The Shearer's Dream

Henry Lawson, 1902

      Editor's note: This song appeared within the story "The Shearer's Dream" by Henry Lawson in his book Children of the Bush (1902), although without an ending (as part of the story) and was later published on its own, with some alterations (including an ending), in his later book When I was King and Other Verses (1906). Whilst "The Shearer's Dream" is usually attributed to Henry Lawson, John Meredith (a researcher of folk music) collected a version from Charles Ayger in 1957, who claimed to have heard it at school at a time when Lawson would have been about nineteen.


      The version from When I was King and Other Verses:

      'Oh, I dreamt I shore in a shearin' shed, and it was a dream of joy,
      For every one of the rouseabouts was a girl dressed up as a boy —
      Dressed up like a page in a pantomime, and the prettiest ever seen —
      They had flaxen hair, they had coal black hair — and every shade between.'

             'There was short, plump girls, there was tall, slim girls, and the handsomest ever seen —
             They was four-foot-five, they was six-foot high, and every size between.'

      'The shed was cooled by electric fans that was over every shoot;
      The pens was of polished ma-ho-gany, and ev'rything else to suit;
      The huts was fixed with spring-mattresses, and the tucker was simply grand,
      And every night by the biller-bong we darnced to a German band.'

      'Our pay was the wool on the jumbucks' backs, so we shore till all was blue —
      The sheep was washed afore they was shore (and the rams was scented too);
      And we all of us cried when the shed cut out, in spite of the long, hot days,
      For every hour them girls waltzed in with whisky and beer on tr-a-a-ays!'

      'There was three of them girls to every chap, and as jealous as they could be —
      There was three of them girls to every chap, and six of 'em picked on me;
      We was draftin' 'em out for the homeward track and sharin' 'em round like steam,
      When I woke with my head in the blazin' sun to find 'twas a shearer's dream.'

             'They had kind grey eyes, they had coal-black eyes, and the grandest ever seen —
             They had plump pink hands, they had slim white hands, and every shape be-tw-e-e-n.


      The version from Children of the Bush:

      Just then one of the "travellers" who were camped a bit up the creek suddenly commenced to sing. It was a song called "The Shearer's Dream," and I suppose the buggy of girls, or the conversation they started, reminded him of it. He started his verses and most of his lines with a howl; and there were unexpected howls all through the song, and it wailed off, just as unexpectedly, in places where there was no pathos that I could see:

             Oh, I dreamt I shore in a shearer's shed, and it was a dream of joy,
             For every one of the rouseabouts was a girl dressed up as a boy —
             Dressed up like a page in a pantomime, and the prettiest ever seen —
             They had flaxen hair, they had coal-black hair — and every shade between.

      "Every" with sudden and great energy, a long drop on to "shade," and a wail of intense sadness and regret running on into "between," the dirge reaching its wailsomest in the "tween" in every case.

             The shed was cooled by electric fans that was over every "shoot";
             The pens was of polished ma-ho-gany, and ev'rything else to suit;
             The huts was fixed with spring-mattresses, and the tucker was simply grand,
             And every night by the biller-bong we darnced to a German band.

             "Chorus, boys!"

             There was short, plump girls, there was tall, slim girls, and the handsomest ever seen
             They was four-foot-five, they was six-foot high, and hevery size between.
             Our pay was the wool on the jumbucks' backs, so we shore till all was blue
             The sheep was washed afore they was shore (and the rams was scented too);
             And we all of us cried when the shed cut out, in spite of the long, hot days,
             For hevery hour them girls waltzed in with whisky and beer on tr-a-a-a-ys!

             "Chorus! you — —!"

             They had kind grey eyes, they had coal-black eyes, and the grandest ever seen
             They had plump pink hands, they had slim white hands, and hevery shape be-tw-e-e-n.
             There was three of them girls to every chap, and as jealous as they could be —

      "Ow! you — —"

      The singer's voice or memory seemed suddenly to have failed him at this point, but whether his mates hit him on the back of the head with a tomahawk, or only choked him, I do not know. Mitchell was inclined to think, from the sound of it, that they choked him.