[Editor: This poem was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 21 August 1886.]
A Bushman’s Troubles.
(For The Bulletin.)
’Tis the voice of the ’possum, his tones sweet and low
Assure me he means for my damper to go.
Hark! he’s close to the fire — he searches the pot,
Ha, ha! hear him swear (in pure ’possum), “d—d hot!”
Now, he upsets the plates, in a rummage for crumbs —
He has finished; by Jove, here my enemy comes!
He frisks round the tent. Now, along the ridge-pole
He is trying in vain to discover a hole —
So eager is he to partake of my store
That he musters up courage and comes to the door.
There he sits, while I lie, vainly trying to stamp
On my brain, by the aid of a flaring slush-lamp,
Some grains of the wisdom and humour within
The pages that make up the week’s Bulletin.
Now he cautiously creeps, and bright visions of loot
Prevent him observing my iron-heel’d boot.
It is poised. Now, I think I have focussed him straight —
Phew! bang! but my tent lifting foe doesn’t wait,
For I hear him above, on the limb of a tree,
And those angry remarks are meant clearly for me,
And that musical sound, ’twixt a growl and a hiss,
Conveys to me plainly — he laughs at my miss.
The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 21 August 1886, p. 4 (column 4)
Bulletin = The Bulletin newspaper/magazine (published in Sydney, NSW), which was known colloquially as “The Bully” (also known as “The Bushman’s Bible”)
by Jove = an exclamatory oath, denoting excitement or surprise; the phrase was a way of saying “by God” without blaspheming (“Jove” is an alternate name for Jupiter; in Roman mythology, Jupiter was king of the gods, as well as the god of sky and thunder)
’possum = an opossum or “possum”, a tree-dwelling marsupial species native to Australia; opossums are actually those animals of the Didelphimorphia order of marsupials (which are colloquially known as “possums”), whilst the term “possums” technically refers to those animals of the suborder Phalangeriformes, of the Diprotodontia order of marsupials; however, the two are often confused as being the same animal; the confusion arises from when Joseph Banks (the botanist with Captain Cook’s expedition) thought the Australian marsupial was an opossum, as it looked similar to the American opossum
slush-lamp = a crudely-made lamp; a slush lamp could be made by using a tin can (or any crude container, such as a coconut shell; or a container half-filled with clay), putting in a fuel, such as grease, mutton fat, oil, slush (i.e. fat and grease from cooking), or tallow, and using a rag for a wick
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”