Australian Folk Songs

songs | books | records | articles | glossary | links | search | responses | home

The Convict's Dream (1852)

Port Arthur Penal Settlement, 1852.

[Composed and written by Charles Ashton while serving a sentence of twenty years, a part of which wss passed in the
Model Prison for trying to gain my liberty by absconding, and knocking down a constable. I received a sentence of fifty
lashes, thirty days' solitary confinement in a dark cell on one pound of bread per day and water, with one blanket at
night ; alas twelve months in the light cells, and two years in heavy chains thirty-five pounds weight. The whole of this
sentence was passed on me by three magistrates.
Rather rough on a prisoner ?

I dreamt I saw some prisoners bound,
Standing in heavy chains on the parade ground,
tis true as I do tell this tale,
They marched both in and out of the gaol ;
On every morning when the first bell rings
Up from our beds we are forced to spring--
To wash ourselves and brush our hair,
Sweep out our cells we must not dare ;
Nor we must not dare a word to speak
Or the silent system rules we break.
Then to the lamp-post we are dragged,
When our month is gagged, and our wrist is darbed.
While laboring under a scorching sun
The sweat from off our brow does run ;
And whatever labor we are at
We must not look this way nor that,
For the overseer says that will do,
And to the court we are forced to go.
Then the Commandant does at me scare,
" You are charged with idleness, I do declare,
It is true the overseer I must believe,
And fifty lashes you must receive."
Now I lay my coat, vest, and shirt on the ground,
And to the triangles I am bound,
When the flagelator did behind me stand
With the cat-a'-nine-tails in his hand.
He flogged me till my back was raw
And painted with my crimson gore;
When I awoke with a frightful scream--
It was a reality, and not a dream.


"our wrist is darbed" prison slang for handcuffs

From the Hobart newspaper the Critic Friday 8 May 1914, p. 3.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory