The strange story of the Captain of the Push, and the Bastard from the Bush.

The Captain of the Push is one of Henry Lawson’s many poems. It concerns the recritment of a bushman to join the gang (push) who expressed a strong desire to join in their violent activities.

Said the stranger: ‘I am nothing but a bushy and a dunce;
‘But I read about the Bleeders in the Weekly Gasbag once;
‘Sitting lonely in the humpy when the wind began to “whoosh,”
‘How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the push!
‘Gosh! I hate the swells and good ‘uns — I could burn ’em in their beds;
‘I am with you, if you’ll have me, and I’ll break their blazing heads.’

He had to prove his mettle and then he was accepted, though his delight in “ultraviolence” was considered to be a little excessive. Then he went back to the bush, leaving his criminal colleagues a little sadder and wiser.

Some interesting historical research to trace the missing stanzas from a popular bawdy poem, “The Bastard from the Bush”, revealed that this was the original version of The Captain which Lawson wrote to amuse his circle of friends, being completely unprintable at the time. I can fortunately post a link to the original without having to read it right through (being a gentleman of delicate sensibilities).  It is believed that the poem is incomplete and some stanzas are still missing.

This is posted to lift the quantum of cultural and literary commentary on the site in case the blog might qualify for a grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

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29 Responses to The strange story of the Captain of the Push, and the Bastard from the Bush.

  1. This is posted to lift the quantum of cultural and literary commentary on the site in case the blog might qualify for a grant from the Literature Board of the Australia Council.

    Ever the optimist, Rafe. Grants are not awarded on merit. You gotta have mates!!!

  2. Driftforge

    The genesis of the ANZAC spirit?

  3. Rafe says he is a gentleman of delicate sensibilities But this has got to be one of the best curses ever written. I could have used it many times in reference to some of the subjects discussed on Catallaxy.

    ‘May the itching piles torment you, may corns grow on your feet,
    ‘May crabs as big as spiders attack your balls a treat,
    ‘Then when you’re down and outed, to a hopeless bloody wreck,
    ‘May you slip back through your arsehole, and break your fucking neck.’

  4. Oops, italics didn’t work there. But you get the idea.

  5. Lazlo

    I know it has been poo pooed by the lteratii, but I have been enjoying the acting and style of Underbelly Razor..

  6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    The Royal George Hotel (check the link for an old pic) carried on being a push pub into the 1960’s. Very different sort of push though, Sydney University beat types and hangers on. It also produced quite a few cultural notables such as Clive James and Germaine Greer. This push was the last gasp of a certain sort of robust Australian cultural and intellectual libertarian tradition whose members were trying to relive some glory days of an earlier bohemia before they were turfed aside by the swinging sixties. Eskimo Nell was a also a favorite rave. Pub is unrecognisable now, place where you Ship Inn and meet a handsome prince with a black AMEX card. Hello Mary Donaldson.

  7. Gab

    I know it has been poo pooed by the lteratii, but I have been enjoying the acting and style of Underbelly Razor..

    I’m enjoying it too, Lazlo. For mine, I’m getting a cook’s tour of a specific time in history, about my home town. While watching the show I go digging on the ‘net and read up on characters and places. The series is not brilliant, imo, but it’s not dreadful either.

  8. Pedro the Ignorant

    The Ship Inn in Pitt st at Circular Quay used to be a favourite hangout for Navy personnel in the 60’s.
    There was a regular drinker there, an old Petty Officer who could allegedly recite 123 verses of the “Ballad of Eskimo Nell”, any one of which would get you locked up for obscene language.

    Nowadays, of course, he would be demoted, counselled and sent off on “sensitivity training”.

  9. Lazlo

    Yea Gab exactly our feelings.. There is a place for stuff that is all right and watchable, get’s you away from dreadful political correctness..

  10. Gab

    I wish they’d use more of the language pertaining to that era instead of substituting with modern day lingo.

    That’s my major gripe with the series.

  11. Lazlo

    So Gab, honest question, what would be examples of Darlo lingo of that time? We did hear ‘rabbitoes this week, but that’s trite..

  12. Gab

    I’ve been trying to think of examples, Lazlo, but have come up empty. Further reading required.

    The only thing that pops in the scone – and I don’t know why – is:…and tell ya mother thanks for the rabbits.

  13. Lazlo

    BTW We live within throwing distance of unwanted cats/dogs/children in W’moo or Lizzie Bays..

  14. Lazlo

    Tell ya mother thanks for the rabbits – a marriage vow?

  15. Lazlo

    Ah this could be like good bye and thanks for all the fish..

  16. Lazlo

    We live in the place, and a wonderful place it is.. EB that is

  17. Gab

    lol. Speaking of which, I’m off to bed. ‘night, Lazlo.

  18. Lazlo

    EB = Elizabeth Bay. If you are getting old but not feeble it is a wonderful place to live…

  19. Gab

    Yes, I’ve been there. Absolutely beautiful.

  20. C.L.

    I wish they’d use more of the language pertaining to that era instead of substituting with modern day lingo.

    Watched the first episode and switched off laughing when Squizzy told another gangster he’d been “in stir,” American slang for prison – as used by Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption (for example). “Doing porridge” or “the big house” were evidently considered too obscure for modern viewers.

  21. “would you kick a bloke who’s down? Asked the leader of the Push.
    “I’d kick him down and fuck him” said the Bastard from the bush.

  22. Helen Armstrong

    Loved the ballad. Much of the language is still in use in the bush,I was interested to see it was in use so long before – there aught to be a kultcha class on it!

  23. MaurieJ

    I used to know this off by heart, with only minor word variations. Recited it at the Oarsmen’s picnic at the Mildura reegatta around 1964, Quite a hit.

  24. Peter Patton

    Unfortunately, the children of the Sydney Push, turned into our modern-day vermin, The Luvvies!

  25. MarkL of Canberra

    PP… equating luvvies with vermin.

    Really, what have you got against vermin?

    Mk50
    Brisbane

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