On the Wallaby

Original Text: 
Henry Lawson, When I was King and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1906): 249-50. x.908/578 British Library
2And the possums may gambol in trees overhead;
7It is nor'-west and west o'er the ranges and far
8To the plains where the cattle and sheep stations are,
9With the sky for my roof and the grass for my bunk,
11And scarcely a comrade my memory reveals,
13But I think of the honest old light of my home
15And I think of the hearth where the dark shadows fall,
16When my camp fire is built on the widest of all;
17But I'm following Fate, for I know she knows best,
18I follow, she leads, and it's nor'-west by west.
19When my tent is all torn and my blankets are damp,
20And the rising flood waters flow fast by the camp,
21When the cold water rises in jets from the floor,
22I lie in my bunk and I list to the roar,
23And I think how to-morrow my footsteps will lag
25Though the way of the swagman is mostly up-hill,
26There are joys to be found on the wallaby still.
27When the day has gone by with its tramp or its toil,
29There is comfort and peace in the bowl of your clay
30Or the yarn of a mate who is tramping that way.
31But beware of the town -- there is poison for years
32In the pleasure you find in the depths of long beers;
34Where he loses his friends when his cheque is knocked down;
35He is right till his pockets are empty, and then --
36He can hump his old bluey up country again.


1] On the Wallaby: tramping, vagrant. Back to Line
3] humping my bluey: tramping, hitting the trail. Back to Line
4] bluchers: half-boots. Back to Line
5] humping my drum: shouldering a bundle, bag. Back to Line
6] sundowners: vagrant who turns up at a station near sunset looking for a free meal but pretending to ask after work for the day. Back to Line
10] calico: brightly coloured cotton cloth.
damper: bread baked from flour, water, and a little salt in campfire ashes; a staple diet of Australian bushmen (thanks to Emily Brayshaw). Back to Line
12] dingo: wild (Australian) dog. Back to Line
14] dome: the firmament (the sky's concave vault). Back to Line
24] swag: big bag. Back to Line
28] billy: pot with lid and wire handle for cooking over a fire. Back to Line
33] bushman: man from the outback. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001.