Out Back [poem by P.P. Quinn]

[Editor: This poem by P.P. Quinn was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

Out Back.

We dumped our swags by the river-side when the sun was getting low ;
To reach the boys on the other side we had four good miles to go ;
But the winding stream that before us stretched ran sluggishly and wide —
’T was a hundred yards from where we sat to the sand on the other side.
The tailings washed from the claims above had sullied the waters clear,
And thicker and thicker they slowly ran as year succeeded year ;
My mate and myself wished heartily we had reached the further shore —
The trip was the first he had made on the track, but I had been there before.

A raw new-chum of the boasting type, in his stockings six-feet-two ;
He never tired while he “held the flute” of telling what he could do —
He had pulled a win with an Oxford eight ; had hunted on Yorkshire side ;
Had played with the Gents on the Oval, too; and Lord knows what beside !
“Had never been taken in, bai Jove !” — he was “far too smart, you know” —
Was a lot too good to carry a swag, and plainly told me so.
A fortnight back I had picked him up, stone-broke on the Sydney side,
And we swagged it out to fossick a creek I knew by this river wide.

“I think I ’ll swim it, bai Jove !” he said, and glanced at the opposite side ;
“I ’ve swum the Rhine by the Drachenfels, and that is four times as wide.”
Then he stacked his togs — they were few, Lord knows ! — on the log beside me there,
And turned to dive in the murky stream with a proud, heroic air.
“I would n’t dive for fear of the rocks,” I grinned as I said to him ;
“But just walk out till you get your depth, and then you can safely swim.”
“A good idea, old chap!” says he; “for the water is beastly thick” —
And then he stepped in the sluggish stream, and stepped at the double-quick.

The first step covered his toes, I think ; the next he was ankle deep ;
While I struggled hard with a laughing fit in trying my peace to keep.
Then, bending low, he prepared to swim when the water reached his knees,
With arms drawn up and his unkempt hair adrift on the evening breeze.
Ten paces out — and the water still just reached to his ankles bare,
While he went prepared for the sudden drop in the depths that he knew were there.
Half-way across — and his ankles trim still fathomed the mighty flood ;
He threw a suspicious glance behind, and just for a moment stood.

Then on he went with a cautious stride, while around his spacious feet
The waters mingled with drifting sand and the three-inch wavelets beat.
He faced about on the other shore — he found he was fairly “had,”
And the words that fell from that naked man were the sublimate of bad.
Then to wade across I tucked my pants — they were getting for wear the worse,
While my robeless mate who had swum the Rhine swore hard at the universe.
He cursed the stream and cursed the sand as he fiercely paced the shore —
’T was the first gay time he had crossed that creek, but I had been there before.

P. P. Quinn.

A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 19-21

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