The Green-Hand Rouseabout

A poem by Henry Lawson

Call this hot? I beg your pardon. Hot!, you don’t know what it means.
(What’s that, waiter? lamb or mutton! Thank you, mine is beef and greens.
Bread and butter while I’m waiting. Milk? Oh, yes, a bucketful.)
I’m just in from west the Darling, ‘picking-up’ and rolling wool.’
Mutton stewed or chops for breakfast, dry and tasteless, boiled in fat;
Bread or brownie, tea or coffee, two hours’ graft in front of that;
Legs of mutton boiled for dinner, mutton greasy-warm for tea,
Mutton curried (gave my order, beef and plenty greens for me.)

Breakfast, curried rice and mutton till your innards sacrifice,
And you sicken at the colour and the smell of curried rice.
All day long with living mutton, bits and belly-wool and fleece;
Blinded by the yoke of wool, and shirt and trousers stiff with grease,
Till you long for sight of verdure, cabbage-plots and water clear,
And you crave for beef and butter as a boozer craves for beer.

Dusty patch in baking mulga, glaring iron hut and shed,
Feel and smell of rain forgotten, water scarce and feed-grass dead.
Hot and suffocating sunrise, all-pervading sheep yard smell,
Stiff and aching green-hand stretches, ‘Slushy’ rings the bullock-bell,
Pint of tea and hunk of brownie, sinners string towards the shed,
Great, black, greasy crows round carcass, screen behind of dust-cloud red.

Engine whistles. ‘Go it, tigers!’ and the agony begins,
Picking up for seven devils out of Hades, for my sins;
Picking up for seven devils, seven demons out of Hell!
Sell their souls to get the bell-sheep, half-a-dozen Christs they’d sell!
Day grows hot as where they come from, too damned hot for men or brutes;
Roof of corrugated iron, six-foot-six above the shoots!

Whiz and rattle and vibration, like an endless chain of trams;
Blasphemy of five-and-forty, prickly heat, and stink of rams!
‘Barcoo’ leaves his pen-door open and the sheep come bucking out;
When the rouser goes to pen them, ‘Barcoo’ blasts the rouseabout.
Injury with insult added, trial of our cursing powers,
Cursed and cursing back enough to damn a dozen worlds like ours.

‘Take my combs down to the grinder, will yer?’ ‘Seen my cattle-pup?’
‘There’s a sheep fell down in my shoot, just jump down and pick it up.’
‘Give the office when the boss comes.’ ‘Catch that gory sheep, old man.’
‘Count the sheep in my pen, will yer?’ ‘Fetch my combs back when yer can.’
‘When yer get a chance, old feller, will yer pop down to the hut?
‘Fetch my pipe, the cook’ll show yer, and I’ll let yer have a cut.’

Shearer yells for tar and needle. Ringer’s roaring like a bull:
‘Wool away, you (son of angels). Where the hell’s the (foundling) Wool!!’

Pound a week and station prices, mustn’t kick against the pricks,
Seven weeks of lurid mateship, ruined soul and four pounds six.

What’s that? waiter? me? stuffed mutton! Look here, waiter, to be brief,
I said beef! you blood-stained villain! Beef, moo-cow, Roast Bullock, Beef!

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