Australian Folk Songs

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The Shepherd And The Liberal Squatter (1880)

An old shepherd lay ragged and thin,
In a comfortless hovel and bare ;
His poor bones, they showed through his skin,
And his skin through his torn, tattered wear.
Ere breathing his last, there broke forth a cry
From his lips that were bloodless and pale ;
But the squatter spoke never a word,
He was deaf to the old shepherd's wail.

Without me, where would be all your gold?
That dying, heart-broken shepherd, he said:
Untold guineas you got by my ne'er ceasing toil,
Toil that got me little beyond my mere bread.
While, to get food for my wife and my babes,
I was giving up to you life, strength, and health,
You fared well every day, and were storing away,
A greedy, miserly treasure of wealth.

You know well I could nothing put by,
From the sordid wage that you grudgingly gave ;
At least not enough to keep me when old,
And live in decency this side the grave.
Those dear to me now of hunger may die,
Since no provision for them could I save,
Yet for yours and for you I've worked all my life,
Yes, as hard as a whip-driven slave.

Little right it is known you have to your runs,
You got them through dummies, by fluke, or for nought ;
Not one single acre could ever I get,
Though a homestead I would gladly have bought.
Horses, cattle, and sheep are valued far more
Than a peasantry stalwart and hale.
Ne'er a word could the squatter then say in reply,
But closed his cars to the old shepherd's wail.

Past work in old age, I am driven by want,
To plead and sue of the public for alms ;
With shame oftentimes I've solicited food,
Of wayfarers, at mansions, stations, and farms ;
'Tis though upon you I've the justest of claims,
Of claims that ere long shall prevail.
The squatter looked down, but said never a word,
Deaf still he remained to the old shepherd's wail.

Though much I have suffered, my faith yet is strong
That my wrongs, they will soon be avenged ;
For those who have helped you your wealth to amass
In want will not be unrevenged.
And the squatter, to this he said never a word,
He kept scornfully deaf to the old shepherd's wail ;
But Victoria shall pass such a sentence on him,
That when he hears it but whispered, his mean soul, it shall quail.



From the Victorian Newspaper the Warragul Guardian and Buln Buln and Narracan Shire Advocate p. 3.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory