The Charge of Illawarra [poem, The Bulletin, 21 August 1886]

[Editor: This non-rhyming poem was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 21 August 1886.]

The Charge of Illawarra.

“On Friday, as a party of Illawarra light horse were cantering sharply down Castlereagh-street, Sydney, they came into collision with a tip-cart, and one of the cavalry men received a severe fall.”

From the fields of Illawarra,
From the oily butter city,
Where the maidens are all milkmaids
And the young men are all milkers —
Straight of hair with curly noses,
Came the Illawarra horsemen
To the big smoke Sydney city.
And they knocked the city bandy,
Made it howl with pure amazement,
Riding on their fiery horses
Through the crowded Sydney city;
Said they — “We will show these jokers
How it’s done in Illawarra.”
So they raced down Castlereagh-street
Like the whirlwinds down the mountain,
And they made the people scatter,
Till they reached the fatal corner
Where the fell and stealthy tip-cart,
Ton-up-Druitt-street the tip-cart,
Lay in ambush waiting for them.
Then the bravest of the horsemen,
He the pride of Illawarra,
Felt his dander rise within him;
He bethought him of the milkmaids
And his native pats of butter;
And he spoke in words heroic —
“How shall I face home and kindred
If I let a tip-cart beat me?
Shall I live for men to hiss me?
And the cheery, saucy milkmaids
As I pass will turn and giggle —
“There’s the man that funked a tip-cart!”
So he spurred his fiery courser,
And he charged the deadly tip-cart —
Bucked right at it with his ears back,
Met it full with fierce collision.
But the sturdy foe, the tip-dray,
Never even winked an eyelid —
Didn’t seem to care a button;
And the pride of Illawarra,
From his saddle flying skywards —
Like a comet in the noonday,
Stood upon his head on nothing
In the air for half a minute.
For the space of half a minute,
Like the coffin of Mahomet,
’Twixt the earth and sky suspended,
Just to show the Sydney public
How it’s done in Illawarra.
And the public wondered greatly;
Said, “Here goes a blazing buster.”
While they uttered their amazement,
To descend he condescended,
On the pavement hard alighted,
Like a bag of new potatoes
Dropping from an attic window;
And he found the pavement cosy,
So he lay there as in slumber.
But his comrades brought his charger,
And he rapidly re-mounted —
Mounted on his fiery charger,
And he passed on down the roadway
Like a postman round the corner
With his red and dusty jacket,
While the public stood in wonder;
And the stern, unconquered tip-dray,
To its stables rolled triumphant.
And the men from Illawarra
Gave the citizens a respite —
Didn’t knock them quite so bandy.
And the man that charged the tip-dray
As a sadder Iller-warrior,
Has gone back to Illawarra.

The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 21 August 1886, p. 15 (column 4)

Editor’s notes:
bandy = (to “knock someone bandy”) to amaze or astound someone; give a knock-out performance; to be very impressive; also, to stun with a blow

courser = a swift horse; a charger

dander = temper, e.g. to “get your dander up” is to lose your temper (derived from the Dutch phrase “op donderen”, meaning “to burst into a sudden rage”; from “donder”, meaning “thunder”); also refers to the microscopic skin flakes shed from the body of humans and other animals (those which have feathers, fur, or hair)
See: 1) “Get Your Dander Up”, Historically Speaking, 23 June 2010
2) “dander”, English Linguistics

fell = bad, cruel, destructive, fierce, or sinister (as used in the phrase “one fell swoop”)

funk = a state of fear or panic (may also refer to a coward; may also refer to a state of depression, including the phrase “in a blue funk”)

Illawarra = a region on the coast of New South Wales, south of Sydney and north of Shoalhaven; the region includes Kiama, Lake Illawarra, Port Kembla, Shellharbour, and Wollongong

Iller-warrior = a pun regarding an ill (or hurt) warrior from Illawarra

light horse = lightly armed and lightly armoured troops mounted on horses (as opposed to heavy cavalry, which were heavily armed and heavily armoured troops, whose warhorses were sometimes heavily armored as well); in later times, the term referred to mounted troops (e.g. the Australian Light Horse, which usually operated as mounted infantry, but was also used in cavalry roles) and to armoured vehicle units (e.g. the Australian 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment)

Mahomet = an alternative spelling of Muhammad (ca. 570-632), the founder of the religion of Islam (spellings of the name include Magomad, Magomed, Mahamed, Mahamid, Mahammud, Mahmad, Mahomet, Mehmed, Mehmet, Mohamad, Mohamed, Mohammad, Mohammed, Mohamud, Mokhmad, Moohammed, Muhamad, Muhamed, Muhamet, Muhammadu, Muhammed, Muhammet, Mukhammad)

pat = (of butter) a small flat amount of butter, often served at mealtime with bread; may also be presented as a rolled piece of butter, or otherwise shaped into an ornamental form; a piece of commercially produced butter, presented in a small rectangular shape, individually wrapped

’twixt = betwixt, between (can be given either with or without an apostrophe)

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