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Now I'm Easy -- Eric Bogle

Guest poem submitted by Frank O'Shea :
(Poem #1557) Now I'm Easy
 For nearly sixty years I've been a cockie*
 Of droughts and fires and floods I've lived through plenty
 This country's dust and mud have seen my tears and blood
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

 I married a fine girl when I was twenty
 She died in giving birth when she was thirty
 No flying doctor then just a gentle old black gen*
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

 She left me with two sons and a daughter
 And a bone dry farm whose soil cried out for water
 Though me care was rough and ready, they grew up fine and steady
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

 Me daughter married young and went her own way
 Me sons lie buried by the Burma railway*
 So on this land I've made me home, I've carried on alone
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

 Oh, city folks these days despise the cockie
 Saying with subsidies and dole we've had it easy
 But there's no drought or starving stock on the sewered suburban block
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

 For nearly sixty years I've been a cockie
 Of droughts and fires and floods I've lived through plenty
 This country's dust and mud have seen my tears and blood
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy
 But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy
-- Eric Bogle

I agree with the comments of Aseem Kaul that the words of songs can be
poetry. I dare you read today's poem without a lump in your throat. It was
written by Eric Bogle, who already features in your list for "The Band
Played Waltzing Matilda". He has written some marvellous lyrics - "The Green
Fields of France", "The Leaving of Nancy", "The Diamantina Drover", "Singing
the Spirit Home".


cockie: Australian term for a farmer, usually small farmer. Often used
pejoratively. Abbreviated from cockatoo, for some reason that escapes me.

gen: Aboriginal woman. A term used affectionately, I think.

Burma railway: hundreds of Australian servicemen lost their lives
constructing it as POWs during the War.


50 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

rita liddle said...


cockie: Australian term for a farmer, usually small farmer. Often used
pejoratively. Abbreviated from cockatoo, for some reason that escapes me.

gen: Aboriginal woman. A term used affectionately, I think.


At the risk of sounding pedantic and perhaps even collecting egg on my face since I'm only a "new" Australian:

"Cockie" is actually an affectionate term, although it's sometimes used by the farmer himself, in that typical (and endearing) Aussie self-deprecating way.

As to "gen", which I think is spelled "gin": that one is definately pejorative and used nowadays by red-neck racists only.

Love Eric Bogle.


Craig & Yvette Middleton said...

As an Australian all my life, Rita is correct, the spelling is "gin" for aboriginal woman and (now I'll sound pedantic) "cocky" for a farmer, especially one who farms in a small way. Thus "cow-cocky" for a dairy farmer. Apart from my own general knowledge, I name the Macquarie Dictionary (Australia's premier and wholly Australian dictionary) as my source. "Gin" is most definitely NOT used by reasonable people and most certainly not in an affectionate manner.

rita liddle said...

Arrrrgh Arrrrrgh Arrrrrrrgh !

Why am I always so generous with stones, when I go to the glass house? Hmmmmpfffff.

Of course, it's CockY !!

And you are not pedantic at all to point it out, Yvette, in fact you are rather generous in gently, and discreetly alerting me to another one of my eternal spelling mistakes, by simply using the word, spelled correctly ;-) I'll let the gentle reader find out which one hehehe.

Is Eric Bogle Australian or Scottish and who writes his poignant lyrics?

rita liddle said...

Whoops, apologies to you Frank for my question about the author of the lyrics - you gave the answer in your original commentary.

*I'm going to sit in the corner now, and listen to some Eric Bogle* ;-)

Frank O'Shea said...

I am happy to be corrected on "cocky" and "gin" - after 20 years in the
country, I am still learning the local "language." For an American reader,
please do not think that because the latter word is used, the author is in
any way racist. In fact, my assumption that it was an affectionate term
came from the fact that it was used by such a fearless defender of the weak
and downtrodden.

Eric Bogle was born in Scotland, but now lives in Australia. The Nancy in
his "Leaving of Nancy" is his mother; as one who has been through a similar
situation, I find it hard to listen to that song, especially as it is sung
by Finbar Furey. The Fureys also had a huge success with his "Green Fields
of France", but many other artists have also recorded it. Christy Moore has
recorded "Diamantina Drover" and "Now I'm Easy."

Everyone should have an Eric Bogle CD, for listening to when the lies and
cliches of our political masters appear to be drowning us.

Frank O'Shea

rita liddle said...

I agree with Frank about the stand Bogle takes on behalf of the downtrodden and would add, that his anti-war poetry (which many of his songs are in my view) also has such a ring of authenticity about it, that I have seen the eyes of 'diggers', who would sneer at most so-called "protest songs", moisten when they listened to that song which says: "he was only 19...".

Speculating on Bogle's mention of "Gin":

Since the 'narrator' of 'Now I'm Easy' was obviously born at the beginning of the 20th century (having 2 sons die on the Burma Railway) , "gin" in the Zeitgeist of that period might not have had the absolutely negative connotation it has now, in our more "enlightened" times. Perhaps it's usage was accepted as was the word "wench" in earlier times...

Craig & Yvette Middleton said...

Rita, I agree with you about "I Was Only Nineteen" (Vietnam), which was a Redgum song (John Schuman wrote it) and Bogle's "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"(Gallipoli) as being probably the best two anti-war songs I've heard. Both move me to tears whenever I hear them. Particularly when registration for the conscription ballot (sorry, 'National Service') was compulsory from the age of 18; but the poor fellows couldn't vote until they were 21. Of the 500 plus Australian men who died in Vietnam, one was a friend's elder brother and another was my teacher's fiance. My friend's father never recovered and my teacher never came back to the school.

I have read Eric Bogle had been in Australia only two years when he wrote "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". It is just stunning that he captured the essence of Anzac Day (the Australian national day of commemoration of all wars - since WW1 - which marks the dawn landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915)[ANZAC: Australian New Zealand Army Corps], Gallipoli and war's waste and futility in just a few verses. He's brilliant. I should try to find the Redgum lyrics for inclusion on the site, because they're so evocative too.

Rita, I agree that the term "gin" might not be quite as bad then, as now. I think it was a way of expressing one's own white European superiority, in referring to aboriginal women as "gins" or "girls" (when of any age). And I wasn't try to show up any spelling mistakes!!!

That's it from me!

rita liddle said...

Hi Yvette :)

>>> "...the best two anti-war songs I've heard. Both move me to tears whenever I hear them. Particularly when registration for the conscription ballot (sorry, 'National Service') was compulsory from the age of 18; but the poor fellows couldn't vote until they were 21..."

I was not aware of that: old enough to be canon fodder, but not old enough to have a say in who sends me to my death !! :(((
Is it true that they pulled the names for conscription to Vietnam out, according to alphabetical order?

>>>"... I should try to find the Redgum lyrics for inclusion on the site, because they're so evocative too..."

Yes, please. I did not know the song "I was only 19" was a Redgum song, nor did I know it was about Vietnam.

>>>"...And I wasn't try to show up any spelling mistakes!!!"

Hey, that was obvious ! That's why I put a "winky" like so: " ;-) " in my answer. If anyone looked like a spelling police person, it was surely me.

Nice talking to you.:)

MBoyle06 said...

Although Eric Bogle is without doubt a very talented song writer, a few folk
singers i have spoken to (and some quite famous) have said he has a very
condescending manner. I also think he is quite anti -irish in some of his lyrics
(see the words for plastic paddy)
Can't take the fact that he is one hell of a song writer away from
him though.

MB, Stow, Scotish Borders

Joseph L Mc Namara said...

Having met and sung w/Eric, I couldn't agree w/ you more. The cockie bit
came from the assumption (probably true) that the Cockies were forced to
eat the cockatooes when times were tough. Let me hear from you and please
give me your whole site as I lost it. God Bless!

Dwight Woods said...

Somewhere among my CDs, I have an album by Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy with both this song and "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". I disremember the name of the album but the artists do excellent sentimental renditions of both songs. I have gone through an extended spell where I have forsaken music for reading, etc, and I now have the urge to look up the CD and have another listen. Though I am from South Carolina, I spent much of my youth drinking in Irish bars in NYC and have a keen nostalgia those sad Irish (OK, Australian, but the songs were mostly about Irish transplants of course) ballads.

In reference to the use of "gin": My family has lived here in South Carolina before there was a US and the colony was called just "Carolina". It was a hardscrabble place with many of the same hardships and class structures as OZ although the settlers here were voluntary rather than transportees as many in Oz. We never had much until my Great grandfather had some success as a truck farmer during reconstruction and into 20th century. We were mostly small farmers, which class is notorious for providing many of the most virulent racists. I am sure that some of these haunt my past but the family I knew, despite looking down on blacks, did not hate them or thrive off of abusing them. My Grandfather ran a plantation store for a short while but I suspect that quit because he did not like the degrading and economically abusive system it presented. He was a devout christian and lying or cheating someone was a mortal sin.
Anyway, my point is that it is necessary to use currently offensive words in a historical context to provide "truth" of the past. Of course, I am not suggesting that these words have lost all their power but morphed in meaning and intent. Though we dislike the discomfort of ugly memories and associations, if we shrug them off at proper times we can feel pride of how much we have achieved and how differently they strike in a modern context. Mark Twain used the word "nigger" frequently in his American classics despite his abhorrance of slavery and it unfortunately serves as an excuse for well meaning but ignorant people to decry those superb novels. By the time I came along (born 1947) my family did not use the word but uttered "nigra" instead and frowned on use of "nigger" as a sign of poor character and a low abusive personality. I confess to sometimes using it today without racial associations but in line with the definition being a degraded person of low morals and intellect. It is, in my usage, still a base, derogatory term which I would like to replace.
Other now offensive, racially charged and abandoned terms that spring to mind are "Aunt" or "Auntie" and "Uncle" (used with their names- Aunt Sarah) used in addressing elderly black people. I was taught this as a sign of respect for their age and dignity but my world was small and I now have no problem seeing how patronizing it is to use it, especially when talking to strangers. Nonetheless, the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris give us a dignified view of black slaves lives when not in the company of or under the thumb of white adults and it would be terrible to lose this side of a complex issue. Harris was a Macon,Ga newspaperman when he wrote these stories waxing nostalgic in an honest attempt to truthfully remember a man he loved in his youth and influenced him deeply. Since he was a young child at the time of the stories, Harris did not see any pain in this man's life and does not relate any. It does not mean that he was suggesting Uncle Remus lived a life of bliss and ease.

Thanks to those who tolerated my maunderings,
Dwight Woods

The Carolina Aborigine
White Woof World, USA

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