Australian Folk Songs

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The Swagman (1915)

I'm a Swagman, Spawn of a Squatter's greed.
I carry wherever I go
The Cross of the Man who was crucified
--The Christ. that you worship so.
I'm the dog that's down in the Social State,
And they jeer at me in scorn,
Who knocks in vain at his country's gate
For the rights of the Native-born.

I travel the land like a spectre gaunt,
And they greet with a thin-lipped jest
The man who walks with the badge of Want
And the brand of the Dispossest.
With footsteps turned to the mulga grey,
The Gulf, or the rolling Bight,
Black hunger bites at my guts by day,
And hate at my heart by night.

In his den, all day, may the dingo bide,
The hawk o'er his nest may wing;
But the Swagman tramps through the countryside
A homeless and alien thing.
At the station store there is flour and tea,
But of work there is little chance,
And the men who say that there's work for me
They lie--in their ignorance.

To the Drink--or crime--can I trace my fall?
To them both I am bound to say;
To the good Rhine Wine in the Squatter's hall
That has never yet chanced my way.
To the crime of the fairest land on earth,
Locked up for the wool and beef.

I was precondemned from the hour of birth,
To live like a hunted thief.
By the sunset-side of the Border Gate
On the last lone station's rim,
Perchance there is room for the 6x8
Of the man with the brawny limb.
Like a horse I'll work. Like a black I'll live,
Where the sad Bush broods forlorn.
It's all that Australia cares to give
To the Worker, Native-born.

So my face is turned to the mulga grey,
Or the Gulf, or the. rolling Bight,
With hunger dogging my steps by day,
And hate in the camp by night.
By stages slow to the distant parts
I travel with feet that lag.
And I curse them deep in my heart of hearts
Who hold us down to the swag.



From the Queensland Newspaper the Worker 23 Dec 1915 p. 5.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory