The Fact of the Matter

The October issue of the Newsletter (#53) contains an account of the poetic duel which took place in The Bulletin magazine in 1892, mostly between Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. For a detailed account of the “Bulletin Debate”, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletin_Debate . One of the lesser-known poets who contributed was Edward Dyson, who took the view (with Lawson) that life in the bush was nowhere near as pleasant as Paterson’s poems, such as “Clancy of the Overflow”, suggested. Here is Dyson’s poem, “The Fact of the Matter”. (It contains quite a few colloquial expressions, some of which are seldom heard these days. A “tidied up” version can be found at http://www.telelib.com/authors/D/DysonEdward/verse/rhymemineline/droversreply.html.)

I’m wonderin’ why those fellers who go buildin’ chipper ditties,
‘Bout the rosy times out drovin’, an’ the dust an’ death of cities,
Don’t sling the bloomin’ office, strike some drover for a billet,
And soak up all the glory that comes handy while they fill it.

P’r’aps it’s fun to travel cattle or to picnic with merinos,
But the drover don’t catch on, sir, not much high-class rapture he knows.
As for sleepin’ on the plains there in the shadder of the spear-grass,
That’s liked best by the juggins with a spring-bed an’ a pier-glass. 

An’ the camp-fire, an’ the freedom, and the blanky constellations,
The ‘possum-rug an’ billy, an’ the togs an’ stale ole rations –
It’s strange they’re only raved about by coves that dress up pretty,
An’ sport a wife, an’ live on slap-up tucker in the city.
 

I’ve tickled beef in my time clear from Clarke to Riverina,
An’ shifted sheep all round the shop, but blow me if I’ve seen a
Single blanky hand who didn’t buck at pleasures of this kidney,
And wouldn’t trade his blisses for a flutter down in Sydney.

Night-watches are delightful when the stars are really splendid
To the chap who’s fresh upon the job, but, you bet, his rapture’s ended
When the rain comes down in sluice-heads, or the cuttin’ hailstones pelter,
An’ the sheep drift off before the wind, an’ the horses strike for shelter.
 

Don’t take me for a howler, but I find it come annoyin’
To hear these fellers rave about the pleasures we’re enjoyin’,
When p’r’aps we’ve nothin’ better than some fluky water handy,
An’ they’re right on all the lickers – rum, an’ plenty beer an’ brandy.

The town is dusty, may be, but it isn’t worth the curses
‘Side the dust a feller swallers an’ the blinded thirst he nurses
When he’s on the hard macadam, where the jumbucks cannot browse, an’
The wind is in his whiskers, an’ he follers twenty thousan’.

This drovin’ on the plain, too, it’s all O.K. when the weather
Isn’t hot enough to curl the soles right off your upper leather,
Or so cold that when the mornin’ wind comes hissin’ through the grasses
You can feel it cut your eyelids like a whip-lash as it passes.

Then there’s bull-ants in the blankets, an’ a lame horse, an’ muskeeters,
An’ a D.T. boss like Halligan, or one like Humpy Peters,
Who is mean about the tucker, an’ can curse from start to sundown,
An’ can fight like fifty devils, an’ whose growler’s never run down.

 Yes, I wonder why the fellers what go building chipper ditties
‘Bout the rosy times out drovin’ an’ the dust an’ death of cities,
Don’t sling the bloomin’ office, strike ole Peters for a billet,
An’ soak up all the glory that comes handy while they fill it.

Explanation of some expressions:

sling: leave.
juggins: a simpleton.
a spring-bed an’ a pier-glass: quality accommodation; a good bed and a full-length mirror.
of this kidney: of this kind.
D.T.: delirium tremens, the consequences of excessive indulgence in alcohol.
Halligan, Humpy Peters: boss drovers, with bad reputations.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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