Wool, Ho! [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


Wool, Ho!

When the clipper fleet comes over,
When the scent is on the clover,
And the scarlet streaks the blue;
When the Western sheds are ringing
And the Western men are singing
As their toiling teams come through,
Then it’s ho, ho — Wool, ho!
For the busy shears are clipping, and a stir is in the shipping,
And it’s yo, ho — Wool, ho!

When the boys have got together
In the warm October weather,
When a tempest of their laughter
Shakes the hut from floor to rafter,
And the bush is turning brown;
When the lover gets his maiden,
When the Southern teams are laden,
And the clip is rolling down,
Then it’s ho, ho — Wool, ho!
For the trucks are at the siding and the railway chaps are chiding,
And ’tis go, go — Wool, ho!

Get that steamer to her berth there!
Get the men of all the earth there!
Have those lorries in their places!
Have the breeching to the traces;
Get your wool-hooks fixed to heave.
Get your truck-wheels good and greasy;
Let the lower shoot run easy,
Have the fall-rope through the sheave!
Hey! ho, the Wool, ho!
Hitch your belt until she pinches! Is there steam up on the winches?
Then go! — Wool, ho!

Have the store-hands get their muster
Ere the boss begins to bluster,
When the winch-man starts reversing
And the stevedore starts cursing,
And the wharf “stands by” below!
For she’s bound to sail by Monday —
“Wool aboard” at midnight, Sunday —
Wool, ho! Wool, ho!
Oh, the hungry looms are calling and the markets may be falling —
Wool, ho! Wool, ho!

Are ye ready? Are ye ready?
Heave aboard now! Steady, steady!
Let them stand below the slings there,
Let them catch it as it swings there,
And their trust be in the Lord;
For her skipper’s making trouble,
And the crowds are working double,
And it fairly hums aboard!
Does the Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!
Yea! the agent’s clerk is growling, and the forrard hatch is howling
For their Wool, the Wool, ho!

* * * * *

You can ring the bell for dinner:
We have shoved her cargo in her,
And the Blazer must n’t beat her
Though he’s flying his Blue Peter —
Hark! you hear the hissing steam?
Now she’s straining at her tether;
Now they’re swinging out together
With their noses to the stream,
And the Wool! the Wool, ho!
Yes! we cursed her and we damned her, but we’ve rammed her and we’ve crammed her
With the Wool! the Wool, ho!

Oh, we slung it and we slammed it,
And we squeezed it home and jammed it
For the glory of the Trade —
For her agent and her skipper,
And the comfort of the clipper
And the Broker-man’s Brigade.
It will buy their fowl and truffles and their ladies’ lace and ruffles,
Will the gritty, greasy Wool, ho!
Will the dirty, dunnaged Wool, ho!

With ten thousand bales of plunder,
And a cable length asunder;
With a shouting and a cheering,
With the harbor pilot steering,
They are flopping down the bay.
She’s a ripper! she’s a racer!
But the Blazer’s got to pace her,
And he’ll do it — all the way!
With the Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!
With his engineers and stokers and his able-bodied jokers,
And the Wool! the Wool! Wool, ho!

While her grinding engine’s grieving
In the rolling and the heaving;
While the sogging seas are swirling
With the white-capped surges curling
She will thunder on her way:
With her piston rods a-thumping,
While her heavy bows are jumping
Like a porpoise at his play.
And the Wool, ho! oh, the Wool, ho!
She will rise and buckle to it, she will chew a road way through it,
For the Wool! for the Wool! Wool, ho!

As her blocks aloft are creaking,
As her steam-escape is shrieking,
In the rising and the falling
Hear the bo’s’n’s whistle calling
When she strips to face the gale!
With the long green track before her,
With the storm-clouds black’ning o’er her
In the waning starlight pale.
But the Wool, ho! oh, the Wool, ho!
When she’s rolling and she’s lifting there will be no cargo shifting —
For ’tis Wool, ho! London brokers’ Wool, ho!

With an albatross to guide her,
While the dolphins race beside her,
When the restless screw is churning.
And the blue a-wake is turning —
As she surges on — to cream;
As the smoke shoots from her funnel,
As the shaft rings thro’ the tunnel,
As the sea-birds wheel and scream;
With her Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!
She will romp and roll and toss it; fetch her cargo safe across it —
For ’tis Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!

When the vintage time is nearing,
When the corn ripes in the clearing,
Oh, the Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!
It will fill their pockets full, ho;
When its scent has left the clover,
When the summer days are over
And the South wind heads the rain;
With a rolling swing to larboard,
With a swinging roll to starboard,
She’ll be clamping down again
For the Wool, ho!
With her goaded engines grieving thro’ the pitching and the heaving,
For the Wool, ho!

When the bees have stored their honey,
When the boys have spent their money,
Ere the shears have started clipping,
Ere the stir is in the shipping
She’ll be romping down the track;
With the long green road before her,
With the bright stars beaming o’er her,
Rolling, rolling, rolling back
For the Wool, ho! the Wool, ho!
Crowding ev’ry stitch she’s got on for the wool that buys our cotton —
For the yellow, greasy Wool, ho!
The Wool, ho!
Ho, ho! The blessed holy Wool, ho!

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 68-73

Editor’s notes:
Blue Peter = the Blue Peter maritime signal flag, which signals that the ship is “outward bound” (when a ship is in harbour, the Blue Peter flag is used to signal that all persons should report on board); it is also the signal flag for the letter P

bo’s’n = (also spelt bos’n, bosun) boatswain (a petty officer on a merchant ship, or a warrant officer on a warship, who is responsible for the maintenance of the ship’s hull and equipment)

larboard = the left side (port side) of a ship (when facing forward, such as when positioned at the helm); from Middle English “ladde-borde”, meaning “loading side”

starboard = the right side of a ship (when facing forward, such as when positioned at the helm)

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