I’ve always been a real fan of Australian poetry and, while looking into some of the source material for the Australian National Dictionary, I came across some really great specimens.
It’s long been a goal of mine to record some Australian poetry, so last Friday night, I recorded a couple of good ones I found.
These poems are from a book called The Everlastin’ Ballads: Ballads of Empire by Harold Hansell.
To AUSTRALIAN ‘DIGGERS’ AND NURSES
To BRAVE MEN AND NOBLE WOMEN
THIS LITTLE AUSTRALIAN TRIBUTE
He starts with a lovely inscription (an excerpt from his poem The Silent Army):
And none shall pay a nobler, sweeter tribute
to their name,
Than: The Voice of Duty called then and their
eager footsteps came.
When I was a child, living in Semaphore Park in Adelaide, we lived across from an Englishman called Les. Les was a very kind and generous man. He taught me how to take and develop my own photos (he gave me a camera). He had three beautiful dogs, a rottweiler, St. Bernard and a border collie. I spent a lot of time with these dogs, in particular, the border collie, Skegg. I took him for walks, fed him. I loved that dog and, when Les passed on a few years later, Skegg was the only one remaining. My parents and I happily took him in for the last five or so years of his life.
My father was not present during my childhood and I didn’t have many friends, so both Les and Skegg were very special to me. I’ve never had a dog since and, after moving to Sydney, it seems a distant dream.
(It turns out I didn’t see the second page of this poem, so it’s missing from the recording. I’ll try to make another recording and update this page.)
Faithful to death! You’ve said it
Quick! as the lightning stroke,
Hearts true as steel,
As they follow at heel,
What do they care if you’re ‘broke?’
Tired, and footsore, and hungry
Gripped to the ‘Boss’ like glue
Say! wouldn’t Life be living
With a Woman, half as true?
Look in their eyes for affection,
Knowledge, devotion and truth,
For the friends who won’t fade,
In Life’s sunshine or shade,
For the Love that won’t leave you with youth,
Parsons perhaps, don’t say it
Maybe ’tis beyond their ken,
But sheep dogs are Angels from Heaven,
And save the Souls o’ men.
There’s no special significance of this poem to me – I just thought it was funny.
The conversation sorter stops
When Black Dan comes around,
It drops a trifle sudden,
And you hear it hit the ground.
The wimmen folk begun it
When they stated clearly that:
‘Black Dan had been and gone and brought
Disgrace to Black Swan Flat.’
‘Well! Taf Ta! Missus!‘ sez Black Dan—
He come from near Black Swan
‘Lor bli’ me, chaps,’ ’e sez, ‘it never Struck me till she’d gone.
‘Twas “over there” in hospital
She was real kind to me;
I ups and calls her Missus!
The Queen! ’er Majesty!’
Dan hangs round lookin’ lonesome,
Quite neglected on his own,
His missus keeps on naggin’,
And he’s wore to skin an’ bone,
And though he keeps ‘explainin’,’
And we listen if he’ll ‘shout,’
A sorter feelin’s gettin’ round
That Black Dan’s been ‘passed out.’