Ion (Jack) Llewellyn Idriess 1889-1979

Dedicated to the Life and Works of

Jack wrote some poetry. Was there more?

 In Back o’ Cairns (p70) Jack describes his first attempt at poetry around the Council Fire with Old Mick, the romantic bush poet, and his other mates. Jack wrote:

That awful night came when I had to face the Council, and they'd made sure it was a full Council, too. Hardly daring to smirk at the expectant faces grinning round that bright fire, I mumbled through my first "pome". I've got it beside me on the table in the old notes, but daren't insert it here. 

Instead of a tirade of disdain the audience broke into congratulations, of course they would. Old Mick's grizzled face was all wrinkled up in delight.

"Bravo! Bravo! You must send that to the       `Bullerteen' lad! You must!"

Like hell I will! I thought.

"We never dreamt you had it in you, Jack." Garnet winked. "Two poets in Nigger Creek! Well, well. You can never judge a book by its cover. How true!" 

Old Brookes and little Turley congratulated me warmly. Uneasily I glanced at the amused Jim Bell. 

"Two poets in Nigger Creek!" he declared. "Three goats! And the one with the horns the most human of the lot!"

Later in Back o’ Cairns (pp115-116) Jack did include one of his poems:

When Girlie Goes Looking for Nuts

"The doctors tell us that our bones
To them a tale unfold,
Of how we're degenerating
From the usual human mould.

"For we are slipping back, they say,
To what we were before,
And by our tails will swing from trees
In a thousand years or more.

"But this to me seems passing strange,
'Tis laughable if true,
I pray my ghost will live to see
The troubles it will brew.

"How will a politician look
If monkey he must be?
Will he harangue the crowd for votes
While sitting on a tree?

"And will he promise them the nuts
Of others that he'll scatter,
And waste the precious fleeing hours
On things that do not matter?

"What tickles me, though, most of all
Is how will Girlie take it-
Will she quite spring up from her tail
Should a male monk strive to shake it?

"And will she comb her pretty fur
Then gaze upon a pool?
And will she fold her furry tail
When sitting on a stool?

"Or will she pass her time of day
In looking out for nuts,
Or coyly wander through the bush
A shyly meeting knuts?

"Or maybe she will climb a tree
And crack upon her knees,
The really choice collection
Of her daily catch of fleas.

"Oh joy 'twill be if I am there
To watch the pretty dears,
To watch their little antics
In another thousand years!"

Jack went on to write (p116):

The response was all that any poet could aspire to though one of the stray mongrels, not to be outdone, began energetically scratching an ear.

"Get to blazes out of it, you flea-bitten mongrel!" ordered Old Brookes. "Spraying your fleas all over us!"

No wonder," said Jim Bell, "after what he's just had to listen to!"

"Now, Jack, that really is poetry!" declared Mick enthusiastically. "You just must send that to the Bullerteen!" and his grizzled old face was all lit up.

"Bravo! Bravo!" Garnet clapped. "Milton and Paradise Lost have nothing on the poets of Nigger Creek!"

"Except fleas!" said Jim Bell.

"Shut up, you goats!" I protested.

"But it's real good, Jack," declared Old Brookes solemnly, "and so true to life!" 

Jack also reproduced another poem that he attributed to Old Mick Moore
(Back o' Cairns, pp93/94) titled:

The Review

I sat by the campfire musing,
On the dead, departed Past,
While spectral thoughts on memory's -wings
Came crowding round me fast.

And golden scenes were rising,
Through the magic-tinted air,
When Earth seemed mostly Dreamland,
And life surpassing fair.

And I was thinking, musing,
If life was made in vain.
I've had my share of pleasure,
I've had my share of pain.

On fleeting -wings of happiness
Those brilliant years did fly;
In robes of sweetness glowing,
Each golden month sped by.

Then, life was a sparkling Eden,
Where every dream proved true,
While Youth remained my bounty,
And Hope my pleadings knew.

My musing now is changing
To a misty, fog-bound land.
And I was gently veering
To Tassy's rugged strand.

I thought old friends were round me,
And old, familiar scenes.
And I forgot the bitterness
That follows after dreams.

My musing now was drifting
To that distant Mulga Land,
Where the lonely traveller’s walking
Through a treeless waste of sand.

Where lies the gold alluring,
So many have led astray.
Where Hope is so assuring
That Pate might her obey.

The fire hums low—the moon has gone,
The sky is sullen black.
With never a thought like a silver star
To shine through the future track.

The Past has gone, the future's near—
A vista of dragging fears.
No wonder that many a man goes mad
At the phantom of coming years.

And it must have been one of the more poetic periods of Jack's literary life for, again in Back o' Cairns, he reproduced another of Mick's poems:

The Belle of Nigger Creek

Some say it's dark-eyed Polly,
More say it's Rose or Nell,
But I think it's only folly
To try and -pick the belle.


There's lovely minds in Nigger Creek
Both white and. black and brawn,
And I think it's height of insolence
To look for girls in town.


For here you'll find the prettiest maids
That any could wish to see,
And some their colour never fades
Through dye of ancestry.


We'll toast them all in sparkling wine,
The dark ones and the fair,
And when we find that precious tin
We'll have a grand time there.


Were these really the work of "Old" Mick Moore or were they Jack's poems? I do't know but I can't find much poetry that Jack wrote. Except one. And I haver lost the source.

You’ve heard we won Jerusalem
And all the country wide
But the part that scuttled Abdul
Was the great Beer Sheba ride
We were camped by Tel el Fara
On the Wadi, in the sand
And we rode away, tho’Gentile
To win the Promised Land

At dark we crossed the Wadi
And rode throughout the night
We came to Beer el Sani
By the morning hazy light.
There you heard a welcome “whinny”
The horses sniffed the air
We knew that there was water
For man and beast to spare.

We moved ahead at gloaming
With horses fresh and strong
An easy ride by moonlight
The track we rode was long.
We drew the rein at Khalasa,
Where Christian tombs lay still,
And thought of old Crusaders,
Who kept that lonely hill.

Twas long hard dry and dusty
And “Jacko’s” chief ally
Was the lack of drinking water
To troops who made the try
The last halt was at Asluj
By the Minaret and well;
We had to take Beer Sheba
E’re we had another spell

The night time found us snoring
Small halt to ease the pace
The Taubes had seen us coming
And all hung on the race.
The Bedouin in their humpies
Who rise before the sun
Were sleeping calm and peaceful
When we made the final run

Full sixty miles by break-o-day
Around the “Jacko’s” flank
Our guns blew their reveille
On Tel-el-Saba bank.
A gallant charge by men on foot
A reckless race on horse
And “The ANZAC’s have Beer Sheba!”
Went tickling o’er the morse.

And now we’re in the sandhills
No Colonel rides the grey;
For he rode him to Valhalla
On the lone Beer Sheba way.
Not on ahead in fleeting dust
And caught by touch of spur
The boys who form his escort
Are gone to God knows where.