Australian Folk Songs

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Bill, the Bullock Driver (1876)

Then leaders of millions--the lords of the lands
Who sway the wide world with their will,
And shake the great globe with the strength of their hands,
Flash past us--unnoticed by Bill.

The elders of Science who measure tho spheres,
And weigh the vast bulk of the sun--
Who see the grand lights beyond Šons of years,
Are less than a bullock to ONE.

The singers that sweeten all Time with their song--
Pure voices that make us forget
Humanity's drama of marvellous wrong,
To Bill are as mysteries yet.

By thunders of battle and nations uphurled,
Bill's sympathies never were stirred :
The helmsmen that stand at thc wheel of the world
By him are unknown and unheard.

What trouble has Bill for the ruin of lands,
Or the quarrels of temple and throne,
So long as the whip that he holds in his hands,
And the team that he drives, are his own ?

As straight, and as sound as a slab without crack,
Our Bill is a king in his way ;
Though he camps by the side of a shingle track,
And sleeps on the bed of his dray.

A whip-lash to him is as dear as a rose
Would be to a delicate maid :
He carries his darlings wherever be goes
In a pocket-book tattered and frayed.

The joy of a bard when he happens to write
A song like the song of his dream
Is nothing at all to our hero's delight
In the pluck and the strength of his team.

For the kings of the earth--for the faces august
Of princes, the millions may shout ;
To Bill, as he lumbers along in the dust,
A bullock's the grandest thing out !

His four-footed friends are the friends of his choice--
No lover is Bill of your dames ;
But the cattle that turn at the sound of his voice
Have the sweetest of features and names.

A father's chief joy is a favourite son
When he reaches some eminent goal ;
But the pride of Bill's heart is the hairy-legged one
That pulls with a will at the pole.

His dray is no living, responsible thing,
But he gives it the gender of life ;
And, seeiug his fancy is free in the wing,
It suits him as well as a wife.

He thrives like an Arab. Between the two wheels
Is his bed-room where, lying up-curled,
He thinks for himself like a sultan, and feels
That his home is the best in the world.

For, even though cattle like subjects will break
At times from the yoke and the band,
Bill knows how to act when his rule is at stake,
And is therefore a lord of the land.

Of course he must dream ; but be sure that his dreams,
If happy, must compass--alas--
Fat bullocks at feed by improbable streams,
Knee-deep in improbable grass !

No poet is Bill ; for the visions of night
To him are as visions of day
And the pipe that in sleep he endeavours to light
Is the pipe that he smokes on the dray.

the mighty, magnificent temples of God
In the hearts of the dominant hills,
Bill's eyes are as blind as the fire-blackened clod
That burns far away from the rills.

Through beautiful bountiful forests that screen
A marvel of blossoms from heat--
Whose lights are the mellow, and golden, and green--
Bill walks with irreverent feet.

The mosses that soften asperity so
In crevices dayless and dim,
Where the fountains of emerald water-falls flow,
Are wonders unnoticed by him.

The manifold splendours of mountain and wood
By Bill like nonentities slip :
He loves the red myrtle because it is good
As a handle to lash to his whip.

And thus through tho world, with a swing in his tread
Our hero self-satisfied goes ;
With his cabbage-trce hat on the back of his head,
And the string of it under his nose.

Poor bullocky Bill ! In the circles select
Of the scholars he hasn't a place ;
But he walks like a man, with his forehead erect,
And looks at God's day in the face.

For--rough as he seems--he would shudder to hurt
A dog with the loss of a hair ;
And thc angels that look at thc heart in his shirt
See the touch of divinity there.

Few know him indeed ; but the beauty that glows
In the forests is loveliness still ;
And Providence, helping the life of the rose,
Is a friend and a father to Bill.


March 17, 1876.


From the NSW Newspaper the Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 1 April 1876 p. 24.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory