The Cruise of the “Nightmare” [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.]

The Cruise of the “Nightmare.”

Ofttimes strange dreams have haunted me, of weird and fearsome things;
Such dreams as midnight reading or a heavy supper brings.
Of nightmares I have had a few, but none of them could rank
With the time when I was chased from Oodnadatta to Mount Schank.

Now I have a secret hobby for collecting native names,
For the native nomenclature oft my admiration claims.
Whoever ’twas created them the highest praise deserves,
But tho’ they’re sweet they’re apt at times to get upon the nerves.

* * * * * *

My dream at first was pleasant. It. was filled with beasts and birds
Most beautiful. To picture them I’m beggared quite for words.
When suddenly I noticed, from behind a mulga tree,
A horrid looking bunyip glaring banefully at me.

I’ll not attempt to picture him — I couldn’t if I tried —
For I turned at once and bolted. There was not a place to hide;
And after me careering came that horrid looking chap,
And he did not give me respite till he’d chased me round the map.

He ran me thro’ to Paratoo, then to Tantanoola;
Wallaroo, Kalangadoo, over Arkaroola;
Wirrawilla, Yankalilla, up to Winnininnie;
Andamooka, Taltabooka, into Yudnapinnie;
Booborowie, Yeltacowie, round to Thackaringa;
Moralana, Wangianna, out by Wadnaminga;
Balcanoona, Pepegoona, up to Oodnadatta;
Mocatoona and Aroona into Boolcoomatta;
Italowie, Edeowie, then to Oratunga;
Burra Burra and Pandurra round about Willunga.

By now my legs were weakening and my wind was failing me.
And that horrid looking bunyip he was gaining, I could see.
But the nightmare stood beside me, so I leaped astride her back.
And she carried me as quietly as any common hack.

Kopperamanna, Umberatana,
Into Warrioota; Irrapatana, Parabarana,
Rushing thro’ Baroota;
Owieamdana, Nankaburyana,
Out to Yantawena;
Then from Wintabatinyana
Westward to Wilgena.

My flight had now assumed the shape of quite a pleasant ramble,
The pace seemed hardly greater than an ordinary amble,
My nightmare was a stayer, fairly fit in wind and limb,
So we cantered from the bunyip, with a view to losing him.

Yarrowie, Terowie;
Willowie, Telowie;
Gumbowie, Caltowie,
Tarcowie, Coobowie;
Outowie, Canowie;
Warcowie, Condowie,
Kapunda, Tanunda;
Manunda, Eudunda;
Koolunga, Echunga,
Beltana, Callana;
Wooltana, The Anna;
Woolyana, Pandanna,

We cantered thus for many miles, when, glancing to the rear,
It terrified me to behold the bunyip drawing near.
I knew my mare could lose him, if her wind would only last her,
So I gripped the pads and urged her ever faster and still faster.

Booleroo, Billeroo,
Parneroo, Pineroo,
Mutooroo, Morudoo,
Orroroo, Beetaloo,
Waukaloo, Warnamboo,
Ninkerloo, Yednaloo,

Oh, the places streamed behind us as we galloped like the wind,
And we left that horrid bunyip full a thousand miles behind.
The mare was sure the fleetest thing I ever chanced to ride.
Such bumps as Moondiepitchnie she included in her stride,
Until at last she bungled, and we came an awful spill in a
Confounded little creek they call Wergowerangerillina.

C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 55-58


  1. Julian Tenison Woods says:

    Very excited, we have been looking for this poem for the past 10-15 years in dozens of second-hand bookshops.
    Many thanks

  2. Thank you for your feedback.
    It is great to hear that the site has been of some help to you.

    As far as a Google search shows, at this stage, this site is the only one in the world to have published this poem. This is because this is the first time that the full text of “Backblock Ballads and Other Verses” (1913) has been published on the internet; as most sites have concentrated on his later book, “Backblock Ballads and Later Verses” (1918).

  3. Bill Wilkinson says:

    G’day – I’ve also been looking for this poem for a long, long time. It was first read to me by my year six teacher in 1959. He instilled a love for CJ Dennis poetry that has never diminished. Thank you for posting it here.


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