German Joe

A poem by Edward Dyson

Skirting the swamp and the tangled scrub,
Tramping and turning amidst the trees,
Carrying nothing but blankets and grub,
Careless of pleasure and health and ease,
Hither and thither with never a goal,
Heavy, and solemn, and stiff, and slow,
Seeking a track and a long-lost line,
‘Blazed avay to dot lead of mine,’,
Restless and rickety German Joe.

Down in the gully and up the range,
Stung by the gale and the hate-hot sun,
Never a greeting to give in change,
Never a tip from the nearest run,,
Seeking a guide to a golden hole,
Lost in the lone land long ago,
Left in the keep of the hills and trees;
Jealous to have and to hold are these,
Hope you may get it, though, German Joe.

‘Likely old yarn for a horse marine!
Struck it, you say, at the river head,
Back where the bellowing bunyip’s seen,
Out beyond everywhere,rich and red;
Left it for tucker, and lost the track,
Blazed till your arm couldn’t strike a blow;
Gravel that gleams with the golden stuff,
Nuggets ‘shust like as der plums in duff,’
What are you giving us, German Joe?’

‘Blaze? Yes; you strike for the Granite Stair,
Make to the left when you cross the creek,
South till you meet with a monkey bear,
Tramp in his tracks for about a week;
Then you can travel the sky-line back.
So long, old chap, if you’re bound to go.
Don’t you forget when you’re rich and great
Who laid you on to the lost lead, mate,
Mad as a hatter is German Joe.’

Laugh as they may, they will stand his friends.
Right as rain when the old man takes
Down to his bunk in the hut, and spends
Seven weeks fighting the fever and shakes,
Muttering still of his lucky lead:
‘Vhisper,I leds you all in der know,
Den you pe richer nor as der pank.’
Boys, he’s a man if he is a crank,
Whiskey and physic for German Joe.

Now he’s abroad in a wild dream-land,
Baring his breast to the river breeze,
Out where the rock-ribbed ridges stand,
Telling his tale to the secret trees,
Swift as the shadows his visions glide
Over the plains where the mad winds blow.
Cover his face now, and carve a stone,
Henceforth his spirit must seek alone,
Dead as a door-nail is German Joe.

Bushmen have yarned of a ghost that went
Blazing a track from the Granite Stair
Down to a shaft and a tattered tent,
Many days’ journey from anywhere.
Others have said that the bushmen lied.
Liars or not, it is true, we know,
Men have discovered a golden mine
Out in the track of an old blazed line,
Led by the spirit of German Joe.

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