A Bushman’s Song [poem by Banjo Paterson]

[Editor: This poem by “Banjo” Paterson was published in The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, 1895; previously published in The Bulletin, 24 December 1892.]

A Bushman’s Song

I’m travelling down the Castlereagh, and I’m a station-hand,
I’m handy with the ropin’ pole, I’m handy with the brand,
And I can ride a rowdy colt, or swing the axe all day,
But there’s no demand for a station-hand along the Castlereagh.

So it’s shift, boys, shift, for there isn’t the slightest doubt
That we’ve got to make a shift to the stations further out,
With the pack-horse runnin’ after, for he follows like a dog.
We must strike across the country at the old jig-jog.

This old black horse I’m riding — if you’ll notice what’s his brand,
He wears the crooked R, you see — none better in the land.
He takes a lot of beatin’, and the other day we tried,
For a bit of a joke, with a racing bloke, for twenty pound a side.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn’t the slightest doubt
That I had to make him shift, for the money was nearly out,
But he cantered home a winner, with the other one at the flog —
He’s a red-hot sort to pick up with his old jig-jog.

I asked a cove for shearin’ once along the Marthaguy:
‘We shear non-union here,’ says he. ‘I call it scab,’ says I.
I looked along the shearin’ floor before I turned to go —
There were eight or ten dashed Chinamen a-shearin’ in a row.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn’t the slightest doubt
It was time to make a shift with the leprosy about.
So I saddled up my horses, and I whistled to my dog,
And I left his scabby station at the old jig-jog.

I went to Illawarra, where my brother’s got a farm;
He has to ask his landlord’s leave before he lifts his arm:
The landlord owns the country-side — man, woman, dog, and cat,
They haven’t the cheek to dare to speak without they touch their hat.

It was shift, boys, shift, for there wasn’t the slightest doubt
Their little landlord god and I would soon have fallen out;
Was I to touch my hat to him? — was I his bloomin’ dog?
So I makes for up the country at the old jig-jog.

But it’s time that I was movin’, I’ve a mighty way to go
Till I drink artesian water from a thousand feet below;
Till I meet the overlanders with the cattle comin’ down,
And I’ll work a while till I make a pile, then have a spree in town.

So it’s shift, boys, shift, for there isn’t the slightest doubt
We’ve got to make a shift to the stations further out:
The pack-horse runs behind us, for he follows like a dog,
And we cross a lot of country at the old jig-jog.



Source:
Andrew Barton Paterson. The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896 [January 1896 reprinting of the October 1895 edition], pages 125-128

Previously published in: The Bulletin, 24 December 1892

Editor’s notes:
leprosy = a reference to the Chinese, based upon the belief that the Chinese immigrants brought leprosy with them

scabby = a reference to the Chinese and their alleged link with leprosy, as that disease can make the skin appear scabby; hence, as Chinese were often used as non-union labour and strike-breakers, those who worked in spite of a union strike or bans were called “scabs”

[Editor: Corrected text by changing the second-last line from “follows like dog” to “follows like a dog”, a correction which was made in the second edition of the book.]

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