The Sorrows of Billy Barlow




Coppin’s relocation to Hobart must have been a major item of conversation to provoke one of the leading magazines to include a song about him and his character ‘going south’.


The following song from Bell’s Life in Australia. January 1845.




As musing I laid,
‘Neath a bush’s shade,
O’ercome with travel and heat;
Now thinking of home,
Now of things to come,
I heard a gay laugh at my feet.


Yet naught could I see,
Save a bush or a tree,
Nor mortal thing was near,
Yet my heart did rejoice
In the tiny voice,
And the mirth that greeted my ear.


Again and again,
Distant and plain,
The Elphin laugh’d with glee;
Now here now there
As if borne on air,
A spirit of revelry.


I look’d with amaze
With a wonderful gaze,
On each leaf, each blade of grass;
“Look not where I bide,
“I’m a spirit” he cried,
“I’m the essence of laughing gas.”


“A devil, a devil,
“But not of evil,
“A devil of right good cheer –
“A devil am I,
“I laugh till I cry,
“My sides will split! Oh dear.


“Say now where away,
“good devil so gay?”
Laughing, I bawl’d aloud.

“I’m here and I’m there,
“A spirit of air,
“And my palace is yon bright cloud.”


“Why, where have you been,
“What can you have seen,
“That makes you now so gay?”
Where have I been,
“Not far I ween;
“I’m just up from Watson’s Bay.”


“And is there ought there,
“Of frolic so rare,
“To afford thee such mirth and glee.”
“Tell me, good devil,
“The whole of the revel,
“For I revel in devils like thee.”


“Then listen,” said he, and attentively,
“I’ll spin you the yarn all through:
“You shall laugh with me,
“And right merrily,
“For I love to hear others laugh too.”


“Poor Billy Barlow,
“Whom of course you know,
Had taken his passage down,
“To astonish the folks
“With his songs and jokes,
“And gain laurels in Hobart Town.


“And with him away,
“Was a lass gay,
“Whose face I was anxious to see,
“Yet nought could I trace,
“Save grief on her face,
“And she wept most bitterly.


“Poor Billy look’d sad.
“And not half the lad,
“I’ve seen him in his long room,
“Not a soul did he greet,
“As they strode thro’ the street
“O’er his face hung the darkest gloom.


“Now indeed Mrs B.,
“I can plainly see,
“That you’re not disposed to forget it,
“You don’t care for me,
“You’re a thinking of he,
“Stay behind! Don’t you wish you may get it?”


“Thus sighing he spoke,
“T’was aught but a joke,
“Poor Billy B. hung down his head,
“He just turned his back.
“She was off in a crack,
“When he look’d up the bird had fled.


“Oh! raggidy oh!
“Screamed Billy Barlow,
“Oh ‘where on airth’ is she gone?
“She’s off like a shot,
“Another she’s got, “
And Brown I am reg’larly done.


“Oh who can Heal eh!
“This wound I feel – eh!
“Or who can pardon such sin?
”Oh would I have died,
“Before I, he cried,
“Before had ere kept a gin.


“Poor B. was B flat,
“He crushed on his hat,
“In agony bitter he sought her,
“Too sharp was his C,
“AS for inconstancy,
“What blame?
‘Twas he who first taught her.


“Again she was found,
“And again return’d
“Again B. was left to moan;
“Whilst passing South Head,
“She bolted ‘tis said,
“And B. had to go on alone.”


Then chuckling with glee,
I’m off said he,
And remember those adages pat;
Send care to the devil,
A woman’s an evil,
Know thyself man – laugh and grow fat.