Union Songs

The Hungry Mile

A poem by Ernest Antony©Ernest Antony 1930

Maree Delofski recites poem

- [play]

Denis Rice performs his setting accompanied by Rob Peters on violin

They tramp there in their legions on the mornings dark and cold
To beg the right to slave for bread from Sydney's lords of gold;
They toil and sweat in slavery, 'twould make the devil smile,
To see the Sydney wharfies tramping down the hungry mile.

On ships from all the seas they toil, that others of their kind,
May never know the pinch of want nor feel the misery blind;
That makes the live, of men a hell in those conditions vile;
That are the hopeless lot of those who tramp the hungry mile.

The slaves of men who know no thought of anything but gain,
Who wring their brutal profits from the blood and sweat and pain
Of all the disinherited that slave and starve the while,
Upon the ships beside the wharves along the hungry mile.

But every stroke of that grim lash that sears the souls of men
With interest due from years gone by, shall be paid back again
To those who drive these wretched slaves to build the golden pile.
And blood shall blot the memory out of Sydney's hungry mile.

The day will come, aye, come it must, when these same slaves shall rise,
And through the revolution's smoke, ascending to the skies,
The master's, face shall show the fear he hides, behind his smile.
Of these his slaves, who on that day shall storm the hungry mile.

And when the world grows wiser and all men at last are free
When none shall feel the hunger nor tramp in misery
To beg the right to slave for bread, the children then may smile.
At those strange tales they tell of what was once the hungry mile.


Maree Delofski recites the poem on the MUA Centenary CD "With These Arms" thanks also to Denis Rice and by Rob Peters for permission to add their performance of Denis' setting to the poem.

This poem is in Ernest Antony's book of thirty three poems titled The Hungry Mile and published in Sydney in 1930.

This poem appears in Merv Lilley's novel 'The Channels' (The Vulgar Press 2001). Merv is well known to the Australian folk song movement being the author of such songs as 'Cane Killed Abel', 'The Birchgrove Park', 'Anti-Fouling Roll' and 'The Pick-up Shed'

see also

Ernest Antony and the Hungry Mile Launch of Second Edition 2008

The Hungry Mile And 'Maritime Invisibility' by Rowan Cahill and

Ernest Antony: Forgotten Poet by Rowan Cahill

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