From Parlour to Wood-Heap [poem by Philip Durham Lorimer]

[Editor: This poem by Philip Durham Lorimer was published in Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, 1901. This poem is listed separately in the contents of the book, although it appears within the biographical section, from which the following text has been extracted.]

[From Parlour to Wood-Heap]

It is the winter of 1884 ; the wanderer is on the tramp in Victoria ; he has been to Melbourne and is on his way back, has reached the town of Seymour and found a subject for his pen. Parodying the title of a book then widely circulated “From Log Cabin to White House” — a life of Garfield — he writes a piece entitled ‘From Parlour to Wood-Heap,’ from which the following lines are taken —

“He’s sitting in there drinking brandy and rum.
In Dick Shanahan’s parlour to-day ;
He now has the cash, and his comrades are dumb
When they’re asked by the girl — ‘who’s to pay ?’
He’s ‘shouting’ all round and the sovereigns turn
Into crowns and to sixpenny bits.
How quickly will gold through the pockets outburn
When the man is outside of his wits.

* * * * * *

“A week ago now in this ‘pub’ of content,
He first came for a nobbler or two ;
Now his credit is low and his money all spent.
And for this he has reason to rue
That he’s broken his vow, and is told ’tis too late
To cry over milk that is spilt,
No labour of thine can the draught reinstate
Or restore it thee, do as thou wilt.

“He swallowed his horse in the space of four days,
And his travelling traps followed suit ;
The landlord took all and his groom took the ‘praise’
Of being out of the swim and the loot ;
He swallowed the coin in the shape of old rum
While his mates stood aside at his fall,
And the girl who him served, took the wink and was dumb,
When she filled the last glass at his call.

“He saw at a glance that Dick Shanahan knew
How he stood with regard to his cash ;
But the glasses filled, he led off to renew
The tail-end of his spree with a ‘dash !’
No dinner that day nor the next to uphold
Such a cargo of beer and bad lush,
And at nightfall he slumbered all out in the cold
In the deep winter’s night of the bush.

“Three terrible nights and three terrible days,
And the end came at last with a crash,
When ‘old trust’ is dead and the placard displays
That the drinks must be paid for in cash.

* * * * * *

“Next morn he arose, saw the boss with a shake
That nigh doubled him up to the chin ;
He asked for some work with bewildering quake,
And the ‘none’ made him sicken within.
No craft and no strength and no food for a meal,
Save the station’s full-pint of bad flour,
And this he will get when he sharpens the steel
And cuts wood at the heap for an hour.”

E. A. Petherick (editor). Songs and Verses by Philip Durham Lorimer: An Australian Bush Poet, William Clowes and Sons, London, 1901, pages 26-27

Editor’s notes:
Garfield = James Abram Garfield (1831-1881) was the 20th President of the United States of America, serving in office from 4 March 1881 to 19 September 1881, when he finally died from the wounds received from an assassin’s bullets (he was shot on 2 July 1881); From Log Cabin to White House: Life of James A. Garfield, President of the United States; Boyhood, Youth, Manhood, Assassination was a biography of Garfield, written by William M. Thayer

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