Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Hal Gye was chiefly an Australian illustrator of humorous and political cartoons that appeared in a number of journals and newspapers. He also wrote poetry and articles, most of which were collected and published towards the end of his life, and posthumously, under the pseudonym James Hackston.

The following poem was published in the Bulletin 12 December 1956.

In the manner of Lawson, it illustrates some of the cruelty and hardship of life outside the cities, especially in the bush and the outback., particularly in days gone by.

Our Corrugated-Iron Tank

- James Hackston

Our tank stood on a crazy stand,
Bare to the burning sky.
White-hot as glares the desert sand,
And dismal to the eye.
Its lid was like a rakish hat,
The tap bent all awry
And with a drip so constant that
It almost dripped when dry.

It was a most convenient tank
Wherein most things could fall;
Where snakes came from the bush and drank,
The rabbits used to call,
The mice committed suicide,
The gum-leaves sank to rest,
And in it possums dropped and died
And hornets made their nest.

But stark within my memory
I see it once again
When we looked at it anxiously
Days when we hoped for rain;
I hear the hollow sounds it made,
Like some prophetic drum,
As I tapped rung on rung, afraid
Of dreadful days to come.

When mother in despair would pray
As low the water sank;
Four rungs, three rungs, two rungs and, aye,
How miserly we drank;
And there was none for face or hands.
Waste was a wicked thing,
There in the baked and parching lands,
With hope our early spring.

Next came the fatal "One rung left!"
(How cruel words can be!)
As we all stood of joys bereft,
Dumb in our misery:
And then I tapped the tank in pain -
Those knells of drought and doom:
Our tank at last gone dry again,
Our home cast down in gloom.

But, oh, the joy that filled our hearts
When came the bounteous rain
And the drain-pipe sang in fits and starts
And filled the tank agin!
We felt as if we'd riches won,
That life again was sweet;
And, overjoyed then, everyone,
We even washed our feet!

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