Backblock Ballads and Later Verses


C.J. Dennis

TELL you tales of pleasant cities, where processions never ending
Throng the streets at morn and even, while the traffic screams and roars;
                Where ’tis ever keen contriving,
                Each man with his neighbour striving;
Where tall houses hang together, and there ain’t no out-of-doors?

Sing you songs of crowds careering: days of rush and nights of clamour;
Where there’s ne’er a glimpse of greenwood to relieve the aching eyes.
                Not for me their schemes nor pleasures;
                Not for me their modes nor measures—
Give me life as strong men live it where the timber ranges rise.

    Where the timber-trucks come swinging down the curving hill-side track;
    Where the splitter trudges singing with his weekly tucker pack;
    Where the mountain ash is waving by the giant messmate tree—
    ’Spite the toiling, ’spite the slaving—that’s the place where I would be.

I can mock your traffic’s roaring when the winds sweep through the forest;
When the stars shine o’er the tree-tops I can scorn your glaring lights.
                You may keep your slum and alley—
                When the sun sets in the valley
There’s a scene I wouldn’t barter for a wealth of city sights.

Tell me not of fame and fortune won through striving with your fellows,
Power of purse, and pride in scheming: these are things that I despise.
                Give me health and strength to labour;
                Give me peace and love of neighbour;
Give me joys that strong men cherish where the timber ranges rise.

    When the bushland dawn, comes creeping, and the tree trunks catch the sun;
    When the forest wakes from sleeping, and the day-long toil’s begun,
    Then content within us waxes, and we scorn the world’s applause
    ’Mid the ringing of the axes and the droning of the saws.

Let me tread with axe ashoulder where the track winds through the hazel.
What care I for tricks and fashions of the sheltered city street?
                For we make no god of pleasure,
                And we form no cult of leisure
In the land where big trees flourish, in the land where big hearts beat.

Let me feel the pride of striving where the timbers crash and splinter;
Strength of arm and steady courage are the qualities we prize.
                Though we face our fortune gaily
                Danger lurks beside us daily—
Oh, there’s little room for weaklings where the timber ranges rise.

    When, above the welcome shingles lazy smoke, all curling blue,
    With the forest hazes mingles, and the long day’s toil is through;
    When across the little clearing children race with greeting cries—
    No man asks for further cheering where the timber ranges rise?

Backblock Ballads and Later Verses - Contents

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