WOULD YOU be the King, the strong man, first in council and in toil,
To the men who war with nature for possession of the soil?
Take an axe upon your shoulder, take a billy and a rug,
And go forward in the forest where no man has cut and dug,
Where the scrub-ferns grow like magic, and the gum-trees you must fell
Have their topmost boughs in heaven, and their tap-roots deep as hell.
Take the land the Powers would cheerfully devote to Smith or Brown,
Two miles or more from water and a hundred miles from town;
Fell, and scrub, and hew, and hunger, and when seven weeks are gone
You may have a clearing large enough to build a hut upon.
Then you furnish it with saplings and you carpet it with loam,
And you bring the kids and missus to their charming country home!
Rising early with the jackass, like a man of pith and push,
With axe in hand you sally forth to face the stubborn bush.
’Tis a mighty undertaking, and the odds are hard enough,
But the settler must be stubborn, and the settler must be tough,
And he strikes from morn till even with his strong arm bare and brown,
And he counts his gain by inches when the big gum rattles down.
So you slave and strive and suffer, for it’s fearful work and slow
Ere the cabbages are solid and the spuds have room to grow.
By and bye to fruit and fowls and swine, as city swells advise,
You resort to make a fortune; but the venture proves unwise,
For the fruit-trees blight and wither, and the pigs die in their pens,
And the drought destroys the ducklings, and the dingoes eat the hens.
Years go on, and still the bush-wall rings your narrow clearing round,
But you’ve won a few good acres and a crop is on the ground,
And you harvest single-handed, and you rake the stubble clean,
For you lack the cash for wages and the marvellous machine;
Still you’re thankful for small mercies—though you’re often sorely pushed—
When the missus hasn’t sunstroke and the baby isn’t bushed.
Then, at last, when worn with work, and warped with years, and very grey,
When your mastering the mortgage and the railroad runs your way,
When your farm is looking home-like, and your sons are grown-up men,
You may talk to brown-faced farmers—you may try to teach them then.
And if any kid-gloved critic starts to give you points on grain,
And a little hot-house farming does to make your errors plain,
You will rise up with a waddy, and you’ll sympathise with Cain.