My hut is built of stringy-bark, the window’s calico,
The furniture a gin-case, one bush-table, and a bunk;
Thick as wheat on my selection does the towering timber grow,
And the stately blue-gums’ taproots to the bedrock all are sunk;
Then the ferns spring up like nettles,
And the ti-tree comes and settles
On my clearing if I spell-oh for a week;
But I work for love of labour
Since I’ve got a handy neighbour,
And Miss Nellie’s come to live along the creek.
Time was when Death sat by me, and he stalked me through the trees;
Then my arm was weak as water, and my heart a weary thing;
I was sullen as a wombat on such still, wan days as these,
And my wedges all were rusty, and my axe had lost its ring.
Then a fear like sickness bound me,
And I cursed the trees around me,
For quite hopeless seemed the struggle I’d begun
And at night-time, cowed and sinking,
I would sit there thinking, thinking,
Gazing grimly down the barrels of my gun.
Then I felt the bush must crush me with its dreadful, brooding wings,
And its voices seemed to mock me, till I thought that I was mad
Like the mopoke, and the jackass, and the other loony things;
For beside my old dog, Brumbie, not a living mate I had.
Then each sapling was a giant,
And the stumps were all defiant,
And my friends were very few and far to seek;
But the bush is bright and splendid,
And my melancholy’s ended,
Since Miss Nellie came to live along the creek
I would swear she was the sweetest if the world was full of girls:
She’s as graceful as a sapling, and her waist is neat and slim;
She is dimpled o’er with smiling, and has glossy, golden curls,
And her eyes peep out like violets ’neath her sunhat’s jealous rim.
If I think I see her flitting
On the sun-crowned hill, or sitting
’Neath the fern-fronds where the creek sleeps, deep and cool,
Then my stroke is straight and steady,
And the white chips run and eddy,
And I laugh aloud at nothing, like a fool.
Now my axe rings like a sabre, and my heart exults with pride
When the green gums sweep the scrub down, and they thunder and rebound,
And then lie with limbs all shattered, reaching out on either side,
Like giants killed in battle, with their faces to the ground.
Now the bush has many pleasures,
And a wondrous store of treasures,
And a thousand tales its eerie voices speak;
But its strange night hushes, seeming
Sent to lure to mystic dreaming,
Have no terrors, now Miss Nellie’s on the creek.
I am happy when the thunder bumps and bellows on the hill,
And the tall trees writhe and wrestle with the fury of the gale,
Or when sunshine floods the clearing, and the bushland is so still
That I hear the creek’s low waters tinkle, tinkle on the shale.
In the thought that she is near me
There’s a charm to lift and cheer me,
And a power that makes me mighty seems to flow
From Miss Nellie’s distant coo-ey,
Or her twin lips red and dewy
When she comes by here, and shyly calls me ‘Joe.’
She can work from dawn to nightfall, and look handsome all the day;
At her smile my garden flourished, and the vines grew green and strong,
And the bush falls back before it, and it strikes the scrub away,
For it lingers ever with me, and it stirs me like a song.
Now I labour in all weathers,
And the logs are merest feathers,
Nor my heart nor yet my hand is ever weak,
And a higher thing my prize is
Than all else that life comprises,
Pretty Nell, who’s come to live along the creek.