It was out beyond the Bulong track we met him swagging in,
He was middle-aged and ginger, haggard-eyed and famine-thin;
And while he munched some damper and a pannikin of tea,
He asked us if we thought he’d catch the Perth express at three.
There was not a watch amongst us, but I reckoned, by the sun,
If he cut across the leases it could easily be done;
But Mickey brought a clock to light he’d pinched at Hogan’s store,
And arst him “Wot’s your trouble, wot’s your worry-’urry for?
“You’ve ‘done the rattler in today,’ you ain’t got Buckley’s ’ope,
But there’s one goes down at night-time when the stony-brokers slope.”
The swagman sighed a strifle and unstrapped his scanty swag,
And drew a crumpled letter from a dirty linen bag.
His wasted hands were trembling and I turned a bit aside,
So as not to see the anguish he was trying hard to hide.
“Is there anything amiss at home?” I said to him at last,
He put the letter back again and tied the laces fast.
“There is,” he said, “the worst a man can bump agin’ in life,
A bloke wot boarded with us has skedaddled with me wife;
I trusted ’im and ’er I did, and many a time and oft
I’ve fed ’im w’en ’e’d not the cash to pay for wot ’e’d scoffed.
“A neighbour sent this letter and he’s given me the tip
Where I’ll find the pair who made me chuck my job and take this trip.”
“Any nippers?” chipped in Mickey, with a scowl upon his brow,
“But if or not, I’d belt the ’ide from off the bloomin’ cow.”
The stranger sighed and shook his head, and Mickey said “I see;
I s’pose they’ve been an’ done you for your bit of L.s.d.?”
“No ’ope,” the stranger murmured, “for I ’adn’t none to take.”
“Then,” said Mick, “you mean to maul ’im jist for old acquaintance sake.”
“A man ’oo shakes ’ee’s cobber’s wife deserves an ounce of lead.”
Again the stranger looked at us, and sadly shook his head.
“That ain’t the trouble, mate,” he said; “she isn’t worth a fight,
For ever since I married her we’ve never hit it right.”
“Then wot on earth’s your ’urry?” argued Mickey with a sniff,
“If you ain’t goin’ after boodle and you ain’t goin’ after biff?”
“Just this,” the stranger answered as he rose from off the log,
“When the pair of blighters bolted, spare me days, they took me dog!”
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 38-39
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 3 April 1904, p. 4
Dryblower, Jarrahland Jingles: A Volume of Westralian Verse, Perth (W.A.): R.S. Sampson for Sunday Times, 1908, pages 16-18
biff = hit, punch
bolt = flee, run away; move suddenly or nervously when startled; hurry, move quickly
boodle = money
Buckley’s = Buckley’s Chance, i.e. little or no chance (a reference to the convict William Buckley who disappeared into the bush and was presumed dead; although he did reappear some years later, after having spent a long time living amongst the Aborigines)
L.s.d. = an abbreviation of the three basic British-style currency denominations used in Australia (prior to the decimalisation of Australia’s currency on 14 February 1966), i.e. pounds, shillings, and pence; the abbreviations stem from the Latin names for the common currency denominations: “librae” (or “libra”, a basic unit of weight in ancient Rome; from the Latin “libra” for “scales” or “balance”), “solidi” (gold Roman coins; singular “solidus”, Latin for “solid”), and “denarii” (small silver Roman coins; singular “denarius”, from the Latin “deni” for “containing ten”); pounds were commonly symbolized by a pound sign “£” (a stylized “L”) or by an “L” (or “l”)
oft = often
Perth = the capital city of the state of Western Australia
pinched = stolen
rattler = train
scoff = consume (especially to eat in a fast, greedy, or ravenous manner)
skedaddle = flee, run away, retreat
stony-broker = someone who is stone-broke, i.e. without money
swag = a swagman’s bundle, being a number of personal belongings rolled up in a blanket, and hung from the shoulder; also known as a “bluey”, “drum”, or “Matilda”
’e’d (he had)
me = (my)