The Sleeping Beauty

A poem by Henry Lawson

“Call that a yarn!” said old Tom Pugh,
“What rot! I’ll lay my hat
I’ll sling you a yarn worth more nor two
Such pumped-up yarns as that.”
And thereupon old Tommy “slew”
A yarn of Lambing Flat.

“When Lambing Flat broke out,” he said,
“’Mongst others there I knew
A lanky, orkard, Lunnon-bred
Young chap named Johnny Drew,
And nicknamed for his love of bed,
The ‘Sleeping Beauty’ too.

“He sunk a duffer on the Flat,
In comp’ny with three more,
And makin’ room for this and that
They was a tidy four,
Save when the eldest, Dublin Pat,
Got drunk and raved for gore.

“This Jack at yarnin’ licked a book,
And half the night he’d spout.
But when he once turned in, it took
Old Nick to get him out.
And that is how they came to cook
The joke I tell about.

“A duffer-rush broke out one day,
I quite forget where at
(It doesn’t matter, anyway,
It didn’t feed a cat),
And Johnnie’s party said they’d say
Good-bye to Lambing Flat.

“Next mom rose Johnnie’s mates to pack
And make an early shunt,
But all they could get out of Jack
Was ‘All right,’ or a grunt,
By pourin’ water down his back
And, when he turned, his front.

“The billy biled, the tea was made,
They sat and ate their fill,
But Jack upon his broad back laid,
Snored like a fog-horn still;
‘We’ll save some tea to scald him,’ said
The peaceful Corney Bill.

“As they their beef and damper ate
And swilled their pints of tea
A bully notion all at wonst
Dawned on that rowdy three.
And Dublin Pat, in frantic mirth,
Said, ‘Now we’ll have a spree!’

“Well, arter that, I’m safe to swear,
The beggars didn’t lag,
But packed their togs with haste and care,
And each one made his swag
With Johnnie’s moleskins, ev’ry pair,
Included in the bag.

“With nimble fingers from the pegs
They soon the strings unbent,
And off its frame as sure as eggs
They drew the blessed tent,
And rolled it up and stretched their legs,
And packed the lot, and went.

“And scarcely p’r’aps a thing to love,
The ‘Beauty’ slumbered sound,
With nought but Heaven’s blue above
And Lambing Flat around,
Until in sight some diggers hove,
Some diggers out’ard bound.

“They sez as twelve o’clock was nigh,
We’ll say for sure elev’n,
When Johnnie ope’d his right-hand eye
And looked straight up to Heav’n:
I reckon he got more surprise
Than struck the fabled Sev’n.

“Clean off his bunk he made a bound,
And when he rubbed his eyes
I’m safe to swear poor Johnnie found
His dander ’gin to rise.
For there were diggers standin’ round,
Their missuses likewise.

“O Lor’! the joke, it wasn’t lost,
Though it did well-nigh tear
The sides of them as came acrost
The flat to hear Jack swear,
They sez as how old Grimshaw tossed
His grey wig in the air.

“Some minutes on the ground Jack lay,
And bore their screamin’ jeers,
And every bloke that passed that way
Contributed his sneers;
Jack cursed aloud, that cursed day
Seemed lengthened into years.

“Then in a fury up he sprung,
A pretty sight, you bet,
And laid about him with his tongue
Advising us ‘to get’,
And praying we might all be hung,
I think I hear him yet.

“Then on a sudden, down he bent,
And grabbed a chunk of rock,
And into Grimshaw’s stomach sent
The fossil, with a shock,
And Grimshaw doubled up and went
To pieces with the knock.

“And in the sun that day Jack stood
Clad only in his shirt,
And fired with stones and bits of wood,
And with his tongue threw dirt;
He fought as long as e’er he could,
But very few were hurt.

“He stooped to tear a lump of schist
Out of the clinging soil,
By thunder, you should hear him jist,
And see the way he’d coil
Upon the ground, and hug his fist,
And scratch and dig and toil!

“’Tis very plain he’d struck it fat,
The dufferin’ Lunnon muff;
The scoff and butt of Lambing Flat,
Who always got it rough,
Could strike his fortune where he sat;
The joker held the stuff.

“Well, that’s the yarn, it ain’t so poor;
Them golden days is o’er,
And Dublin Pat was drowned, and sure
It quenched his thirst for gore;
Old Corney Bill and Dave the Cure
I never heard on more.

“The Sleepin’ Beauty’s wealthy, too,
And wears a shiny hat,
But often comes to old Tom Pugh
To have a quiet chat;
I lent him pants to get him through
His fix on Lambing Flat.”

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