Australian Folk Songs
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The Navvy (1911)
Remote from mansion and from mart,
Beyond our outer, furrowed fields--
One with the rock he cleaves apart,
One with the weary pick he wields--
Bowed with the weight of discontent
Beneath the heavens, sagging grey,
His steaming shoulders stark and bent,
He drags his joyless years away.
For dreamy dames with haughty eyes
And cunning men with soft white hands
Have offered you in sacrifice,
Lone outcast of the outcast lands.
For all the furs that kept them warm,
For all the foods that kept them fit,
For all the years they've wrought you harm,
And take a churlish pride in it.
As mates, we've tramped it far and near;
We've shared your woe and dull despair;
We've sung our songs and none to hear,
And told our wrongs and none to care.
Some day--how soon we may not tell--
We'll rend the riven fetters free;
Till then, may heaven guard you well,
And God be good to you--and me.
From the Brisbane Newspaper the Worker 28 July 1936 p. 2.
Irish navvy, poet and WWI veteran Patrick McGill published his book "Songs of a Navvy" in 1911. This anthology of his verse was reviewed in 15 Australian newspapers in 1912-1913.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory