True, the bush `hath moods and changes' -- and the bushman hath 'em, too, For he's not a poet's dummy -- he's a man, the same as you; But his back is growing rounder -- slaving for the absentee -- And his toiling wife is thinner than a country wife should be. For we noticed that the faces of the folks we chanced to meet Should have made a greater contrast to the faces in the street; And, in short, we think the bushman's being driven to the wall, And it's doubtful if his spirit will be `loyal thro' it all'.
Though the bush has been romantic and it's nice to sing about, There's a lot of patriotism that the land could do without -- Sort of BRITISH WORKMAN nonsense that shall perish in the scorn Of the drover who is driven and the shearer who is shorn, Of the struggling western farmers who have little time for rest, And are ruined on selections in the sheep-infested West; Droving songs are very pretty, but they merit little thanks From the people of a country in possession of the Banks.
And the `rise and fall of seasons' suits the rise and fall of rhyme, But we know that western seasons do not run on schedule time; For the drought will go on drying while there's anything to dry, Then it rains until you'd fancy it would bleach the sunny sky -- Then it pelters out of reason, for the downpour day and night Nearly sweeps the population to the Great Australian Bight. It is up in Northern Queensland that the seasons do their best, But it's doubtful if you ever saw a season in the West; There are years without an autumn or a winter or a spring, There are broiling Junes, and summers when it rains like anything.
In the bush my ears were opened to the singing of the bird, But the `carol of the magpie' was a thing I never heard. Once the beggar roused my slumbers in a shanty, it is true, But I only heard him asking, `Who the blanky blank are you?' And the bell-bird in the ranges -- but his `silver chime' is harsh When it's heard beside the solo of the curlew in the marsh.
Yes, I heard the shearers singing `William Riley', out of tune, Saw 'em fighting round a shanty on a Sunday afternoon, But the bushman isn't always `trapping brumbies in the night', Nor is he for ever riding when `the morn is fresh and bright', And he isn't always singing in the humpies on the run -- And the camp-fire's `cheery blazes' are a trifle overdone; We have grumbled with the bushmen round the fire on rainy days, When the smoke would blind a bullock and there wasn't any blaze, Save the blazes of our language, for we cursed the fire in turn Till the atmosphere was heated and the wood began to burn. Then we had to wring our blueys which were rotting in the swags, And we saw the sugar leaking through the bottoms of the bags, And we couldn't raise a chorus, for the toothache and the cramp, While we spent the hours of darkness draining puddles round the camp.
Would you like to change with Clancy -- go a-droving? tell us true, For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you, And be something in the city; but 'twould give your muse a shock To be losing time and money through the foot-rot in the flock, And you wouldn't mind the beauties underneath the starry dome If you had a wife and children and a lot of bills at home.
Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky-black, And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back Till your saddle-weary backbone fell a-aching to the roots And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots -- Sit and shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough Till a squatter's irate dummy cantered up to warn you off? Did you fight the drought and pleuro when the `seasons' were asleep, Felling sheoaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep, Drinking mud instead of water -- climbing trees and lopping boughs For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?
Do you think the bush was better in the `good old droving days', When the squatter ruled supremely as the king of western ways, When you got a slip of paper for the little you could earn, But were forced to take provisions from the station in return -- When you couldn't keep a chicken at your humpy on the run, For the squatter wouldn't let you -- and your work was never done; When you had to leave the missus in a lonely hut forlorn While you `rose up Willy Riley' -- in the days ere you were born?