Christmas Camp [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 1926]

[Editor: This poem by “Dryblower” Murphy was published in Dryblower’s Verses (1926).]

Christmas Camp.

The miles are long in Mulgaland,
Beyond the beaten pad,
Today is Christmas, but no hand
Grips mine in greeting glad.
Yet, though this stinted meal I make
Burlesques the festal board,
It strums upon the strings that wake
A long forgotten chord.
It bears me back on rushing wings
That time can never cramp —
To olden days, to golden days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

It bears me back to Bayley’s boom
Before a stamp was dropped,
When men swung out for elbow room
And home the timid stopped.
It carries me to Christmas sprees,
When hope was in the cup;
We drank, and thought we left the lees
To those that followed up.
The days no promise petered out,
Our ardor hot to damp,
The thriving days, the hiving days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

It hugged the hill that straggled down
Coolgardie’s eastern side,
Its walls and roofs of hop-brush brown,
Its door of bullock hide.
On Christmas Eve we picked the site,
On Christmas Day ’twas built,
And ringing rose on Christmas night
The dolly’s golden lilt.
A week before on Tindal’s Flat,
We’d pegged Aladdin’s Lamp,
In roaring days, in scoring days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

But where are they who with me camped
Within the six by eights,
Who laughed and liquored, toiled and tramped,
When men were more than mates?
Who’d beat a drill and swing a pick,
Or search a dish with wind.
Who’d fight a foe or nurse the sick,
And sin as others sinned;
Whose fists were first within a fight,
A riot or a ramp,
In rousing days, carousing days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

Cold Klondyke claimed as victim; one
Who bartered heat for frost,
Where swift the Yukon Rapids run
The Great Divide he crossed.
Another stopped a Dutchman’s shot
Where red Tugela rolled
A third threw in his scanty lot
With something rich and old.
She pegged him in and bore him off,
A handsome ragged scamp,
In needy days, in seedy days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

Another lives across the Bight
In see-you-later style,
He beat us, but he’d black and white
And pocketed a pile.
To-day he’s where the swankers are,
A meal I have to mag,
To-day he runs a motor-car,
I sweat beneath a swag.
Yet still I laugh and live again,
As tucker-wards I tramp,
The olden days, the golden days —
The days of Christmas Camp.

Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 46-47

Previously published in:
Dryblower, Jarrahland Jingles: A Volume of Westralian Verse, Perth (W.A.): R.S. Sampson for Sunday Times, 1908, pages 85-88
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 27 March 1909, p. 12

Editor’s notes:
lees = the sediment of wine in a barrel; dregs found in a cask; also used to refer to dregs in a general context

mag = to talk or chat; alternatively, to criticize harshly or vehemently

six by eight = a standard size two-man tent, six feet by eight feet

swanker = someone who behaves or dresses in such a way as to impress people; someone who shows off, swaggers, or is pretentious in style

tucker = food

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