Henry Lawson ( )

The Old Bark School

It was built of bark and poles, and the floor was full of holes 
Where each leak in rainy weather made a pool; 
And the walls were mostly cracks lined with calico and sacks  
There was little need for windows in the school. 

Then we rode to school and back by the rugged gully-track, 
On the old grey horse that carried three or four; 
And he looked so very wise that he lit the masters eyes 
Every time he put his head in at the door. 

He had run with Cobb and Co.  that grey leader, let him go! 
There were men as knowed the brand upon his hide, 
And as knowed it on the course. Funeral service: Good old horse! 
When we burnt him in the gully where he died. 

And the master thought the same. Twas from Ireland that he came, 
Where the tanks are full all summer, and the feed is simply grand; 
And the joker then in vogue said his lessons wid a brogue  
Twas unconscious imitation, let the reader understand. 

And we learnt the world in scraps from some ancient dingy maps 
Long discarded by the public-schools in town; 
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook 
Our geography was somewhat upside-down. 

It was in the book and so  well, at that wed let it go, 
For we never would believe that print could lie; 
And we all learnt pretty soon that when we came out at noon 
The sun is in the south part of the sky. 

And Ireland! that was known from the coast-line to Athlone: 
We got little information re the land that gave us birth; 
Save that Captain Cook was killed (and was very likely grilled) 
And the natives of New Holland are the lowest race on earth. 

And a woodcut, in its place, of the same degraded race 
Seemed a lot more like a camel than the blackfellows that we knew; 
Jimmy Bullock, with the rest, scratched his head and gave it best; 
But his faith was sadly shaken by a bobtailed kangaroo. 

But the old bark school is gone, and the spot it stood upon 
Is a cattle-camp in winter where the curlews cry is heard; 
Theres a brick school on the flat, but a schoolmate teaches that, 
For, about the time they built it, our old master was transferred. 

But the bark school comes again with exchanges cross the plain  
With the Out-Back Advertiser; and my fancy roams at large 
When I read of passing stock, of a western mob or flock, 
With James Bullock, Grey, or Henry Dale in charge. 

And I think how Jimmy went from the old bark school content, 
With his eddication finished, with his pack-horse after him; 
And perhaps if I were back I would take the self-same track, 
For I wish my learning ended when the Master finished Jim.

Henry Lawson's other poems:
  1. To an Old Mate
  2. Jack Dunn of Nevertire
  3. The Heart of Australia
  4. The Bush Girl
  5. Past Carin

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