Henry Lawson ( )


The Song of Old Joe Swallow


When I was up the country in the rough and early days, 
I used to work along ov Jimmy Nowletts bullick-drays; 
Then the reelroad wasnt heered on, an the bush was wild an strange, 
An we useter draw the timber from the saw-pits in the range -- 
Load provisions for the stations, an wed travel far and slow 
Through the plains an cross the ranges in the days of long ago. 

Then its yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside em slow, 
An saddle up yer horses an a-ridin we will go, 
To the bullick-drivin, cattle-drovin, 
Nigger, digger, roarin, rovin 
Days o long ago. 

Once me and Jimmy Nowlett loaded timber for the town, 
But we hadnt gone a dozen mile before the rain come down, 
An me an Jimmy Nowlett an the bullicks an the dray 
Was cut off on some risin ground while floods around us lay; 
An we soon run short of tucker an terbacca, which was bad, 
An pertaters dipped in honey was the only tuck we had. 

An half our bullicks perished when the drought was on the land, 
An the burnin heat that dazzles as it dances on the sand; 
When the sun-baked clay an gravel paves for miles the burnin creeks, 
An at evry step yer travel there a rottin carcase reeks -- 
But we pulled ourselves together, for we never used ter know 
What a feather bed was good for in those days o long ago. 

But in spite ov barren ridges an in spite ov mud an heat, 
An dust that browned the bushes when it rose from bullicks feet, 
An in spite ov cold and chilblains when the bush was white with frost, 
An in spite of muddy water where the burnin plain was crossed, 
An in spite of modern progress, and in spite of all their blow, 
Twas a better land to live in, in the days o long ago. 

When the frosty moon was shinin oer the ranges like a lamp, 
An a lot of bullick-drivers was a-campin on the camp, 
When the fire was blazin cheery an the pipes was drawin well, 
Then our songs we useter chorus an our yarns we useter tell; 
An wed talk ov lands we come from, and ov chaps we useter know, 
For there always was behind us OTHER days o long ago. 

Ah, them early days was ended when the reelroad crossed the plain, 
But in dreams I often tramp beside the bullick-team again: 
Still we pauses at the shanty just to have a drop er cheer, 
Still I feels a kind ov pleasure when the campin-ground is near; 
Still I smells the old tarpaulin me an Jimmy useter throw 
Oer the timber-truck for shelter in the days ov long ago. 

I have been a-driftin backards with the changes ov the land, 
An if I spoke ter bullicks now they wouldnt understand, 
But when Mary wakes me sudden in the night Ill often say: 
`Come here, Spot, an stan up, Bally, blank an blank an come-eer-way. 
An she says that, when Im sleepin, oft my elerquince ill flow 
In the bullick-drivin language ov the days o long ago. 

Well, the pub will soon be closin, so Ill give the thing a rest; 
But if you should drop on Nowlett in the far an distant west -- 
An if Jimmy uses doubleyou instead of ar an vee, 
An if he drops his aitches, then youre sure to know its he. 
An yer wont forgit to arsk him if he still remembers Joe 
As knowed him up the country in the days o long ago. 

Then its yoke up the bullicks and tramp beside em slow, 
An saddle up yer horses an a-ridin we will go, 
To the bullick-drivin, cattle-drovin, 
Nigger, digger, roarin, rovin 
Days o long ago.



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


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