The Black-Soil Teams [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Earthen Floor (1902). It also appeared in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]


The Black-Soil Teams.

For God hath made the Black-soil; and spread it near and far.
From down the sweeping Namoi bends, away to Talbragar:
Its richness no man questions, its wealth no man denies,
But Sheol ’tis in rain time; and Tophet when it dries.

The drought hath cracked and torn it; the rain hath lent it seams.
God help the Black-soil teamster! God help the Black-soil teams!
God grace the toiling teamster! God give him strength and hope!
Spare swingle-bars and traces, spare curses, chains and rope!

A-ploughing down the gilgas — the mud as close as glue —
A-plunging past the myall, the squatter’s wool goes through!
A-plunging through the gilgas, a-ploughing up the track,
With four and twenty horses, the squatter’s stores come back.

New saddles for the stockmen, new dresses for the girls —
And round the straining leader the wicked whipthong curls.
Their flanks are all a-lather, the black mud axle-high,
But trust the Black-soil teamster; he’ll take her through or die.

Who sees the trace-chains snapping, who sees the harness fly,
May kneel and pray for weather; may kneel and ask it dry.
But when the starved team staggers across a sun-scorched plain,
He’ll change his plea, mayhappen, and kneel and pray for rain.

But rain, or drought, whatever, all flood or dry reverse,
The teamster’s duty’s patent — Pull out, pull through and curse.
Ay, pull her down the rivers: drag through the clinging loam,
Then turn-about, my brother, curse hard, and crawl her home!

God grant him grace hereafter; of grace, aye hath he dearth, —
Though fearing no hereafter — whose Hell is all on Earth.
Sun-tanned, mud-caked and hairy; morose and most profane,
God grace the Lean Lost Legion who plod the Black-soil Plain!

E. J. Brady, The Earthen Floor, Grafton (NSW): Grip Newspaper Co., 1902

Also published in:
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 34-35
The Horsham Times (Horsham, Vic.), 5 March 1929, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
ay = (commonly spelt “aye”) yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

dearth = lack, scarcity

hath = (archaic) has

loam = soil comprised of a mixture of clay, sand, silt, and organic matter

mayhappen = (archaic) a variant of “mayhap”, i.e. it may happen; perhaps; possibly

myall = an acacia tree (wattle tree), especially the Acacia pendula (weeping myall) which has gray or silver foliage, drooping branches, and which can grow up to 10 metres in height (with a hard heavy fine-grained wood that is especially used for carving and fine woodworking); in another context “myall” can refer to an uncivilized or wild person (from the Aboriginal word “miyal” for stranger)

Sheol = a term commonly used as a substitute for saying “hell” (as “hell” was regarded as bad language, when used outside of its proper context); sheol was a term, used in the Old Testament of the Bible, which is translated as “grave”, “pit”, or “abode of the dead”

’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”

[Editor: Inserted a comma after “mayhappen”, in line with the poem’s publication in The Horsham Times (5 March 1929, p. 4), and because the insertion of a comma makes grammatical sense; however, it should be noted that no such comma appears in the poem in either The Earthen Floor (1902) or Bells and Hobbles (1911).]

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