Song of the Artesian Water by Banjo Paterson

Song of the Artesian Water by Banjo Paterson

Water For Perseverance

The ‘Song of Artesian Water‘ vividly captures the backbreaking effort and eventual euphoria of striking life-saving artesian water after a devastating drought.

Paterson immediately establishes the desperation of the drought-stricken land where cattle are perishing. But the stoic stockmen refuse to accept their fate, grittily determined to drill for water no matter the sacrifice required.

The poem chronicles their perilous progress in dramatic detail – the chugging steam engine, collapsing shafts, jammed tubes, and exhaustive manual labor. Paterson uses repetition and driving rhythm to mimic both the mechanical drilling and men’s tireless commitment.

He infuses the quest with defiant irreverence, as the men swear they’ll tap into hell itself rather than be defeated. The celebratory discovery of water after four thousand feet is made all the sweeter by the challenge overcame.

Paterson concludes by reflecting on the flowing artesian water renewing the land and its people. His reverent tone underscores the profound impact as it nourishes the “thirsty cattle” and offers resilience against future drought.

With admirable working men and evocative sounds and textures, Paterson crafts an Australian tale of perseverance and life-saving renewal. His masterful verse immortalizes the conquest of nature through grit and ingenuity.

Song of the Artesian Water

Now the stock have started dying, for the Lord has sent a drought;
But we’re sick of prayers and Providence—we’re going to do without;
With the derricks up above us and the solid earth below,
We are waiting at the lever for the word to let her go.
Sinking down, deeper down,
Oh, we’ll sink it deeper down:
As the drill is plugging downward at a thousand feet of level,
If the Lord won’t send us water, oh, we’ll get it from the devil;
Yes, we’ll get it from the devil deeper down.

Now, our engine’s built in Glasgow by a very canny Scot,
And he marked it twenty horse-power, but he don’t know what is what:
When Canadian Bill is firing with the sun-dried gidgee logs,
She can equal thirty horses and a score or so of dogs.
Sinking down, deeper down,
Oh, we’re going deeper down:
If we fail to get the water, then it’s ruin to the squatter,
For the drought is on the station and the weather’s growing hotter;
But we’re bound to get the water deeper down.

But the shaft has started caving and the sinking’s very slow,
And the yellow rods are bending in the water down below,
And the tubes are always jamming, and they can’t be made to shift
Till we nearly burst the engine with a forty horse-power lift.
Sinking down, deeper down,
Oh, we’re going deeper down
Though the shaft is always caving, and the tubes are always jamming,
Yet we’ll fight our way to water while the stubborn drill is ramming—
While the stubborn drill is ramming deeper down.

But there’s no artesian water, though we’ve passed three thousand feet,
And the contract price is growing, and the boss is nearly beat.
But it must be down beneath us, and it’s down we’ve got to go,
Though she’s bumping on the solid rock four thousand feet below.
Sinking down, deeper down,
Oh, we’re going deeper down:
And it’s time they heard us knocking on the roof of Satan’s dwellin’;
But we’ll get artesian water if we cave the roof of hell in—
Oh! we’ll get artesian water deeper down.

But it’s hark! the whistle’s blowing with a wild, exultant blast,
And the boys are madly cheering, for they’ve struck the flow at last;
And it’s rushing up the tubing from four thousand feet below,
Till it spouts above the casing in a million-gallon flow.
And it’s down, deeper down—
Oh, it comes from deeper down;
It is flowing, ever flowing, in a free, unstinted measure
From the silent hidden places where the old earth hides her treasure—
Where the old earth hides her treasures deeper down.

And it’s clear away the timber, and it’s let the water run:
How it glimmers in the shadow, how it flashes in the sun!
By the silent belts of timber, by the miles of blazing plain
It is bringing hope and comfort to the thirsty land again.
Flowing down, further down;
It is flowing further down
To the tortured thirsty cattle, bringing gladness in its going;
Through the droughty days of summer it is flowing, ever flowing—
It is flowing, ever flowing, further down.

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