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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE COACHMAN'S YARN, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: This a tale that the coachman told
Last Line: Nimitybell on monaro.
Alternate Author Name(s): Brady, E. J.
Subject(s): Bars & Bartenders; Cold; Death; Fire; Story-telling; Winter; Pubs; Taverns; Saloons; Dead, The

THIS a tale that the coachman told,
As he flicked the flies from Marigold
And flattered and fondled Pharaoh.
The sun swung low in the western skies:
Out on a plain, just over a rise,
Stood Nimitybell, on Monaro;
Cold as charity, cold as hell,
Bleak, bare, barren Nimitybell—
Nimitybell on Monaro.

"Now this 'ere 'appened in 'Eighty-three,
The coldest winter ever we see;
Strewth, it was cold, as cold as could be,
Out 'ere on Monaro;
It froze the blankets, it froze the fleas,
It froze the sap in the blinkin' trees,
It made a grindstone out of cheese,
Right 'ere in Monaro.

"Freezin' an' snowin'—ask the old hands;
They seen, they knows, an' they understands.
The ploughs was froze, and the cattle brands,
Down 'ere in Monaro;
It froze our fingers and froze our toes;
I seen a passenger's breath so froze
Icicles 'ung from 'is bloomin' nose
Long as the tail on Pharaoh!

"I ketched a curlew down by the creek;
His feet was froze to his blessed beak;
'E stayed like that for over a week—
That's cold on Monaro.
Why, even the air got froze that tight
You'd 'ear the awfullest sounds at night,
When things was put to a fire or light,
Out 'ere on Monaro.

"For the sounds was froze. At Haydon's Bog
A cove 'e cross-cut a big back-log,
An' carted 'er 'ome ('e wants to jog—
Stiddy, go stiddy there, Pharaoh!).
As soon as his log begins to thaw
They 'cars the sound of the cross-cut saw
A-thawin' out. Yes, his name was Law.
Old hands, them Laws, on Monaro.

"The second week of this 'ere cold snap
I'm drivin' the coach. A Sydney chap,
'E strikes this part o' the bloomin' map,
A new hand 'ere on Monaro;
'Is name or game I never heard tell,
But'e gets off at Nimitybell;
Blowin' like Bluey, freezin' like 'ell
At Nimitybell on Monaro.

"The drinks was froze, o' course, in the bar;
They breaks a bottle of old Three Star,
An' the barman sez, 'Now, there y' are,
You can't beat that for Monaro!'
The stranger bloke, 'e was tall an' thin,
Sez, 'Strike me blue, but I think you win;
We'll 'ave another an' I'll turn in—
It's blitherin' cold on Monaro.'

" 'E borrowed a book an' went to bed
To read awhile, so the missus said,
By the candle-light. 'E must ha' read
(These nights is long on Monaro)
Past closin' time. Then 'e starts an' blows
The candle out; but the wick 'ad froze!
Leastways, that's what folks round 'ere suppose,
Old hands as lived on Monaro.

"So bein' tired, an' a stranger, new
To these mountain ways, they think he threw
'Is coat on the wick; an' maybe, too,
Any old clothes 'e'd to spare. Oh,
This ain't no fairy, an' don't you fret!
Next day came warmer, an' set in wet—
There's some out 'ere as can mind it yet,
The real old 'ands on Monaro.

"The wick must ha' thawed. The fire began
At breakfast time. The neighbours all ran
To save the pub . . . an' forgot the man
(Stiddy, go stiddy there, mare-oh).
The pub was burned to the blanky ground;
'Is buttons was all they ever found.
The blinkin' cow, 'e owed me a pound—
From Cooma his blinkin' fare, oh!

"That ain't no fairy, not what I've told;
I'm gettin' shaky an' growin' old,
An' I hope I never again see cold,
Like that down 'ere on Monaro!" . . .
He drives his horses, he drives them well,
And this is the tale he loves to tell
Nearing the town of Nimitybell,
Nimitybell on Monaro.

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