On the Land [poem by C.J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913). Most of the poetry of C.J. Dennis is written in the style of the Australian vernacular. See the Glossary for explanations of words and phrases.]

On the Land.

Oh, listen you young feller, who’s about to make a start
Fer to enter into business or a trade;
Jes’ pause fer ’alf a jiffy, I’ve a warnin’ to impart:
I kin tell you ’ow the money isn’t made.
Go be a legislator or a pea an’ thimble man,
Take any other ’ard but honest toil;
Be a doctor (or a sawyer) ; a burglar (or a lawyer);
Only don’t become a “tiller o’ the soil.”

Oh, the land! the worked out land,
Where the dust an’ the rust roam free;
Where it’s graftin’, sweatin’, fretin’;
Givin’ all an’ nothin’ gettin’ —
On the land in the North countree.

It’s toilin’ late an’ early in the cold an’ in the sun,
An’ scrapin’ fer to earn yer bit o’ bread;
It’s settin, down an’ troublin’ when yer daily work is done,
An’ wishin’ to the Lord that you wus dead.
It’s signin’ liens an’ mortgages an’ givin’ bills o’ sale,
An’ knowin’ well ye’ll never work ’em free;
It’s ’opin’ and despairin, an it’s prayin’, cursin’, swearin’,
An’ a-wond’ring wot the ’ell the kids’ll be.

Oh, the land! the wind-swept land!
(The wind that blows the pebbles frum the North),
Where ther’s little time fer sleepin’;
Always sowin’, seldom reapin’;
Where the man is taken down fer all he’s worth.

Would you taste o’ the beginnin’ of the ’ell you ’ear about? —
Take a turn up ’ere an’ try yer ’and.
’Ave ye done a heap o’ sinnin’, would you like to wipe it out ?
Come an’ do yer penance on the land.
Come along an’ try it if you want yer ’eart to bleed;
Come an’ toil till dusk from early dawn;
Come an’ fetch yer wife an’ kids an’ watch the life they lead;
Come — an’ wish to Gawd you wasn’t born.

Oh, the land! the drought-struck land!
Where the locust lunches free;
Where its toiling’, sweatin’, fretin’,
Givin’ all an nothin’ gettin’;
On the land in the North countree.

C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 77-78

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