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A MAN PROSPECTING, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: A man prospecting for the gold
Last Line: He weakened, raved, and soon he died.
Alternate Author Name(s): Kodak; Liddle, John Edward
Subject(s): Aborigines, Australian; Death; Deserts; Food & Eating; Gold Mines & Miners; Insanity; Pain; Dead, The; Madness; Mental Illness; Suffering; Misery

A MAN prospecting for the gold—
One of the many gone astray
Into the wilds to find untold
And unknown wealth upon his way.

First, well equipped, he moved along
In sweet contentment and at ease;
Sometimes he hummed a snatch of song
When plodding through the belts of trees.

That night his horses went astray
And left him sleeping in the dead
Of a dark moonless night, away
From his encampment where he laid.

At early dawn he startled, woke,
No single horse-bell could he hear;
On him a stern presentiment broke:
'Twas down the creek they'd disappear.

Should he turn back? should he proceed?
A deadly venture should he fail;
All, all his courage he might need—
Yet at that thought he did not quail.

The creeks were drying very fast
And there were rarely little pools;
He, after days, came to the last—
Not yet e'en then his ardour cools.

Too late he turned along the creek;
He dug damp places there to find
The precious water he did seek;
Dread thoughts were preying on his mind.

That night he lay: he could not sleep
His throat was burning hot and dry,
His tongue more swollen; could he keep
Himself quite cool in agony?

His mind insane: then inside out
He quickly turned his shirt and pants:
His tucker he flung all about
For all the swarming flies and ants.

Awhile he tried to turn his boots—
They him resisted: were too dried:
He cursed and called them worse than brutes
And angry flung them both aside.

He felt his watch, thought something queer:
Flat on a log close at his side
He laid it with a glaring leer:
What did he then at once decide?

He with his miner's pick let drive
With all his force into its face;
He cursed it, as if t'were alive,
Swore it had brought on him disgrace.

Right through the watch into the log
In which the pick-point firmly stuck;
His utmost force was in that slog,
A most determined blow he struck.

That grand new watch from U.S.A.
Came to a very serious end;
The watch holed through he flung away;
Not fit to use, nor fit to mend.

His pick and shovel, all his swag,
His billy-can and dish and gun,
He flung away: he would not drag
Them with him longer—'twas not fun.

The strangest freaks the madman took,
He grabbed his hat, looked wild and grim:
Picked, chopped the crown out, and it shook,
Then pulled his head through to the brim.

Off with his shirt: changed back to front,
Then turned his trousers right around;
He thought to do a circus stunt
And danced about where scrubs abound.

He felt too lively for restraint:
Then, tore all off, flung them away,
Until he weary grew and faint;
Exhausted 'mong the scrubs he lay.

Some natives saw him: pitied him
Now perishing with want and thirst;
To their encampments hurried him,
Gave him some meat and water first.

They somewhat feared the madman wretch,
They led him to a low bush shade
Where he might lie asleep and stretch
His weary limbs: their laws forbade

To injure such at any time,
They had been taught it was unwise
To hurt a madman: it was a crime
Near every tribe would recognize.

He might or might not live too long,
On the rough foods they did provide—
He could not eat it: 'twas all wrong;
He weakened, raved, and soon he died.

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