as we raced at the brook.

She rose when I hit her. I saw the stream glitter,
A wide scarlet nostril flashed close to my knee,
Bewteen sky and water The Clown came and caught her,
The space that he cleared was a caution to see.

And forcing the running, discarding all cunning,
A length to the front went the rider in green;
A long strip of stubble, and then the big double,
Two stiff flights of rails with a quickset between.

She raced at the rasper, I felt my knees grasp her,
I found my hands give to her strain on the bit;
She rose when The Clown did - our silks as we bounded
Brush'd lightly, our stirrups clash'd loud as we lit.

A rise steeply sloping, a fence with stone coping -
The last - we diverged round the base of the hill;
His path was the nearer, his leap was the clearer,
I flogg'd up the straight and he led sitting still.

She came to his quarter, and on still I brought her,
And up to his girth, to his breastplate she drew,
A short prayer from Neville just reach'd me, "The Devil!"
He muttered - lock'd level the hurdles we flew.

A hum of hoarse cheering, a dense crowd careering,
All sights seen obscurely, all shouts vaguely heard;
"The green wins!" "The crimson!" The multitude swims on,
And figures are blended and features are blurr'd.

"The horse is her master!" "The green forges past her!"
"The Clown will outlast her!" "The Clown wins!" "The Clown!"
The white railing races with all the white faces,
The chestnut outpaces, outstretches the brown.

On still past the gateway she strains in the straightway,
Still struggles, "The Clown by a short neck at most,"
He swerves, the green scourges, the stand rocks and surges,
And flashes, and verges, and flits the white post.

Aye! so ends the tussle - I knew the tan muzzle
Was first, though the ring-men were yelling "Dead heat!"
A nose I could swear by, but Clarke said, "The mare by
A short head." And that's how the favourite was beat.

Selected Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon
1912

 

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