Australian Folk Songs

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The Swagman's Song

The dead-house holds my body,
And my swag is in the bar;
I have swallowed whisky toddy,
Not in pints, but by the jar.

But my cheque is now exhausted,
And my credit's up the spout,
And when the publican comes to-morrow,
He will tell me to clear out.

The camel has a water bag,
And I have one for beer,
And I've been swilling--filling it
In vain for many a year.

I drank my first selection--
Yonder cottage on the hill;
I drank the plough and harrows, and
By Jove I'm thirsty still !

My cheque was a good fat one--
Two twenties and a crown--
It cost some sweat to gather it,
But I soon knocked it down.

And now that I am penniless,
And know nowhere to go,
The people, laughing, point at me,
And cry "Unlucky Joe."

If I had but one pint of beer--
Of bread a single crumb--
I'd think about my absent cheque,
And hump my present drum.

'Tis useless now to whip the cat;
I'll hurry me away--
Because if I stop here I'll die,
And people then would say--

"Here bore him barefaced, on the beer,
Six swipers stout and tall;
And never a tear bedewed his grave
Within yon kirkyard wall."

For sorrow follows levity--
Want is waste's dark dower;
I'm off to Struan Castle for
A pannican of flour.



From the South Australian newspaper the Border Watch 27 August 1879. Two weeks later it was published in another South Australian newspaper the Northern Argus 9 September 1879.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory