English poetry

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That Half-Crown Sweep



The run of Billabong-go-dry
Is just beyond Lime Burner’s Gap;
Its waterhole and tank supply
Is excellent upon the map.
But lacking nature’s liquid drench,
The station staff are wont to try
With “Bob-in Sweeps” their thirst to quench,
Or nearly quench, at Bong-go-dry.
The parson made five-yearly rounds
That soil of arid souls to delve,
He wrote, “I’ll come for seven pounds,
Or I could stop away for twelve.”
But lack of lucre brought about
The pusillanimous reply:
“Our luxuries are all cut out,
You’ll have to go to Bong-go-dry.”

Now rabbit skins were very high
There’d been a kind of rabbit rush
And what with traps and sticks they’d shy,
The station blacks were very flush,
And each was taught his churchman’s job,
“When that one parson’s plate comes roun’
No good you put in sprat or bob,
Too quick you put in harp-a-crown.”

The parson’s word was duly kept,
He came and did his bit of speak;
The boss remarked he hadn’t slept
So sound and well for many a week.
But Gilgai Jack and Monkey Jaw
Regarded preaching as a crime
Against good taste; they said, “What for
That one chap yabber all the time?”

Proceedings ceased: the boss’s hat
Was raked from underneath his chair;
The coloured congregation sat
And waited with expectant air.
At last from one far-distant seat
Where Gilgai’s Mary’d been asleep,
There came a kind of plaintive bleat,
“Say, boss! Who won the harp-crown sweep?”

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Poem That Half-Crown Sweep - Andrew Barton Paterson