A Little Mistake [poem by Henry Lawson]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]

A Little Mistake

’Tis a yarn I heard of a new-chum ‘trap’
On the edge of the Never-Never,
Where the dead men lie and the black men lie,
And the bushman lies for ever.

’Twas the custom still with the local blacks
To cadge in the ‘altogether’ —
They had less respect for our feelings then,
And more respect for the weather.

The trooper said to the sergeant’s wife:
‘Sure, I wouldn’t seem unpleasant;
‘But there’s women and childer about the place,
‘And — barrin’ a lady’s present —

‘There’s ould King Billy wid niver a stitch
‘For a month — may the drought cremate him! —
‘Bar the wan we put in his dhirty head,
‘Where his old Queen Mary bate him.

‘God give her strength! — and a peaceful reign —
‘Though she flies in a bit av a passion
‘If ony wan hints that her shtoyle an’ luks
‘Are a trifle behind the fashion.

‘There’s two of the boys by the stable now —
‘Be the powers! I’ll teach the varmints
‘To come wid nought but a shirt apiece,
‘And wid dirt for their nayther garmints.

‘Howld on, ye blaggards! How dare ye dare
‘To come widin sight av the houses? —
‘I’ll give ye a warnin’ all for wance
‘An’ a couple of ould pair of trousers.’

They took the pants as a child a toy,
The constable’s words beguiling
A smile of something beside their joy;
And they took their departure smiling.

And that very day, when the sun was low,
Two blackfellows came to the station;
They were filled with the courage of Queensland rum
And bursting with indignation.

The constable noticed, with growing ire,
They’d apparently dressed in a hurry;
And their language that day, I am sorry to say,
Mostly consisted of ‘plurry.’

The constable heard, and he wished himself back
In the land of the bogs and the ditches —
‘You plurry big tight-britches p’liceman, what for
‘You gibbit our missuses britches?’

And this was a case, I am bound to confess,
Where civilisation went under;
Had one of the gins been less modest in dress
He’d never have made such a blunder.

And here let the moral be duly made known,
And hereafter signed and attested:
We should place more reliance on that which is shown
And less upon what is suggested.



Source:
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 225-227

Editor’s notes:
altogether = the phrase “in the altogether” means “in the nude” (altogether naked)

cadge = to ask, or beg, for someone else to supply something for nothing (e.g. to cadge a drink or meal)

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