Almanac Poetry: ‘Men of `Fifty-Four’



Bakery Hill on December 1, 1854: “Swearing Allegiance to the ‘Southern Cross’ ” by Charles Doudiet. c. 1854. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)



Men of ’Fifty-four

But how was it they talked low, and their eyes brightened up, and they didn’t look at each other, but away over sunset, and had to get up and walk about, and take a stroll in the cool of the evening when they talked about Eureka?

Henry Lawson – ‘An Old Mate of Your Father’s’


I’ve become an old fart,

haven’t I? Lawson’s

‘An Old Mate of Your Father’s’

resonates in my guts,

shivers up my backbone.

It’s part of my cultural DNA.

The lingering loss … the loneliness …

I feel like crying

into my bitter beer.


Watercolour painting of the Eureka Stockade Riot, Ballarat, 1854, by John Black Henderson. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)


(Acknowledgement: first appeared in Orpheus in the Undershirt, Ginninderra Press, 2018.)


To read more from Kevin Densley CLICK HERE.



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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, will be published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Kevin Densley says

    A bit more about the top image in this post, from good ol’ Wikipedia – particularly interesting, I believe:

    “Charles Alphonse Doudiet (1832 – June 13, 1913) was a Swiss-born Canadian artist and digger present at the Eureka Stockade, Ballarat … in 1854. His sketchbook, discovered by his descendants in 1996, has provided contemporary images of events connected to the Eureka Rebellion, that were important for the authentication of the original Eureka Flag.”

  2. Shane Reid says

    Thanks for your poem Kevin. I don’t know if it is getting older but I’ve been finding Lawson and Banjo much more appealing now than I ever have. It’s a real can opener to the Aussie soul, your poem adds to the glorious narrative.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Cheers, Shane. Thanks for your comments.

    Yes, I really think there is a connection – and by no means a negative one, really (when I refer to “old fart” in the poem, I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek) – between getting older and liking Lawson and Banjo more. In the same context, more than ever before, I find that I’m liking the same Country and Western music my father played on the stereo when I was a kid!

    And “can opener to the Aussie soul” what a memorable and evocative expression!

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