Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems




From the George Bateman Collection, copiled by Howard Rose.



What's a Digger?

asked the Bosun, as he leaned against the rail,

Of a Liner that was loading at the 'Loo,

Then I knew I had him going, and now I'm inclined,

To think that it was true.


"What's a Digger", said the Bosun

He's a Swaggie from the bush,

Or a bloke that's tallying cargo on the wharf,

He's a smelter from Port Piree,

Or a leader of the "push",

At a weekend at Katoomba, kinda "Toff".


He hails from the "Bluff" to Auckland

Where the Kauri Gum trees grow,

Or perhaps he hails from down "Old Tassie" way,

But when he hears of a stouch, he'll come in from far away,

For a Digger is a comrade, so they say.


I've taken him o'er the ocean, in a troopship, like a mule,

And I've watched him with his Crown & Anchor board,

And his flaming "two up" school.

But if there's a fight on, I know he'll have a go,

For a Digger was my shipmate, and I know.


I've seen him landing at the break of Anzac Day

When the "snotties" towed the barges to the front,

And he walked on deck, and calmly flicked his "fag" away,

Why it might have been a picture, not a stunt,


And I've seen those barges, coming back,

Piled up with the dead.

They lifted each corpse gently,

And placed them on the deck, for fear of waking them.


I've seen them steaming homeward,

Playing "Housie Housie", day by day,

With a gramaphone, forever by their side,

And the sick bloke, the "Cot Case",

Would listen to each tune, the boys could play,

And perhaps it helped that Digger as he passed away.


I've sewed him up in canvas, and placed him on a shute

With the Union Jack, above his brand new shroud,

And as I pushed him o'er the railings,

I heard the Nurses murmer, "Brute",

Then I knew my hard old dial, had done me proud.


That's a Digger, said the Bosun,

as he said goodbye to me,

And he is much more than I have told you,

And if God wants to repay me, for my wasted life at sea,

Then let Him place me with a digger when I am set free.


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