The Drovers In Reply

A poem by Edward Dyson

We are wondering why those fellows who are writing cheerful ditties
Of the rosy times out droving, and the dust and death of cities,
Do not leave the dreary office, ask a drover for a billet,
And enjoy ‘the views,’ ‘the campfires,’ and ‘the freedom’ while they fill it.

If it’s fun to travel cattle or to picnic with merinoes,
Well the drover doesn’t see it, few poetic raptures he knows.
As for sleeping on the plains beneath ‘the pale moon’ always seen there,
That is most appreciated by the man who’s never been there.

And the ‘balmy air,’ the horses, and the ‘wondrous constellations,’
The ’possum-rugs, and billies, and the tough and musty rations,
It’s strange they only please the swell in urban streets residing,
Where the trams are always handy if he has a taste for riding.

We have travelled far with cattle for the very best of reasons,
For a living, we’ve gone droving in all latitudes and seasons,
But have never had a mate content with pleasures of this kidney,
And who wouldn’t change his blisses for a flutter down in Sydney.

Night watches are delightful when the stars are really splendid
To the sentimental stranger, but his joy is quickly ended
When the rain comes down in sluice-heads, or the cutting hailstones pelter,
And the sheep drift with the blizzard, and the horses bolt for shelter.

Don’t imagine we are soured, but it’s peculiarly annoying
To be told by city writers of the pleasures we’re enjoying,
When perhaps we’ve nothing better than some fluky water handy,
Whilst the scribes in showy bar-rooms take iced seltzer with their brandy.

The dust in town is nothing to the dust the drover curses,
And the dust a drover swallows, and the awful thirst he nurses
When he’s on the hard macadam, where the wethers cannot browse, and
The sirocco drives right at him, and he follows twenty thousand.

This droving on the plain is really charming when the weather
Isn’t hot enough to curl the soles right off your upper leather,
Or so cold that when the morning wind comes hissing through the grasses
You can feel it cut your eyelids like a whip-lash as it passes.

There are bull-ants in the blankets, wicked horses, cramps, and ‘skeeters,’
And a drinking boss like Halligan, or one like Humpy Peters,
Who is mean about the rations, and a flowing stream of curses
From the break of day to camping, through good fortune and reverses.

Yes, we wonder why the fellows who are building chipper ditties
Of the rosy times out droving and the dust and death of cities,
Do not quit the stuffy office, ask old Peters for a billet,
And enjoy the stars, the camp-fires, and the freedom while they fill it.

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