The Old Bark School

by Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
It was built of bark and poles, and the floor was full of holes
Where each leak in rainy weather made a pool;
And the walls were mostly cracks lined with calico and sacks --
There was little need for windows in the school.

Then we rode to school and back by the rugged gully-track,
On the old grey horse that carried three or four;
And he looked so very wise that he lit the master's eyes
Every time he put his head in at the door.

He had run with Cobb & Co. -- "that grey leader let her go!"
There were men as knowed "the brand upon his hide".
And "as knowed it on the course." Funeral service "Good old horse!"
When we burned him in the gully where he died.

And the master thought the same. 'Twas from Ireland that he came,
Where the tanks are full all summer, and the feed is simply grand;
And the joker then in vogue said his lessons wid a brogue --
'Twas unconscious imitation, let the reader understand.

And we learnt the world in scraps from some ancient dingy maps
Long discarded by the public-school in town;
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook
Our geography was somewhat upside-down.

It was "in the book" and so -- well, at that we'd let it go,
For we never would believe that print could lie;
And we all learnt pretty soon that when we went out at noon
"The sun is in the south part of the sky."

And Ireland that was known from the coast-line to Athlone:
We got little information re the land that gave us birth;
Except that Captain Cook was killed (and was very likely grilled)
And "the natives of New Holland are the lowest race on earth".

And a woodcut, in its place, of the same degraded race
Seemed a lot more like a camel than the blackfellas that we knew;
Jimmy Bullock with the rest, scratched his head and gave it best:
But his faith was badly shaken by a bobtail kangaroo.

But the old bark school is gone, and the spot it stood upon
Is a cattle camp in winter where the curlews cry is heard;
There's a brick school on the flat, but a schoolmate teaches that,
For, about the time they built it, our old master was "transferred".

But the bark school comes again with exchanges 'cross the plain --
With the Out-Back Advertiser, and my fancy roams at large
When I read of passing stock, of a western mob or flock,
With "James Bullock", "Grey", or "Henry Dale" in charge.

And I think how Jimmy went from the old bark school content,
With his "eddication" finished, with his pack-horse after him;
And perhaps if I was back I would take the self-same track,
For I wished my learning ended when the Master "finished" Jim.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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