Australian Folk Songs

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Trampin' (1915)

LEFT, Right. Left, Right, beats the marchin' song.
"Jesus! but the flies are bad. Lord! the sun is strong.
Trackin' like a pleuro bull in the blindin' dust,
Laden like a drover's pack, reach the soak I must.

Left, Right. Left, Right. Faint and stonybroke,
To the job with scorn disdained by the local bloke
Throwin' back the station towns. Bound for God-knows-where,
Till the last faint ray of hope fades to grey despair.

Tramp life. Camp life. Life that's 'neath the ban,
Surly shearer bloke betimes; times a hobo man.
Graftin' ' like a flamin' horse, livin' like a black;
Half the year a rural serf, half time on the Track.

Left, Right. Left, Right. Through the sunsets red,
Like a brumbie makin' back to a Shearin' Shed.
Trampin' through the spinifex, down the camel-pad,
Fires o' life to ashes burns; turns the lost one mad.

Swagman, Bagman. If my hair were wool
Lord! they'd give me livin' room back at Wallendool;
Open doors they'd fling for me; voice the cheerful hail.
Open doors now swing for me--at the pub and jail.

Left, Right. Left, Right. Lazarus to date,
I've been spurned a mendicant from a Bishop's gate*.
I ha' thrown Matilda down in the way-side huts,
Blisters burnin' on my feet, hunger at my guts.

Left foot. Right foot. Hercules, the fool,
Ousted by a bleatin' sheep, by a fleece of wool;
Helot of Australia. God of Justice! when
Will the Nomad of the Bush lift his head with men?

Left, Right. Left, Right. On the joyless lead,
Endin' in a dead-beat's job or a vulture's feed;
Kwark-kwark; noon and night raucous-voiced the croak
Ringin' in the Swagman's ears trampin' to the soak.


*Stranded in New South Wales, the rhymester applied for rations at a Bishop's palace. He was refused them.--M.


From the Sydney Newspaper the Australian Worker 29 Jul 1915 p. 14.

Songs and poems like this were much more common right through the Great War and 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