[Editor: This poem by T. C. Luke was published in The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record (Newport, Vic.), 15 March 1893.]
The Snagger’s Lament.
I’m only a snagger, you know me,
I thought I would tackle the game;
I reckoned some fast man would show me
The path that should lead me to fame.
I wanted to be a great “ringer,”
And turn out my hundred a day.
The fickle jade, Fortune, to win her
I knew not how dear I should pay.
They told me that learners were wanted,
The squatters would never give in,
And so of success I had vaunted,
And longed for the time to begin.
I booked with my mate on a station,
No matter the name that it bore.
We planned to go out on probation.
’Tis very well planning or thinking
Of what in the future may be,
But oftimes we may be found shrinking
When into that future we see.
We longed for the time to be starting —
Bad luck to the day that we went;
Too soon came the time for departing,
To follow our foolish intent.
We each had a pair of old “daggers,”
The life in their bows was long dead;
But bargaining to be among snaggers
We soon thought to reign o’er the shed.
Alas! we were sadly mistaken;
Good shearers were there by the score,
And I to my senses did waken
Re that which I ne’er knew before.
When trusting to rumor unfounded,
And thinking to choose the right way,
Our hopes in the end are all grounded,
And fool’s advice leads us astray.
Non-union and union were mixed up,
Good shearers and bad all alike;
Yet matters were easily fixed up,
Without the least hint of a strike.
Agreements were signed without trouble,
All differences quickly arranged.
Our long-talked-of dream was a bubble,
For not a cross word was exchanged.
And glory for me found an ending,
Ambition took wings and went free,
To find the “boss” over me bending
And saying, “You can’t shear for me.”
* * * * *
I rolled up my “bluey” and travelled,
’Twas little against my own will,
And now the whole thing is unravelled,
And I am a snagger here still.
T. C. LUKE.
The Shearers’ and General Laborers’ Record (Newport, Vic.), 15 March 1893, p. 4 (column 6)
It appears that there is a line missing in the published version of this poem. There should be a fourth line the second stanza, rhyming with “bore”, between the published third and fourth lines of that stanza (i.e. after “We planned to go out on probation”). Unfortunately, another copy of this poem cannot be located.
bluey = a blanket; also may refer to a swagman’s bundle (a “swag”, being a number of items rolled up in a blanket, such blankets often being blue in colour)
ne’er = (vernacular) never
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
oftimes = an alternative spelling of “ofttimes”: oftentimes, often, on many occasions; frequently, repeatedly (from Old English, “oft” meaning “often” or “frequently”)
re = (rē) Latin, meaning “[in the] matter [of]” (from Latin, “re” translates as “circumstance”, “matter”, or “thing”); concerning, in reference to, regarding; used in the Latin phrase “in re”, meaning “in the matter [of]” (in modern usage, “re.”, with a full stop, functions as an abbreviation of “regarding”, being used in a similar manner to “re”)
ringer = the fastest shearer in a shearing shed
snagger = a shearer who rushes, shearing the sheep roughly, often leaving tufts (snags) of wool on the sheep
station = a large rural holding for raising sheep or cattle; the term “property” is used for smaller holdings
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”