The Fossicker

A poem by Edward Dyson

A straight old fossicker was Lanky Mann,
Who clung to that in spite of friends’ advising:
A grim and grizzled worshipper of ‘pan,’
All other arts and industries despising.

Bare-boned and hard, with thin long hair and beard,
With horny hands that gripped like iron pliers;
A clear, quick eye, a heart that nothing feared,
A soul full simple in its few desires.

No hot, impatient amateur was Jo,
Sweating to turn the slides up every minute,
He knew beforehand how his stuff would go,
Could tell by instinct almost what was in it.

I’ve known him stand for hours, and rock, and rock,
A-swinging now the shovel, now the ladle,
So sphinx-like that at Time he seemed to mock,
Resolved to run creation through his cradle.

No sun-shafts pricked him through his seasoned hide,
Nor cold nor damp could bend his form heroic;
Bare-breasted Jo the elements defied,
And met all fortunes like a hoary Stoic.

Where there were tailings, tips, and mangled fields,
And sluggish, sloven creeks meandering slowly,
Where puddlers old and sluice-sites promised yields,
There Lanky might be found, contented wholly.

Even though they’d worked the field, as Chinkies do,
Had ‘bulled’ each shaft, and scraped out every gutter,
Burnt every stick, and put the ashes through,
Yet Jo contrived to knock out bread and butter,

And something for a dead-broke mate, such men
As he have little love for filthy lucre;
His luxury was a whisky now and then,
And now and then a friendly game of euchre.

They tell me he is dead: ‘On top? That’s so,
Died at the handle, mate, which is accordin’
As he should die and if you’re good, you’ll know
Jo pannin’ prospects in the River Jordan.’

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