[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
His old clay pipe stuck in his mouth,
His hat pushed from his brow,
His dress best fitted for the South —
I think I see him now;
And when the city streets are still,
And sleep upon me comes,
I often dream that me an’ Bill
Are humpin’ of our drums.
I mind the time when first I came
A stranger to the land;
And I was stumped, an’ sick, an’ lame
When Bill took me in hand.
Old Bill was what a chap would call
A friend in poverty,
And he was very kind to all,
And very good to me.
We’d camp beneath the lonely trees
And sit beside the blaze,
A-nursin’ of our wearied knees,
A-smokin’ of our clays.
Or when we’d journeyed damp an’ far,
An’ clouds were in the skies,
We’d camp in some old shanty bar,
And sit a-tellin’ lies.
Though time had writ upon his brow
And rubbed away his curls,
He always was — an’ may be now —
A favourite with the girls;
I’ve heard bush-wimmin scream an’ squall —
I’ve see’d ’em laugh until
They could not do their work at all,
Because of Corny Bill.
He was the jolliest old pup
As ever you did see,
And often at some bush kick-up
They’d make old Bill M.C.
He’d make them dance and sing all night,
He’d make the music hum,
But he’d be gone at mornin’ light
A-humpin’ of his drum.
Though joys of which the poet rhymes
Was not for Bill an’ me,
I think we had some good old times
Out on the wallaby.
I took a wife and left off rum,
An’ camped beneath a roof;
But Bill preferred to hump his drum
A-paddin’ of the hoof.
The lazy, idle loafers what
In toney houses camp
Would call old Bill a drunken sot,
A loafer, or a tramp;
But if the dead should ever dance —
As poets say they will —
I think I’d rather take my chance
Along of Corny Bill.
His long life’s-day is nearly o’er,
Its shades begin to fall;
He soon must mount his bluey for
The last long tramp of all;
I trust that when, in bush an’ town,
He’s lived and learnt his fill,
They’ll let the golden slip-rails down
For poor old Corny Bill.
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 132-134
clays = clay pipes
on the wallaby = on the wallaby track; tramping the country roads as a swagman