Henry Lawson ( )


The Captain of the Push


As the night was falling slowly down on city, town and bush, 
From a slum in Joness Alley sloped the Captain of the Push; 
And he scowled towards the North, and he scowled towards the South, 
As he hooked his little finger in the corners of his mouth. 
Then his whistle, loud and shrill, woke the echoes of the `Rocks, 
And a dozen ghouls came sloping round the corners of the blocks. 

There was nought to rouse their anger; yet the oath that each one swore 
Seemed less fit for publication than the one that went before. 
For they spoke the gutter language with the easy flow that comes 
Only to the men whose childhood knew the brothels and the slums. 
Then they spat in turns, and halted; and the one that came behind, 
Spitting fiercely on the pavement, called on Heaven to strike him blind. 

Let us first describe the captain, bottle-shouldered, pale and thin, 
For he was the beau-ideal of a Sydney larrikin; 
Een his hat was most suggestive of the city where we live, 
With a gallows-tilt that no one, save a larrikin, can give; 
And the coat, a little shorter than the writer would desire, 
Showed a more or less uncertain portion of his strange attire. 

That which tailors know as `trousers -- known by him as `bloomin bags -- 
Hanging loosely from his person, swept, with tattered ends, the flags; 
And he had a pointed sternpost to the boots that peeped below 
(Which he laced up from the centre of the nail of his great toe), 
And he wore his shirt uncollard, and the tie correctly wrong; 
But I think his vest was shorter than should be in one so long. 

And the captain crooked his finger at a stranger on the kerb, 
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb, 
And he begged the Gory Bleeders that they wouldnt interrupt 
Till he gave an introduction -- it was painfully abrupt -- 
`Heres the bleedin push, me covey -- heres a (something) from the bush! 
Strike me dead, he wants to join us! said the captain of the push. 

Said the stranger: `I am nothing but a bushy and a dunce; 
`But I read about the Bleeders in the WEEKLY GASBAG once; 
`Sitting lonely in the humpy when the wind began to whoosh, 
`How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the push! 
`Gosh! I hate the swells and good uns -- I could burn em in their beds; 
`I am with you, if youll have me, and Ill break their blazing heads. 

`Now, look here, exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush, 
`Now, look here -- suppose a feller was to split upon the push, 
`Would you lay for him and fetch him, even if the traps were round? 
`Would you lay him out and kick him to a jelly on the ground? 
`Would you jump upon the nameless -- kill, or cripple him, or both? 
`Speak? or else Ill SPEAK! The stranger answered, `My kerlonial oath! 

`Now, look here, exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush, 
`Now, look here -- suppose the Bleeders let you come and join the push, 
`Would you smash a bleedin bobby if you got the blank alone? 
`Would you break a swell or Chinkie -- split his garret with a stone? 
`Would you have a moll to keep yer -- like to swear off work for good? 
`Yes, my oath! replied the stranger. `My kerlonial oath! I would! 

`Now, look here, exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush, 
`Now, look here -- before the Bleeders let yer come and join the push, 
`You must prove that youre a blazer -- you must prove that you have grit 
`Worthy of a Gory Bleeder -- you must show your form a bit -- 
`Take a rock and smash that winder! and the stranger, nothing loth, 
Took the rock -- and smash! They only muttered, `My kerlonial oath! 

So they swore him in, and found him sure of aim and light of heel, 
And his only fault, if any, lay in his excessive zeal; 
He was good at throwing metal, but we chronicle with pain 
That he jumped upon a victim, damaging the watch and chain, 
Ere the Bleeders had secured them; yet the captain of the push 
Swore a dozen oaths in favour of the stranger from the bush. 

Late next morn the captain, rising, hoarse and thirsty from his lair, 
Called the newly-featherd Bleeder, but the stranger wasnt there! 
Quickly going through the pockets of his `bloomin bags, he learned 
That the stranger had been through him for the stuff his `moll had earned; 
And the language that he muttered I should scarcely like to tell. 
(Stars! and notes of exclamation!! blank and dash will do as well). 

In the night the captains signal woke the echoes of the `Rocks, 
Brought the Gory Bleeders sloping thro the shadows of the blocks; 
And they swore the strangers action was a blood-escaping shame, 
While they waited for the nameless, but the nameless never came. 
And the Bleeders soon forgot him; but the captain of the push 
Still is `laying round, in ballast, for the nameless `from the bush.



Henry Lawson's other poems:
  1. Wide Lies Australia
  2. The Heart of Australia
  3. Mount Bukaroo
  4. The Fire at Rosss Farm
  5. To an Old Mate


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