Australian Folk Songs

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The Bushman's Song

He wore a dirty jumper the time that first we met,
An old and battered cabbage tree concealed his locks of jet ;
His movements had a langour-his voice a husky tone,
As man and dog, both worn with toil, they trudged their way
I saw him looking weary, methinks I see him now,
With a flock of half-starved weaners, and vexation on his brow.

The next time that I saw him a suit of tweed he wore,
His figure proudly sporting, outside an hotel door ;
He spoke about his stations- his flocks and herds so free
Pretending that he was a swell, just out upon the spree.
I saw him pink and spicy, methinks I see him now,
With a youthful hoyden by his side and pride upon his brow.

The next time that I saw him the hoyden friend was gone,
But a fat trull lingered by his side-a new dress she had on:
Her arms she clasped around him, she tried- and not in vain-
To ease his pockets of the money he'd earned in cold and rain.
I saw him looking groggy, methinks I see him now,
For all hands shouting loudly and inclined to have a row.

The last time that I saw him, the suit of tweed was gone,
The jumper and the cabbage-tree again be had got on ;
And as he took his weary way along the well-known track,
Without tobacco or a sue, and his "drum" upon his back
I saw him looking fly-blown, methinks I see him now,
With two black eyes and broken nose, and misery on his brow.


From the Sydney newspaper the Evening News 17 March 1870. p. 3.

Sentimental,.- You may look round, and wander through the Dubbo-streets in vain for an item of news sometime! ; and sometimes you will pick up something. As at Bourke, so here, we are over-crowded with bushmen- men of spirit, nerve, and fine, though dilapidated, constitutions. Ashton's Circus was here, pleased all, and left for Wellington. But the troupe left one of their ingredients behind, at a well-known hotel, in which he sang so sweetly...

... Poor fellow ! The song is the true history of a swagsman. The rythm may be bad, and the poetry worse, but therein is contained the bushman's life. The applauses which followed the completion of the song, well sung, assured the singer that one "touch of nature makes the whole world kin."


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory