Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The shearer at the pearly gates

The shearer knocked on the pearly gates
He looked tired and worn
The keeper asked 'what do you do?'
He said 'a shearer, for 50 years I've shorn'

The pearly gates flew open
As Peter rang the bell
'Come in my boy and bring your harp,
You've already done your time in hell'

The trope of workers leaving the hell on earth to go to heaven is common form the convict days to the present.

A railway version published "Eveleigh News" the news sheet of the Eveleigh Loco Shop Committee goes like this:

A man stood at the pearly gates,
His face was worn and old
And meekly asked the man of fate,
Admission to the 'fold'.

"What deed can you account for
To gain admission here?"
"Why I worked at Eveleigh Loco
Until my dying year."

The gate swung open sharp,
As St. Peter touched the bell,
"Come in," he said "and take a Harp,
You've had enough of 'Hell'.

In 1893 Henry Lawson wrote in a similar vein in his poem St Peter:

Now, I think there is a likeness 'twixt St Peter's life and mine
For he did a lot of trampin' long ago in Palestine
He was 'union' when the workers first began to organize
And I'm glad that old St Peter keeps the gate of Paradise

When the ancient agitator and his brothers carried swags
I've no doubt he very often tramped with empty tucker-bags
And I'm glad he's Heaven's picket, for I hate explainin' things
And he'll think a union ticket just as good as Whitely King's

When I reach the great head-station -which is somewhere 'off the track'
I won't want to talk with angels who have never been out back
They might bother me with offers of a banjo meanin' well
And a pair of wings to fly with, when I only want a spell

I'll just ask for old St Peter, and I think, when he appears
I will only have to tell him that I carried swag for years
'I've been on the track,' I'll tell him, 'an' I done the best I could'
And he'll understand me better than the other angels would

He won't try to get a chorus out of lungs that's worn to rags
Or to graft the wings on shoulders that is stiff with humpin' swags
But I'll rest about the station where the work-bell never rings
Till they blow the final trumpet and the Great Judge sees to things

And the Frank the Poet in his 1829 epic "A Convict's Tour to Hell" penned these lines:

At length I found that happy place
Where all the woes of mortals cease
And rapping loudly at the wicket
Cried Peter, where's your certificate
Or if you have not one to show
Pray who in Heaven do you know?
Well I know Brave Donohue
Young Troy and Jenkins too
And many others whom floggers mangled
And lastly were by Jack Ketch strangled
Peter, says Jesus, let Frank in
For he is thoroughly purged from sin
And although in convict's habit dressed
Here he shall be a welcome guest

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