Edward George Dyson

March 1865 - 22 August 1931 / Ballarat / Victoria / Australia

Night Shift

‘HELLO! that’s the whistle, be moving.
Wake up! don’t lie muttering there.
What language! your style is improving—
It’s pleasant to hear you at prayer.
Turn out, man, and spare us the blessing.
Crib’s cut, and the tea’s on the brew.
You’ll have to look slippy in dressing
For that was the half-hour that blew.’

‘Half-past! and the night’s simply awful,
The hut fairly shakes in the storm.
Hang night-shifts! They shouldn’t be lawful;
I’ve only had time to get warm.
I notice the hut’s rarely bright, and
The bunk’s always cold as a stone,
Except when I go on at night, and
The half-after whistles have blown.

‘Bob built up that fire just to spite me,
The conscienceless son of a swab!
By Jove! it would fairly delight me
To let Hogan be hanged with his job.
Oh! it’s easy to preach of contentment;
You’re eloquent all on the flute.
Old Nick’s everlasting resentment
Plague Dick if he’s taken my boot!

‘Great Cæsar! you roasted the liquor,
Whoever it was made the tea;
It’s hotter than hell-broth and thicker!
Fried bacon again. Not for me!
Good night, and be hanged! Stir up, Stumpy,
You look very happy and warm;
I’ll hoist half the bark off the humpy
And give you a taste of the storm.’

We laughed as he went away growling:
But down where the wind whipped the creek
The storm like old fury was howling,
And Fred was on top for the week.
‘A devil’s own night for the braceman,’
Muttered Con. ‘It’s a comfort to know
All weathers are one to the faceman,
All shifts are alike down below.’

We slept, and the storm was receding,
The wind moaned a dirge overhead,
When men brought him, broken and bleeding,
And laid him again on the bed.
We saw by the flame burning dimly
The gray hue of death on his face.
The stoker enlightened us grimly:
‘No hope. He was blown from the brace.’
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