The Mountain Splitter
Henry Lawson, 1889
He works in the glen where the waratah grows,
And the gums and the ashes are tall,
'Neath cliffs that re-echo the sound of his blows
When the wedges leap in from the mawl.
He comes of a hardy old immigrant race,
And he feels not the rain nor the drouth.
His sinews are tougher than wire; and his face
Has been tanned by the sun of the south.
Now doomed to be shorn of its glory at last
Is the stately old tree he attacks;
Its moments of life he is numbering fast
With the keen steady strokes of his axe.
Loud cracks at the butt; and the strong wood is burst;
And the splitter steps backward, and turns
His eyes to the boughs that move slowly at first
Ere they rush to their grave in the ferns.
He strips off the bark with slight effort of strength
And stretches it out on the weeds,
And marks off the trunk with a measure the length
Of the rails or the palings he needs.
The teeth of his crosscut so truly are set
That it swings from his elbow at ease;
And the song of the saw, I am hearing it yet,
Has the music of wind in the trees.
Strong blows on the wedge, and a rip and a tear,
And the log opens up to the butt;
And, spreading around through the pure mountain air,
Is the scent of the wood newly cut.
A lover of comfort and cronies is he;
And when the day's work is behind,
A fire, and a yarn, and a billy of tea,
At the hut of the splitter you'll find.
His custom is sought in the town by the range;
For well to the future he looks:
His cheques in an instant the storekeepers change;
And his name is the best on the books.