The Wild Scotchman's Poetry
Note from the Editor of the Eagle, Charters Towers
We have the painful duty of telling our readers that James
McPherson, who has contributed so largely in prose and verse
to our columns under the non-de-plume of "Poor Jim", will
never write another line.
He was known in the early sixties as the "Wild Scotchman",
and served a term of imprisonment for bushranging while still
a mere lad.
After his release he was a law-abiding citizen. His marriage
seems to have been a fit and happy one for he writes in the
highest terms of his wife.
He had a selection near Hughenden until the drought smashed
him. He then made his way with his wife and six children
towards the Gulf, where he has been cutting cord wood for the
Burketown meat works.
Readers of the Eagle know that his writings were not of the
ordinary sort. They indicated a man of large mind and deep
sympathy for human suffering and strongly resentful of public
He had a strong passion for liberty and held a view that it
was worth fighting for even to blood if it could not be
attained by peaceful means. As a poet, he had considerable
ability and never wrote anything that was not worth reading.
He had agreed to write his life and adventures for "The
Eagle", and the preliminaries were all arranged when his
He had attended the funeral of an old resident of Burketown
who was killed by accident, and when returning from the
funeral last Sunday his horse threw him. He lingered
unconscious till Tuesday morning, when he died. He leaves a
widow and six children unprovided for.
Poor Jim. We shall miss your stirring words and trenchment
Men die but the cause lives on.
"The Worker & the Sage"
(WRITTEN FOR THE EAGLE)
By POOR JIM
"Why dost thou look so haggard "Man",
"And gaze into the stream,
"As if some priceless gem lay there,
"Alluring with it's gleam?
"Look up and scan your vault serene-
"The poor man's future home-
"The lark ascending sings aloud
"Beneath it's azure dome.
"This world was made by God for man,
"Let evil thoughts alone."
The Worker smiled in heedless scorn,
And simply said "Pass on."
Look round upon this sunlit scene,
"And mark the wealth of joy.
"That fills the woodlands with it's song
"That never seems to cloy.
The Kookaburra's hearty laugh
"Rings through the forrest shade,
"As wagtails chase the sparrow-hawk
"Across the flowery glade
"And gold and green in leafy green
"By turn doth flash and fade,
"As regent-bird and parroquet
"Their plumage gay parade."
The worker answered bitterly,
"Are not my thoughts my own?
"They fit not in your sylvan scene-
"Let sleeping dogs alone.
"Do you desire my only wealth-
The luxury of fools?
"Evolving Time will surely bring
"What to my state belongs,
"The strength of ox, the brain of ass
"The blunted sense of wrongs
"I should not then be here, as now
"A blot on Nature's plan.
"A harrassed wretch, a slave to wage
"And dubbed withal - a man.
"Now passions strong bear you along
"You speak your words in haste,
"Say not that man, God's image here
"Is like the burdened beast,
"For Adam's touch lies on us all
"And though your lot be hard
"Yet he that bears his cross well here
"Shall surely have reward."
"Pass on, I pray thou hoary sage,
"Thy hoary lore as well;
"Thy garbled creed brings no remede
"Since Earth is now my hell.
"The granite rocks shall melting flow
"And floods the desert sands
"Ere rich and poor their strife forego
"And join fraternal hands.
"The pampered Steed is fed in stall
"And housed from wind and rain.
"The lovely maid becomes a thrall
"If pure she would remain.
"My lady lifts her poodle cur
"In pity from the floor,
"But hunts the ragged, starving child
"Remorseless, from her door.
"The willing horse is ever rode,
"The restive left alone
"And Man, who bears his hapless lot
"Is worked unto the bone.
"My skin should be of ebony.
"My race should be of ham,
"I'd rather be a chattel slave
"Than be the thing I am.
"Unroll the page of history-
"The sacred or profane-
"And see if freedom in her tracks
"Leaves not a bloody stain.
"Not Moses with his mighty rod
"Could set the people free
Till Pharoah's grand pursuing host
"Was buried in the sea.
"The Roman Eagles turned not back
"From trampling mankind down
"Till hardy Celts stood in their path,
"Whose shades might us disown.
"So Toussaint brave the negro slave,
"Shewed France what slaves could do
"And fought like Bruce or Hermann brave,
"Like Tell or Brian Boru.
"And what am I? A homeless serf
"Upon this summer scene.
"A victim here to plundered wealth.
"Where does my life fit in?
"The wagtails chase the sparrow hawk,
"Then we should do the same
"And hunt in packs, like famished wolves,
"Till our deliverance came.
"If virtue is it's own reward,
"Then that reward is ours."
"For scanty food have we to eat
In long and tolling hours.
"To lick the hand that gives the blow,
"Betrays the canaille race.
"You are not used to find us so
"When peace to war gives place.
"The sweetest flowers are often seen
"To pine in envy's shade.
"But patient virtue brings reward
"When worldly hopes shall fade,
Eternal Justice never sleeps
"Her steps are slow but sure.
"I will repay," the Lord hath said,
"Be patient and endure.
"Ha, say thou so? Thou learned man,
"I hear with pent-up breath
"We should have all the virtues - we
"And ye have all the earth.
"And Justice comes with tardy pace,
"Take off her clogs of gold,
"Then she may yet avenge our lot
Before she grows too old.
"Look on the image of your God-
"this wreck of want and pain;
"For forty years I've seen this earth
Grow grey and green again;
"But no green spot can I recall
"That pleasure gave to me.
"My life has been a broken raft
"Upon a stormy sea.
"And now life's fount is running dry,
"In pain I draw my breath;
"The passing sigh, the glazing eye,
"Is all that's left - for death:
"My haggard face must not alloy
"The gold that ye have won.
"The clouds grow darker in the sky.
"Pass on thou Sage. Pass on."
(Written for The Eagle) By "Poor Jim"
The following poem must have been posted by "Poor Jim" just
before his death, as it reached this office two days before
his wife's letter describing his death and funeral.
It will be observed that the words are strongly prophetic,
containing as they do an address to his boy, that looks like
His reference to his own Career will be endorsed by all
thinking men - that conditions make men what they are.
Exchanges would do worse than reprint these last words of the
"Wild Scotchman" along with their notices of his death. - Ed.
The Gulf's great Bight will sound tonight,
Beneath my horse's tread,
His sire was of the purest race
That ever yet was bred.
The Austral Cross will light us on,
So, Ho! my dappled grey!
The Brightest guide the world had known
Adorns the Milky Way.
The fallow soil so seldom pressed
Sends out a muffled ring;
The wild geese near - that reedy pool -
Have never moved a wing.
Now o'r the plain we speed amain;
A river on each side
The Albert and the Nicolson -
Through belts of forest glide.
Oh! I have seen no fairer scene,
Nor shall I soon again;
Yet seek ye here for happy homes,
Your search will be in vain!
The land lies like a sleeping maid
Untouched by Cupid's sting,
Neglected like a bud unblown,
Forgotten by the spring!
When shall the Blue - the bonny blue -
Wave on her shores alone,
And Aliens all of mongrel hue
For evermore be gone?
Shall we perchance neglect the day
When "Fortune seems to smile,"
Bequeathing curse from sire to son,
Like "Erin's lovely Isle"?
The Blue has never yet been stained
Its every star is clean;
Why should we wail, As Erin does -
"The Red above the Green?"
The torpid stream - now atent here,
Will surely flow some day,
And equal in its wild career
My native river - Spey.
One word that falls from stranger lips.
In praise of land or race,
Will linger in the patriot's ear
And light his dying face.
Oh! could I for an hour prolong
The agonies of death.
I'd bear it that I still might think
Upon my native heath.
"And thou, my son! My winsome boy,
"Now perched upon my knee,
"My Mother's name and mine combined
Is all I leave to thee.
"If aught that ever I have done
"Should make thee blush with shame
" ??? Social laws perhaps - perhaps
"Shall partly take the blame!
"Then let no craven fear, my boy,
"Arrest thy voice or hand
"From striving for thy manhood's rights
"In this my native land!
"And mays't thou sing some grand new song,
"In praise of land of thine,
"And brighter fortune speed thy lot
"Than ever smiled on mine.
Burketown. July 18 - 1895.
(James McPHERSON suffered a fall from a horse, on July 20,
1895, and died three days later, on July 23, 1895.) note from Edna Macpherson SABATO
"Freedom of Contract Flag"
(Written for The Eagle) By "Poor Jim"
Up, up with this flag - Unfurl it;
For it bears a Legend hoar;
"Tis "that Briton's ne'er were slaves man"
Yet, they bore this flag, before!
Wave, wave this great palladium;
"Tis the heritage of slaves,
As a shroud it still may warm you,
In your cold - forgotten graves!
Turn, turn from your rights dont mind them;
They have lain too long in rust,
And dimm'd by the mist of ages,
die hid, in the trodden dust.
Down, down on your knees in token:
You bend to the yoke again,
The steed that is fitly broken,
Will turn - to the bridle-rein.
Woe, woe to your hapless children
"Tis pity they were born;
For the cursed chains grow stronger;
The longer - they are worn!
"Freedom of Contract" sounds well to the ear,
but, when you come to apply it,
Without due regard to the welfare of others,
it means the destruction of the weaker by the stronger -
(Written for The Eagle) By "Poor Jim"
'Twas not by silver stream we met,
Nor yet by purling brooks
That slip and slide and glint and glide,
In raving poet's book.
'Twas where the brombie makes his home
On Wild-horse Scrubby Creek,
Where vanquished scrubbers often roam
Their wasted strength to seek.
So masterly she reined the mare
So gracefully the while,
And gazed as on some grizzly bear
Come out from dark defile.
As when some thirsty traveller sees
A mirage on the plain;
I stood awhile, but ill at ease
And hoped she would remain.
Then as I neared her on the track
Her eyes looked into mine;
I felt like victim on the rack,
So searched she every line.
She feared to stay and fain would fly:
I spoke and soon she smiled;
The rainbows seemed to deck the sky
And guilty passions quailed.
Then through the woods, while sweeping
My newborn life began,
And love, tho' tis a wee thing,
Oft kills a muckle man.
The graceful form is near me still,
That pleased my fancy best
Though sadly tossed on Fortune's wheel
Away in the wild West.