Wednesday, May 9

By the bend in the Yarra River

The picture is of the Yarra river taken at dusk at Wonga Park which is situated in the north eastern area of Melbourne 50KM from the city in an area called the Yarra Valley. Fortunately river water quality has improved, assisting a rare species of perch to retain its foothold in a previously threatened habitant. Up river and around the bend the endangered platypus has been sighted adding further testament to an improving water quality as this species only survives in pristine conditions.

I remember as a youngster growing up in the country, sighting Swagman travelling along carrying their swag and a billy for tea. Swagman then wandered the country on foot, maybe engaging in occasional jobs for gifts of money or food.

The swag was a roll or bundle, usually carried across the shoulders and contained all of his worldly goods. Included was tea, sugar, flour, and if he was lucky meat and vegies. And of course the famous Billy which was outwardly visible as it was tied to the swag.

With these thoughts in mind I imagined a Swagman, pausing to set up camp by the bend in the river so I composed this poem.

By the bend of the River

By the bend in the river seen in fading haze
A swagman did pause on his journey, to gaze
As birds echoed warnings, a fading daylight
Swagman pray rest under a pale moonlight

So Swaggie heeded his feathered friends call
Made up a campfire with his Billy did boil
Daybreak, rested, smokes borrowed fag
Refreshed for ever to carry the swag

Winter is shortened a blush fades at last
All that remains, paintings of dim past
Summers over, like Swaggies first dawn
Trees morn Swaggie all alone and forlorn
Posted by Picasa


grannyfiddler said...

and the band played 'Waltzing, Matilda' Maybe that's got very old in Auzzieland, but i remember singing it with gusto as a child. lovely poem, LL. i can almost hear the birds and see the platypus along the edge of the water, as the perch feed below the surface.

it would have been a Cree fellow in buckskins here, or a voyageur paddling his canoe along the Peace River, glimpsing beaver gliding toward the shore, and herons wading in the shallows.

as your summer nods off to sleep, ours is just waking.

Granny said...

Beautiful. We had our own swagmen here many years ago. They rode the rails.

Ann (aka granny nofiddle)

Val said...

I've often thought about the similarities between the swagmen of Australia and those riding the trains in Depression America. I didn't know the swaggies were still around in your (our) time, Lindsay. I guess there have always been wanderers, no matter the time or country.

Rachael Byrnes said...

wow dad! I didn't realise swagman were around in your day. I thought they were around pre 19th centuary. Great poem too.

Lee said...

A wonderful post, Lindsay...and I can just picture the swaggie by the banks of the river. Sometimes I envy the freedom of the life of a swaggie...but then I'd miss my computer and indoor plumbing if I took that path in life! ;)

(And I don't think my two cats would like it very much!)

Veronica said...

Beautiful poem

Ingrid said...

I envy your talent to write poetry.. it is such a beautiful expression of the soul...
it was a nice trip back on memory lane and the images evoked from your poem ought to be 'painted' by someone, I can only see the picture in my head..

Josie said...

Lindsay, you have a real talent for poetry. Have you been published?

That photo of the Yarra River is exquisite. It's sad to think that even in Australia rivers and the environment are becoming polluted and species are endangered. And it's all just within the last 50 years, or even less. It's just so sad.


lindsaylobe said...

Hi Granny fiddler, Granny, Val, Rachael, lee, Veronica, Ingrid & Josie
Thanks for your comments and encouragement. Poetry is for me is just for fun, trying to précis or compress an imagery into rhyme.

Most people are surprised to learn of the prevalence of swaggies in our booming fifties, a common sight in the country. But we all still sing Waltzing Matilda with a fair amount of gusto.Intersting versions noted overseas. The idea of wanderer does evokes a kind of romanticism which does not match the hard reality. Maybe a few crumpled letters, of what might have been ......

Best wishes

Barrie said...

Hi Lindsay, yes it does remind me of my wandering days in the bush. I had a small handsewn tent, a two-peice rifle hidden in my bedroll, a sleeping bag and cooking utensils. It was a lonely but happy period of three months wandering along rivers and roads and sleeping under the stars.
I still regret leaving you to pay the rent by yourself.

Thanks for your poem.

Ingrid said...

btw.. I just realized that I put a link to your blog from my austin permie one and I accidently wrote 'lindsay's love'.. hmm should I change it or should I keep it? Somehow you embody a certain kinda 'love' so it is kinda in keeping with the spirit that is 'you'! aah.. I probably should change it just to be 'precise'..