The Swagman's Grave

The Swagman’s Rest by Banjo Paterson

Finding Fortune Through Fellowship

This poem by Banjo Paterson tells an entertaining story about Aussie mateship leading to a big find and explores themes of luck and loyalty.

Some men kindly bury an eccentric drifter named Bob after he dies in their camp. Despite Bob’s scruffy ways, they mark his grave to respectfully memorialize him.

The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson - Book Cover

The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses

by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

Bob had rambled the bush for years, refusing to settle down. But in his dying moments, he hints he may bring them luck if they dig up his grave. The men humor Bob’s odd request.

Later when the men suffer through a terrible drought, they remember Bob’s promise. In desperation, they dig up his grave and find a huge golden quartz reef! Their fortunes are made thanks to their loyalty to old Bob.

The poem’s upbeat ending celebrates the men’s generosity being repaid through Bob’s gift from beyond the grave. Though they saw Bob simply as a penniless “swagman”, their mateship is rewarded by the gold discovery.

Written conversationally, this entertaining tale champions Aussie ideals of sticking by your mates and not judging by appearances. Paterson suggests true rewards come not from wealth and status, but from fellowship and kindness.

The Swagman’s Rest

We buried old Bob where the bloodwoods wave
At the foot of the Eaglehawk;
We fashioned a cross on the old man’s grave,
For fear that his ghost might walk;
We carved his name on a bloodwood tree,
With the date of his sad decease,
And in place of Died from effects of spree’, We wroteMay he rest in peace’.

For Bob was known on the Overland,
A regular old bush wag,
Tramping along in the dust and sand,
Humping his well-worn swag.
He would camp for days in the river-bed,
And loiter and fish for whales’. I’m into the swagman’s yard,’ he said,
`And I never shall find the rails.’

But he found the rails on that summer night
For a better place — or worse,
As we watched by turns in the flickering light
With an old black gin for nurse.
The breeze came in with the scent of pine,
The river sounded clear,
When a change came on, and we saw the sign
That told us the end was near.

But he spoke in a cultured voice and low —
`I fancy they’ve “sent the route”;
I once was an army man, you know,
Though now I’m a drunken brute;
But bury me out where the bloodwoods wave,
And if ever you’re fairly stuck,
Just take and shovel me out of the grave
And, maybe, I’ll bring you luck.

For I’ve always heard –‘ here his voice fell weak, His strength was well-nigh sped, He gasped and struggled and tried to speak, Then fell in a moment — dead. Thus ended a wasted life and hard, Of energies misapplied — Old Bob was out of theswagman’s yard’
And over the Great Divide.

The drought came down on the field and flock,
And never a raindrop fell,
Though the tortured moans of the starving stock
Might soften a fiend from hell.
And we thought of the hint that the swagman gave
When he went to the Great Unseen —
We shovelled the skeleton out of the grave
To see what his hint might mean.

We dug where the cross and the grave posts were,
We shovelled away the mould,
When sudden a vein of quartz lay bare
All gleaming with yellow gold.
‘Twas a reef with never a fault nor baulk
That ran from the range’s crest,
And the richest mine on the Eaglehawk
Is known as `The Swagman’s Rest’.

Similar Posts