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'Twas a long time ago, just how long I don't know,
Since I first saw the land of the gumtree.
I was young, I was bold, I was looking for gold,
I was gay as the bloom of the plum-tree.
So it was pleasing to me when I happened to see
An Italian named Paddy O'Higgins
For by him I was told, if I want to find gold,
I must hump my swag up to the diggings.
So I bid him good-day and I went on my way
With my heart twice as light as a feather
And I whistle and sing till the gumtrees they ring
And I don't give a damn for the weather.
So I walks me all day till I gets me that way
That I cannot stand up without sitting
For the weight of my pack puts a kink in my back
That I cannot get out without splitting
I was ready to cry when I happened to spy
A red shirt with a big man inside it
When my tale him I told, and I spoke about gold
He said, "Irish, you're sitting beside it!"
"See that big yellow lump, beside the black stump -
If you want to find gold, I 'd advise you
Dig it up, and I bet you won't ever forget
For what you'll fin there will surprise you.
So I bid him good-day and he goes on his way,
And that hump, I just felt I could hug it
For my heart was so big as I started to dig
And expected to find one big nugget
I can see myself now, with the sweat on my brow
As off that big hump I then flung me,
For those great soldier ants, they climbed up my pants
And like ten thousand deevils they stung me
How they climbed in and out, picking little bits out
Like goats that were turned into clover
How I wished I was home, never more would I roam,
How I cursed the gold over and over
How they stung and they hurt as I pulled off my shirt
How I cursed that damned Paddy O'Higgins!
How I wished that red shirt as I rolled in the dirt
Had been buried alive in the diggings
Now, I remember one day that I heard the priest say
That gold was the root of all evil
It was true what he told, for I went to find gold
And dug up the roots of the deevil.
Another form Folk Songs of Australia, edited by John Meredith and Hugh Anderson, collected from Duke Tritton.
The illustration to this post is a photograph of a giant ants nest in outback Australia. Digging is not recommended.