The Splitter

A poem by Edward Dyson

In the morn when the keen blade bites the tree,
And the chips on the dead leaves dance,
And the bush echoes back right merrily
Blow for blow as the sunbeams glance
From the axe when it sweeps in circles true,
Then the splitter at heart is gay;
He exults in the work he’s set to do,
And he feels like a boy at play.

Swinging free with a stroke that’s straight and strong
To the heart of the messmate sent,
He is cheered by the magpie’s morning song
With the ring of the metal blent,
But the birds in their terror scatter high
When she falls with a rush and bound,
And the quivering saplings split and fly,
And the ranges all roar around.

Who is lord when the axeman mounts his spar,
And the breeze on his brown breast blows,
When the scent of the new wood floats afar,
And the gum from its red wounds flows?
With the bush at his back he laughs at care,
With a pipe and a right good mate,
There is drink in the billy, grub to spare,
And a bunk in the ten-by-eight.

When the sun’s in the west, from nooks aloft
Where the stringy is straight and tall,
Come the strains of a chorus quaint and soft,
Or the clink of the wedge and maul;
From the gully a murmur of broken talk
Or the song that the crosscut sings;
For the bush is a-dream, and high the hawk
Hangs at rest on his cradling wings.

But at night, by the tent, when tea is done
And when euchre’s begun to flag,
In the bush he may hear a distant gun
Or the neigh of a lonely nag,
Then the splitter has thoughts no longer gay,
And sorrows he cannot drown,
For he dreams of a girl who’s far away,
Or the joys of a spree in town.

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