The Tent Poles are Rotten

Yet another of the great Australian poet Henry Lawson’s poems set to music. For me it is a mystery as to where the tune came from and it seems to have been imbedded in Australian Folk Song for many a year. As with all Lawson’s poem / songs the images always take me back to the Great Outback in Australia. Martyn

We do present a production called Down The Lawson Track which uses stories and poem / songs of Henry Lawson with Shirley Collins and Pip Barnes doing the narration while Iris Bishop, Jon Wigg and myself do the songs.

The Tent Poles Are Rotten     Words by Henry Lawson 

The tent poles are rotten the camp fire’s dead

The possums may ramble the trees overhead

I’m humping me bluey all over the land

 And the prints of me Bluchers sink deep in the sand

I’m out on the Wallaby humping me drum 

And I camp by the road where the Sundowners come. 

It’s North West by West over ranges so far

To the plains where the sheep and the cattle stations are 

With the sky for me roof and the grass for me bunk 

A calico bag for me damper and junk

And scarcely a comrade me memory reveals

And the spirit still tingles in me souls and me heels.

Now me tent is all torn the blankets are damp

The fast flowing waters run by the camp

The cold water rises in jets round the floor 

As I lay on me bunk and I listen to it roar

And think how tomorrow me footsteps will lag 

As I tramp ‘neath the weight of a rain sodden swag. 

‘Though the way of a swagman is mostly uphill 

But there’s joy to be found on the Wallaby still 

When the day has gone by with it’s tramp and it’s toil

The campfire you build and the billy you can boil

And there’s comfort and peace in the bowl of your clay

And the yarn with a mate who is passing that way. 

But beware of the city where it’s poison for years

And the joy to be found in drinking strong beers

Where a Bushman gets bushed in the streets of the town

Where he looses his mates when his cheques are knocked down

He’ll be right ‘till his pockets are empty and then

He can waltz his old bluey round the country again.