Song of the Shingle-Splitters

A poem by Henry Kendall

In dark wild woods, where the lone owl broods
And the dingoes nightly yell
Where the curlew’s cry goes floating by,
We splitters of shingles dwell.
And all day through, from the time of the dew
To the hour when the mopoke calls,
Our mallets ring where the woodbirds sing
Sweet hymns by the waterfalls.
And all night long we are lulled by the song
Of gales in the grand old trees;
And in the brakes we can hear the lakes
And the moan of the distant seas.
For afar from heat and dust of street,
And hall and turret and dome,
In forest deep, where the torrents leap,
Is the shingle-splitter’s home.

The dweller in town may lie upon down,
And own his palace and park:
We envy him not his prosperous lot,
Though we slumber on sheets of bark.
Our food is rough, but we have enough;
Our drink is better than wine:
For cool creeks flow wherever we go,
Shut in from the hot sunshine.
Though rude our roof, it is weather-proof,
And at the end of the days
We sit and smoke over yarn and joke,
By the bush-fire’s sturdy blaze.
For away from din and sorrow and sin,
Where troubles but rarely come,
We jog along, like a merry song,
In the shingle-splitter’s home.

What though our work be heavy, we shirk
From nothing beneath the sun;
And toil is sweet to those who can eat
And rest when the day is done.
In the Sabbath-time we hear no chime,
No sound of the Sunday bells;
But yet Heaven smiles on the forest aisles,
And God in the woodland dwells.
We listen to notes from the million throats
Of chorister birds on high,
Our psalm is the breeze in the lordly trees,
And our dome is the broad blue sky.
Oh! a brave, frank life, unsmitten by strife,
We live wherever we roam,
And our hearts are free as the great strong sea,
In the shingle-splitter’s home.

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