[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]
Ballad of Jock McPhun
There’s a bearded Scot that I know, God wot, and a forthright man is he ;
And I think of him when the lights grow dim in the lair of Smiff, M.P.
For we shipped lang syne where the winches whine on the black Newcastle dyke ;
And we met last year by a Hobart pier, and I’ve got the flaming spike !
By the Ganges stream goes his steel trireme to Shem’s old pagan land,
While I earn my crust as a Pressman must by the toil of my inky hand.
A letter is here, and my heart draws near to the Clyde’s warm-fisted son ;
And a glass shall clink, though the Smiffs should sink, to the letter of Jock McPhun !
’Tis a line or two from a Scotchman true — there’s a swift-scrawled word to say :
“We are carting jute for our monthly loot ’twixt Bristol and Bombay !
Are ye still a scribe for the feckless tribe that wrestle with sport and beer ?
Will ye not come back to the ocean-track — ye were meant for an engineer !
Are ye toiling still in the longshore mill with your slaveling’s ink and pen,
When ye might be free from the fool M.P., and along with the Glasgie men ?
Will ye ne’er return to the sea, and earn your bread as ye should have done ;
There’s a job that waits — will ye leave your mates, and yakker with Jock McPhun ?
“We are steaming south from the Hoogly’s mouth when we’re done with the flaming jute;
Will ye sit ye down in the j awful town, or toil for a greaser’s loot ?
Do ye mind lang syne when ye spilt red wine in the cursing Dago’s face ;
When ye broke the back o’ the Dago pack, and littered the bawdy place ?
Do ye keep yon curl of the black-eyed girl ye knew by the Plata shore ;
Is her ribbon lost that ye used to toast when we drank in the nights of yore ?
Do ye not regret ye have left the sweat and the steam where the engines run ?
Will ye not admit ye would rather sit with the pagan Jock McPhun ?
“Do ye mind the night o’ the Cardiff fight — ye were wild and sinful then ;
Now ye waste your fist and your iron wrist with traffic of paste and pen !
Ye were born to toil with spanner and oil — to tend to the whirling screws ;
Now ye sit and write like a clerkling wight, and dicker with cabled news !
Ye’re a hireling slave, and ye’re staid and grave as ye toil in your inky den ;
Will ye not rise up from your longshore cup, and turn to the trade of men ?
Will ye not come back to your heathen Mac — will ye not return, my son ;
Ye were born to graft by the gland and shaft — come back to your Jock McPhun !”
And I know, God wot, that the bearded Scot is the man I wish to see ;
And I think of him when the light grow dim o’er the blare of Smiff, M.P. !
For we met last year by the Hobart pier — and I wish my fist might strike
In the palm of Jock where the winches rock on the black Newcastle dyke !
Shall his tramp-ship steam by the Derwent stream, or lie by the Sydney Quay ?
(Now the Speaker nods) and the piston-rods sing deep in the soul of me !
His letter is here — let him soon draw near ! To the shaggy Glasgie son
Lo, a glass shall clink, for I rise and drink to the Coming of Jock McPhun !
Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 116-119
Leave a Reply