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A Digger's Lament (1922)

Along the dreary path of life,
I plod my weary way.
Each day is full of bitter strife,
And sorrows ever stay.

The path was decked with roses fresh.
But now the thorns remain;
They tear and scratch my tender flesh.
Causing agonising pain.

My blistered feet are bruised and sore
By jagged stones below.
The boots I've worn twelve months or more
Are minus heel and toe.

My ragged clothes are worn threadbare,
They've lost their style and cut:
Yet for my clothes I would not care
If I could fill my gut.

Still on in search of work I plod,
Rebuffs give me the blues;
It seems I've lost all faith in God,
And in old Billy Hughes.

Where are the promises he made,
While we fought across the seas,
One by one we've watched them fade
Like clouds upon the breeze.

Now like a hungry, beaten whelp,
I throw away my pride,
And ask you one and all to help
The men you've cast aside.

The men who thought you'd take good care
Of all they held so dear;
They starved in tranches over there,
And now they're starving here.



From the NSW newspaper the Newcastle Sun Tuesday 25 April 1922 p. 3.

This ballad tells an not uncommon story from World War I returned soldiers highlighting
their treatment and the broken promises of the Australian Government:--

(To the Editor.)

Sir,--Just a few lines in your paper to let the public know the treatment and
so-called fair play the boys who fought for their country are getting from the
Repatriation Department.
I am a returned soldier, and after being 1 year 273 days in the A.I.F--1 year
212 days out of that on active service--I was discharged medically unflt on my
return to Australia. After being back nearly two years and unable to do any
kind of work worth talking about through my ailment, which I got when abroad,
I applied for a pension for my self, wife, and four children, and was granted
the sum of 10s 6a a week for myself, 4s 6d a week to my wife, and 7s 4d
between the four children.
Oh, ye gods! Now, to make matters worse, the heads have lowered my pension to
6s 3d a week, and being down here away from my home in Queensland, I am
expected to live on that. Could the Huns have been any worse to us if they had
got here? Are they cutting the poor married men's, pensions down so as to enable
them to keep the heads and hundreds more like them in work at the Repatriation
Department? I had drawn the pension a little over seven months when they cut it
down,--Yours, etc.,
Sydney. C.H.

From the Sydney newspaper the Truth Sunday 4 December 1921 p.9.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory