The Squatter, Three Cornstalks, and the Well

(A Dirge of Sin and Sorrow, Sung by Joe Swallow)

Henry Lawson

THERE WAS a Squatter in the land—
    So runs the truthful tale I tell—
There also were three cornstalks, and
    There also was the Squatter’s Well.

Singing (slowly): “Sin and sorrer, sin and sor-rer, sin and sor-r-r-rer.”

The Squatter he was full of pluck,
    The Cornstalks they were full of sin,
The well it was half full of muck
    That many rains had drifted in.

Singing (with increased feeling): “Sin, &c.”

The Squatter hired the Cornstalks Three
    To cleanse the well of mud and clay;
And so they started willing-lee
    At five-and-twenty bob a day.

Singing (apprehensively): “Sin, &c.”

At five-and-twenty bob the lot—
    That’s eight-and-four the day would bring
To each; and so they thought they’d got
    A rather soft and easy thing.

Singing (sadly): “Sin, &c.”

The Cornstalks cleaned the well within
    A day or two, or thereabout—
And then they worked an awful sin—
    A scheme to make the job last out.

Singing (reproachfully): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

For when the well was cleaned out quite
    Of all its logs and muck and clay
They tipped a drayload down at night
    And worked to haul it up next day.

Singing (dismally): “Sin, &c.”

But first the eldest, christened Hodge,
    He greased the dray-wheel axles, so
The super wouldn’t smell the dodge
    And couldn’t let the Squatter know.

Singing (hopelessly): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

The stuff they surfaced out each day
    With some surprise the Squatter saw.
He never dreamt the sand and clay
    Was three miles off the night before.

Singing (mournfully): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

But he got something in his eye;
    It wasn’t green, that’s very plain.
He said the well was rather dry,
    And they could fill it up again.

Singing (mournfully and dismally): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

The Cornstalks went to work next day
    In hope, of course, of extra tin—
The Squatter watched, and, sad to say,
    The mullock wouldn’t all go in.

Singing (with great pathos): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

And though the Cornstalks twigged the ruse
    Whereby the boss had done ’em brown,
They argued that the clay was loose,
    And wanted time to settle down.

Singing (hopelessly): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

The boss began to rave and tear,
    And yelled with a most awful frown,
“I will not settle up, I swear,
    Till that there clay is settled down!”

Singing (hopefully): “Sin, &c.”

“Before my cheques yer’Il pocket, boys,
    Yer’ll put a mountain in a well”—
The Cornstalks didn’t make a noise,
    They only murmured sadly—!

Singing (triumphantly): “Sin and sorrer, &c.”

There is a moral to my rhyme—
    A moral to the dirge I sing—
That when you do go in for crime
    You mustn’t overdoo the thing.

Singing (more dismally than ever): “Sin and sorrer, s-i-n and sor-r-r-r-rer!”

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