The Great Calamity [poem by Banjo Paterson]

[Editor: This poem by “Banjo” Paterson was published in The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, 1895; previously published in The Bulletin, 19 August 1893.]

The Great Calamity

MacFierce’un came to Whiskeyhurst
When summer days were hot,
And bided there wi’ Jock MacThirst,
A brawny brother Scot.
Gude faith! They made the whisky fly
Like Highland chieftains true,
And when they’d drunk the beaker dry
They sang, ‘We are nae fou!’

‘There’s nae folk like oor ain folk,
‘Sae gallant and sae true.’
They sang the only Scottish joke
Which is, ‘We are nae fou.’

Said bold MacThirst, ‘Let Saxons jaw
‘Aboot their great concerns,
‘But Bonnie Scotland beats them a’,
‘The Land o’ cakes and Burns,
‘The land o’ partridge, deer, and grouse,
‘Fill up your glass, I beg,
‘There’s muckle whiskey i’ the house,
‘Forbye what’s in the keg.’

And here a hearty laugh he laughed,
‘Just come wi’ me, I beg.’
MacFierce’un saw with pleasure daft
A fifty-gallon keg.

‘Losh, man, that’s graund,’ MacFierce’un cried,
‘Saw ever man the like,
‘Now, wi’ the daylicht, I maun ride
‘To meet a Southron tyke,
‘But I’ll be back ere summer’s gone,
‘So bide for me, I beg,
‘We’ll mak’ a grand assault upon
‘Yon deevil of a keg.’

* * * * * *

MacFierce’un rode to Whiskeyhurst
When summer days were gone,
And there he met with Jock MacThirst
Was greetin’ all alone.
‘MacThirst, what gars ye look sae blank,?
‘Have all your wits gane daft?
‘Has that accursed Southron bank
‘Called up your overdraft?
‘Is all your grass burnt up wi’ drouth?
‘Is wool and hides gone flat?’
MacThirst replied, ‘Gude friend, in truth,
‘’Tis muckle waur than that.’

‘Has sair misfortune cursed your life
‘That you should weep sae free?
‘Is harm upon your bonny wife,
‘The children at your knee?
‘Is scaith upon your house and hame?”
MacThirst upraised his head:
‘My bairns hae done the deed of shame —
‘’Twere better they were dead.

‘To think my bonnie infant son
‘Should do the deed o’ guilt —
He let the whuskey spigot run,
‘And a’ the whuskey’s spilt?

* * * * * *

Upon them both these words did bring
A solemn silence deep,
Gude faith, it is a fearsome thing
To see two strong men weep.

Andrew Barton Paterson. The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896 [January 1896 reprinting of the October 1895 edition], pages 171-173

Previously published in: The Bulletin, 19 August 1893

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