A poem by Ernest Antony©Ernest Antony 1930
They say Australia's wealthy, and of course it's not for me.,
Who's just a common toiler, to decry "ma ain country";
But I've lately been inspecting its natural resources,
And I'll admit they're beautiful—for cattle, sheep and horses
The grass is good the waters cool, the scenery on the mountains
Is grand—but I've no appetite for rocks and silv'ry fountains;
They're very nice to look at, and to boast about to strangers,
But useless when starvation an Australian's life endangers.
The sheep are nice and woolly, and the lovely kind-faced cows
Make scenes beyond describing as they serenely browse;
But oh, they're vicious creatures, and savage past belief,
They're converting poor Australians to exported wool and beef.
There's lots of room for bullocks, and there's room for woolly sheep
There's room for sweated labor at "Thirty bob and keep,"
But room for poor Australians, well—of that I'm not too sure,
And I've a dark suspicion that my country's getting poor.
For I've searched my native land for work for half a year in vain;
I've tramped the lovely mountains, and I've tramped the fertile plain,
Hawking solid brawn and muscle through my wealthy native land,
Till my boots and pants are busted, and my hat has lost its band.
From Sydney up to Queensland I've tramped in search of toil,
And now I'm tramping back again, mile after weary mile;
O'er muddy plain and sandy waste I've humped the ancient drum.
And now I'm heading south again-—yes, Sydney, here I come.
Oh, my country may be wealthy, but my country isn’t me;
And it doesn't seem to want me, and there doesn't seem to be
Sufficient wealth in it to give a stiff like me a job,
Except that one lone cocky who offered "thirty bob."
Why, if my country's wealthy, does it ask for charity,
In the form of sweated labor, from a hopeless stiff like me?
And it strikes me that Australia's poor—yes, very poor indeed,
When it can't provide Australians with at least a decent feed.
And I'm saying without anger, though with sorrow I'll agree,
That many dinner times have come quite dinnerless to me,
What time I've toured the country, seeing all the wondrous sights,
And chasing graft and sleeping with the grasshoppers o' nights.
Yes, seems as there's no work for me, my county must be poor.
And in suite of all the boasting, one thing alone seems sure,
That is that I must tramp until my country wants me bad;
But all the same I thank it for the lovely walk I've had.
This poem is in Ernest Antony's book of thirty three poems titled The Hungry Mile and published in Sydney in 1930.
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
Return to top of page
union songs..........a selection by mark gregory