[Editor: This song was published in Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition, 1932), edited by Banjo Paterson.]
The Death of Ben Hall
Come all Australia’s sons to me —
A hero has been slain
And cowardly butchered in his sleep
Upon the Lachlan Plain.
Ah, do not stay your seemly grief,
But let the teardrop fall!
For many hearts shall always mourn
The fate of bold Ben Hall.
No brand of Cain e’er stamped his brow,
No widow’s curse did fall:
When tales are read, the squatters’ dread
Will still be bold Ben Hall.
The records of this hero’s life
All Europe does applaud:
They form the conversation
Of many an earl and lord.
For ever since the good old days
Of Turpin and Duval
Knights of the road were outlaws all,
And so was bold Ben Hall.
He never robbed a needy man —
His records sure will show
How staunch and loyal to his mates,
How manly to the foe.
At last he left his trusty mates —
The cause I ne’er could hear —
The bloodhounds of the law were told,
And after him did steer.
They found his place of ambush then,
And cautiously they crept,
And savagely they murdered him
While still their victim slept.
Yes, savagely they murdered him,
Those coward Blue-coat imps
Who only found his hiding-place
From sneaking peelers’ pimps.
No more he’ll mount his gallant steed
To range the mountains high:
Poor widows’ friend in poverty,
Our bold Ben Hall, goodbye!
A. B. Paterson (editor), Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition), Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1932, pp. 182-183
Ben Hall = (1837-1865) an Australian bushranger
Blue-coat = a policeman (also spelt: bluecoat)
brand of Cain = (also known as the “mark of Cain”) an association of public disapproval or public disgrace over a crime or a perceived wrongdoing, sin, personal failing, or controversial action; to have been publicly labelled as an evildoer; a badge of shame, a sign of infamy; the mark of a murderer; derived from the Bible story (in the Book of Genesis) in which Cain (the eldest of the two sons of Adam and Eve) killed his brother Abel, and thus the word “Cain” became associated with murder (in Genesis, chapter 4, Cain is afraid of being killed in retaliation, and God gives him a mark to signify that no-one should kill him, or they would face severe retribution)
Duval = Claude Duval (1643-1670), a Frenchman who migrated to England, and ended up having a criminal career as a highwayman, although he gained a reputation of being a courteous and gallant robber (his surname has variously been spelt as: Du Val, Duval, Du Vall, and Duvall)
e’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “ever”
imp = (in European mythology) a small mischievous sprite, spirit, or supernatural creature (less powerful than a demon, and not as evil, often behaving in an annoying and infuriating manner); a mischievous or naughty child, a brat, a scamp
ne’er = (vernacular) an archaic contraction of “never”
peeler = a policeman; a reference to Sir Robert Peel, 1788-1850, former British Prime Minister who, when he was Home Secretary, laid the foundations for the modern police force in Britain (police were also nicknamed “Bobbies” after him)
pimp = an informer (can also refer to: someone who manages and controls prostitutes)
squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)
Turpin = Richard (Dick) Turpin (1705-1739), infamously known for his criminal career as an English highwayman (although he was also the leader of the “Gregory Gang”, who robbed homes, shops, and isolated farms in the English county of Essex)