Australian Folk Songs

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On Tramp (1926)

By this swag upon my shoulder.
By the blisters on my heel,
By the vacuum inside me,
By the weariness I feel,
By eyes grown dim with staring
At the long, white road ahead--
I am paid in full for looking
On the rum when it was red.

It may be that luck will take a turn,
And give a chap a show ;
But I've drawn a blank since starting
Out on tramp four months ago ;
For a job there's no use asking,
Since the same reply I get--
"Nothing doing just at present,
All the ground's too flamin' wet."

'Twas the same when first I started
After doing in my cheque,
Every place I'd seek employment,
Sure, I'd get it in the neck--
"There is plenty work awaiting,"
Then they'd wave their hands about,
"But there is little use beginning
Till the break up of the drought."

All the countryside is smiling.
And there's music in the air ;
While, to add to this beguiling,
Birds are singing everywhere ;
But to me no silver lining
To the clouds ahead is shown ;
I must take, to keep from starving,
Crusts by grudging pity thrown.

Then, to cheer me up a little
(It occurred the other day),
As I passed a toney motor
"John," I heard a woman say,
"Here's another lazy fellow
Should be run in 'on the vag.' :
Always idling round the country ;
With a dirty, greasy swag."

God be good to you, fair lady,
And your path with roses strew !
Not for worlds would I be wishing
Any harm should come to you ;
But my swag, when you were speaking,
Seemed to weigh about a ton ;
Did you think--and here's what gets me--
I was humping it for fun !


From the NSW newspaper The Mudgee Guardian 24 Jun 1926, p. 10.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory