Friday, December 01, 2006

Freedom on the Wallaby


This is the text of Henry Lawson's poem, Freedom on the Wallaby, written in 1891 when the Great Strikes were in full swing. The poem is written in the Australian vernacular of the time.

"Humping bluey" meant carrying a swag, a roll of blankets used for sleeping outdoors. "On the wallaby" (or "on the wallaby track") meant to be on the move. "Cooey" was a loud call used to get attention out in the bush, or outback. A "billy" was a tin can used for boiling water on a camp fire. The wattle is Australia's national flower.




Australia’s a big country
An’ Freedom’s humping bluey,
An’ Freedom’s on the wallaby
Oh! Don’t you hear ‘er cooey?
She’s just begun to boomerang,
She’ll knock the tyrants silly,
She’s goin’ to light another fire
And boil another billy.
Our fathers fought for bitter bread
While loafers thrived beside ‘em,
But food to eat and clothes to wear,
Their native land denied ‘em.
An’ so they left their native land
In spite of their devotion,
An’ so they came, or if they stole,
Were sent across the ocean.
Then Freedom couldn’t stand the glare
O’ Royalties regalia,
She left the loafers where they were,
An’ came out to Australia.
But now across the mighty main
The chains have come ter bind her –
She little thought to see again
The wrongs she left behind her.
Our parents toil’d to make a home –
Hard grubbin’ ‘twas an’ clearin’ –
They wasn’t crowded much with lords
When they was pioneering.
But now that we have made the land
A garden full of promise,
Old Greed must crook ‘is dirty hand
And come ter take it from us.
So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!
Henry Lawson
Brisbane Worker
1891

3 comments:

mark gregory said...

you can hear Declan Affley and Chris Kempster singing a shortened version of the song (Chris wrote the tune) on the CD "Songs of Chris Kempster" or online at

http://chriskempster.net/cdtracks.html

regards

Mark Gregory

Mike said...

Thanks Mark, I'll check it out - and thanks for the http://unionsong.com website - great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

I think the line in the poem should read, "The wasn't TROUBLED much with Lord's..."

Good on You
Tony McGlinchey