Union Songs

The Song of the Stick

Author Unknown©1858

(From the Melbourne Note Book.)

By the side of his " minion" frame,.
With his stick and copy in hand ;
A compositor stood at dead of night,
As well as he could stand.
" Click !--click !--click !"
As the type fell fast and thick;
In a voice all weakened by nightly toil,
He sang the " song of the stick".

" Click !--click !--click !"
While the cold night hours go;
" Click !--click !--click !"
When the precious hot winds blow.
Its oh! to be a ' comp'
On the Herald, or Argus, or Age,
To bend to the downward fall of the price.
And " hook" for a good fair wage.

" Click !--click !--click !"
All the weary, weary night ;
And click !--click !--click !
Till the morning is gleaming bright.
Rule, and copy, and stick.
Stick, and copy, and rule;
Till over my frame I fall asleep,
And dream I have made a good " poll"

"Oh! masters, with children dear !
Oh! masters, with plenty of gold !
It isn't only on England's shores
That flesh and blood are sold !
Click !--click !--click !
While the dreary night hours go;
Making a shroud for my early years,
When I feel it shouldn't be so.

Why dream I of rest from toil ?
Why look for a fairer pay ?
I know there are plenty who'd come and take
One-half what I've taken to-day !
I know I am born to toil.
And, therefore, complain no more:--
Yot, why should I work for an early grave,
With nought for my wife in store.

" Click !--click !--click !"
Alas!--it is all in vain ;
For what are its wages--plenty to do.
And nothing at all to gain !
This rusty stick--this old brass rule,
That often has pye'd a line;
Has never yet brought me a good round ' poll',

In this fair Australian clime !
" Click !--click !--click !"
While the head spies round and round;
And click !--click !--click !
Till I start at the faintest sound.
Rule, and copy, and stick,--
Stick, and copy, and rule;
Till over my copy I fall asleep.
And dream I've made a good ' poll'.

" Click !--click !--click !"
When the roses open their eyes ;
And click !--click !--click !
When the winter storm-cloud flies.
While through the skylight dark
The twinkling star-gems peep.
As if to tell me I shouldn't be there,
But in bed, and fast asleep !

"Oh! for a night away
From the toiling that racks the brain,
To look for some pleasure to ease my soul,
And nerve me to work again !
Oh ! but for one short night,
For sweet and peaceful dreams;
To awaken refreshed, and healthy, and sound,
'Mid the morning sun's bright beams.

" Oh! that for one short night,
A respite, however brief;
No time for the ' Royal' or ' Argyle Rooms',
But only time for grief !
The play or a dance would ease my heart ;
But here at my 'minion' frame,
Like a tool I must stand, with my stick in hand,
Or the ' Bos' will begin to blame".

By the side of the ' minion' frame,
With his stick and copy in hand,
A compositor stood at the dead of night,
As well as he could stand !
" Click !--click !--click !"
As the type fell fast and thick !
While still with a voice of dolorous pitch,
Would that his toil could make him rich !
He sang the "Song of the Stick"!


Published in Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer Saturday 3 July 1858 p. 3. see http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59868912

"As these verses are of a technical character, it may be desirable to give definitions of all the phrases with which the uninitiated would otherwise run the risk of being puzzled. I will do so in the order in which the phrase occurs. "Minion" is the description of type commonly used in the reports and general intelligence of a newspaper. A "stick" is an implement in which the types are placed by the compositor in the first stage of printing. A "comp" is a common contraction of the word compositor. "Copy" is a technical term for the manuscript or letter press which is given to the printer. The "rule" is an implement used in "setting-up" types; and the " frame" a stand on which the cases of letter are arranged. A "poll" is the bill which compositors send in for their weekly wages "Boss" is a slang term applied to the overseer. To "pye a line" is to throw the letters into confusion."

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