The Silent Shearer

A poem by Andrew Barton Paterson

Weary and listless, sad and slow,
Without any conversation,
Was a man that worked on The Overflow,
The butt of the shed and the station.

The shearers christened him Noisy Ned,
With an alias "Silent Waters",
But never a needless word he said
In the hut or the shearers' quarters.

Which caused annoyance to Big Barcoo,
The shed's unquestioned ringer,
Whose name was famous Australia through
As a dancer, fighter and singer.

He was fit for the ring, if he'd had his rights
As an agent of devastation;
And the number of men he had killed in fights
Was his principal conversation.

"I have known blokes go to their doom," said he,
"Through actin' with haste and rashness:
But the style that this Noisy Ned assumes,
It's nothing but silent flashness.

"We may just be dirt, from his point of view,
Unworthy a word in season;
But I'll make him talk like a cockatoo
Or I'll get him to show the reason."

Was it chance or fate, that King Condamine,
A king who had turned a black tracker,
Had captured a baby purcupine,
Which he swapped for a "fig tobacker"?

With the porcupine in the Silent's bed
The shearers were quite elated,
And the things to be done, and the words to be said,
Were anxiously awaited.

With a screech and a howl and an eldritch cry
That nearly deafened his hearers
He sprang from his bunk, and his fishy eye
Looked over the laughing shearers.

He looked them over and he looked them through
As a cook might look through a larder;
"Now, Big Barcoo, I must pick on you,
You're big, but you'll fall the harder."

Now, the silent man was but slight and thin
And of middleweight conformation,
But he hung one punch on the Barcoo's chin
And it ended the altercation.

"You've heard of the One-round Kid," said he,
"That hunted 'em all to shelter?
The One-round Finisher, that was me,
When I fought as the Champion Welter.

"And this Barcoo bloke on his back reclines
For being a bit too clever,
For snakes and wombats and porcupines
Are nothing to me whatever.

"But the golden rule that I've had to learn
In the ring, and for years I've tried it,
Is only to talk when it comes your turn,
And never to talk outside it."

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