Friday, May 27, 2011

With My Swag All On My Shoulder


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When first I left Old England's shore
Such yarns as we were told
As how folks in Australia
Could pick up lumps of gold
So, when we got to Melbourne town
We were ready soon to slip
And get even with the captain
All hands scuttled from the ship

With my swag all on my shoulder
Black billy in my hand
I travelled the bush of Australia
Like a true-born native man

We steered our course for Geelong town
Then north west to Ballarat
Where some of us got mighty thin
And some got sleek and fat
Some tried their luck at Bendigo
And some at Fiery Creek
I made a fortune in a day
And spent it in a week

For many years I wandered round
As each new rush broke out
And always had of gold a pound
Till alluvial petered out
'Twas then we took the bush to cruise
Glad to get a bite to eat
The squatters treated us so well
We made a regular beat

So round the lighthouse now I tramp
Nor leave it out of sight
I take it on my left shoulder
And then upon my right
And then I take it on my back
And oft upon it lie
It is the best of tucker tracks
So I'll stay here till I die

A variation of The Roving Journeyman, an English 19th Century broadside. (One version, printed between 1813 and 1838, can be viewed from the Bodleian Library collection here).

From the 1924 edition of Paterson's Old Bush Songs. Mark Gregory notes that the tune is a variation of The Boys of Wexford.

The illustration for this post is a photograph by Alex Poignant from the National Gallery of Australia collection.

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