Billy Vickers

Original Text: 
The Poems of Henry Kendall, ed. Bertram Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1920): 180-82. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit:
1No song is this of leaf and bird,
2    And gracious waters flowing;
3I'm sick at heart, for I have heard
5He'd never take a leading place
6    In chambers legislative:
7This booby with the vacant face--
9Indeed, I'm forced to say aside,
10    To you, O reader, solely,
11He only wants the horns and hide
12    To be a bullock wholly.
13But, like all noodles, he is vain;
14    And when his tongue is wagging,
16    And "drop" him for his bragging.
17He, being Bush-bred, stands, of course,
18    Six feet his dirty socks in;
19His lingo is confined to horse
20    And plough, and pig and oxen.
21Two years ago he'd less to say
22    Within his little circuit;
24    A team of twelve to work it.
25No wonder is it that he feels
26    Inclined to clack and rattle
27About his bullocks and his wheels--
28    He owns a dozen cattle.
29In short, to be exact and blunt,
30    In his own estimation
31He's "out and out" the head and front
33For, mark me, he can "sit a buck"
34    For hours and hours together;
35And never horse has had the luck
36    To pitch him from the leather.
37If ever he should have a "spill"
38    Upon the grass or gravel,
39Be sure of this, the saddle will
40    With Billy Vickers travel.
43He has, in fact, the slouch and dress
44    Which bullock-driver stamp him.
45I do not mean to give offence,
46    But I have vainly striven
47To ferret out the difference
48    'Twixt driver and the driven.
49Of course, the statements herein made
50    In every other stanza
51Are Billy's own; and I'm afraid
52    They're stark extravaganza.
53I feel constrained to treat as trash
55About his doings with the lash,
56    His feats upon the saddle.
57But grant he "knows his way about",
58    Or grant that he is silly,
59There cannot be the slightest doubt
60    Of Billy's faith in Billy.
61Of all the doings of the day
62    His ignorance is utter;
63But he can quote the price of hay,
64    The current rate of butter.
65His notions of our leading men
66    Are mixed and misty very:
69As you'll assume, he hasn't heard
71But I will stake my solemn word
72    He knows what maize is bringing.
73Surrounded by majestic peaks,
74    By lordly mountain ranges,
75Where highest voice of thunder speaks
76    His aspect never changes.
77The grand Pacific there beyond
78    His dirty hut is glowing:
79He only sees a big salt pond,
80    O'er which his grain is going.
81The sea that covers half the sphere,
82    With all its stately speeches,
83Is held by Bill to be a mere
84    Broad highway for his peaches.
85Through Nature's splendid temples he
86    Plods, under mountains hoary;
87But he has not the eyes to see
88    Their grandeur and their glory.
89A bullock in a biped's boot,
90    I iterate, is Billy!
91He crushes with a careless foot
92    The touching water-lily.
93I've said enough--I'll let him go!
94    If he could read these verses,
95He'd pepper me for hours, I know,
96    With his peculiar curses.
97But this is sure, he'll never change
98    His manners loud and flashy,
99Nor learn with neatness to arrange
100    His clothing, cheap and trashy.
101Like other louts, he'll jog along,
103And chew and spit. Here ends the song
104    Of Mr. Billy Vickers.


4] "blowing": bragging. Back to Line
8] hoddy-doddy: an awkward or foolish person. Back to Line
15] Cain: the first son of Adam and Eve, a crop farmer who killed his brother shepherd Abel after God accepted Abel's animal sacrifices, and rejected Cain's offering of crop produce. Back to Line
23] dray: a low heavy horse cart without sides used for hauling things. Back to Line
32] top-sawyer: a person in the position of advantage. Back to Line
41] punching oxen: to drive cattle, often by poking or prodding. Back to Line
42] camp: beat. Back to Line
54] fiddle-faddle: nonsense. Back to Line
67] Cochin-China hen: a breed of domestic fowl (developed in Cochinchina, that is, southern Vietnam) that is large and has thickly feathered legs. Back to Line
68] Berry: a region of central France. Back to Line
70] Madame Patti: Adelina Patti (1843-1919), a highly acclaimed 19th-century French-Italian opera singer. Back to Line
102] shanty: Australian term for an unlicensed hotel or liquor store, often selling poor-quality liquor. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Songs from the Mountains (1880)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: