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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

The Shepherd

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

Sung to the tune She Wore a Wreath of Roses.

What the words mean

  • "cabbage-tree concealed his locks of jet" ~ the settler wore a cabbage-tree hat to cover his black hair.
  • shout ~ Australian custom where the person doing the "shout" would pay for a round of drinks
  • nobbler ~ small shot glass filled to the top with hard liquor laced with some other booze, drug or even poison that would give the drink a real hit.

One gallon of good rum could be doctored to make 8 gallons of nobbled rum. Nobbled rum cost less to buy and got the person drunker faster and cheaper.

He wore an old blue shirt the night that first we met,
An old and tattered cabbage-tree concealed his locks of jet;
His footsteps had a languor, his voice a husky tone;
Both man and dog were spent with toil as they slowly wandered home.

I saw him but a moment – yet methinks I see him now —
While his sheep were gently feeding ’neath the rugged mountain brow.

When next we met, the old blue shirt and cabbage-tree were
    gone;
A brand new suit of tweed and “Doctor Dod” he had put on;
Arm in arm with him was one who strove, and not in vain,
To ease his pockets of their load by drinking real champagne.

I saw him but a moment, and he was going a pace,
Shouting nobbler after nobbler, with a smile upon his face.

When next again I saw that man his suit of tweed was gone,
The old blue shirt and cabbage-tree once more he had put on;
Slowly he trudged along the road and took the well-known track
From the station he so lately left with a swag upon his back.

I saw him but a moment as he was walking by
With two black eyes and broken nose and a tear-drop in his eye.

The cabbage-tree palm (Livistona australis) has cabbage-like leaves which were used by Aboriginals to make their shelters waterproof. Early settlers in Australia copied this and the first Sydney Cove buildings had roofs thatched with cabbage-tree palm leaves. Settlers also wove individual leaves into hats as noted in the song above.
See also the song The Cabbage-Tree Hat

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