The image used is Ern Bywater by Kanga is used with the copyright holder’s permission. All rights to the image are reserved by the copyright owner.
Note:All the poetry in this collection was written by my father, Ernest ‘Ern’ Bywater between 1940 and 2002. Most of it was while he was in the Australian Army during World War 2.
June 2016 Edition
I wandered from the darkening tent,
My mind steeped in unrest,
And standing ‘neath a stately gum,
Gazed, unseeing, to the west.
For my soul was sick and weary,
In my heart was sad regret,
As I pondered o’er the sordid things,
Which made my spirit fret.
I thought of days that used to be,
Of things that might have been,
The condition of the world today,
And the yawning gulf between.
Those happy, carefree, pre-war days,
The days we must restore,
So that others may enjoy them,
As we used to, once before.
As I sit awhile and ponder,
My thoughts are apt to wander,
And take me to a place far away,
Serving to remind me,
Of the girl I left behind me,
The girl who waits for my return some day.
I can see the love-light shine,
In her eyes so close to mine,
I can feel those tender lips on mine again,
And I know she always yearns,
For my quick and safe return,
And she’s praying that her hopes are not in vain
The night is cool, the stars are out,
The moon is overhead.
But there are stars, twin, man-made stars,
(And some are winking red).
That shine not in the heavens,
But on a dusty track,
Which winds about the ranges and
The valleys, way out back.
It’s a convoy, moving northward,
Under cover of the night;
With their motors pulsing, throbbing,
And their lights are beacons bright
As they rush on through the darkness,
Springs bending ‘neath their load,
And their tight-lipped, grim-eyed drivers,
Heaping curses on the road.
But through their weariness and cursing,
Good spirits still prevail
O’er the blinding dust, the aching eyes,
And the roughness of the trail.
And the Don.R, as he comes in sight,
Is greeted with a smile,
They’re cracking jokes, and laughing as
He rides beside them for a while.
Milne Bay - 1943
The sun was a golden ball of fire,
The sky a copper sheen;
The turbulent sea of yesterday,
A placid, carpet green.
We sweltered in the Tropic heat,
And cursed, or prayed for night
To come, with its fragrant coolness,
Bringing us sweet respite.
Away across the sparkling bay,
Past scanty strips of sand,
The rugged ranges reared o’er all,
Their ramparts, proud and grand.
But, their wild, barbaric splendour,
‘Neath it’s tangled coat of green,
Withheld so many sad memories,
Of grim, bloody battle scenes.
They remember the sons of Australia,
Who had willingly shed their blood.
To wipe out the Japanese menace.
And they cherish the crossed bit of wood.
In neat rows, in secluded clearings,
Mute pleas to those who remain;
Asking that we do not fail them,
That their sacrifice be not in vain.
As I sit a while and ponder,
Then my restless thoughts will wander,
And mirrored in my mind,
I see the girl I left behind,
In that little Aussie town away down under.
I like to wander from the tent,
And, sitting quietly aside,
Meditate -- pretending that,
You’re with me at my side.
Especially when the moon is full,
The Tropic night agleam,
My fancies reach transcendent heights,
-- I dream my favourite dream.
We wander slowly hand in hand,
Through fields of verdant green,
Knee-deep in scented flowers,
While blue-wrens hop and flit between,
The gaily-tinted blossoms,
And high up in an azure sky,
A skylark trills her melody.
-- And we’re alone, just you and I!
We’ve left the world far, far behind,
As only sweethearts can,
And our thoughts are of each other,
As we rapturously plan,
The things that we intend to do,
And the happiness we’ll gain,
When all this trouble’s o’er and we’re
Together once again.
It’s dreams like this that fill my mind,
Dreams that I hope come true,
Dreams that lift me from this place,
-- Bring me closer, dear, to you.
And I’m praying that it won’t be long,
E’er I bid my uniform goodbye,
And we can settle down, always
Together, you and I.
Song of the Saddle Bum
When th’ shearin’ time is over,
An’ th’ payin’ off is done,
Th’ boys are treadin’ clover,
An’ they’re headin’ on th’ run,
Fer th’ townships an’ the cities,
To drown the taste of stinkin’ wool,
But I ain’t ridin’ with ‘em,
Fer I’m no drinkin’ fool.
Yeah! Me pony’s ‘eaded Westward,
An’ straight fer ‘ome I’ll go,
To nature’s ‘ome beneath th’ stars,
Th’ only ‘ome I know.
Where th’ food is wot yer make it,
An’ the rent ain’t extra-high,
Where th’ 4 horizons are th’ walls,
An’ yer ceillin’ is th’ sky.
Yairs, just give me a pony,
An’ a saddle, an cookin’ things,
Fer when I’m back upon th’ track,
I’m ‘appy as a king.
An’ you can ‘ave yer cities,
An’ think that they’re th’ best,
But I’d sooner spread me blankets,
‘Neath th’ stars, away out west.
Fer I love th’ sun-burnt ranges,
An’ th’ plains an’ valleys too.
An’ if I’m needin’ ornyments,
Why, th’ ole gum-tree’ll do.
Yairs, a bushy’s life is best, mate,
A life wot’s grand an’ free,
An’ I’m sayin’, now an’ always,
It’s th’ bushy’s life fer me.
Dream of a Saddle Tramp
I’m sittin’ in the saddle,
With my pinto ‘tween my knees,
When I hears a sweet voice singing,
A-singin’ in the breeze.
So I urge the pinto forward,
Along the windin’ trail,
The I sees her there, a-leanin’,
On the old corral top-rail.
Her hair is black as midnight,
An’ her eyes, like mountain dew,
An’ her mouth it wus the sweetest,
That wus ever sung through.
Her lips was jus’ like cherries,
Her teeth wus shinin’ pearls.
She’s sure a purty looker,
Says I, here’s my dream-girl.
She didn’t see me sittin’,
In the shadows, ‘mongst the trees,
But I hears her softly singin’,
Softly singin’ to the breeze.
An’ she’s singin’ of a cowboy,
Who’s ridin’ far an’ free.
An’ I knows frum what she’s singin’,
That ther aint no chance fer me.
So, I sets Ole Paint a-movin’,
An’ I slowly ambles by.
But my eyes is kinda misty,
An’ I heaves a little sigh.
Now, at bedtime every evenin’,
When the moon begins to pale,
I shuts me eyes, an’ sees her leanin’,
On the old corral top-rail.
Pal of the Droving Days
It’s hanging still on a wooden peg,
On the wall, in the harness shed.
The stitching’s rotted, and falling apart,
And the irons are rusted red.
But it brings back memories of droving days,
Of days that are long since dead.
Its leather seat, once shiny and smooth,
Shows signs of wear and tear.
And it has the scars of countless years,
As it’s hanging mutely there.
For gone from its life is the oily rag,
And a drover’s loving care.
Its working days are over now,
So it rests, and sadly decays;
For its job is done, its purpose served,
In a thousand different ways.
And it hangs on its peg in the harness shed,
Old pal of the droving days.
You’re in my thought the whole day through
You’re there at fall of night.
You’re with me in my every dream,
And when the early dawn’s grey light
Comes stealing soft across the sky,
And the day begins anew,
My mind is still pre-occupied
With loving thoughts of you.
The Outlaw’s Partner
When yer ridin’ on the owl-hoot,
Pony always on the run,
An’ yer livin’ in the saddle,
With yer right hand near yer gun,
When yer scare at every shadder,
An’ at little things, wot creep,
An yuh tear yer nerves to tatters,
When yuh oughter be asleep.
When yuh sleep with one eye open,
Wide awake at every sound,
With yer carbine layin’ loaded,
Beside yer on the ground.
When yuh dassent trust a ‘uman,
No, not even yer best gal,
That’s when yer ‘preciate yer pony,
Fer you’ll find ‘im yer best pal.
Yeah, yer’ll find he’ll always foller,
Where-ever yuh might lead,
An ‘e’ll never ever turn yer down,
In any time of need.
Fer he’s with yer all along th’ trail,
In sunshine, storm, an’ strife,
An’ he’d give is ‘is very best fer you,
Yairs, he’d even give his life.
Fer he’s lonesome, jest th’ same as you,
Fer th’ trail ‘e useter roam,
An’ he’s itchin’ jest ter turn ‘is ‘ead,
An’ lope fer good, ole ‘ome.
But, he’ll allus stick beside yer,
An’ you he’ll never fail,
Fer yer moke an’ you is pardners,
When yer ride th’ owl-hoot trail.
He stood there in the stockyard
Old and gaunt and sere,
He bore the stamp of a brumby
In his little close-set ears.
With a back-bone like a razor
And ribs like a xylophone,
His stumpy legs were scraped and scarred
He was just a bag of bones.
His mane was long and scraggy,
And his draggled tail, likewise,
But I saw the ceaseless rolling
Of his piggish, bloodshot eyes.
For they’d asked me in to ride him,
To see how long I’d stop.
For many men had straddled him,
But none could stay on top.
I clamped my fist around his ear,
I dragged his head in close,
I stepped into the saddle
Then I let him have his nose.
He laid his small ears backwards,
And trembled like a leaf,
Then he seemed to cease his trembling,
Why, he hardly seemed to breathe.
Like a flash he jack-knifed
His four legs left the earth,
He squealed in vicious temper,
And I felt the straining girth,
As he pounded ‘neath the saddle,
My eyes were bleared and wet,
For he was sure the roughest bronc
I’ve ever straddled yet.
He reared and plunged and cow-kicked,
He bit, and spun just like a top,
‘Till I thought my lungs were burstin’,
And I was praying he would stop.
But he seemed so flamin’ tireless,
And my hopes began to fail,
For i felt myself aswayin’,
Like a saplin’ in a gale.