Australian Folk Songs
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The Navvy (1927)
Through streets of tented canvas the Navvy goes at morn
To where the massive boulders are from the hillside torn ;
The rugged mountain cleaving, a mighty gap he made
To find the five-foot's level by craft of subtle trade.
With steel his frame is sinewed, his belted wrists are strong,
Like Hercules, he's moulded, this hero of my, song,
And God, in compensation for lack of gold and lands,
Has given unto the Navvy a wondrous pair of hands.
The day-shift swift approaching, the whistle shrilly blows--
"Yo-ho!" is hoisted skywards ; the cutting overflows.
Hark to the axe-strokes ringing, as blythe the banjoes sing,
While hammers, drills and jumpers a rattling chorus swing.
High o'er the sounding anvil a thousand red sparks fly,
With arch-ed necks and bowing the eight-horse team sweeps by.
A rousing song of Labor rolls o'er the Alpine camps,
Recalling memories golden of Boulder's battery stamps.
Ye chalk-faced city dreamers! pale wielders of the pen,
Come forth and taste the virile life that's pulsed by roadway men.
No earthly fate can daunt them, the engineers will tell
They gang about as tough a mob as stand this side o' Hell.
Five hundred camp-fires' gleaming. Five hundred tents shine white,
The silver moonlight streaming o'er' Alpine Town to-night.
And round recumbent figures by box-logs blazing free,
In scattered groups assemble a strange community.
Hypocrisy's a stranger, with Cant they drive no trade,
Those healthy-minded, craftsmen that call a spade a spade.
Gold may not buy their homage; it towers o'er caste of birth
Where man stands on his prowess and on his native worth.
Where'er the standard's manhood, with courage sound as stone
The builder of our railways stands classed out on his own.
But hark! the Ganger's whistle. Down goes my homely pen,
That fain would paint the Navvy high o'er his fellow men.
From the NSW Newspaper the Australian Worker Wednesday 27 July 1927 p. 13.
Banjos here are the Navvies' shovels and battery stamps the machines that helped break up rocks in the search for gold.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory