The Eyesight Test. His Last Trip!

Bad news ! yes, worse luck, it's the truth, mate,
Our journeys together must end,
I have done my last trip on the footplate;
Goodbye and best wishes, old friend.
The blow has been quite unexpected,
I thought I'd some time yet to go;
They say that my sight is affected,
But it don't seem to me to be so.

I know that I can't last for ever;
Father Time rings his changes on all,
And we cannot, no matter how clever,
Escape what's decreed to befall;
But yet I can see very clearly
Every object that shows on the line,
And that not in fine weather merely
But in darkness as well as in shine.

If I thought for a moment by staying
The slightest of risk was being run,
Of course then it goes without saying
I'd know that the best was being done;
But tho' 'praps my sight might be stronger
It has been well trained to the road,
And is still good for many years longer,
No danger through it I forebode.

I know that the work's not alluring.
But it just gives my heart strings a rent
To be told, after years of enduring
And the best of my life has been spent,
I can either resign altogether
Or accept a mere pittance to stay;
After years out in all sorts of weather,
I can take it or leave it, they say.

Not the least sign of pity is shown me,
No kind word to soften the blow;
Like a bone to a dog it is thrown me–
They plainly desire me to go.
But the strain of the roar and the rattle,
As the engine goes rolling along,
Has not left me fit for the battle
Outside 'midst the workless throng.

Whilst in keeping the family around us,
And teaching them all they should know,
Has been a big drain, and has found us
With our banking account rather low;
Then just as it looked all plain sailing,
And the future seemed looming up bright,
The dark cloud entirely prevailing
O'ershadows all traces of light.

I wonder if those in high power,
Who feel in their billets secure,
Ever think that there may come an hour
When they'll know what it means to be poor.
"Every dog has his day" is a saying
That we know very often comes true;
That theirs shall not come, I am praying,
It is best to forgive, and I do.

I suppose it is no use repining,
For the weakest must go to the wall;
And tho' to despond I'm inclining,
I must strive to exist through it all.
Farewell, once again, my old comrade,
Farewell, all old pals on the road;
I've stopped dead at last on the up grade,
Fairly beat by the weight of the load.


From the Herald (Official Organ of the Trades and Labor Council, United Labor Party, and Democratic Societies of South Australia) 25 February 1905.

Reprinted in  The Footplate 9 July 1918.

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