Risum teneatis amici.
I recollect towards this time I followed the mob to Magpie Gully. It was a digger’s life. Hard work by day, blazing fire in the evening, and sound sleep by night at the music of drunken quarrels all around, far and near. I had marked my claim in accordance with the run of the ranges, and safe as the Bank of England I bottomed on gold. No search for licence ever took place. What’s the matter? Oh, the diggers of Bendigo, by sheer moral force, in the shape of some ten thousand in a mob, had inspired with better sense the red-tape there and somewhere else, so I took out my licence at the reasonable rate of two pounds for three months, my contribution for the support of gold-lace. So far so good. I had no fault to find with our governor Joseph Latrobe, Esquire; nor do I believe that the diggers cared about anything else from him. Was it then his being an esquire that brought his administration into contempt? The fact is, a clap of “The Thunder” from Printing House-square boomed on the tympanum of my ear. We diggers got the gracious title of “vagabonds,” and our massa “Joe,” for his pains to keep friends with us, was put down “an incapable;” all for the honour of British rule, of course.
“Wanted a Governor,” was now no longer a dummy in The Argus ; but, unhappily, no application was made to the people of Victoria.
Give a dog a bad name — and the old proverb holds good even at the antipodes. My trampings are now transcribed from my diary.
With the hot winds whirled in the Vandemonian rush to the Ballaarat Flat. My hole was next to the one which was jumped by the Eureka mob, and where one man was murdered in the row. At sixty-five feet we got on a blasted log of a gum-tree that had been mouldering there under a curse, since the times of Noah! The whole flat turned out an imperial shicer. (You do not sink deep enough, Signore Editor.) Slabs that had cost us some eight pounds a hundred would not fetch, afterwards, one pound. We left them to sweat freely in the hole; and all the mob got on the fuddle. My mate and myself thought we had been long enough together, and got asunder for a change. I was soon on the tramp again. Bryant’s Ranges was the go of the day, and I started thither accordingly. December, 1853. Oh, Lord! what a pack of ragamuffins over that way! I got acquainted with the German party who found out the Tarrangower den; shaped my hole like a bathing tub, and dropped “on it” right smart. Paid two pounds to cart one load down the Loddon, and left two more loads of washing stuff, snug and wet with the sweat of my brow over the hole. Got twenty-eight pennyweights out of the load. Went back the third day, brisk and healthy, to cart down the other two loads. Washing stuff! gone: hole! gone: the gully itself! gone: the whole face of it had been clean shaved. Never mind, go ahead again. Got another claim on the surface-hill. No search for licence: thank God, had none. Nasty, sneaky, cheeky little things of flies got into my eyes: could see no more, no ways. Mud water one shilling a bucket! Got the dysentery; very bad. Thought, one night, to reef the yards and drop the anchor. Got on a better tack though. Promenaded up to the famous Bendigo. Had no particular objection to Celestials there, but had no particular taste for their tartaric water. Made up my mind to remember my days of innocence, and turned shepherd. Fine landscape this run on the Loddon: almost a match for Bella Italia, but there are too many mosquitoes. Dreamt, one day, I was drinking a tumbler of Loddon wine; and asserted that Providence was the same also in the south. It was a dream. The lands lay waste and desolate: not by nature; oh no; by hand of man. Bathing in these Loddon water-holes, superb. Tea out of this Loddon water magnificent. In spite of these horrible hot winds, this water is always fresh and delicious: how kind is Providence! One night lost the whole blessed lot of my flock. Myself, the shepherd, did not know, in the name of heavens, which way to turn. Got among the blacks, the whole Tarrang tribe in corrobory. Lord, what a rum sight for an old European traveller. Found natives very humane, though. My sheep right again, only the wild dogs had given them a good shake. Was satisfied that the Messiah the Jews are looking for will not be born in this bullock-drivers’ land ; any how, the angels won’t announce the happy event of his birth to the shepherds. No more truck with sheep, and went to live with the blacks for a variation. Picked up, pretty soon, bits of their yabber-yabber. For a couple of years had tasted no fish ; now I pounced on a couple of frogs, every couple of minutes. Thought their ‘lubras’ ugly enough ; not so, however, the slender arms and small hands of their young girls, though the fingers be rather too long.
That will do now, in as much as the end of the story is this: That portion in my brains called “acquisitiveness” got the gold-fever again, and I started for old Ballaarat.
Raffaello Carboni. The Eureka Stockade: The Consequence of Some Pirates Wanting on Quarter-Deck a Rebellion, Public Library of South Australia, Adelaide, 1962 [facsimile of the 1855 edition], pages 6-7
give a dog a bad name = a reference to the proverb “give a dog a bad name and hang him”, meaning that once enough dirt (slander) has been thrown against someone’s reputation, that you may as well hang him as try to rehabilitate his good name
pennyweights = a pennyweight was 1⁄20 of an ounce or 1⁄240 of a pound of sterling silver [a pennyweight was usually abbreviated as dwt, being d from “denarius” (the small silver Roman coin) and wt for “weight”; pennyweight may also be abbreviated as pwt or pw]
risum teneatis amici = (Latin) “could you keep from laughing, friends?”; from “Ars Poetica” (“The Art of Poetry”), line 5, by Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65 BC – 8 BC)
give a dog a bad name:
Emanuel Strauss. Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs, Routledge, New York, 1998, page 240
Ebenezer Cobham Brewer. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Wordsworth Editions, Ware (Herfordshire, UK), 2001, page 349
risum teneatis amici:
Horace (edited by James Tate). Horatius Restitutus: or The Books of Horace Arranged in Chronological Order According to the Scheme of Dr. Bentley, Baldwin & Craddock, London, 1837, page 236 (accessed 29 December 2012)
Jon R. Stone. The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati’s Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs, and Sayings, Routledge, New York, 2005, page 313 (accessed 29 December 2012)
“Q. Horatii Flacci Ars Poetica”, The Latin Library (accessed 29 December 2012)