Australian Folk Songs
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Now, I think there is a likeness 'twixt St Peter's life and mine
For he did a lot of trampin' long ago in Palestine
He was 'union' when the workers first began to organize
And I'm glad that old St Peter keeps the gate of Paradise
When the ancient agitator and his brothers carried swags
I've no doubt he very often tramped with empty tucker-bags
And I'm glad he's Heaven's picket, for I hate explainin' things
And he'll think a union ticket just as good as Whitely King's
When I reach the great head-station¾which is somewhere 'off the track'
I won't want to talk with angels who have never been out back
They might bother me with offers of a banjo meanin' well
And a pair of wings to fly with, when I only want a spell
I'll just ask for old St Peter, and I think, when he appears
I will only have to tell him that I carried swag for years
'I've been on the track,' I'll tell him, 'an' I done the best I could'
And he'll understand me better than the other angels would
He won't try to get a chorus out of lungs that's worn to rags
Or to graft the wings on shoulders that is stiff with humpin' swags
But I'll rest about the station where the work-bell never rings
Till they blow the final trumpet and the Great Judge sees to things
From the poem by Henry Lawson written in 1893 Tune by Peter Duggan (1975). Printed in Chris Kempster's The Songs of Henry Lawson Thanks to Peter Duggan for permission to use his tune in this collection.
Peter Duggan sings this song on his 1997 cassette "It Was Somewhere In September" along with a dozen more Henry Lawson songs.
The portrayal of Christ and his followers as organisers of the poor has a long history. In 14th Century England the rebel priest John Ball loved to say:
"When Adam dug and Eve span
Who was then the Gentleman?"
Woody Guthrie wrote in similar vein to Lawson in his song "Jesus Christ", and Ewan McColl has Jesus as an organiser with the disciples as fellow union members in his "Ballad of a Carpenter". The tradition continues in Australia today with Kev Carmody's "If Jesus Was a Christian"
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory