To a swagman in the city

Year: 1904

by Albert Bayldon

O hairy faced old swagman
I doff the cap to youl
I, too, have been a bagman
And had to battle through
The ordeal long and dreary
Of destiny adverse;
Lean-gutted , worn and weary,
And humping Duncan’s curse.[1].

I, too, have scaled the ridges
For many a lonesome league,
And camped beneath the bridges,
Near swooning with fatigue;
Have wakened, grimly groaning,
O’er joints atwist with pain,
To hear the night wind moaning,
And feel the drifting rain.

I, too- God help us wretches!
How little people know
What pictures memory fetches
To taunt us in our woe:
Our wrongs no law has righted
That prompt us to rebel,
When slandered, snubbed and slighted
We’re shunted into hell.

I too have seen the grinning
Mad faces at my side,
The earth and sky go spinning
When staggering in my stride;
Have watched the dust-storms heaping
Red pillars row on rowm
And breasted their wild sweepiong
In clinging flakes like snow.

I, too have fed on messes
Not found in cookery books,
And stuffed myself with cresses
Regardless of the flukes;
Have lain to slowly frizzle
With not a shrub in sight;
Have slept throughout a drizzle
And waked with hoar-frost white.

I, too, my wrinkled sinner,
Have tramped from shed to shed,
And seen myself grow thinner
And wished that I were dead;
Have dossed in houses haunted
In spite of sage advice0
But ghosts are easy daunted
And shrink to squealing mice.

I, too, have borne the flouting,
The townsman’s ugly sneer,
The furious cocky’s shouting,
His mouth from ear to ear;
Have camped beneath a wagon,
Tired out at set of sun;
Been stalked by some she-dragon
To pot me with a gun.

I, too with spirit burning,
Have pondered puzzles o’er:
Why, spite of law and learning,
‘Tis sinful to be poor;
Why, in their saintly raiment
Sleek charlatans can thrive,
While Truth’s rough, rugged claimant
Can scarcely keep alive,

I, too – but wherefore babble?
Here’s my true hand-grip, mate;
What knows this city rabble
Of duelling with Fate?
Though bowed and scarred and battered,
Unkempt and meanly clad;
Though every dream is shattered-
Here’s still a wine shop, dad!


The Bulletin, 19 May 1904, p 16.

 [1] My researches can’t locate a specific meaning for this phrase. My speculation is that it is a reference to Shakespeare’s  Duncan, who trusts Macbeth, and is assassinated by him.