The Lay of the Last Squatter
DRAW your chair to the fire, old woman,
The days are warm, but the nights are cold ;
So, they’ve hunted our milkers off the common,
And pounded them, calves and all, I’m told.
Had I caught ‘Long Henderson’ driving ‘Molly,’
I’d have made him tell me ‘the reason why’ ;
He’d scarcely have answered you so jolly,
Had I turned the corner suddenly.
Faith, ’tis time we laid our oars in the rullocks,
We’ve got no right of commonage now,
And the sheep are sold, and the working bullocks
And the cattle, all but the strawberry cow ;
I felt my heart for the moment soften
When the butcher offered me three pound five
For the poor old thing that you’ve milked so often—
She sha’n’t be slaughtered while I’m alive.
And Robinson Brown has sent me his bill, dear,
And Morton Jones has taken the lease,
And the kangaroo dogs, ‘Lion’ and ‘Kildeer,’
Are sold for fifty shillings apiece ;
I’m sorry to part with the red dog, truly,
At fifty shillings I call him cheap,
But the brindled dog is a trifle unruly—
Oh ! Carrington Jackson, mind your sheep.
I’m sure if Giles is satisfied, I am ;
The horses averaged well, and though
I’d like to have kept the colt by ‘Priam,’
‘Tis just as well that I let him go ;
For if my creditors won’t be losers,
I’ve set them scratching their heads, mayhap,
And you know that some folk mustn’t be choosers,
Which folk I belong to—‘verbum sap.’
I’ve had an interview with the banker,
And I found him civil, and even kind ;
But the game’s up here, we must weigh the anchor,
We’ve the surf before, and the rocks behind ;
So trim the canvas, and clear the gangways,
They’ve got the great unwashed on their side ;
It’s no use sparring with ‘Templar Strangways,’
It’s no use kicking at ‘Lavendar Glyde.’
And I guess it’s all U P with the squatter ;
The people are crying aloud for the land ;
They’ve made it hot, and they’ll find it hotter
When they plough the limestone and sow the sand.
‘All flesh is grass,’ so saith the preacher ;
‘All grass is ours,’ quoth Randolph Stow ;
Is the man related to Harriet Beecher ?
With mobile vulgus he’s all the go.
And years to come, in the book of Hansard,
You may read the tale of the frogs retold,
How they prayed for a king, how their prayer was answered,
How the king was crowned, and the frogs were sold,
How they ended, the schemes whose names were ‘Legion,’
In the Mephisopheles laughter note,
From the depths of ‘the Mariner’s’ gastric region,
That rattled up to his innocent throat.
I wish you’d write me a line to Maddox
(My fingers are cramped with that boring brute) ;
I’ll take his bid for the purchased paddocks,
The sum we mentioned he won’t dispute.
I might have made better terms with Parker
If he hadn’t known I was forced to sell,
But I couldn’t have kept these matters darker,
I didn’t try to—’tis just as well.
Fred Carson made an offer for Lancer—
‘Twas a little less than his hide would bring ;
You may guess I gave him a civil answer,
Which put a stop to his huckstering ;
I loosed the old nag at the sliding railing,
And carried my saddle up to the hut ;
His eyes, as well as his limbs, are failing,
He scarcely knew when the gate was shut.
Aye, troubles are coming upon us thickly,
‘Tis hard to leave the old place at last,
And you’re not strong, and the baby’s sickly,
And your mothers ailing and aging fast.
I remember the days when credit was plenty,
And years were few ; but those days are o’er ;
Old Beranger sings of the joys of twenty,
But I shall never see thirty more.
It’s no use talking, things might have been better,
And then again they might well be worse—
You needn’t trouble about that letter,
The youngster’s squalling for a nurse ;
And your hand is surely unsteady,
That writing looks to be all askew,
What ! are there tears in your eyes already ?
Come, old girl, this will never do !
. . . . . . .
I might have taken Time by the forelock,
I might have made my hay in the sun,
I might have foreseen—but wizard or warlock
Could never undo what has been done.
And at least I’ve wantonly injured no man,
Although I’ve lived on the people’s land—
Draw your chair to the fire, old woman,
And mix a drop of the battle axe brand.