Jim the Splitter

Original Text: 
The Poems of Henry Kendall, ed. Bertram Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1920): 164-66. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit
2Is hardly just now in the requisite trim
4Besides, he is bluntly informed by the Muse
5That Jim is a subject no singer should choose;
6    For Jim is poetical rarely.
7But being full up of the myths that are Greek--
8Of the classic, and "noble, and nude, and antique,"
15    And being no reader or roamer,
17And let it be carefully, tenderly said,
19He can roar out a song of the twopenny kind;
20But, knowing the beggar so well, I'm inclined
22The rascal who skulked under shadow of curse,
23Is more in his line than the happiest verse
25You mustn't, however, adjudge him in haste,
26Because a red robber is more to his taste
29And bangalow pith was the principal food
31His knowledge is this--he can tell in the dark
32What timber will split by the feel of the bark;
33    And rough as his manner of speech is,
34His wits to the fore he can readily bring
35In passing off ash as the genuine thing
36    When scarce in the forest the beech is.
38He assumes, as a rule, that the body is sound,
40He may be a ninny, but still the old dog
42    And "palm it" away on the market.
43He splits a fair shingle, but holds to the rule
44Of his father's, and, haply, his grandfather's school;
45    Which means that he never has blundered,
46When tying his shingles, by slinging in more
47Than the recognized number of ninety and four
48    To the bundle he sells for a hundred!
50It always occurs to the Wollombi head
52In forests where never the ironbark grew,
53When Jim is at work, it would flabbergast you
54    To see how the "ironbarks" dwindle.
55He can stick to the saddle, can Wollombi Jim,
57    The leather goes off with the rider.
58And, as to a team, over gully and hill
59He can travel with twelve on the breadth of a quill
62On the top of the pit, where his whisper is law
63    To the gentleman working below him.
64When the pair of them pause in a circle of dust,
65Like a monarch he poses--exalted, august--
66    There's nothing this planet can show him!
68And he is the only thing masculine yet
69    According to sawyer and splitter--
70Or rather according to Wollombi Jim;
71And nothing will tempt me to differ from him,
72    For Jim is a bit of a hitter.
74Along with his lingo, his saw, and his whip--
75    He isn't the classical "notion;"
77A person of orthodox habits would be
78    Refreshed by a dip in the ocean.
80He isn't the Grecian of whom we have read--
81    His face is a trifle too shady.
84    For she has the tastes of a lady.
85So much for our hero! A statuesque foot
86Would suffer by wearing that heavy-nailed boot--


1] Splitter: wood-cutter.
Wollombi: a small village in New South Wales, Australia. Back to Line
3] Pegasus: a winged horse in Greek myth that sprang from the blood of snake-haired Medusa when Perseus cut off her head. Back to Line
9] pelt: skin of a dead animal, with the hair or fur still on. Back to Line
10] Daphne: in Greek tradition, a nymph who turned into a laurel tree to escape the pursuit of the god Apollo. Back to Line
11] kip: the untanned hide of a young animal, such as a calf. Back to Line
12] jumper: loose, coarse-clothed jacket reaching to the hips worn by out-of-doors workers. Back to Line
13] Pericles: statesman of ancient Athens, born in 495 BC. Back to Line
14] pipe: perhaps windpipe. Back to Line
16] Euripides: ancient Greek tragic poet who lived from 480 BC to 406 BC. Back to Line
18] Homer: ancient Greek epic poet who made the Iliad and the Odyssey. Back to Line
21] "par": paragraph.
Kelly: Edward "Ned" Kelly (ca. 1854-80) an Irish-Australian bushranger and outlaw from Victoria, who was considered a cold-blooded killer by some and a folk hero by others. Having killed three policemen, robbed several banks with his gang, he was hanged for murder in Melbourne in 1880. Back to Line
24] Shelley: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), distinguished English Romantic poet. Back to Line
27] red: violent.
Ruskin: John Ruskin, English art critic and social thinker (1819-1900).
Rosetti: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English poet and painter (1828-82).
Dante: Dante Alighieri, Italian poet (1265-1321), author of the Divine Comedy. Back to Line
28] bangalow: Australian palm tree. Back to Line
30] shanty: a small, crudely built shack. Back to Line
37] girthing: encircling. Back to Line
39] to bark: to remove the bark. Back to Line
41] pipe: elongated hole, such as a burrowing animal uses.. Back to Line
49] ironbark: the common name for several species of Australian eucalyptus that have dark, deeply furrowed bark. Back to Line
51] mahogany swindle: to exchange one item for a similar, inferior one without the purchaser's knowledge. Back to Line
56] buckjumper: an untamed horse. Back to Line
60] "offsider": an assistant, helper or partner. Back to Line
61] tiller: "transverse handle at the upper end of a pit saw" ("tiller," OED, n.2, 3: quotation for 1877), directing the action of the sawing of a man below. Back to Line
67] "set": "adjust (the teeth of a saw) by deflecting them alternately in opposite directions so as to produce a kerf [stroke] of the required width" (OED, "set," v.1, 76). Back to Line
73] rip: punch away. Back to Line
76] humpy: a primitive hut. Back to Line
79] tot: sum. Back to Line
82] nymph: a mythological maiden inhabiting rivers and woods.
Thessaly: a region of central Greece. Back to Line
83] "jack up": give up. Back to Line
87] Achilles: Greek warrior in the Trojan war described in Homer's The Iliad. Back to Line
88] fig: figure. Back to Line
89] rig: a set of clothing. Back to Line
90] damper: suet pudding.
"billies": metal pots or kettles used for cooking in the Australian bush or outback. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Songs from the Mountains (1880)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: