They tell us Sydney's great and grand.
I wonder why our statesmen stand
For slums that long since be banned –
Disgraceful to the nation.
Wandering through a festering slum,
I watch the faces as they come,
Undernourished, pale and glum,
I marvel at their patience.
In Campbell Street, the home of thugs,
"Metho Fiends", fleas and bugs,
A man must really be a mug,
To camp at such a station.
In a little den they called a room,
They gave to me fork, knife and spoon,
For a cup there was no room,
On the box they called a table.
And when I scrambled to my bunk,
Whether sober or half drunk,
The pests they came on me to lunch,
I kicked while I was able.
The bugs they were so big and fierce,
They blistered feet and hands and face,
And when in anger I gave chase,
We raced around the stable.
Countless fleas, both big and small,
Crawled up my legs and up the wall,
And when their raids I tried to stall,
They jumped a five foot paling.
The mosquitoes buzzing round my ears
Would make a crocodile shed tears,
And if I lived a hundred years
At them I would be swearing.
Now to Sydney I bid adieu;
I may come back, and if I do
I hope no slums will meet my view,
Where young and old are ailing.
James Sweeney (1943)