Song of the Mine

Original Text: 
James Anderson, Sawney's Letters and Cariboo Rhymes (Toronto: W. S. Johnson, 1895): 24-25. Internet Archive
2From the early morn till night.
3Drift! Drift! Drift!
4From twilight till broad-day light,
5With pick, and crow-bar and sledge,
6Breaking a hard gravel face;
10Repeated, shift after shift--
11Day after day the same song--
12The same wearisome Song of the Drift.
13Run! Run! Run!
15Backward and forward in haste--
16Watching the track by the way--
17Run! Run! Run!
18In a kind of nervous dread,
20A batt'ring ram of your head;
21This "curve,"--that badly built "switch,"
22Look out! you know what they are.
23Run! Run! thro' all the long day,
24Sings this hasty Song of the Car.
26No music there is in that sound!
27Hoist! hoist! HOIST!--
28Impatient voice underground!
29You may wish your arm a crank
30Attached to a water wheel!
31With no acking bones at night,
32Nor a weary frame to feel--
33Tis vain! Hoist! Hoist away! Hoist!--
34The dirt comes heavy and moist,
35And thirty buckets an hour
36"Foot" to the tune of Hoist! Hoist!
37Wash! Wash! Wash!
38And rattle the rocks around,
39Is the song the Dump-box sings,
40So cheery the whole week round;
41And on Sunday "clean me up,"
42And gather the precious "pay."
43"Better the day--better the deed,"
44Should read, better the deed--the day!
45Now say, what have you "wash'd up?"
46Small wages--well, never repine--
47You know, we'll do better next week!
48And so ended the Song of the Mine.


1] Drift!: excavate a horizontal drift or passage towards the gold that had settled on the bedrock below the deep mud and muck that had accumulated above. Back to Line
7] slum: tailings, slime. Back to Line
8] face-board: a board used to advance the mining work. Back to Line
9] A set of light timber (the false set) holds up the side and roof planks until mining advances and allows the heavy permanent timber (the main set) to be placed and the false set moved forward. Back to Line
14] The pay dirt that contained the unsluiced gold was moved along a track in the drift (the horizontal tunnel along the bedrock) to a shaft dug down to it from the surface. Back to Line
19] "cap": the top of the dumper car that miners used to move the ore along the drift to the shaft. Back to Line
25] Hoist!: to lift the ore, bucket by bucket, up the shaft from the drift tunnel. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: