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The Old Camp-Oven

Edward George Dyson 1865 (Ballarat, Victoria) – 1931 (Saint Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria)



WE DON’T keep a grand piano in our hut beside the creek,
And I’m pretty certain Hannah couldn’t bang it, anyhow,
But we’ve got one box of music, and I’d rather hear its squeak
Than the daisiest cantata that’s been fashioned up to now.
It’s an old camp-oven merely, with a handle made of wire,
But no organ built could nearly compensate to me for it
When I come off graft and find it playing tunes before the fire,
And I’m feeling sort of vacant, but just wonder fully fit.

In its sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
There’s a thousand little airs,
And no man can sit and grizzle
’Bout his troubles and his cares
While the flames are gaily winding,
And the tea is down to brew,
And the old camp-oven’s grinding
All the reels he ever knew.

When the wet winds meet and whip me in the early winter nights,
And the hissing hailstones clip me all the way across the flat,
As I battle for’ards, water-logged, toward the beckoning lights,
There is always there a welcome to console a chap for that.
For my little wife is beaming brisk and bright beside the lamp,
And the old camp-oven’s going. Gosh! I feel just like a kid
As I peel and sluice so slippy, and I hear the storm winds vamp
To the singing of the oven when the missus lifts the lid.

There’s a sizzle and a splutter
And a whirr of many harps;
Where’s the instrument can utter
Such a maze of flats and sharps?
Not for me the great creations
When the old camp-oven plays
‘Home Sweet Home,’ with variations,
At the end of working days.

In the evenings dim and hazy, stretched outside along a butt,
Feeling reasonably lazy, blowing clouds that curl and climb,
I can hear the old camp-oven on the logs before the hut
Ripping out a mellow chorus that just suits the place and time.
If we strike it in the ranges, or The Windmill turns out well,
I suppose there’ll be some changes, and I’ll want to make things gee;
But the time will never happen when I’ll be so steep a swell
That the old camp-oven’s measure won’t be melody to me.

’Neath its bubble, bubble, bubble,
There’s the lilt of jigs and reels;
All the common kind of trouble
That the horney-handed feels
Is wiped out in half a minute
By the restfulness it brings,
And the peaceful rapture in it
When the old camp-oven sings.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Edward George Dyson

Edward George Dyson, or 'Ted' Dyson, was an Australian journalist, poet, playwright and short story writer. He was the elder brother of illustrators Will Dyson (1880–1938) and Ambrose Dyson (1876–1913), with three sisters also of artistic and literary praise. Dyson wrote under several – some say many – nom-de-plumes, including Silas Snell. In his day, the period of Australia's federation, the poet and writer was 'ranked very closely to Australia's greatest short-story writer, Henry Lawson'. With Lawson known as the 'swagman poet', Ogilvie the 'horseman poet', Dyson was the 'mining poet'. Although known as a freelance writer, he was also considered part of The Bulletin writer group. more…

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