The Old Bark School
It was built of bark and poles, and the floor was full of holes
Where each leak in rainy weather made a pool;
And the walls were mostly cracks lined with calico and sacks —
There was little need for windows in the school.
Then we rode to school and back by the rugged gully track,
On the old grey horse that carried three or four;
And he looked so very wise that he lit the master’s eyes
Every time he put his head in at the door.
He had run with Cobb and Co. — ‘that grey leader, let him go!’
There were men ‘as knowed the brand upon his hide,’
And ‘as knowed it on the course’. Funeral service: ‘Good old horse!’
When we burnt him in the gully where he died.
And the master thought the same. ’Twas from Ireland that he came,
Where the tanks are full all summer, and the feed is simply grand;
And the joker then in vogue said his lessons wid a brogue —
’Twas unconscious imitation, let the reader understand.
And we learnt the world in scraps from some ancient dingy maps
Long discarded by the public-schools in town;
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook
Our geography was somewhat upside-down.
It was ‘in the book’ and so — well, at that we’d let it go,
For we never would believe that print could lie;
And we all learnt pretty soon that when we came out at noon
‘The sun is in the south part of the sky.’
And Ireland! that was known from the coast line to Athlone:
We got little information re the land that gave us birth;
Save that Captain Cook was killed (and was very likely grilled)
And ‘the natives of New Holland are the lowest race on earth.’
And a woodcut, in its place, of the same degraded race
Seemed a lot more like a camel than the black-fellows we knew;
Jimmy Bullock, with the rest, scratched his head and gave it best;
But his faith was sadly shaken by a bobtailed kangaroo.
But the old bark-school is gone, and the spot it stood upon
Is a cattle-camp in winter where the curlew’s cry is heard;
There’s a brick-school on the flat, but a schoolmate teaches that,
For, about the time they built it, our old master was ‘transferred.’
But the bark-school comes again with exchanges ’cross the plain —
With the Out-Back Advertiser; and my fancy roams at large
When I read of passing stock, of a western mob or flock,
With ‘James Bullock,’ ‘Grey,’ or ‘Henry Dale’ in charge.
And I think how Jimmy went from the old bark school content,
With his ‘eddication’ finished, with his pack-horse after him;
And perhaps if I were back I would take the self-same track,
For I wish my learnin’ ended when the Master ‘finished’ Jim.
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 216-219