I declined -- 'TWAS self-denial -- and I lectured him on booze, Using all the hackneyed arguments that preachers mostly use; Things I'd heard in temperance lectures (I was young and rather green), And I ended by referring to the man he might have been.
Then a wise expression struggled with the bruises on his face, Though his argument had scarcely any bearing on the case: `What's the good o' keepin' sober? Fellers rise and fellers fall; What I might have been and wasn't doesn't trouble me at all.'
But he couldn't stay to argue, for his beer was nearly gone. He was glad, he said, to meet me, and he'd see me later on; He guessed he'd have to go and get his bottle filled again, And he gave a lurch and vanished in the darkness and the rain.
And of afternoons in cities, when the rain is on the land, Visions come to me of Sweeney with his bottle in his hand, With the stormy night behind him, and the pub verandah-post -- And I wonder why he haunts me more than any other ghost.
Still I see the shearers drinking at the township in the scrub, And the army praying nightly at the door of every pub, And the girls who flirt and giggle with the bushmen from the west -- But the memory of Sweeney overshadows all the rest.
Well, perhaps, it isn't funny; there were links between us two -- He had memories of cities, he had been a jackeroo; And, perhaps, his face forewarned me of a face that I might see From a bitter cup reflected in the wretched days to be.
I suppose he's tramping somewhere where the bushmen carry swags, Cadging round the wretched stations with his empty tucker-bags; And I fancy that of evenings, when the track is growing dim, What he `might have been and wasn't' comes along and troubles him.
Tall and freckled and sandy, Face of a country lout; This was the picture of Andy, Middleton's Rouseabout.