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The Hobo's Anthem (1929)

THOSE who have the leisure, to walk the streets of Brisbane can not help having heard the
Hobo's anthem, scratched out from a hundred gramophones along the principal thoroughfares.

If the song is neither great as music nor epic as regards verse, it certainly possesses
that quality which makes the pedestrian pause to absorb the burden ot its message.

Its message is simplicity Itself. It proclaims to all the world

Hallelujah, I'm a bum ;
Hallelujah, bum again ;

But what a storm this doggerel has caused, in religious and purist circles ! Here is a hobo,
a tramp, a battler, a society crocodile, a ne'er-do-well, a human parasite, a down-and-outer,
a remittance man out of his allowance, a walking fungus, a stiff, a knight of the road,
"a dead-beat, a weary Willie .... Oh, call htm what you will, but he still remains a "bum,"
and he confesses:--

I went to a house
And I asked for some bread,
And the lady said, "Bum, bum,
The baker is dead."

And he is so delighted with the refusal, so imbued with the glory of penury and the stoicism
of an empty stomach, that he is moved to chant "Hallelujah," and so forth.

All of which, shows clearly that the tramp is a philosopher, with a well ordered and pious mind,
that he has been through the university where self-denial is regarded as a virtue, worklessness
as one of the seven great mysteries, and roving as an adjunct toward keeping fit. He knows that it
is sweet and comely to render thanks where no thanks is called for.

He is an optimist. He may he down and out, but his spirits are up soaring.

Hence the Hobo's anthem.


From the Queensland Newspaper the Daily Standard 19 Feb 1929 p. 6.

The singing of songs like 'Hallelujah, I'm a bum', an Industrial Workers of the World favourite, was much more common right through the Great Depression than has formerly been recognised, but a number of Australian Newspapers ensured their popularity in those tough times.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory