“Are You the Cove?” [poem by Joseph Furphy]

[Editor: This poem by Joseph Furphy was published in The Poems of Joseph Furphy (1916).]

“Are You the Cove?”

“Are you the Cove?” He spoke the words
As freeman only can.
The squatter freezingly inquir’d,
“What do you mean, my man?”

“Are you the Cove?” His voice was stern,
His look was firm and keen.
Again the squatter made reply,
“I don’t know what you mean.”

“O dash my rags! let’s have some sense —
You ain’t a fool, by Jove!
Gammon you don’t know what I mean —
I mean, ARE YOU THE COVE?”

“Yes, I’m the Cove,” the squatter said.
The swagman answered, “Right!
I thought as much. Show me some place
Where I can doss to-night.”



Source:
K. B. [Kate Baker] (editor), The Poems of Joseph Furphy, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Co., 1916, page 42

Editor’s notes:
“Are You the Cove” is probably Joseph Furphy’s best-known poem (although his popularity came from his prose rather than his verse). The poem is about a swagman looking for a place to spend the night, at a station (farm), but the squatter (station owner) was being obtuse, either being deliberately difficult or trying to get out of having to deal with the swagman.

by Jove = an exclamatory oath, denoting excitement or surprise; the phrase was a way of saying “by God” without blaspheming (“Jove” is an alternate name for Jupiter; in Roman mythology, Jupiter was king of the gods, as well as the god of sky and thunder)

cove = boss, especially the boss or manager of a sheep station (may also refer to: man, chap, fellow)
See: 1) The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms: Aussie Talk, McMahons Point (NSW): The Macquarie Library, 1984, p. 76
2) G. A. Wilkes, A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1978, p. 93

doss = to lie down or sleep; especially to “doss down” in a location that is close at hand, convenient, or readily available (e.g. to doss on a couch, under a bridge, or at someone else’s place)

gammon = misleading, deceptive, or nonsensical talk, humbug (can also refer to a cured or smoked ham)

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