You and Us [poem by E. J. Brady]

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


You and Us.

You do your pioneering,
You clear the forest lands;
To ploughing and to shearing
You give your yeoman hands;
But we were toilers ever,
And we were exiles ever —
What was, it yet shall be.
We found the way down under
To your appointed plunder:
We opened up the Sea!

Now, what was Father Noah
Except a sailor-man?
Yes, who was Uncle Noah?
Just tell us, if ye can.
A shellback, hard and crusty,
A shellback, rude and rusty,
Who, maybe, could n’t read.
He had no chart or compass —
’Longshoremen raised that rumpus —
He saved the human breed.

And when his cruise was over,
Say, what did Noah do?
Like any good old rover,
He took a drink or two.
He’d brought his great tank through it,
He’d drove his big tub through it,
And fetched her to the pier;
So when he’d paid their wages —
’T is logged on Bible pages —
He went upon the beer!

You talk, you talk of horses,
Of runnin’ brumbies down,
Of fordin’ water-courses,
An’ bein’ like to drown;
You boast of lonely trampin’,
Of sleepin’ out an’ campin’,
Of bravin’ wind an’ cold,
Of meetin’ desert dangers,
Prospectin’ savage ranges,
An’ starvin’ after gold.

You had your share of doin’ —
You had your share to do —
But you had wives for wooin’,
An’ homes an’ kiddies too.
You heard the chink o’ glasses,
You heard the laugh o’ lasses,
Had time to rest and play,
To let your racked souls borrow,
In promise of To-Morrow,
Some comfort for To-Day.

But Us! We crouched together
’Longside the weather-rail,
An’ saw the howlin’ weather
Slog down the stingin’ hail;
We heard dark Legions shoutin’
When Davy Jones was floutin’
Our souls — give up for dead.
With brine-cut, bleedin’ faces,
We manned the weather-braces
When You were safe abed.

We shipped with old Columbus,
We signed with Captain Cook,
To make the Sea’s romances
That make the landsman’s book:
For we were toilers ever,
For we were exiles ever,
To-Day and Yesterday.
You toil — and there you’ve said it;
You toil — and that’s your credit;
But Us! We show the way.

We found the Western highways
That opened up the East;
We left, along its by-ways,
Our bones for sharks to feast;
And when they, later, wanted
Dare-devil dogs undaunted
To head for Hindostan,
With cutlass sharp and handy,
We worked and wore the dandy
East-India merchantman.

We cruised with Bass and Flinders,
Boscawen knew us well
Before the smoke and cinders
Of ocean liners fell.
Magellan sometimes praised us —
The sea-girt Earth that raised us
Was not so narrow then —
And Dampier often told us,
Though Satan bought and sold us,
That we were proper men.

We know the Nor’-West waters
Where spouts the bottle-nose,
Up where the seal-man slaughters
For furs among the floes;
We know the Straits o’ Behrin’,
We know the place of herrin’,
The codfish banks know we;
We’ve seen the dugong swimming,
We’ve seen the cow-whale trimming
Her great flukes in the sea.

You fight with Death, and ever
You get the corn and oil;
We fight with Death forever,
But Death is all our spoil;
And to our combat’s fitness
Let weed and coral witness,
Dark coasts and darker waves:
Wrack! thirst! gaunt wretches raving
Blood-mad, alone, death-craving;
Lost hopes and unmarked graves!

Despair has been our master,
The winds our enemies;
We’ve hobnobbed with Disaster
And slept with Mysteries;
Storm-flogged and starved and stinted,
For pay hot coin fresh-minted
By Beelzebub below!
Fresh scenes and fleeting blisses,
Deep drinks and quick, hot kisses —
“Heave up!” “Good-bye!” and go.

You plough the lands we find you;
You burn some powder, too;
But, when your work’s behind you,
You rest and take your due;
But we are toilers ever,
And we are exiles ever —
’T was foretime, ’t will be thus.
You get the virgins, brothers!
We get, God wot — the others!
Your cast-offs come to Us.

You make your women mothers;
’T is right, ’fore God, the others
Should derelict to Us.
For you the chink of glasses,
The homes, the bairns, the lasses;
Your leavings, dregs, for Us.

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 143-147

Editor’s notes:
bairn = (Scottish) child

Beelzebub = the Devil, Satan; a demon or devil; a god of the Philistines (as mentioned in the Bible, in 2 Kings 1:2); from the Hebrew “ba’al-z’bub”, meaning “lord of the flies” or “lord of the (heavenly) abode”

Boscawen = Edward Boscawen (1711–1761), an admiral in the British navy, was a war hero, also known as “Old Dreadnought”

God wot = an archaic version of the phrase “God knows”

wot = (archaic) to know

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