Vonda Stanley's collection of early Australian bush poems


Based on material published in Satires & Verses 1903

“The steamer Nile has arrived from Echuca with 60 tons of box timber for the forthcoming fruit season, and over 40 tons of liquor for the local club – a heavy assignment for a prohibition settlement.”


Relief of Mildura


Doctors had run out of whisky, and our stock of liquor was spent,

Save one poor half dozen of lager that belonged to the Rechabite tent;

                         And the sky was as brass above us, and the land was fevered with drought,

And we wandered with blistered gullets, and tongues that were hanging out.


And ever the Murray to temp us, at the edge of the sun-cracked flat;

But no, we were men of Mildura – we hadn’t come down to that.

But daily the torture lasted, and daily the horror grew

Of the thought that we dare not utter – the thing that all of us knew.


Someone must try the water, must yield to the fatal law,

So we shared in that devil’s gamble-and mine was the shortest straw.

One moment of human weakness-then I stepped to the river’s brink;

It was flowing before me-water-and I was condemned to drink.

And then, oh was it an angel, or that daft lass, Jessie Brown,

Cried “Dinna ye sniff the reek o’t-the pipes of Echuca town?”

And louder and ever louder, and near and nearer the while,

We heard the beat of her paddles, the rescuing steamboat Nile.


With her bar-doors breathing a blessing, on her mission of mercy she came,

And the sunlight blazed on the bottles in a halo of living flame.

And “Courage,” the skipper shouted, as he moored to the blighted scrub,

“There’s forty tons of liquor aboard, consigned to the local club.”


Then madly rushed through our being the warm red current of life;

We didn’t wait for a corkscrew-we hanked off the heads with a knife.

And the brass bank burst into music, and the temperance banners waved,

And we saw three stars in the evening sky, and we knew that Mildura was saved.


Davidson Symmons


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