The Captain of the Push

Original Text: 
Henry Lawson, Verses Popular and Humorous (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1900): 174-80. x.981/3738 British Library; PR 6023 A94H8 1905 Robarts Library
1As the night was falling slowly down on city, town and bush,
3And he scowled towards the North, and he scowled towards the South,
4As he hooked his little finger in the corners of his mouth.
5Then his whistle, loud and shrill, woke the echoes of the `Rocks',
6And a dozen ghouls came sloping round the corners of the blocks.
7There was nought to rouse their anger; yet the oath that each one swore
8Seemed less fit for publication than the one that went before.
9For they spoke the gutter language with the easy flow that comes
10Only to the men whose childhood knew the brothels and the slums.
11Then they spat in turns, and halted; and the one that came behind,
12Spitting fiercely on the pavement, called on Heaven to strike him blind.
13Let us first describe the captain, bottle-shouldered, pale and thin,
15E'en his hat was most suggestive of the city where we live,
16With a gallows-tilt that no one, save a larrikin, can give;
17And the coat, a little shorter than the writer would desire,
18Showed a more or less uncertain portion of his strange attire.
19That which tailors know as `trousers' -- known by him as `bloomin' bags' --
20Hanging loosely from his person, swept, with tattered ends, the flags;
21And he had a pointed sternpost to the boots that peeped below
22(Which he laced up from the centre of the nail of his great toe),
23And he wore his shirt uncollar'd, and the tie correctly wrong;
24But I think his vest was shorter than should be in one so long.
25And the captain crooked his finger at a stranger on the kerb,
26Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb,
27And he begged the Gory Bleeders that they wouldn't interrupt
28Till he gave an introduction -- it was painfully abrupt --
29`Here's the bleedin' push, me covey -- here's a (something) from the bush!
30Strike me dead, he wants to join us!' said the captain of the push.
32`But I read about the Bleeders in the WEEKLY GASBAG once;
33`Sitting lonely in the humpy when the wind began to "whoosh,"
34`How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the push!
35`Gosh! I hate the swells and good 'uns -- I could burn 'em in their beds;
36`I am with you, if you'll have me, and I'll break their blazing heads.'
37`Now, look here,' exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
39`Would you lay for him and fetch him, even if the traps were round?
40`Would you lay him out and kick him to a jelly on the ground?
41`Would you jump upon the nameless -- kill, or cripple him, or both?
42`Speak? or else I'll SPEAK!' The stranger answered, `My kerlonial oath!'
43`Now, look here,' exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
44`Now, look here -- suppose the Bleeders let you come and join the push,
48`Yes, my oath!' replied the stranger. `My kerlonial oath! I would!'
49`Now, look here,' exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
50`Now, look here -- before the Bleeders let yer come and join the push,
54Took the rock -- and smash! They only muttered, `My kerlonial oath!'
55So they swore him in, and found him sure of aim and light of heel,
56And his only fault, if any, lay in his excessive zeal;
57He was good at throwing metal, but we chronicle with pain
58That he jumped upon a victim, damaging the watch and chain,
59Ere the Bleeders had secured them; yet the captain of the push
60Swore a dozen oaths in favour of the stranger from the bush.
61Late next morn the captain, rising, hoarse and thirsty from his lair,
62Called the newly-feather'd Bleeder, but the stranger wasn't there!
63Quickly going through the pockets of his `bloomin' bags,' he learned
64That the stranger had been through him for the stuff his `moll' had earned;
65And the language that he muttered I should scarcely like to tell.
66(Stars! and notes of exclamation!! blank and dash will do as well).
67In the night the captain's signal woke the echoes of the `Rocks,'
68Brought the Gory Bleeders sloping thro' the shadows of the blocks;
69And they swore the stranger's action was a blood-escaping shame,
70While they waited for the nameless, but the nameless never came.
71And the Bleeders soon forgot him; but the captain of the push
72Still is `laying' round, in ballast, for the nameless `from the bush.'


2] sloped: surreptiously moved.
the Push: gang of robbers or cheats. Back to Line
14] larrikin: hoodlum, gangster. Back to Line
31] bushy: bushman, guy from the outback. Back to Line
38] feller: fellow. Back to Line
45] bobby: policeman.
blank: euphemism for a swear word. Back to Line
46] swell: well-dressed, respectable person.
Chinkie: Chinese person (derogatory).
garret: head. Back to Line
47] moll: prostitute. Back to Line
51] blazer: star performer, hot stuff. Back to Line
52] Gory Bleeder: bloody lowlife. Back to Line
53] winder: window. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Bulletin; See Stone, 6
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001.