Edward Harrington

(28 September 1896 – 28 May 1966 / Shepparton / Central Victoria / Australia)

The Swagless Swaggie


This happened many years ago
Before the bush was cleared,
When every man was six foot high
And wore a flowing beard.

One very hot and windy day,
Along the old coach road,
Towards Joe Murphy’s halfway house
A bearded bushman strode.

He was a huge and heavy man,
Well over six foot high,
An old slouch hat was on his head,
And murder in his eye.

No billy can was in his hand,
No heavy swag he bore,
But deep and awful were the oaths
That swagless swaggie swore.

At last he reached the shanty door,
Into the bar he burst,
He dumped his hat upon the floor,
And cursed and cursed and cursed.

A neighboring shed had just cut out;
The bar was nearly full
Of shearers and of bullockies
Who’d come to cart the wool.

They were a rough and ready lot,
The bushmen gathered there,
But every man was stricken dumb,
To hear the stranger swear.

He cursed the bush, he cursed mankind,
The whole wide universe.
It froze their very blood to hear
That swagless swaggie curse.

Joe Murphy seized an empty pot
And filled it brimming full.
The stranger raised it to his lips
And took a mighty pull.

This seemed to cool him down a bit;
He finished off the ale,
And to the crowd around the bar
He told his awful tale.

“I met the Ben Hall gang,” he said,
“The blankards stuck me up!
They pinched me billy, pinched me swag,
And pinched me flamin’ pup!

They turned me pockets inside out,
And took me only quid!
I never thought they’d pinch me pipe,
But swelp me gawd they did!

I spoke to ’em as man to man,
I said I’d fight ’em all;
I would have broke O’Mealleys neck,
And tanned the hide of Hall.

They only laughed, and said good-bye,
And rode away to brag
Of how they stuck a swaggie up
And robbed him of his swag.

“I never done ’em any harm,
I thought ’em decent chaps.
But now I wouldn’t raise a hand
To save ’em from the traps.

I’m finished with the bush for good,
I’m off to Wagga town
Where they won’t stick a swaggie up
Or take a swaggie down.

The bushmen were a decent lot,
As bushmen mostly are.
They filled the stranger up with beer;
The hat went round the bar.

The shearers threw some blankets in
To make another swag,
The rousers gave a billy can
And brand new tucker bag.

Joe Murphy gave a meerschaum pipe
He hadn’t smoked for years.
The stranger was too full of words,
His eyes were dim with tears.

The ringer shouted drinks all round
And then, to top it up,
The babbling brook, the shearers cook,
Gave him a kelpie pup.

Next day, an hour before the dawn,
The stranger took the track
Complete with pup and billy can,
His swag upon his back.

Along the most forsaken roads,
Intent on dodging graft,
He headed for the Great North West,
And laughed, and laughed and laughed.

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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