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The Song of the Shingle-Splitters

A Song by Henry Kendall

In dark, wild woods, where the lone owl broods,
And the dingoes nightly yell--
Where the curlew's cry goes floating by--
We Splitters of Shingles dwell.
And all day through, from the time of the dew,
To the hour when the mopoke calls,
Our mallets ring where the woodbirds sing
Sweet hymns by the waterfalls.
And all night long we are lulled by the song
Of gales in the grand old trees;
And in the breaks we can hear the lakes,
And the moan of distant seas.

For afar from heat, and dust of street,
And hall; and turret, and dome--
In forests deep, where the torrents leap,
Is the Shingle-splitters' Home.

The dweller in town may lie on down,
And own his palace and park;
We envy him not his pleasant lot,
Though we sleep on sheets of bark.
Our food is rough but we have enough--
Our drink is litter than wine;
For cool creeks flow wherever we go,
Shut in from the hot sunshine.
Though rude our roof, it is weather-proof;
And, at the end of the days,
We sit and smoke over yarn and joke,
By the bushfire's sturdy blaze.

For away from din, and sorrow, and sin,
Where troubles but rarely come,
We jog along, like a merry song,
In the Shingle-splitters' Home.

What though our work be heavy, we shirk
From nothing beneath the sun;
And toil is sweet to those who can eat,
And rest when the day is done.
In the Sabbath-time we hear no chime--
No sound of the Sunday-bells;
But Heaven smiles on the forest aisles,
And God in the woodland dwells.
We listen to notes from the million throats
Of chorister-birds on high;
Our psalm is the breeze in the lordly trees,
And our dome--the broad blue sky.

O, a brave, frank life, unsmitten by strife,
We live wherever we roam;
And hearts are free as the great strong sea
In the Shingle-splitters' Home.


From Australian Town and Country Journal 2 May 1874, p. 25.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory