[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]
Bill and Jim Fall Out
Bill and Jim are mates no longer — they would scorn the name of mate —
Those two bushmen hate each other with a soul-consuming hate;
Yet erstwhile they were as brothers should be (tho’ they never will):
Ne’er were mates to one another half so true as Jim and Bill.
Bill was one of those who have to argue every day or die —
Though, of course, he swore ’twas Jim who always itched to argufy.
They would, on most abstract subjects, contradict each other flat
And at times in lurid language — they were mates in spite of that.
Bill believed the Bible story re the origin of him —
He was sober, he was steady, he was orthodox; while Jim,
Who, we grieve to state, was always getting into drunken scrapes,
Held that man degenerated from degenerated apes.
Bill was British to the backbone, he was loyal through and through;
Jim declared that Blucher’s Prussians won the fight at Waterloo,
And he hoped the coloured races would in time wipe out the white —
And it rather strained their mateship, but it didn’t burst it quite.
They battled round in Maoriland — they saw it through and through —
And argued on the rata, what it was and how it grew;
Bill believed the vine grew downward, Jim declared that it grow up —
Yet they always shared their fortunes to the final bite and sup.
Night after night they argued how the kangaroo was born,
And each one held the other’s stupid theories in scorn,
Bill believed it was ‘born inside,’ Jim declared it was born out —
Each as to his own opinions never had the slightest doubt.
They left the earth to argue and they went among the stars,
Re conditions atmospheric, Bill believed ‘the hair of Mars
‘Was too thin for human bein’s to exist in mortal states.’
Jim declared it was too thick, if anything — yet they were mates
Bill for Freetrade — Jim, Protection — argued as to which was best
For the welfare of the workers — and their mateship stood the test!
They argued over what they meant and didn’t mean at all,
And what they said and didn’t — and were mates in spite of all.
Till one night the two together tried to light a fire in camp,
When they had a leaky billy and the wood was scarce and damp.
And . . . No matter: let the moral be distinctly understood:
One alone should tend the fire, while the other brings the wood.
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 138-141
Leave a Reply