John Burroughs.

The Bulletin reciter, a collection of verses for recitation from The Bulletin, 1880-1901 online

. (page 2 of 11)
Online LibraryJohn BurroughsThe Bulletin reciter, a collection of verses for recitation from The Bulletin, 1880-1901 → online text (page 2 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


began



THAT DAY AT BOILING DOWNS. 15

u Sammy Suds was bound'ry-riding, quite content and

law-abiding,
Till he bought some reading-matter one day off a hawker

man.

"Then he started to go ratty, and began to fancy that he
Was an Injun on the warpath ; so he plaited a lassoo,
Shaved and smeared his face with raddle, and knocked up

a greenhide saddle,
After creeping on his belly through the grass a mile or two.

" Then he decked himself in feathers, and went out and

scalped some wethers

Just to give himself a lesson in the sanguinary art ;
Sammy then dug up the hatchet, chased a snake but

could n't catch it,
Killed his dog, lassooed a turkey, scalped the cat and made

a start.

" And he caused a great sensation when he landed at the

station ;
And the boss said, c Hello ! Sammy, what the devil '& up

with you ? '
* I am Slimy Snake the Snorter ! wretched pale-face, crave

not quarter ! '
He replied, and with a shot-gun nearly blew the boss in

two.

" Next, the wood-and-water joey fell a victim to his bowie,
And the boss's weeping widow got a gash from ear to ear ;



1 6 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

And you should have seen his guiver when he scalped the

bullock-driver
And made openings for a horse-boy, servant-maid, and

overseer.

" Counting jackaroos and niggers, he had put up double
figures,

When ensued his awful combat with a party of new-
chums,

All agog to do their duty, with no thought of home or
beauty

But he rubbed them out as rapid as a school-boy would
his sums.

" Out across the silent river, with some duck-shot in his

liver,
Went the store-man, and a lassooed lady left in the same

boat.
Sam then solved the Chinese question or at least made

a suggestion
For he dragged one from a barrel by the tail and cut his

throat.

" But, with thus the job completed, Sammy he got over-
heated

And dropped dead of apoplexy I felt better when he did !

For I 'd got an awful singeing while I watched this mulga
engine

Doing all that I 've related through a cracked brick oven-
lid.




THAT DAY AT BOILING DOWNS!



I To face Page 16.



THAT DAY AT BOILING DOWNS. I?

And when now I find men strangled, or I come across

the mangled

Corpses of a crowd of people or depopulated towns,
Or ev'n a blood-stained river, I can scarce repress a

shiver,
For my nerves were much affected that day out on

Boiling Downs."

JACK MATHIEU.



THE BELLBIRD RUNG HER HOME.

AH ! 't was God-time in September, in that perfumed
hazel belt,

Where the musk-leaves, thick and waxen, from their two
sides throw the scent,

And the supplejack's star blossoms in the endless dewings
melt

When a bird said "Love" so often that a child knew
what he meant ;

When cream- cheeked Polly Ryan made her angel eyes
terrene

As I told her of the load of everlasting love I bore,

And her glance made Heav'n seem open, and the road-
side's dewy sheen

Was to me as pearls which never grew, but arc for evermore.



i8 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

And she said, " Your kiss is folly ! "
But she meant it not, my Polly,
And we kissed adown that roadside, past the grass edge

and its loam ;

And, deep from glen of fern,
As we loitered at the turn,

The bellbird rung us from the kiss the bellbird rung us
home !

Oh ! 't is Death-time in this March time, but the bellbird

rings his bell

In glad deceit from mossy floors the silver note he sends,
And the sky is hodden grey and my heart it is in hell,
And but another bellbird to the past a memory lends ;
And death-cheeked Polly Ryan no more hath eyes

terrene,
For her eyes are stars in Heaven, and their glance the

night winds bear ;
And to me no Heav'n is open 1 On her grave the dewy

sheen

Is as pearls that faintly glisten in the dusk of my despair !
And no more my kiss is " folly,"
For Death's kiss hath dumbed sweet Polly,
And the bellbird that hath rung her to the grave-edge,

and its loam,

Calls no more from glen of fern
For she left me at the turn ;

And the bellbird rung us from the kiss the bellbird rung
her home !

RANDOLPH BEDFORD.



OUT BACK. 19



OUT BACK.

WE dumped our swags by the river-side when the
sun was getting low;
To reach the boys on the other side we had four good

miles to go ;
But the winding stream that before us stretched ran

sluggishly and wide
*T was a hundred yards from where we sat to the sand

on the other side.
The tailings washed from the claims above had sullied

the waters clear,
And thicker and thicker they slowly ran as year succeeded

year;
My mate and myself wished heartily we had reached the

further shore
The trip was the first he had made on the track, but I

had been there before.



A raw new-chum of the boasting type, in his stockings six-
feet-two ;

He never tired while he " held the flute " of telling what
he could do

He had pulled a win with an Oxford eight ; had hunted
on Yorkshire side ;

Had played with the Gents on the Oval, too; and Lord
knows what beside !



20 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

" Had never been taken in, bai Jove ! " he was " far too

smart, you know "

Was a lot too good to carry a swag, and plainly told me so.
A fortnight back I had picked him up, stone-broke on the

Sydney side,
And we swagged it out to fossick a creek I knew by this

river wide.

" I think I '11 swim it, bai Jove ! " he said, and glanced at

the opposite side ;
" I Ve swum the Rhine by the Drachenfels, and that is

four times as wide."
Then he stacked his togs they were few, Lord knows !

on the log beside me there,
And turned to dive in the murky stream with a proud,

heroic air.
" I would n't dive for fear of the rocks," I grinned as I

said to him ;
" But just walk out till you get your depth, and then you

can safely swim."
" A good idea, old chap ! " says he ; " for the water is

beastly thick"
And then he stepped in the sluggish stream, and stepped

at the double-quick.

The first step covered his toes, I think ; the next he was

ankle deep ;
While I struggled hard with a laughing fit in trying my

peace to keep.



OUT BACK. 21

Then, bending low, he prepared to swim when the water

reached his knees,
With arms drawn up and his unkempt hair adrift on the

evening breeze.
Ten paces out and the water still just reached to his

ankles bare,
While he went prepared for the sudden drop in the

depths that he knew were there.
Half-way across and his ankles trim still fathomed the

mighty flood ;
He threw a suspicious glance behind, and just for a

moment stood.

Then on he went with a cautious stride, while around

his spacious feet
The waters mingled with drifting sand and the three-inch

wavelets beat.
He faced about on the other shore he found he was

fairly "had,"
And the words that fell from that naked man were the

sublimate of bad.
Then to wade across I tucked my pants they were

getting for wear the worse,
While my robeless mate who had swum the Rhine swore

hard at the universe.
He cursed the stream and cursed the sand as he fiercely

paced the shore
'T was the first gay time he had crossed that creek, but I

had been there before.

P. P. QUINN.



22 THE BULLETIN RECITER.



AFTER THE FLOOD.

HERE, in this bend of the creek, in the rushes and
long lush grasses,

Wild white violets nestle, and musk in the water- weeds;
Here there is stillness, and shelter for the wandering

wind as it passes

Is caught by the tall green flax, and dies in the raupo
and reeds.

Only the roar of the creek, half-hidden in flax and toi,
Swirling in deep, dark pools under the nigger-head ;
Only the bleat of sheep, and the distant drover's coo-ee,
Only the bark of dogs, to break the sleep of the dead !

Shelter, and stillness, else ; and over the level plain,
Over the hedges and homesteads, and paddocks of wheat

and rye,

Shoulder and peak and glacier, range upon range again,
Blue rise the Alps in the distance, kissing the soft blue
sky ...

This is the place where we found him here, with his

face to the skies,

Cast by the furious flood like a broken straw on the bank;
Here at the pitiless sun he stared with unseeing eyes
Neither despairing nor pleading, but horribly, hopelessly

blank.



AFTER THE FLOOD. 23

Snow? we had plenty of snow that winter of 'seventy-
one:

Snow on the lowlands, and snow on the highlands, and
snow on the range ;

Never a month of spring, for all with a rush and a run,

Winter changed into summer folk called it a cursed
change :

For a warm nor'easter blew the whole of a windy week,

Melted the Alpine snows, and after a day of doubt,

We woke in the noisy night to the rush and roar of the

creek
Woke in the wild, wet night to know that the floods were

out.

We in the homestead watched, after that weary night,
Waited and watched through the day while the water rose

to the door ;
Watched, while the children shouted, and welcomed the

flood with delight
Sailed their paper-boats, and paddled about on the

floor.

On rushed the yellow flood, crashing, and dashing, and

hurling
Timber, and logs, and posts, in the whirl of the foaming

deep;
Then, as the day wore on, we heard thro' the roar of the

swirling,
Piteous, the low of cattle, and terrified bleat of sheep.



24 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

Then, when the flood went down, the road and the

paddocks were strewn
With timber and broken branches, half-buried in silt and

mud;

Carcases hither and thither, palings and posts torn down,
And the wild flowers crushed and broken, to trace the

course of the flood.

This is the place where he lay with his wan, white face to

the skies,
Caught here against a gorse-stump amongst the reeds on

the bank ;

Here to the pitiless sun he stared with unseeing eyes,
Neither despairing nor pleading, but horribly, hopelessly

blank.

And here we stood in silence, the shepherd Jim and I

Stood, and stared at the stillness in the staring face of the
dead;

And Jim knelt down in the rushes, and closed the expres-
sionless eye,

And covered the corpse with his coat " For the sake of
the mother," he said.

Only a pipe in his pocket, and matches sodden and damp ;
Never a mark nor sign to trace him, his home, or his

name;

" Only a swagger!" we heard; and nobody misses a tramp
Houseless and friendless who cared whither he went or

came?



AFTER THE FLOOD, 25

We buried him here where we found him, for the parson

was miles away,
While the wild wind rustled the flax-blades, and gorse-

blossoms scented the air ;
Here, with the drooping wild-flowers, that glorious sweet

spring day,
We left the nameless swagger, with never a dirge nor prayer.

Gentleman, swagger, clown what difference perishing

thus?
In the face of the pitiful present, what were the things of

the past ?
Gentle or simple what matter ? it was nothing to him or

to us:
We are all of us gentle, maybe, and simple too, at the last !

What were the odds to him ? Did it fare with him better

or worse,
Rolled like a log down the creek, choked by the fierce

yellow wave,

Flung in the ooze on the bank, caught in a snag of the gorse,
Laid by ungentle hands away in a nameless grave ?

Yet the shepherd Jim and I had looked on the face of the

dead,

Looked on the dogged jaw, and forehead solid and square :
There was will in the resolute mouth, and brain in the

massive head
Drowned like a rat in the creek, and that power and

intellect there !



26 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

And somewhere, out in the distance, was there a mother

or wife
Waiting, and watching, and praying, as only women can

pray ;
Waiting, and watching, and praying in vain for a wasted

life,
For that unknown tramp who perished how many miles

away?

What was the good of it all ? of intellect, power and

strength ?
What had he done with his life ? Why was he born to

the world ?
What was the use of it all ? to live for a space, and at

length
Lie like a log in the mud where the refuse and rubbish

are hurled ?

Ay, you may weep and pray, you women, and weep again,
Weep for the wasted talent, weep for the useless life !
The whole wide world weeps with you, the whole world's

tears are vain
Even as yours, O Mother ! even as yours, O Wife !

We plod through the daily routine, we see in our own dull

way
That our useless lives are useful in the life of the human

race;

Our influence lasts for ever, our virtues and vices may
Bear fruit in our children's children, and set them each

in his place.



AFTER THE FLOOD. 27

Oh, answerless riddle of riddles ! as the purposeless years

rolled by
We also have vexed our souls since the human epoch

began,
Who live, eat, drink, and are merry, who suffer, and sin,

and die,
Content to be amongst many then how for the hundredth

man?

The man who should rise and lead us, the many, the

common crowd,
Who should leave his mark upon us by right of a stronger

brain ;
The man who, with broader thought and higher feeling

endowed,
Was only an unknown swagger, whose existence was void

and vain !

Ah, well ! let him sleep in peace where the water-weeds

and the mosses

Nestle under the raupo in the quiet bend of the creek ;
Life is a difficult thing with its longings, its loves, and its

losses . . .
May Death prove an easier matter to all of us, strong or

weak.

DORA WILCOX.



28 THE BULLETIN RECITER.



A STRANGER AT THE U.

HE was guileless in his manner 't was a style the boys
admired,
And he told, in simple language, how his feelings had been

fired

By the news of nuggets waiting, in numbers not a few,
For any simple stranger that might strike the I.O.U.
The golden I.O.U.

Where they put the wash-dirt through
The rattling, creaking shakers in the gullies round the U.

With a smile of easy confidence he told the boys around
That his native place was Albany upon King George's

Sound,
And he 'd left his father's flocks and herds, and poison

grass, and such,

To know the world in general, and come in closer touch
At the diggings on the U.
With the hardy men and true
That caught the unobtrusive weight in sieves upon the U.

It was moved by Mick M'Carthy, hailing from the Sydney

side,
That O'Doolan be the stranger's friend, philosopher, and

guide;

And that every information be furnished him about
Our little recreations when the week had given out



A STRANGER AT THE U. 29

For we hoped to put him through
In a manner that would do
Lasting credit to the boys that were assembled on the U.

He was led by invitation to the two-up on the flat,
That was decently conducted by a pug. from Ballarat ;
And he said, in wild astonishment, he thought that kindly

Fate

Had other joys in store for him than looking for the
weight;

Yes, he would gladly do
A modest hand or two
In the interesting school that was established on the U.

It was sad to see him betting in the confidence of youth,
For the grey was rung upon him though with disregard

for truth

I could palliate my statement, yet the morals that I hold
Force me to the free confession that he was completely
sold

By the boys upon the U.,
Who thought to make him rue
His first attempt at two-up, as played upon the U.

We were flush with paper money when it got too dark to

play,
For the brumby changed his fivers in a wildly reckless

way;

Though it didn't seem to strike us, in anxiety to win,
That we 'd all been taking flimsies, and were giving change

in tin



30 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

To the stranger at the U.,
With the crispy notes and new
He circulated freely 'mong the diggers on the U.

Paddy Grady's " Hessian Palace " was a scene of wild
delight,

And we drank the shypoo deeply, till the lateness of the

night

Suggested a retirement ; but O'Doolan swore a round
Should be drunk in grateful honour of the latest patch
we 'd found ;

And he paid for the shypoo
With a crispy note and new,

He had earned by tossing pennies with a stranger on
theU.

Grady took the note and scanned it, then in measured

words and cold
Said the " Bank of Hope " was dying would O'Doolan

pay in gold?
And, sarcastically soothing, said he hoped the patch

would give

A slightly better prospect when we put it through the sieve,
To find if one or two
Of the notes so crisp and new
Would buy a first-class coffin for the stranger on the U.

There was wailing in the shanty, and a hurried search was

made
To find the gentle stranger who our kindness had betrayed;



THE STRANGER AT THE U. 31

But he } d vanished, taking with him as a solace to the mind
Half a hundred quid in change for all the notes he 'd left
behind ;

And the boys of I.O.U.

Now with dark suspicion view
Every too-confiding stranger putting pegs in at the U.

J. CRAWFORD.



SINKING.

I HAD often faced a seeming
Certain death without a shiver,
And I boasted of my valour
In the pride that courts a fall
Boasted vainly, little dreaming
That the Death-fear soon should quiver
Thro' each nerve, and stamp the pallor
Of a quaking heart o'er all. . .

Lightning flashing, thunder growling,
Queensland rain in torrents pouring,
As the midnight shift makes ready
For the eight hours' work below ;
Fierce wind, thro' the whim-drum howling,
Shrieks thro' poppet-heads, and roaring
'Cross the shaft's mouth, drowns my "Steady!
Right, old man ; now let her go !"



32 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

Standing upright in the bucket,
Legs astride its mounted handle,
With my right hand tightly gripping
The old rope Jack feared to trust
With our joint weight, by bad luck it
Chanced a drip put out my candle,
And past slimy slabs I 'm slipping
Down in darkness and disgust.

Full three hundred feet beneath me,
Like a star, I catch the glimmer
Of Jack's light, and hear him singing ;
But the powder-clouds that hang
In the shaft, and now enwreath me,
Make the distant light seem dimmer
When my bucket, in its swinging,
Strikes a slab-ledge with a bang !

And the rope between my fingers
Turns from taut to slack instanter,
And I know my weight is resting
On a quarter inch of pine ;
And each second that it lingers,
With the whim-horse at a canter,
Brings a coil of slack, suggesting
That it 's time to free the chine.

"Steady ! Heave up ! Ho ! on top, there ! "
But my voice is lost in thunder,
And the slack comes coiling round me,
Reaching knee, and thigh, and hip :



SINKING. 33

And I curse, and scream out " Stop, there !
Heave-up I Jack, lad, stand from under ! "
For the stranded coils surround me
And I feel the bucket slip.

As the end draws near and nearer
All my bones seem turned to marrow,
And with fear and rage I 'm choking ;
For the drop means death, I know.
But one piercing shriek of terror,
Shooting upwards like an arrow,
Finds the braceman calmly smoking ;
And he drawls, " What 's wrong below ? "

" HEAVE-UP ! May ten thousand cancers

Rot your leprous ears for ever ! "

And my brain is fairly boiling,

For I hear the splinter crack.

" Lower ? Right you are ! " he answers,'

And I rave as one in fever

As the slack comes coiling, coiling

Round my armpits tons of slack !

As the bucket disengages,
Head and hands alike are busy ;
Still I shriek a malediction
As I gasp, and drop through space !
And the seconds seem as ages
In that downward rush and dizzy.
And I feel the fiery friction
Of the air against my face.



34 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

Then a sudden jerk that almost
Tears each arm from out its socket,
(But not death itself could sunder
Such a death-grip) brings relief.
Now 't is Jack must fear the fall most,
For I hear the unhooked bucket
Crashing down below like thunder,
While I 'm trussed up like a sheaf.

Yes, the sturdy hempen strands that
Stood the fearful strain so stoutly
Still encircle me and save me.
After God, I thank the slack ;
And no doubt He understands that
I would thank Him more devoutly
For the lease of life He gave me,
If He 'd steered the cask off Jack I

BENDEE.



THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME.

I CROSSED the old ford at the end of last May,
The old pub had vanished, not even a shingle
Survived of the roof, which, in years passed away,

Saw friendship and devilry strangely commingle.
The few blackened wall-posts and panels of fencing

That stand by the roadside are all that remain
To tell of old days ; a new era commencing
Has ended a gold-time we '11 ne'er see again.



THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME. 35

Then Kate was the barmaid, as handsome a girl

As any fine lady ; the smile that she gave
Had put heaps of poor fellows' heads in a whirl,

And some poor unfortunates' bones in the grave.
She was worshipped, you see, by the coves all about,

Who would fight like the devil her love to secure ;
And Cupid, in those days, to settle a doubt,

Had a way of his own which was certain and sure.

And Kate ! why she 'd drive one insane with her sighs,

With her pearly-white teeth and her lips red as coral
She looked like a witch, in the depths of whose eyes

The light sparkled best at the sight of a quarrel.
I '11 always remember that long-ago morning,

When, down from the Bogong, young Archie Mackay
Stood joking with Kate, and, without the last warning,

Flash Jim interfered in his coarse-speaking way.

From Archie's warm heart to the roots of his hair

The fiery blood rushed, with a leap and a bound ;
Like a flash he stood off, then a blow planted square

Sent Jim with a thud and an oath to the ground.
With some terrible threats the two men closed together,

A clinch and a struggle Flash Jim did the rest,
And, snatching his knife from its sheathing of leather,

With Archie's throat gripped, drove it into his breast.

Flash Jim was the "ringer" of Moorabin shed,
And a bit of a bully they hated him, all ;

The crowd tried to rush him he cowed them instead
And stood panting at bay, with his back to the wall.



36 THE BULLETIN RECITER.

They wavered an instant, " Stand back, or by God," he
Exclaimed, " who comes near me comes straight to his
death !

I '11 bury the blade of this knife in his body ;

So damn you, stand off ! let a cove get his breath ! "

Then he sped through the doorway and made for the creek,

And the crowd with a shout followed closely behind ;
Lithe-limbed and lean-flanked, Jim could stay for a week,

A good even-timer, he sped like the wind.
They chased him through timber, to where the tall pines

Rose out of the sandhills, set close as a furze ;
Right on to the range, where the setting sun shines

In a glory of crimson o'er ridges and spurs.

They lost him sometimes, till a stir of the branches

Showed where he was threading the bracken and fern,
And they followed like sleuth-hounds the trail on his
haunches

Each man as a bushman had nothing to learn ;
So hard on his track pressed the resolute band,

Impelled by a mixture of justice and passion ;
And the flying man knew that lynch-law, out of hand,

Would follow his capture in summary fashion.

Archie's mate, who throughout with a dogged persistence
Had followed, stopped short, and without much delay,

As he saw the tall ferns gently moved at a distance
Not greater than ten or twelve paces away



THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME. 37

With the skill of a sharpshooter marking a foe,

His revolver discharged ere the smoke-cloud departed,

A body rolled down through the brushwood below,
Some twenty odd yards from the spot where it started.

The flash, the report, its wild echoes resounding,

Fast summoned the crowd who, with ringing halloo,
Scrambled down to the creek, where, the victim surrounding,

They found they had captured a scrub-kangaroo.
Methinks I can call up the asinine change

Of expression which tortured their features that day,
And hear in the silence that fell o'er the range

Jim's wild peal of laughter die slowly away.



" Where 's Archie ? " you ask. Well, I guess I am he.

'Neath the folds of my shirt, here, I still bear the scar.
"And Kate?" Married years ago married to me

And as handsome as when she served drinks in the bar.
Here 's the landlord for orders I 'm dry with this yabber ;

Yours the same? ... so is mine . . . Bring your

own . . . How he winks !
You were asking just now what became of the stabber,

Flash Jim. Why, that J s he just gone out for the drinks.

T. H. ORD.



38 THE BULLETIN RECITER.



SOLD-UP.

* < \X7HO 'S a biddin' for the gin-case ? What d' ye say?
W (All right, Missis ! ) Here ! I '11 start it at a crown !
Now then, gents ! It 's going lively ; fire away !

Look alive, or s'elp me bob I '11 knock it down !
Just a common bloomin' gin-case ? No it ain't !

Hand it up here, Mister . . . thank ye . . . Look at it!
Half to pieces old and shaky not much paint ;

But it ain't a common gin-case ; not a bit.

See that lanky half-grown sapling by the door ?

He 's her eldest son ; six foot if he 's an inch.


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryJohn BurroughsThe Bulletin reciter, a collection of verses for recitation from The Bulletin, 1880-1901 → online text (page 2 of 11)