When The Ladies Come To The Shearing Shed

Poem By Henry Lawson

‘The ladies are coming,’ the super says
To the shearers sweltering there,
And ‘the ladies’ means in the shearing shed:
‘Don’t cut ’em too bad. Don’t swear.’
The ghost of a pause in the shed’s rough heart,
And lower is bowed each head;
And nothing is heard, save a whispered word,
And the roar of the shearing-shed.

The tall, shy rouser has lost his wits,
And his limbs are all astray;
He leaves a fleece on the shearing-board,
And his broom in the shearer’s way.
There’s a curse in store for that jackaroo
As down by the wall he slants—
And the ringer bends with his legs askew
And wishes he’d ‘patched them pants.’

They are girls from the city. (Our hearts rebel
As we squint at their dainty feet.)
And they gush and say in a girly way
That ‘the dear little lambs’ are ‘sweet.’
And Bill, the ringer, who’d scorn the use
Of a childish word like ‘damn,’
Would give a pound that his tongue were loose
As he tackles a lively lamb.

Swift thoughts of homes in the coastal towns—
Or rivers and waving grass—
And a weight on our hearts that we cannot define
That comes as the ladies pass.
But the rouser ventures a nervous dig
In the ribs of the next to him;
And Barcoo says to his pen-mate: ‘Twig
‘The style of the last un, Jim.’

Jim Moonlight gives her a careless glance—
Then he catches his breath with pain—
His strong hand shakes and the sunlights dance
As he bends to his work again.
But he’s well disguised in a bristling beard,
Bronzed skin, and his shearer’s dress;
And whatever Jim Moonlight hoped or feared
Were hard for his mates to guess.

Jim Moonlight, wiping his broad, white brow,
Explains, with a doleful smile:
‘A stitch in the side,’ and ‘he’s all right now’—
But he leans on the beam awhile,
And gazes out in the blazing noon
On the clearing, brown and bare—
She has come and gone, like a breath of June,
In December’s heat and glare.

The bushmen are big rough boys at the best,
With hearts of a larger growth;
But they hide those hearts with a brutal jest,
And the pain with a reckless oath.
Though the Bills and Jims of the bush-bard sing
Of their life loves, lost or dead,
The love of a girl is a sacred thing
Not voiced in a shearing-shed.

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After All


The brooding ghosts of Australian night have gone from the bush and town;
My spirit revives in the morning breeze,
though it died when the sun went down;

A Prouder Man Than You


If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine,
If you hint of higher breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you're proud because of fortune or the clever things you do --

Faces In The Street


They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet

Andy's Gone With Cattle


Our Andy's gone to battle now
'Gainst Drought, the red marauder;
Our Andy's gone with cattle now

Out Back


The old year went, and the new returned, in the withering weeks of drought,
The cheque was spent that the shearer earned,
and the sheds were all cut out;

Knocked Up


I'm lyin' on the barren ground that's baked and cracked with drought,
And dunno if my legs or back or heart is most wore out;
I've got no spirits left to rise and smooth me achin' brow --