A poem by E.J. Brady (1869 – 1952). Brady was born in Carcoar, near Bathurst NSW. A journalist and poet who wrote more about the sea that the soil, this poem nonetheless captures the beauty and trials of the ‘black soils’ in Australia. This poem was published in ‘The Earthen Floor’, 1902.
For God hath made the Black-soil; and spread it near and far.
From down the sweeping Namoi bends, away to Talbragar:
Its richness no man questions, its wealth no man denies,
But Sheol* ’tis in rain time; and Tophet* when it dries.
The drought hath cracked and torn it; the rain hath lent it seams.
God help the Black-soil teamster! God help the Black-soil teams!
God grace the toiling teamster! God give him strength and hope!
Spare swingle-bars and traces, spare curses, chains and rope!
A-ploughing down the gilgas — the mud as close as glue —
A-plunging past the myall, the squatter’s wool goes through!
A-plunging through the gilgas, a-ploughing up the track,
With four and twenty horses, the squatter’s stores come back.
New saddles for the stockmen, new dresses for the girls —
And round the straining leader the wicked whip-thong curls.
Their flanks are all a-lather, the black mud axle-high,
But trust the Black-soil teamster; he’ll take her through or die.
Who sees the trace-chains snapping, who sees the harness fly,
May kneel and pray for weather; may kneel and ask it dry.
But when the starved team staggers across a sun-scorched plain,
He’ll change his plea, mayhappen and kneel and pray for rain.
But rain, or drought, whatever, all flood or dry reverse,
The teamster’s duty’s patent — Pull out, pull through and curse.
Ay, pull her down the rivers: drag through the clinging loam,
Then turn-about, my brother, curse hard, and crawl her home!
God grant him grace hereafter; of grace, aye hath he dearth, —
Though fearing no hereafter — whose Hell is all on Earth.
Sun-tanned, mud-caked and hairy; morose and most profane,
God grace the Lean Lost Legion who plod the Black-soil Plain!
*another, and at the time a more polite word for Hell.
Image by Bishnu Sarangi