[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
I’m lyin’ on the barren ground that’s baked and cracked with drought,
And dunno if my legs or back or heart is most wore out;
I’ve got no spirits left to rise and smooth me achin’ brow —
I’m too knocked up to light a fire and bile the billy now.
Oh it’s trampin’, trampin’, tra-a-mpin’, in flies an’ dust an’ heat,
Or it’s trampin’ trampin’ tra-a-a-mpin’ through mud and slush ’n sleet;
It’s tramp an’ tramp for tucker — one everlastin’ strife,
An’ wearin’ out yer boots an’ heart in the wastin’ of yer life.
They whine o’ lost an’ wasted lives in idleness and crime —
I’ve wasted mine for twenty years, and grafted all the time
And never drunk the stuff I earned, nor gambled when I shore —
But somehow when yer on the track yer life seems wasted more.
A long dry stretch of thirty miles I’ve tramped this broilin’ day,
All for the off-chance of a job a hundred miles away;
There’s twenty hungry beggars wild for any job this year,
An’ fifty might be at the shed while I am lyin’ here.
The sinews in my legs seem drawn, red-hot — ’n that’s the truth;
I seem to weigh a ton, and ache like one tremendous tooth;
I’m stung between my shoulder-blades — my blessed back seems broke;
I’m too knocked out to eat a bite — I’m too knocked up to smoke.
The blessed rain is comin’ too — there’s oceans in the sky,
An’ I suppose I must get up and rig the blessed fly;
The heat is bad, the water’s bad, the flies a crimson curse,
The grub is bad, mosquitoes damned — but rheumatism’s worse.
I wonder why poor blokes like me will stick so fast ter breath,
Though Shakespeare says it is the fear of somethin’ after death;
But though Eternity be cursed with God’s almighty curse —
What ever that same somethin’ is I swear it can’t be worse.
For it’s trampin’, trampin’, tra-a-mpin’ thro’ hell across the plain,
And it’s trampin’ trampin’ tra-a-mpin’ thro’ slush ’n mud ‘n rain —
A livin’ worse than any dog — without a home ’n wife,
A-wearin’ out yer heart ’n soul in the wastin’ of yer life.
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 142-144