John Burroughs.

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

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Then runs the gauntlet bravely into Dan Malowny's


The carrier is jolly, and the drover does n't care;
The navvy's full of folly, and a demon on the "tear";
The miner has his "moments," and the syndicate the


The "push" a ruction foments when it 's out upon the wine;
But for rorty joy and rapid under Heaven's spacious span
The chance you cannot cap it of the cocky's handy man !

Then it's git up, Captain Punch, there that's a coo-ee

from the stack;
They're eating all the lunch there but Kitty '11 save

my whack;
Her eyes are black and blazing, but for me they 're ever


And in their depths a-gazing I can read a willing mind.
Gee-off! this blessed lurching knocks the neatest load


And clouds of flies are searching in recess of nose and eye.
Way woh look-out! it's over. Oh, condemn the

crimson hole !
I 'm booked an early "rover" hear Maginnis bless my



There are places and positions worth the while of man to


And phases and conditions with the shining sheen of gold;
But, O! the situation when I Kitty's waist enfold
I 'd change not for creation fair the billet that I hold;
Through Labour's ranks a-ranging find a fellow if you can
Who 'd lose by places changing with the cocky's handy

man !



FROM her home beyond the river in the parting of the
Where the wattles' fleecy blossom surged and scattered in

the breeze,
And the tender creepers twined about the chimneys and

the sills,

And the garden flamed with colour like an Eden through
the trees,

She would come along the gully, where the ferns grew

golden fair,
In the stillness of the morning, like the spirit of the

With the sun-shafts caught and woven in the meshes of

her hair,
And the pink and white of heath-bloom sweetly blended

in her face.


She was fair, and small, and slender-limbed, and buoyant

as a bird ;
Fresh as wild, white, dew-dipped violets where the

bluegum's shadow goes,
And no music like her laughter in the joyous bush was

And the glory of her smile was as a sunbeam in a rose.

Ben felt mighty at the windlass when she watched him

hauling stuff,
And she asked him many questions, "What is that?"

and "Why is this?"
Though his bashfulness was painful, and he answered

like a muff,
With his foolish "My word, Missie!" and his "Beg your

pardon, Miss."

He stood six foot in his bluchers, stout of heart and

strong of limb;
For her sake he would have tackled any man or any

brute ;
Of her haM" a score of suitors none could hold a light to

And he owned the richest hole along the Bullock Lead

to boot.

Yet while Charley Mack and Hogan, and the Teddywaddy

Put in many pleasant evenings at "The Bower," Ben



And remained a mere outsider, and would spend one half

the night
Waiting, hid among the trees, to watch her shadow on

the blind.

He was laughed at on the river, and as far as Kiley's

They would tell of Bashful Gleeson, who was "gone on"

Kitty Dwyer,

But, beyond defeating Hogan in a pleasant Sunday mill,
Gleeson's courtship went no further till the morning of

the fire.

We were called up in the darkness, heard a few excited

In the garden down the flat a Chow was thumping on a

There were shouts and cooeys on the hills, and cries of

startled birds,
But we saw the gum leaves redden, and that told us what

was wrong.

O'er "The Bower" the red cloud lifted as we sprinted for

the punt.
Gleeson took the river for it in the scanty clothes he

Dwyer was madly calling Kitty when we joined the men

in front;
Whilst they questioned, hoped, and wondered, Ben was

smashing at the door.


He went in amongst the smoke, and found her room;

but some have said
That he dared not pass the threshold that he lingered

in distress,
Game to face the fire, but not to pluck sweet Kitty from

her bed
And he knocked and asked her timidly to "please get up

and dress."

Once again he called, and waited till a keen flame licked

his face;

Then a Spartan-like devotion welled within the simple man,
And he shut his eyes and ventured to invade the sacred

Found the downy couch of Kitty, clutched an armful up,

and ran.

True or not, we watched and waited, and our hearts grew

cold and sick
Ere he came; we barely caught him as the flame leapt

in his hair.
He had saved the sheets, a bolster, and the blankets, and

the tick;
But we looked in vain for Kitty pretty Kitty wasn't


And no wonder: whilst we drenched him as he lay upon

the ground,
And her mother wailed entreaties that it wrung our hearts

to hear,


Hill came panting with the tidings that Miss Kitty had

been found,
Clad in white, and quite unconscious, 'mid the saplings

at the rear.

We 're not certain how it happened, but I 've heard the

women say
That 't was Kitty's work. She saw him when the doctor

left, they vow,
Swathed in bandages and helpless, and she kissed him

where he lay.
Anyhow, they're three years married, and he isn't

bashful now.



OUR Skeeta was married ! Our Skeeta ! the tomboy
and pet of the place
No more as a maiden we 'd greet her; no more would her

pert little face
Light up the chill gloom of the parlour; no more would

her deft little hands

Serve drinks to the travel-stained caller on his way to
more southerly lands:


No more would she chaff the rough drovers, and send

them away with a smile;
No more would she madden her lovers demurely with

womanish guile
The "prince" from the great Never Never, with light

touch of lips and of hand,
Had come, and enslaved her for ever a potentate

bearded and tanned
From the land where the white mirage dances its dance

of death over the plains,
With the glow of the sun in his glances, the lust of the

west in his veins;
His talk of wild cattle and rushes a curious slang on his

Of narrow escapes and of brushes with niggers on perilous

A supple-thewed, desert-bred rover, with naught to

commend him but this:
That he was her idol, her lover, who 'd fettered her heart

with a kiss.

They were wed and he took her to Warren, where she

in her love was content;
But town life to him was too foreign, so back to the

droving he went :
A man away down on the border of Vic. bought some

cattle from Cobb
And gave Harry Parker the order to go to the Gulf for

the mob:


And he went, for he held her love cheaper than his wish

to re-live the old life
Or his reason might yet have been deeper I called it

deserting his wife !

Then one morning his horses were mustered; the start

on the journey was made;
A clatter, an oath through the dust heard, was the last of

the long cavalcade.
As we stood by the stockyard assembled poor child !

how she strove to be brave!
But yet I could see how she trembled at the careless

farewell that he gave.

We brought her back home on the morrow; but none of

us ever may learn
Of the fight that she fought to keep sorrow at bay till her

husband's return.
Her girlhood had gone, and in going had left her in

bitterness steeped :
How gladsome and gay was the sowing ! how bitter the

crop that she reaped !
Her girlhood had gone, and had left her a woman in all

but in years
Of laughter and joy had bereft her, and brought in their

place nought but tears.

Yet still, as the months passed, a treasure was brought

her by Love, ere he fled ;
And garments of infantile measure she fashioned with

needle and thread :


She fashioned with linen and laces and ribbons a nest for

her bird,
While colour returned to her face as the bud of maternity

It blossomed and died: we arrayed it in all its soft

splendour of white,
And sorrowing took it and laid it in earth whence it

sprung, out of sight.
She wept not at all, only whitened, as Death, in his

pitiless quest,
Leant over her pillow and tightened the throat of the

child at her breast.

She wept not: her soul was too tired; for waiting is

harrowing work;
And then I bethought me and wired away to the agents

in Bourke.
'Twas little enough I could glean there; 'twas little

enough that they knew:
They answered he had n't been seen there, but might in

a week perchance two.

She wept not at all only whitened with staring too long

at the night :
There was only one time when she brightened that time

when red dust hove in sight,
And settled and hung on the backs of the cattle, and

altered their spots,
While the horses swept up, with their packs of blue

blankets and jingling pint-pots.


She always was set upon meeting those boisterous cattle

men, lest
Her husband had sent her a greeting by one of them, in

from the West.
Not one of them ever owned to him, or seemed to

remember the name :
(The truth was they all of them knew him, but would n't

tell her of his shame).
But never, though long time she waited, did her faith in

the faithless grow weak;
And each time the outer door grated, an eager flush

sprang to her cheek:

T was n't him, and it died with a flicker; and then what

I 'd long dreaded came :
I was serving two drovers with liquor when one of them

mentioned his name.
"Oh, yes!" said the other one, winking, "on the Paroo I

saw him ; he 'd been
In Eulo a fortnight then, drinking, and driving about

with 'The Queen/
While the bullocks were going to glory, and his billet was

not worth a damn ! "
I told him to cut short the story, as I pulled-to the door

with a slam.
Too late! for the words were loud-spoken, and Skeeta

was out in the hall :
Then I knew that a girl's heart was broken, as I heard a

low cry and a fall.

SKEETA. 1 75

And then came a day when the doctor went home, for

the truth was avowed ;
And I knew that my hands, which had rocked her in

childhood, would fashion her shroud :
I knew we should tenderly carry and lay her where many

more lie
Ah, why will the girls love and marry, when men are not

worthy? ah, why?
She lay there a-dying, our Skeeta : not e'en did she stir

at my kiss :
In the next world, perchance, we may greet her; but

never, ah, never in this !

Like the last breath of air in a gully, that sighs as the sun

slowly dips,
To the knell of a heart beating dully her soul struggled

out on her lips;
But she lifted great eyelids and pallid, while once more

beneath them there glowed
The fire of old Love, as she rallied at sound of hoofs out

on the road.
They rang sharp and clear on the metal : they ceased at

the gate in the lane :
A pause ! and we heard the beats settle in long, swinging

cadence again.
With a rattle, a rush, and a clatter, the rider came down

by the store,
And neared us ; but what did it matter? he never pulled

rein at the door;


But over the brow of the hill he sped on with a low,

muffled roll
'T was only young Smith on his filly : he passed and so

too did her soul.

Weeks after, I went down one morning to trim the white

rose that had grown
And clasped, with its tender adorning, the plain little

cross of white stone.
In the lane dusty drovers were wheeling dull cattle, with

turbulent sound;
But I paused as I saw a man kneeling, with his forehead

pressed low on the mound.

Already he'd heard me approaching; and slowly I saw

him up-rise
And move away, sullenly slouching his cabbage-tree over

his eyes.
I never said anything to him as he mounted his horse at

the gate :
He didn't know me; but I knew him the husband who

came back, too late !



HPHEY marshalled her lovers four and four,
A A drum at their head, in the days of old :
O, none could have guessed their hearts were sore ;
They marched with such gayness in scarlet and gold.


They came to the dance place on the hill

Where Death was the piper (he pipes full well !) ;

They grounded their arms and stood stock-still ;
And just why he sorrowed no one would tell.

O, some had been wed in distant lands,

And sweethearts had others but let that pass ;

She held them at ease in snow-white hands,
For Queen over all was the Currency Lass.

They ushered her forth in all her charms
Her eyes were alight and as gold her hair ;

She looked on the men and oped her arms

What wonder if then they had wished them there ?

She hearkened the Preacher, thin and pale ;

His voice was as frost, yet his words were wise ;
But sin on the soul is like wrought mail,

And only a scorn of him fired her eyes.

" O, sorrow and pray ! the hour draws nigh,
The Lord in His justice shall question thee ! "

The Preacher made prayer 'twixt sob and sigh,
And down dropped his soul on bended knee.

" He fashioned thee fair " a sideways look
" Red lipped and right royal to look upon,

A joy of the Earth " his thin hands shook,
And passionate lights in his deep eyes shone.


In scarlet and gold her lovers stood,

A host under famine with heads out-thrust \

Keen-flamed in the sun ran reddest blood
And lips that were thirsty grew dry as dust.

They loved her for years their tangled souls
Like silvery fish in her beauty-mesh

All breathless reposed ... A dull drum rolls,
And Death is at hand for the Flower of Flesh.

She lifted her head for one love-word
(Afar was a clamour of new-come ships),

Her hair in a cloud the low wind stirred,
And silent they marvelled at her red lips.

" A lover was I from youth," she said ;

" And Love is my lord till I fill the grave "
Then coyly she drooped her gold-haired head

" Now, last of my lovers, a kiss I crave ! "

The Preacher was whirled in Passion's rout,

And dark was the stain on his soul's white snow

Her lips were as life his soul leapt out,
And sure there was laughter in Hell below !

" A singer was I these years," she said,

" And so I must sing till my soul doth pass."

Then forth from her sin-sweet lips there sped
The long-dead song of the Currency Lass.


The hands of the spoiler touch her throat ;

The noon grows near and the last sands run :
(Still over the scene her wild words float)

The noose is ready, the song is done.

" A dancer was I from birth," she said ;

" A baby, I danced on my mother's knee ;
Now whistle a jig, with swaying head,

And lovers of mine, I will dance for ye ! "

Stood each with a droop, a cheated man,

While Sorrow went weaving an ice-cold spell . .

Good-bye to the world ! The dance began
With Death for the piper he piped full well I



NO, I would n't sell 'er, Mister.
Wot 's the good of talkin' rot!
She 's the mare, is dat dere neddy,
Dat 'as brought me all I got

I was ridin' den for Bostock
(Confidential boy, you know)

Leery bloke he was, old Bostock,
And he knowed a t'ing or so.


He 'd a stable full of good 'tins,
And a bloke 'ud never know

Which of 'em he meant to stiffen,
Or on which 'is money 'd go.

Sometimes I 'd be on de winner,
Sometimes would n't 'ave a place;

And I 'd never know my dooty
Until jist before de race;

Jist before de field was ready,
Mister Bostock 'e would come,

And he 'd walk around de neddy,


And he'd feel about de shoulder,
And de fetlock and de knee,

And he 'd tink de matter over
Till at last 'e'd say to me:

"Wot you tink about 'im, Brickey?

You 're de bloke dat orter know."
And I'd answer: "Mister Bostock,

We can only 'ave a go."

"Why," he 'd say, "dey 've 'andicapped 'im
Till he 'as n't got a show!"

Den he 'd walk away disgusted,
And I 'd know de cake was dough.


Or he'd say: "She's worth a ticket,"

With a leery kind er grin,
And I 'd know 'is stuff was on 'er,

And I 'd got to try and win.

Well, we had a mare in trainin 1

Dat I always used to ride;
And I knew she was a clinker,

Though she never had been tried;

So my bit 'ud go upon 'er,

But I 'd always drop de same,
Till I used to t'ink and wonder

"Wot de 'ell 's 'is little game?"

Till it struck me all a sudden

Like a dagger in me 'eart,
"He's a-waitin' somethink 'andsome^

And de Melbin Cup 's 'is dart."

So I 'eld me tongue, and bli-me!

When de weights was out I saw
Dat I 'ad de biggest monte

Dat I ever 'ad before.

Den I socked me bit upon 'er

Ev'ry tray-bit I could bring;
Popped me watch, and made de missus

Go and pawn 'er weddin' ring.


Day and night she cried about it,

But I always used to say
"It's the biggest bloomin' monte

Dat 'as ever come our way."

Well, when all was fair and ready,

I was sittin' like a ghost,
Waitin' till de boss 'ud come and

Let me git 'er to de post.

When de field wos doin' gallops

Mr. Bostock out 'e comes,
And 'e walks around about 'er,

And 'e "'urns!" and "'aws!" and "'urns!' 1

And 'e walks around about 'er,
And 'e walks around again . . .

And, so 'elp me God ! 'e tells me :
"Brickey, she can never win!"

"Never win! Yer mean to tell me
Dat," I sez. "Yer bloomin' cow,

Don't you make no error 'bout it,
She 's a cutter for it now."

And she was a daisy cutter,

For I rid and lay in wait ;
And I took 'em round de turnin',

And I led 'em up de straight.


And I scoots along de fences,

And a-past de post we flies,
And I sits 'er all a-tremble,

With de tear-drops in me eyes.

Yes, I 'm doin' pretty middlin',
And I 'm layin' up de gonce . . .

Dat ole bloke about de stables?
Dat was Mr. Bostock once !



COME and look around my office
Floors are littered, walls are hung
With the treasures and the trophies

Of the days when I was young;
Rusty spur and snaffle idle,
Polo-stick and gun and bridle,
In a sweet confusion flung.

There 's my saddle when a rover
(That 's the bridle hanging up)

Queensland-built a Lachlan drover
Swopped me for a Kelpie pup.

By the Lord, it makes one ponder

When one thinks those spurs up yonder
Helped to win the Mulga Cup !


There 's the bar I used on Wyndham
On the day you watched him "clear"

With the four-in-hand behind him
Yet they '11 say it 's too severe.

See that bunch of faded ribbon?

It belongs to Jock M'Kibbon,
But he always leaves it here.

And there 's just a little story
Hanging to that bunch of blue;

I 'm not claiming any glory
When I spin the yarn to you

Yarns go best when pipes are glowing;

Here's tobacco; set her going
And remember this is true . . .

Pearl of price for hunter's duty
Was the grey mare Heart's Desire,

With the Snowdons' strength and beauty
And a dash of Panic fire;

And I never knew her failing

At a dyke, a ditch, or paling

She could jump her height and higher.

Now, the rider courted throwing

Who would touch her with the spurs

When the Snowdon mare got going
With that sweeping stride of hers;

She was restless, hot, and heady;

She had smashed one man already,
And the fright had made her worse.


But her owner, nothing fearing,

Brave as ever man could be,
Saw the yearly Show was nearing

While he nursed a crippled knee ;
So he called me, did M'Kibbon :
"We Ve a mortgage on the ribbon

Will you ride the mare for me?"

They had sent their speedy sprinters

Round the fences, one by one,
And the air was thick with splinters

Till you could n't see the sun ;
Such a striking, swerving, baulking !
Saddles empty, riders walking !

Not a round was cleanly done.

And the grey mare, Heart's Desire,

Stood and watched and seemed to know;

Fretted when they galloped by her,
Tossed her lean head to and fro ;

Then they called to me, "Get ready!"

And M'Kibbon whispered, "Steady. . . !"
But the crowd yelled, "Let her GO!!"

Now, beyond the five-foot palings,

As I set the mare a-swing,
From below the grand-stand railings

Someone's child crept in the ring.
And we never saw the youngster
Till the mare was right against her

Shortening stride to make the spring !


So I loosed her head and drove her
With the red spurs ripping wild;

It was take the lot and over
Or God help the tiny child !

And I watched as though in dreaming

Where the snow-white dress was gleaming,
And the babe looked up and smiled !

But I knew the mare I rode on
Could a leap be found too far

For the quarters of old Snowdon
And the heart of Blazing Star?

Here she had the chance to show me

And the shod hoofs flashed below me,
Half a yard above the bar !

Then the dust-clouds ! Had we cleared herl
Then the light shock as we land ;

Then the crowd stood up and cheered her
On the ring fence and the stand;

But my brain was sick and spinning

And I slung my chance of winning
As I took the mare in hand.

But they crowded round to hold her,
And they tied the badge of blue

In a knot upon her shoulder
That they dared me to undo !

So I left the prize upon her,

And I think she won the honour
When she saved the lives of two.

Then the dust -clouds had we cleared her?"

[ To face Page 186.


And I journey Life's gay road on,

But I linger when I pass
Where the best and gamest Snowdon

Takes her last sleep in the grass
With the wattle-boughs above her;
And when others toast a lover

Then I pledge her in my glass.

Now, they reckon me a rider

In the showyard and the shire,
But I never faced a wider

Jump, a tougher or a higher
Since I rode for Jock M'Kibbon
On the day we won the ribbon

With the grey mare, Heart's Desire.



Charteris, the artist with the lovely wife, .
A casual friend of mine, told me the story
In a chance mood of careless confidence . .

AMONG the privileges of my youth, '
Two girls I knew. One of them loved me ; one
I loved. So very comely were these two,
So fair, so young, I was half-pitiful
And more (I think) than half-contemptuous
Of my poor heart that could not shelter both.


Madge (who loved me) was tender, trustful, true.
Bewitching in her modest grace ; and Nell
(She whom I loved) was petulant, self-willed,
Feigning no fealty to Love, no care
For those Love vanquished. So it came that each
Was natural foil to the other.

Madge was fair

Fair as a harvest morning. Her sweet eyes
Suggested shaded corn-flowers touched with dew,
Or that cool corner of the dawning's sky
Remotest from the jocund sun. Her hair
Was like the sun itself, or like the sun
Seen through a crystal cup of amber wine.
She neither bound nor braided it ; it fell
In a soft-rippling wealth of fleeciest gold
Careless about her shoulders, here and there
Touched with a coppery tint that brightened it
And made its gold the richer. At her neck
And round the wee pink ears, more dainty than
Shells of the happy Islands, vagrant tresses
Curled crisply into ringlets which (although
Dear modest Madge had blushed to dream of it)
Were clamorous for kisses. Her soft lips,
Fresh as the bloom on early dewberries,
Were sweet and maidenly, nor skimp nor full ;
Her teeth's pure ivory peeped demurely through


Ah, God ! the kindest mouth in all the world,
And quite the purest ! Then the dear girl's head


(So wealthily adorned) was finely poised

On perfect shoulders. Even in her teens,

Madge was full-bosomed ; even in her teens,

She had a certain gracious motherliness

Which made all children love her, and all men

Love children for her sake, and her for theirs.

And when men saw her, natural desire

Of the fair girl's bright beauty straight was crushed

Back, as a something in its essence base,

So sweetly pure and purely sweet she was . . .

And this girl loved me, though I loved her not,

Save as a decorative incident,

As men love charming women within their reach

And yet respected. Had she hidden her love

Beneath some guise of scorn or coquetry,

It might have won me, perhaps ; one never knows.

But though she ne'er by conscious sign or glance

Revealed it, it lay plain. I recognised it

By many infallible signs. I pitied her ;

And loved myself the better, pitying her ;

And by that double pity loved Nell more.

Nell was a wisp of girl tall, willowy, slight ;
What the keen French call svelte ; no other word
So well describes her. Dark as Night she was,
And bright as noonday. Her disturbing eyes
Were wells of inky blackness, but aswim

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Online LibraryJohn BurroughsThe Bulletin reciter, a collection of verses for recitation from The Bulletin, 1880-1901 → online text (page 8 of 11)