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Location: New South Wales, Australia

Born in Yorkshire, raised in Australia. I love Poetry, Guitar (especially Spanish classical & Delta Blues), Tudor, Jacobean and Stuart England, Archaeology & good Ale. I edit The Flea & The Chimaera (with Peter Bloxsom), and Shit Creek Review

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Bastard from the Bush

Attributed by some to Henry Lawson

As the night was falling slowly over city, town and bush,
From a slum in Jones's Alley came the Captain of the Push,
And his whistle loud and piercing woke the echoes of the Rocks,
And a dozen ghouls came slouching round the corners of the blocks.

Then the Captain jerked a finger at a stranger on the kerb
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb.
Then he made the introduction: 'Here's a covey from the bush-
Tuck me blind, he wants to join us—be a member of the Push.'

Then the stranger made this answer to the Captain of the Push,
'Why, fuck you dead, I'm Foreskin Fred, the bastard from the bush.
'I've been in every two-up school from Darwin to the 'Loo,
'I've ridden colts and black gins—what more can a bastard do.'

'Are you game to smash a window?' asked the Captain of the Push.
'I'd knock a fucking house down,' said the bastard from the bush.
'Would you take a maiden's baby?' said the Captain of the Push.
'I'd take a baby's maiden,' said the bastard from the bush.

'Would you dong a bloody copper if you caught the cunt alone,
'Would you stoush a swell or Chinkee, split his garret with a stone?
'Would you have a moll to keep you, would you swear off work for good?'
'What? Live on prostitution? My colonial oath I would!'

'Would you care to have a gasper?' said the Captain of the Push.
'I'll take the bloody packet,' said the bastard from the bush.
Then the Pushites all took counsel, saying, 'Fuck me, but he's game.
'Let's make him our star basher, he'll live up to his name.'

So they took him to their hideout, that bastard from the bush,
And they granted him all privileges appertaining to the Push.
But soon they found his little ways were more than they could stand,
And finally the Captain thus addressed his little band.

'Now listen here, you buggers, we've caught a fucking tartar,
'At every kind of bludging, that bastard is a starter,
'At poker and at two-up, he's shook our fucking rolls,
'He swipes our fucking liquor, and he robs our fucking molls.'

So down in Jones's Alley all the members of the Push
Laid a dark and dirty ambush for the bastard from the bush.
But against the wall of Riley's pub, the bastard made a stand,
A nasty grin upon his dial, a bike-chain in each hand.

They sprang upon him in a bunch, but one by one they fell,
With crack of bone, unearthly groan, and agonising yell,
Till the sorely-battered Captain, spitting teeth and gouts of blood,
Held an ear all torn and bleeding in a hand bedaubed with mud.

' You low polluted bastard,' snarled the Captain of the Push,
'Get back to where your sort belong, that's somewhere in the bush:
'And I hope heaps of misfortune may soon tumble down on you,
'May some lousy harlot dose you till your ballocks turn sky-blue.

'May the pangs of windy spasms through your bowels dart,
'May you shit your bloody trousers every time you try to fart,
'May you take a swig of gin's piss, mistaking it for beer,
'May the next push you impose on toss you out upon your ear.

'May the itching piles torment you, may corns grow on your feet,
'May crabs as big as spiders attack your balls a treat,
'Then when you're down and outed, to a hopeless bloody wreck,
'May you slip back through your arsehole, and break your fucking neck.'

It is uncertain whether Lawson wrote the rude poem 'The Bastard from the Bush' and cleaned it up, publishing it as 'The Captain of the Push' (The Bulletin, March 26, 1892), or whether the blue version is a parody of the published poem. (The word 'push' is a mainly Sydney term meaning a company of rowdy fellows gathered together for ungentle purposes. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, larrikins assembled in groups called 'pushes', such as the Bantry Bay Devils, the Stars, the Golden Dragons, the Livers, the Forty Thieves and perhaps the best-known of all, the Rocks Push.)

The best evidence against the naughty version being Lawson's is that 'The Shearer's Dream' although hardly offensive, is as close as we know that he came to composing a rude poem; in fact, Lawson appears to have been somewhat puritanical in some ways – for example, he never swore unless extremely drunk and agitated, as in being arrested. However, HA Lindsay (Quadrant, Summer, 1957 - 59) asserts that Lawson "wrote the obscene version himself and circulated copies among his friends". Later, wanting some money in a hurry, he toned it down considerably and it was published under the title of 'The Captain of the Push'". Whatever the truth might be (and it seems there is no evidence either way), the profane version entered Australian folklore and is generally attributed to Lawson.

Wilson's Almanac


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you your interesting thoughts on the author of "The Bastard From The Bush"

I lean towards Banjo having written it for the same reasons you have stated here.

Genius either way.

22 September 2010 at 1:42 pm  

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