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Title:  Popular Verses
Author: Henry Lawson
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Language: English
Date first posted:  August 2020
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Popular Verses

by
Henry Lawson

CONTENTS

The Ports Of The Open Sea
      Down here where the ships loom large in

The Three Kings
      The East is dead and the West is done, and again our course lies thus:—

The Outside Track
    There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,

Sydney-Side
    Where’s the steward?—Bar-room steward? Berth? Oh, any berth will do—

The Rovers
    Some born of homely parents

Foreign Lands
    You may roam the wide seas over, follow, meet, and cross the sun,

Mary Lemaine
    Jim Duff was a ‘native,’ as wild as could be;

The Shakedown On The Floor
    Set me back for twenty summers—

Reedy River
    Ten miles down Reedy River

Old Stone Chimney
    The rising moon on the peaks was blending

Song Of The Old Bullock-Driver
    Far Back in the days when the blacks used to ramble

The Lights Of Cobb And Co.
    Fire lighted, on the table a meal for sleepy men,

How The Land Was Won
    The future was dark and the past was dead

The Boss Over The Board
    When he’s over a rough and unpopular shed,

When The Ladies Come To The Shearing Shed
    ‘The ladies are coming,’ the super says

The Ballad Of The Rouseabout
    A rouseabout of rouseabouts, from any land—or none—

Years After The War In Australia
    The big rough boys from the runs out back were first where the balls flew free,

The Old Jimmy Woodser
    The old Jimmy Woodser comes into the bar,

The Christ Of The ‘Never’
    With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce

The Cattle-Dog’s Death
    The plains lay bare on the homeward route,

The Song Of The Darling River
    The skies are brass and the plains are bare,

Rain In The Mountains
    The valley’s full of misty cloud,

A May Night On The Mountains
    ’Tis a wonderful time when these hours begin,

The New Chum Jackaroo
    Let bushmen think as bushmen will,

The Dons Of Spain
    The Eagle screams at the beck of trade, so Spain, as the world goes round,

The Bursting Of The Boom
    The shipping office clerks are ‘short,’ the manager is gruff—

Antony Villa
    Over there, above the jetty, stands the mansion of the Vardens,

Second Class Wait Here
    On suburban railway stations—you may see them as you pass—

The Ships That Won’t Go Down
    We hear a great commotion

The Men We Might Have Been
    When God’s wrath-cloud is o’er me

The Way Of The World
    When fairer faces turn from me,

The Battling Days
    So, sit you down in a straight-backed chair, with your pipe and your wife content,

Written Afterwards
    So the days of my tramping are over,

The Uncultured Rhymer To His Cultured Critics
    Fight through ignorance, want, and care—

The Writer’s Dream
    A writer wrote of the hearts of men, and he followed their tracks afar;

The Jolly Dead March
    If I ever be worthy or famous—

The Ports Of The Open Sea

Down here where the ships loom large in
    The gloom when the sea-storms veer,
Down here on the south-west margin
    Of the western hemisphere,
Where the might of a world-wide ocean
    Round the youngest land rolls free—
Storm-bound from the world’s commotion,
    Lie the Ports of the Open Sea.

By the bluff where the grey sand reaches
    To the kerb of the spray-swept street,
By the sweep of the black sand beaches
    From the main-road travellers’ feet,
By the heights like a work Titanic,
    Begun ere the gods’ work ceased,
By a bluff-lined coast volcanic
    Lie the Ports of the wild South-east.

By the steeps of the snow-capped ranges,
    By the scarped and terraced hills—
Far away from the swift life-changes,
    From the wear of the strife that kills—
Where the land in the Spring seems younger
    Than a land of the Earth might be—
Oh! the hearts of the rovers hunger
    For the Ports of the Open Sea.

But the captains watch and hearken
    For a sign of the South Sea wrath—
Let the face of the South-east darken,
    And they turn to the ocean path.
Ay, the sea-boats dare not linger,
    Whatever the cargo be;
When the South-east lifts a finger
    By the Ports of the Open Sea.

South by the bleak Bluff faring,
    North where the Three Kings wait,
South-east the tempest daring—
    Flight through the storm-tossed strait;
Yonder a white-winged roamer
    Struck where the rollers roar—
Where the great green froth-flaked comber
    Breaks down on a black-ribbed shore.

For the South-east lands are dread lands
    To the sailor in the shrouds,
Where the low clouds loom like headlands,
    And the black bluffs blur like clouds.
When the breakers rage to windward
    And the lights are masked a-lee,
And the sunken rocks run inward
    To a Port of the Open Sea.

But oh! for the South-east weather—
    The sweep of the three-days’ gale—
When, far through the flax and heather,
    The spindrift drives like hail.
Glory to man’s creations
    That drive where the gale grows gruff,
When the homes of the sea-coast stations
    Flash white from the dark’ning bluff!

When the swell of the South-east rouses
    The wrath of the Maori sprite,
And the brown folk flee their houses
    And crouch in the flax by night,
And wait as they long have waited—
    In fear as the brown folk be—
The wave of destruction fated
    For the Ports of the Open Sea.

* * * * *

Grey cloud to the mountain bases,
    Wild boughs that rush and sweep;
On the rounded hills the tussocks
    Like flocks of flying sheep;
A lonely storm-bird soaring
    O’er tussock, fern and tree;
And the boulder beaches roaring
    The Hymn of the Open Sea.

The Three Kings

[Three sea-girt pinnacles off North Cape, New Zealand.]

The East is dead and the West is done, and again our course lies thus:—
South-east by Fate and the Rising Sun where the Three Kings wait for us.
When our hearts are young and the world is wide, and the heights seem grand to climb—
We are off and away to the Sydney-side; but the Three Kings bide their time.

‘I’ve been to the West,’ the digger said: he was bearded, bronzed and old;
‘Ah, the smothering curse of the East is wool, and the curse of the West is gold.
‘I went to the West in the golden boom, with Hope and a life-long mate,
‘They sleep in the sand by the Boulder Soak, and long may the Three Kings wait.’

‘I’ve had my fling on the Sydney-side,’ said a black-sheep to the sea,
‘Let the young fool learn when he can’t be taught: I’ve learnt what’s good for me.’
And he gazed ahead on the sea-line dim—grown dim in his softened eyes—
With a pain in his heart that was good for him—as he saw the Three Kings rise.

A pale girl sits on the foc’sle head—she is back, Three Kings! so soon;
But it seems to her like a life-time dead since she fled with him ‘saloon.’
There is refuge still in the old folks’ arms for the child that loved too well;
They will hide her shame on the Southern farm—and the Three Kings will not tell.

’Twas a restless heart on the tide of life, and a false star in the skies
That led me on to the deadly strife where the Southern London lies;
But I dream in peace of a home for me, by a glorious southern sound,
As the sunset fades from a moonlit sea, and the Three Kings show us round.

Our hearts are young and the old hearts old, and life on the farms is slow,
And away in the world there is fame and gold—and the Three Kings watch us go.
Our heads seem wise and the world seems wide, and its heights are ours to climb,
So it’s off and away in our youthful pride—but the Three Kings bide our time.

The Outside Track

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
    And one on the for’ard hatch;
No straighter mate to his mates than he
    Had ever said: ‘Len’s a match!’
’Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
    ’Twill be long ere we grip your hand!—
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
    Till the whole wide world seemed grand.

        For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
            They marry and vanish and die;
        But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
            As long as the years go by.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
    That rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
    As the dark tide came between.

We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
    And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
    And the land he had left behind.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
    But my heart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell
    When the steamer had passed the point
We drifted home through the public bars,
    We were ten times less by one
Who sailed out under the morning stars,
    And under the rising sun.

And one by one, and two by two,
    They have sailed from the wharf since then;
I have said good-bye to the last I knew,
    The last of the careless men.
And I can’t but think that the times we had
    Were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass
    And drink to the bar-room wall.

        But I’ll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
            Then a last good-bye to the bush;
        For my heart’s away on the Outside Track,
            On the track of the steerage push.

Sydney-Side

Where’s the steward?—Bar-room steward? Berth? Oh, any berth will do—
I have left a three-pound billet just to come along with you.
Brighter shines the Star of Rovers on a world that’s growing wide,
But I think I’d give a kingdom for a glimpse of Sydney-Side.

Run of rocky shelves at sunrise, with their base on ocean’s bed;
Homes of Coogee, homes of Bondi, and the lighthouse on South Head;
For in loneliness and hardship—and with just a touch of pride—
Has my heart been taught to whisper, ‘You belong to Sydney-Side.’

Oh, there never dawned a morning, in the long and lonely days,
But I thought I saw the ferries streaming out across the bays—
And as fresh and fair in fancy did the picture rise again
As the sunrise flushed the city from Woollahra to Balmain.

And the sunny water frothing round the liners black and red,
And the coastal schooners working by the loom of Bradley’s Head;
And the whistles and the sirens that re-echo far and wide—
All the life and light and beauty that belong to Sydney-Side.

And the dreary cloud-line never veiled the end of one day more,
But the city set in jewels rose before me from ‘The Shore.’
Round the sea-world shine the beacons of a thousand ports o’ call,
But the harbour-lights of Sydney are the grandest of them all!

Toiling out beyond Coolgardie—heart and back and spirit broke,
Where the Rover’s Star gleams redly in the desert by the ‘soak’—
But says one mate to the other, ‘Brace your lip and do not fret,
We will laugh on trains and ’buses—Sydney’s in the same place yet.’

Working in the South in winter, to the waist in dripping fern,
Where the local spirit hungers for each ‘saxpence’ that we earn—
We can stand it for a season, for our world is growing wide,
And they all are friends and strangers who belong to Sydney-Side.

‘T’other-siders! T’other-siders!’ Yet we wake the dusty dead;
It is we that send the backward province fifty years ahead;
We it is that ‘trim’ Australia—making narrow country wide—
Yet we’re always T’other-siders till we sail for Sydney-side.

 

The Rovers

Some born of homely parents
    For ages settled down—
The steady generations
    Of village, farm, and town:
And some of dusky fathers
    Who wandered since the flood—
The fairest skin or darkest
    Might hold the roving blood—

Some born of brutish peasants,
    And some of dainty peers,
In poverty or plenty
    They pass their early years;
But, born in pride of purple,
    Or straw and squalid sin,
In all the far world corners
    The wanderers are kin.

A rover or a rebel,
    Conceived and born to roam,
As babies they will toddle
    With faces turned from home;
They’ve fought beyond the vanguard
    Wherever storm has raged,
And home is but a prison
    They pace like lions caged.

They smile and are not happy;
    They sing and are not gay;
They weary, yet they wander;
    They love, and cannot stay;
They marry, and are single
    Who watch the roving star,
For, by the family fireside,
    Oh, lonely men they are!

They die of peace and quiet—
    The deadly ease of life;
They die of home and comfort;
    They live in storm and strife;
No poverty can tie them,
    Nor wealth nor place restrain—
Girl, wife, or child might draw them,
    But they’ll be gone again!

Across the glowing desert;
    Through naked trees and snow;
Across the rolling prairies
    The skies have seen them go;
They fought to where the ocean
    Receives the setting sun;—
But where shall fight the rovers
    When all the lands are won?

They thirst on Greenland snowfields,
    On Never-Never sands;
Where man is not to conquer
    They conquer barren lands;
They feel that most are cowards,
    That all depends on ‘nerve,’
They lead who cannot follow,
    They rule who cannot serve.

Across the plains and ranges,
    Away across the seas,
On blue and green horizons
    They camp by twos and threes;
They hold on stormy borders
    Of states that trouble earth
The honour of the country
    That only gave them birth.

Unlisted, uncommissioned,
    Untaught of any school,
In far-away world corners
    Unconquered tribes they rule;
The lone hand and revolver—
    Sad eyes that never quail—
The lone hand and the rifle
    That win where armies fail.

They slumber sound where murder
    And treachery are bare—
The pluck of self-reliance,
    The pluck of past despair;
Thin brown men in pyjamas—
    The thin brown wiry men!—
The helmet and revolver
    That lie beside the pen.

Through drought and desolation
    They won the way Out Back;
The commonplace and selfish
    Have followed on their track;
They conquer lands for others,
    For others find the gold,
But where shall go the rovers
    When all the lands are old?

A rover and a rebel—
    And so the worlds commence!
Their hearts shall beat as wildly
    Ten generations hence;
And when the world is crowded—
    ’Tis signed and sealed by Fate—
The roving blood will rise to make
    The countries desolate.

 

Foreign Lands

You may roam the wide seas over, follow, meet, and cross the sun,
Sail as far as ships can sail, and travel far as trains can run;
You may ride and tramp wherever range or plain or sea expands,
But the crowd has been before you, and you’ll not find ‘Foreign Lands;’
            For the Early Days are over,
            And no more the white-winged rover
Sinks the gale-worn coast of England bound for bays in Foreign Lands.

Foreign Lands are in the distance dim and dreamlike, faint and far,
Long ago, and over yonder, where our boyhood fancies are,
For the land is by the railway cramped as though with iron bands,
And the steamship and the cable did away with Foreign Lands.
            Ah! the days of blue and gold!
            When the news was six months old—
But the news was worth the telling in the days of Foreign Lands.

Here we slave the dull years hopeless for the sake of Wool and Wheat
Here the homes of ugly Commerce—niggard farm and haggard street;
Yet our mothers and our fathers won the life the heart demands—
Less than fifty years gone over, we were born in Foreign Lands.

When the gipsies stole the children still, in village tale and song,
And the world was wide to travel, and the roving spirit strong;
When they dreamed of South Sea Islands, summer seas and coral strands—
Then the bravest hearts of England sailed away to Foreign Lands,
            ‘Fitting foreign’—flood and field—
            Half the world and orders sealed—
And the first and best of Europe went to fight in Foreign Lands.

Canvas towers on the ocean—homeward bound and outward bound—
Glint of topsails over islands—splash of anchors in the sound;
Then they landed in the forests, took their strong lives in their hands,
And they fought and toiled and conquered—making homes in Foreign Lands,
            Through the cold and through the drought—
            Further on and further out—
Winning half the world for England in the wilds of Foreign Lands.

Love and pride of life inspired them when the simple village hearts
Followed Master Will and Harry—gone abroad to ‘furrin parts’
By our townships and our cities, and across the desert sands
Are the graves of those who fought and died for us in Foreign Lands—
            Gave their young lives for our sake
            (Was it all a grand mistake?)
Sons of Master Will and Harry born abroad in Foreign Lands!

Ah, my girl, our lives are narrow, and in sordid days like these,
I can hate the things that banished ‘Foreign Lands across the seas,’
But with all the world before us, God above us—hearts and hands,
I can sail the seas in fancy far away to Foreign Lands.

 

Mary Lemaine

Jim Duff was a ‘native,’as wild as could be;
A stealer and duffer of cattle was he,
But back in his youth he had stolen a pearl—
Or a diamond rather—the heart of a girl;
She served with a squatter who lived on the plain,
And the name of the girl it was Mary Lemaine.

’Twas a drear, rainy day and the twilight was done,
When four mounted troopers rode up to the run.
They spoke to the squatter—he asked them all in.
The homestead was small and the walls they were thin;
And in the next room, with a cold in her head,
Our Mary was sewing on buttons—in bed.

She heard a few words, but those words were enough—
The troopers were all on the track of Jim Duff.
The super, his rival, was planning a trap
To capture the scamp in Maginnis’s Gap.
‘I’ve warned him before, and I’ll do it again;—
I’ll save him to-night,’ whispered Mary Lemaine.

No petticoat job—there was no time to waste,
The suit she was mending she slipped on in haste,
And five minutes later they gathered in force,
But Mary was off, on the squatter’s best horse;
With your hand on your heart, just to deaden the pain,
Ride hard to the ranges, brave Mary Lemaine!

She rode by the ridges all sullen and strange,
And far up long gullies that ran through the range,
Till the rain cleared away, and the tears in her eyes
Caught the beams of the moon from Maginnis’s Rise.
A fire in the depths of the gums she espied,
‘Who’s there?’ shouted Jim. ‘It is Mary!’she cried.

Next morning the sun rose in splendour again,
And two loving sinners rode out on the plain.
And baffled, and angry, and hungry and damp,
The four mounted troopers rode back to the camp.
But they hushed up the business—the reason is plain,
They all had been ‘soft’ on fair Mary Lemaine.

The squatter got back all he lost from his mob,
And old Sergeant Kennedy winked at the job.
Jim Duff keeps a shanty far out in the west,
And the sundowners call it the ‘Bushranger’s Rest.’
But the bushranger lives a respectable life,
And the law never troubles Jim Duff or his wife.

 

The Shakedown on the Floor

Set me back for twenty summers—
    For I’m tired of cities now—
Set my feet in red-soil furrows
    And my hands upon the plough,
With the two ‘Black Brothers’ trudging
    On the home stretch through the loam—
While, along the grassy siding,
    Come the cattle grazing home.

And I finish ploughing early,
    And I hurry home to tea—
There’s my black suit on the stretcher,
    And a clean white shirt for me.
There’s a dance at Rocky Rises,
    And, when all the fun is o’er,
For a certain favoured party
    There’s a shake-down on the floor.

You remember Mary Carey,
    Bushmen’s favourite at the Rise?
With her sweet small freckled features,
    Red-gold hair, and kind grey eyes;
Sister, daughter, to her mother,
    Mother, sister, to the rest—
And of all my friends and kindred,
    Mary Carey loved me best.

Far too shy, because she loved me,
    To be dancing oft with me;
What cared I, because she loved me,
    If the world were there to see?
But we lingered by the slip rails
    While the rest were riding home,
Ere the hour before the dawning,
    Dimmed the great star-clustered dome.

Small brown hands that spread the mattress
    While the old folk winked to see
How she’d find an extra pillow
    And an extra sheet for me.
For a moment shyly smiling,
    She would grant me one kiss more—
Slip away and leave me happy
    By the shake-down on the floor.

Rock me hard in steerage cabins,
    Rock me soft in wide saloons,
Lay me on the sand-hill lonely
    Under waning western moons;
But wherever night may find me
    Till I rest for evermore
I will dream that I am happy
    On the shake-down on the floor.

Ah! she often watched at sunset—
    For her people told me so—
Where I left her at the slip-rails
    More than fifteen years ago.
And she faded like a flower,
    And she died, as such girls do,
While, away in Northern Queensland,
    Working hard, I never knew.

And we suffer for our sorrows,
    And we suffer for our joys,
From the old bush days when mother
    Spread the shake-down for the boys.
But to cool the living fever,
    Comes a cold breath to my brow,
And I feel that Mary’s spirit
    Is beside me, even now.

 

Reedy River

Ten miles down Reedy River
    A pool of water lies,
And all the year it mirrors
    The changes in the skies,
And in that pool’s broad bosom
    Is room for all the stars;
Its bed of sand has drifted
    O’er countless rocky bars.

Around the lower edges
    There waves a bed of reeds,
Where water rats are hidden
    And where the wild duck breeds;
And grassy slopes rise gently
    To ridges long and low,
Where groves of wattle flourish
    And native bluebells grow.

Beneath the granite ridges
    The eye may just discern
Where Rocky Creek emerges
    From deep green banks of fern;
And standing tall between them,
    The grassy sheoaks cool
The hard, blue-tinted waters
    Before they reach the pool.

Ten miles down Reedy River
    One Sunday afternoon,
I rode with Mary Campbell
    To that broad bright lagoon;
We left our horses grazing
    Till shadows climbed the peak,
And strolled beneath the sheoaks
    On the banks of Rocky Creek.

Then home along the river
    That night we rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
    To Mary Campbell’s face;
And I pleaded for my future
    All thro’ that moonlight ride,
Until our weary horses
    Drew closer side by side.

Ten miles from Ryan’s crossing
    And five below the peak,
I built a little homestead
    On the banks of Rocky Creek:
I cleared the land and fenced it
    And ploughed the rich red loam,
And my first crop was golden
    When I brought Mary home.

* * * * * * * * *

Now still down Reedy River
    The grassy sheoaks sigh,
And the waterholes still mirror
    The pictures in the sky;
And over all for ever
    Go sun and moon and stars,
While the golden sand is drifting
    Across the rocky bars;

But of the hut I builded
    There are no traces now.
And many rains have levelled
    The furrows of the plough;
And my bright days are olden,
    For the twisted branches wave
And the wattle blossoms golden
    On the hill by Mary’s grave.

 

Old Stone Chimney

The rising moon on the peaks was blending
    Her silver light with the sunset glow,
When a swagman came as the day was ending
    Along a path that he seemed to know.
But all the fences were gone or going—
    The hand of ruin was everywhere;
The creek unchecked in its course was flowing,
    For none of the old clay dam was there.

Here Time had been with his swiftest changes,
    And husbandry had westward flown;
The cattle tracks in the rugged ranges
    Were long ago with the scrub o’ergrown.
It must have needed long years to soften
    The road, that as hard as rock had been;
The mountain path he had trod so often
    Lay hidden now with a carpet green.

He thought at times from the mountain courses
    He heard the sound of a bullock bell,
The distant gallop of stockmen’s horses,
    The stockwhip’s crack that he knew so well:
But these were sounds of his memory only,
    And they were gone from the flat and hill,
For when he listened the place was lonely,
    The range was dumb and the bush was still.

The swagman paused by the gap and faltered,
    For down the gully he feared to go,
The scene in memory never altered—
    The scene before him had altered so.
But hope is strong, and his heart grew bolder,
    And over his sorrows he raised his head,
He turned his swag to the other shoulder,
    And plodded on with a firmer tread.

Ah, hope is always the keenest hearer,
    And fancies much when assailed by fear;
The swagman thought, as the farm drew nearer,
    He heard the sounds that he used to hear.
His weary heart for a moment bounded,
    For a moment brief he forgot his dread;
For plainly still in his memory sounded
    The welcome bark of a dog long dead.

A few steps more and his face grew ghostly,
    Then white as death in the twilight grey;
Deserted wholly, and ruined mostly,
    The Old Selection before him lay.
Like startled spectres that paused and listened,
    The few white posts of the stockyard stood;
And seemed to move as the moonlight glistened
    And paled again on the whitened wood.

And thus he came, from a life long banished
    To other lands, and of peace bereft,
To find the farm and the homestead vanished,
    And only the old stone chimney left.
The field his father had cleared and gardened
    Was overgrown with saplings now;
The rain had set and the drought had hardened
    The furrows made by a vanished plough.

And this, and this was the longed-for haven
    Where he might rest from a life of woe;
He read a name on the mantel graven—
    The name was his ere he stained it so.
‘And so remorse on my care encroaches—
    ‘I have not suffered enough,’ he said;
‘That name is pregnant with deep reproaches—
    ‘The past won’t bury dishonoured dead!’

Ah, now he knew it was long years after,
    And felt how swiftly a long year speeds;
The hardwood post and the beam and rafter
    Had rotted long in the tangled weeds.
He found that time had for years been sowing
    The coarse wild scrub on the homestead path,
And saw young trees by the chimney growing,
    And mountain ferns on the wide stone hearth.

He wildly thought of the evil courses
    That brought disgrace on his father’s name;
The escort robbed, and the stolen horses,
    The felon’s dock with its lasting shame.
‘Ah, God! Ah, God! is there then no pardon?’
    He cried in a voice that was strained and hoarse;
He fell on the weeds that were once a garden,
    And sobbed aloud in his great remorse.

But grief must end, and his heart ceased aching
    When pitying sleep to his eye-lids crept,
And home and friends who were lost in waking,
    They all came back while the stockman slept.
And when he woke on the empty morrow,
    The pain at his heart was a deadened pain;
And bravely bearing his load of sorrow,
    He wandered back to the world again.

 

Song of the Old Bullock-Driver

Far back in the days when the blacks used to ramble
    In long single file ’neath the evergreen tree,
The wool-teams in season came down from Coonamble,
    And journeyed for weeks on their way to the sea,
’Twas then that our hearts and our sinews were stronger,
    For those were the days when the bushman was bred.
We journeyed on roads that were rougher and longer
    Than roads where the feet of our grandchildren tread.

With mates who have gone to the great Never-Never,
    And mates whom I’ve not seen for many a day,
I camped on the banks of the Cudgegong River
    And yarned at the fire by the old bullock-dray.
I would summon them back from the far Riverina,
    From days that shall be from all others distinct,
And sing to the sound of an old concertina
    Their rugged old songs where strange fancies were linked.

We never were lonely, for, camping together,
    We yarned and we smoked the long evenings away,
And little I cared for the signs of the weather
    When snug in my hammock slung under the dray.
We rose with the dawn, were it ever so chilly,
    When yokes and tarpaulins were covered with frost,
And toasted the bacon and boiled the black billy,
    Where high on the camp-fire the branches were tossed.

On flats where the air was suggestive of ’possums,
    And homesteads and fences were hinting of change,
We saw the faint glimmer of appletree blossoms
    And far in the distance the blue of the range;
And here in the rain, there was small use in flogging
    The poor, tortured bullocks that tugged at the load,
When down to the axles the waggons were bogging
    And traffic was making a marsh of the road.

’Twas hard on the beasts on the terrible pinches,
    Where two teams of bullocks were yoked to a load,
And tugging and slipping, and moving by inches,
    Half-way to the summit they clung to the road.
And then, when the last of the pinches was bested,
    (You’ll surely not say that a glass was a sin?)
The bullocks lay down ’neath the gum trees and rested —
    The bullockies steered for the bar of the inn.

Then slowly we crawled by the trees that kept tally
    Of miles that were passed on the long journey down.
We saw the wild beauty of Capertee Valley,
    As slowly we rounded the base of the Crown.
But, ah! the poor bullocks were cruelly goaded
    While climbing the hills from the flats and the vales;
’Twas here that the teams were so often unloaded
    That all knew the meaning of ‘counting your bales.’

And, oh! but the best-paying load that I carried
    Was one to the run where my sweetheart was nurse.
We courted awhile, and agreed to get married,
    And couple our futures for better or worse.
And as my old feet grew too weary to drag on
    The miles of rough metal they met by the way,
My eldest grew up and I gave him the waggon —
    He’s plodding along by the bullocks to-day.

 

The Lights of Cobb and Co.

Fire lighted, on the table a meal for sleepy men,
A lantern in the stable, a jingle now and then;
The mail coach looming darkly by light of moon and star,
The growl of sleepy voices—a candle in the bar.
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom—the shout of ‘All aboard!’
‘Tchk-tchk! Git-up!’ ‘Hold fast, there!’ and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.

Old coaching towns already ‘decaying for their sins,’
Uncounted ‘Half -Way Houses,’ and scores of ‘Ten Mile Inns;’
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a ‘Digger’s Rest;’
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe;
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.

The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone,
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky—each other’s hopes we share—
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trot of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go—
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.

We take a bright girl actress through western dust and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To wake the hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache—
(Ah! when she thinks of those days her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in chorus through roaring camps they go—
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.

Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidings sweep,
A flash on shrouded waggons, on water ghastly white;
Weird bush and scattered remnants of rushes in the night
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
‘Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!’
But on the bank to westward a broad, triumphant glow—
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co.!

Swift scramble up the siding where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit—then breakneck down the pinch
Past haunted half-way houses—where convicts made the bricks—
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six—
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go;
New camps are stretching ’cross the plains the routes of Cobb and Co.

* * * * * * * * * *

Throw down the reins, old driver—there’s no one left to shout;
The ruined inn’s survivor must take the horses out.
A poor old coach hereafter!—we’re lost to all such things—
No bursts of songs or laughter shall shake your leathern springs
When creeping in unnoticed by railway sidings drear,
Or left in yards for lumber, decaying with the year—
Oh, who’ll think how in those days when distant fields were broad
You raced across the Lachlan side with twenty-five on board.

Not all the ships that sail away since Roaring Days are done—
Not all the boats that steam from port, nor all the trains that run,
Shall take such hopes and loyal hearts—for men shall never know
Such days as when the Royal Mail was run by Cobb and Co.
The ‘greyhounds’ race across the sea, the ‘special’ cleaves the haze,
But these seem dull and slow to me compared with Roaring Days!
The eyes that watched are dim with age, and souls are weak and slow,
The hearts are dust or hardened now that broke for Cobb and Co.

 

How the Land was Won

The future was dark and the past was dead
    As they gazed on the sea once more—
But a nation was born when the immigrants said
    ‘Good-bye!’ as they stepped ashore!
In their loneliness they were parted thus
    Because of the work to do,
A wild wide land to be won for us
    By hearts and hands so few.

The darkest land ’neath a blue sky’s dome,
    And the widest waste on earth;
The strangest scenes and the least like home
    In the lands of our fathers’ birth;
The loneliest land in the wide world then,
    And away on the furthest seas,
A land most barren of life for men—
    And they won it by twos and threes!

With God, or a dog, to watch, they slept
    By the camp-fires’ ghastly glow,
Where the scrubs were dark as the blacks that crept
    With ‘nulla’ and spear held low;
Death was hidden amongst the trees,
    And bare on the glaring sand
They fought and perished by twos and threes—
    And that’s how they won the land!

It was two that failed by the dry creek bed,
    While one reeled on alone—
The dust of Australia’s greatest dead
    With the dust of the desert blown!
Gaunt cheek-bones cracking the parchment skin
    That scorched in the blazing sun,
Black lips that broke in a ghastly grin—
    And that’s how the land was won!

Starvation and toil on the tracks they went,
    And death by the lonely way;
The childbirth under the tilt or tent,
    The childbirth under the dray!
The childbirth out in the desolate hut
    With a half-wild gin for nurse—
That’s how the first were born to bear
    The brunt of the first man’s curse!

They toiled and they fought through the shame of it—
    Through wilderness, flood, and drought;
They worked, in the struggles of early days,
    Their sons’ salvation out.
The white girl-wife in the hut alone,
    The men on the boundless run,
The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown—
    And that’s how the land was won.

No armchair rest for the old folk then—
    But, ruined by blight and drought,
They blazed the tracks to the camps again
    In the big scrubs further out.
The worn haft, wet with a father’s sweat,
    Gripped hard by the eldest son,
The boy’s back formed to the hump of toil—
    And that’s how the land was won!

And beyond Up Country, beyond Out Back,
    And the rainless belt, they ride,
The currency lad and the ne’er-do-weel
    And the black sheep, side by side;
In wheeling horizons of endless haze
    That disk through the Great North-west,
They ride for ever by twos and by threes—
    And that’s how they win the rest.

 

The Boss Over the Board

When he’s over a rough and unpopular shed,
With the sins of the bank and the men on his head;
When he musn’t look black or indulge in a grin,
And thirty or forty men hate him like Sin—
I am moved to admit—when the total is scored—
That it’s just a bit off for the Boss-of -the-board.
                I have battled a lot,
                But my dream’s never soared
To the lonely position of Boss-of-the-board.

’Twas a black-listed shed down the Darling: the Boss
Was a small man to see—though a big man to cross—
We had nought to complain of—except what we thought,
And the Boss didn’t boss any more than he ought;
But the Union was booming, and Brotherhood soared,
So we hated like poison the Boss-of-the-board.
                We could tolerate ‘hands’—
                We respected the cook;
But the name of a Boss was a blot in our book.

He’d a row with Big Duggan—a rough sort of Jim—
Or, rather, Jim Duggan was ‘laying for’ him!
His hate of Injustice and Greed was so deep
That his shearing grew rough—and he ill-used the sheep.
And I fancied that Duggan his manliness lower’d
When he took off his shirt to the Boss-of-the-board,
                For the Boss was ten stone,
                And the shearer full-grown,
And he might have, they said, let the crawler alone.

Though some of us there wished the fight to the strong,
Yet we knew in our hearts that the shearer was wrong.
And the crawler was plucky, it can’t be denied,
For he had to fight Freedom and Justice beside,
But he came up so gamely, as often as floored,
That a blackleg stood up for the Boss-of-the-board!
                And the fight was a sight,
                And we pondered that night—
‘It’s surprising how some of those blacklegs can fight!’

Next day at the office, when sadly the wreck
Of Jim Duggan came up like a lamb for his cheque,
Said the Boss, ‘Don’t be childish! It’s all past and gone;
‘I am short of good shearers. You’d better stay on.’
And we fancied Jim Duggan our dignity lower’d
When he stopped to oblige a damned Boss-of-the-board.
                We said nothing to Jim,
                For a joke might be grim,
And the subject, we saw, was distasteful to him.

The Boss just went on as he’d done from the first,
And he favoured Big Duggan no more than the worst;
And when we’d cut out and the steamer came down—
With the hawkers and spielers—to take us to town,
And we’d all got aboard, ’twas Jim Duggan, good Lord!
Who yelled for three cheers for the Boss-of-the-board.
                ’Twas a bit off, no doubt—
                And with Freedom about—
But a lot is forgot when a shed is cut out.

With Freedom of Contract maintained in his shed,
And the curse of the Children of Light on his head,
He’s apt to long sadly for sweetheart or wife,
And his views be inclined to the dark side of life.
The Truth must be spread and the Cause must be shored—
But it’s just a bit rough on the Boss-of-the-board.
                I am all for the Right,
                But perhaps (out of sight)
As a son or a husband or father he’s white.

 

When the Ladies Come to the Shearing Shed

‘The ladies are coming,’ the super says
    To the shearers sweltering there,
And ‘the ladies’ means in the shearing shed:
    ‘Don’t cut ’em too bad. Don’t swear.’
The ghost of a pause in the shed’s rough heart,
    And lower is bowed each head;
And nothing is heard, save a whispered word,
    And the roar of the shearing-shed.

The tall, shy rouser has lost his wits,
    And his limbs are all astray;
He leaves a fleece on the shearing-board,
    And his broom in the shearer’s way.
There’s a curse in store for that jackaroo
    As down by the wall he slants—
And the ringer bends with his legs askew
    And wishes he’d ‘patched them pants.’

They are girls from the city. (Our hearts rebel
    As we squint at their dainty feet.)
And they gush and say in a girly way
    That ‘the dear little lambs’ are ‘sweet.’
And Bill, the ringer, who’d scorn the use
    Of a childish word like ‘damn,’
Would give a pound that his tongue were loose
    As he tackles a lively lamb.

Swift thoughts of homes in the coastal towns—
    Or rivers and waving grass—
And a weight on our hearts that we cannot define
    That comes as the ladies pass.
But the rouser ventures a nervous dig
    In the ribs of the next to him;
And Barcoo says to his pen-mate: ‘Twig
    ‘The style of the last un, Jim.’

Jim Moonlight gives her a careless glance—
    Then he catches his breath with pain—
His strong hand shakes and the sunlights dance
    As he bends to his work again.
But he’s well disguised in a bristling beard,
    Bronzed skin, and his shearer’s dress;
And whatever Jim Moonlight hoped or feared
    Were hard for his mates to guess.

Jim Moonlight, wiping his broad, white brow,
    Explains, with a doleful smile:
‘A stitch in the side,’ and ‘he’s all right now’—
    But he leans on the beam awhile,
And gazes out in the blazing noon
    On the clearing, brown and bare—
She has come and gone, like a breath of June,
    In December’s heat and glare.

The bushmen are big rough boys at the best,
    With hearts of a larger growth;
But they hide those hearts with a brutal jest,
    And the pain with a reckless oath.
Though the Bills and Jims of the bush-bard sing
    Of their life loves, lost or dead,
The love of a girl is a sacred thing
    Not voiced in a shearing-shed.

 

The Ballad of the Rouseabout

A rouseabout of rouseabouts, from any land—or none—
I bear a nick-name of the bush, and I’m—a woman’s son;
I came from where I camp’d last night, and, at the day-dawn glow,
I rub the darkness from my eyes, roll up my swag, and go.

Some take the track for bitter pride, some for no pride at all—
(But—to us all the world is wide when driven to the wall)
Some take the track for gain in life, some take the track for loss—
And some of us take up the swag as Christ took up the Cross.

Some take the track for faith in men—some take the track for doubt—
Some flee a squalid home to work their own salvation out.
Some dared not see a mother’s tears nor meet a father’s face—
Born of good Christian families some leap, head-long, from Grace.

Oh we are men who fought and rose, or fell from many grades;
Some born to lie, and some to pray, we’re men of many trades;
We’re men whose fathers were and are of high and low degree—
The sea was open to us and we sailed across the sea.

And—were our quarrels wrong or just?—has no place in my song—
We seared our souls in puzzling as to what was right or wrong;
We judge not and we are not judged—’tis our philosophy—
There’s something wrong with every ship that sails upon the sea.

From shearing shed to shearing shed we tramp to make a cheque—
Jack Cornstalk and the ne’er-do-weel—the tar-boy and the wreck.
We learn the worth of man to man—and this we learn too well—
The shanty and the shearing shed are warmer spots in hell!

I’ve humped my swag to Bawley Plain, and further out and on;
I’ve boiled my billy by the Gulf, and boiled it by the Swan—
I’ve thirsted in dry lignum swamps, and thirsted on the sand,
And eked the fire with camel dung in Never-Never Land.

I know the track from Spencer’s Gulf and north of Cooper’s Creek—
Where falls the half-caste to the strong, ‘black velvet’ to the weak—
(From gold-top Flossie in the Strand to half-caste and the gin—
If they had brains, poor animals! we’d teach them how to sin.)

I’ve tramped, and camped, and ‘shore’ and drunk with many mates Out Back—
And every one to me is Jack because the first was Jack—
A ‘lifer’ sneaked from jail at home—the ‘straightest’ mate I met—
A ‘ratty’ Russian Nihilist—a British Baronet!

I know the tucker tracks that feed—or leave one in the lurch—
The ‘Burgoo’ (Presbyterian) track—the ‘Murphy’ (Roman Church)—
But more the man, and not the track, so much as it appears,
For ‘battling’ is a trade to learn, and I’ve served seven years.

We’re haunted by the past at times—and this is very bad,
And so we drink till horrors come, lest, sober, we go mad—
So much is lost Out Back, so much of hell is realised—
A man might skin himself alive and no one be surprised.

A rouseabout of rouseabouts, above—beneath regard,
I know how soft is this old world, and I have learnt, how hard—
A rouseabout of rouseabouts—I know what men can feel,
I’ve seen the tears from hard eyes slip as drops from polished steel.

I learned what college had to teach, and in the school of men
By camp-fires I have learned, or, say, unlearned it all again;
But this I’ve learned, that truth is strong, and if a man go straight
He’ll live to see his enemy struck down by time and fate!

We hold him true who’s true to one however false he be
(There’s something wrong with every ship that lies beside the quay);
We lend and borrow, laugh and joke, and when the past is drowned,
We sit upon our swags and smoke and watch the world go round.

 

Years After the War in Australia

The big rough boys from the runs out back were first where the balls flew free,
And yelled in the slang of the Outside Track: ‘By God, it’s a Christmas spree!’
‘It’s not too rusty’—and ‘Wool away!’—‘stand clear of the blazing shoots!’—
‘Sheep O! Sheep O!’—‘We’ll cut out to-day’—‘Look out for the boss’s boots!’
‘What price the tally in camp to-night!’—‘What price the boys Out Back!’
‘Go it, you tigers, for Right or Might and the pride of the Outside Track!’
‘Needle and thread!’—‘I have broke my comb!’—‘Now ride, you flour-bags, ride!’
‘Fight for your mates and the folk at home!’—‘Here’s for the Lachlan side!’
Those men of the West would sneer and scoff at the gates of hell ajar,
And oft the sight of a head cut off was hailed by a yell for ‘Tar!’

* * * * * * * * * *

I heard the push in the Red Redoubt, irate at a luckless shot:
‘Look out for the blooming shell, look out!’—‘Gor’ bli’me, but that’s red-hot!’
‘It’s Bill the Slogger—poor bloke—he’s done. A chunk of the shell was his;
‘I wish the be beggar that fired that gun could get within reach of Liz.’
‘Those foreign gunners will give us rats, but I wish it was Bill they missed.’
‘I’d like to get at their bleeding hats with a rock in my (something) fist.’

‘Hold up, Billy; I’ll stick to you; they’ve hit you under the belt;
‘If we get the waddle I’ll swag you through, if the blazing mountains melt;
‘You remember the night when the traps got me for stoushing a bleeding Chow,
‘And you went for ’em proper and laid out three, and I won’t forget it now.’
And, groaning and swearing, the pug replied: ‘I’m done . . . they’ve knocked me out!
‘I’d fight them all for a pound a-side, from the boss to the rouseabout.
‘My nut is cracked and my legs is broke, and it gives me worse than hell;
‘I trained for a scrap with a twelve-stone bloke, and not with a bursting shell.
‘You needn’t mag, for I knowed, old chum, I knowed, old pal, you’d stick;
‘But you can’t hold out till the reg’lars come, and you’d best be nowhere quick.
‘They’ve got a force and a gun ashore, both of our wings is broke;
‘They’ll storm the ridge in a minute more, and the best you can do is smoke.’

And Jim exclaimed: ‘You can smoke, you chaps, but me—Gor’ bli’me, no!
‘The push that ran from the George-street traps won’t run from a foreign foe.
‘I’ll stick to the gun while she makes them sick, and I’ll stick to what’s left of Bill.’
And they hiss through their blackened teeth: ‘We’ll stick! by the blazing flame, we will!’
And long years after the war was past, they told in the town and bush
How the ridge of death to the bloody last was held by a Sydney push;
How they fought to the end in a sheet of flame, how they fought with their rifle-stocks,
And earned, in a nobler sense, the name of their ancient weapons—‘rocks.’

* * * * * * * * * *

In the western camps it was ever our boast, when ’twas bad for the kangaroo:
If the enemy’s forces take the coast, they must take the mountains, too;
‘They may force their way by the western line or round by a northern track,
But they won’t run short of a decent spree with the men who are left out back!’
When we burst the enemy’s ironclads and won by a run of luck,
We whooped as loudly as Nelson’s lads when a French three-decker struck—
And when the enemy’s troops prevailed the truth was never heard—
We lied like heroes who never failed explaining how that occurred.

You bushmen sneer in the old bush way at the new-chum jackeroo,
But ‘cuffs-’n’-collers’ were out that day, and they stuck to their posts like glue;
I never believed that a dude could fight till a Johnny led us then;
We buried his bits in the rear that night for the honour of George-street men.
And Jim the Ringer—he fought, he did. The regiment nicknamed Jim,
‘Old Heads a Caser’ and ‘Heads a Quid,’ but it never was ‘tails’ with him.
The way that he rode was a racing rhyme, and the way that he finished grand;
He backed the enemy every time, and died in a hand-to-hand!

* * * * * * * * * *

I’ll never forget when the ringer and I were first in the Bush Brigade,
With Warrego Bill, from the Live-till-you-Die, in the last grand charge we made.
And Billy died—he was full of sand—he said, as I raised his head:
‘I’m full of love for my native land, but a lot too full of lead.
‘Tell ’em,’ said Billy, ‘and tell old dad, to look after the cattle pup;’
But his eyes grew bright, though his voice was sad, and he said, as I held him up:
‘I have been happy on western farms. And once, when I first went wrong,
‘Around my neck were the trembling arms of the girl I’d loved so long.
‘Far out on the southern seas I’ve sailed, and ridden where brumbies roam,
‘And oft, when all on the station failed, I’ve driven the outlaw home.
‘I’ve spent a cheque in a day and night, and I’ve made a cheque as quick;
‘I struck a nugget when times were tight, and the stores had stopped our tick.
‘I’ve led the field on the old bay mare, and I hear the cheering still,
‘When mother and sister and she were there, and the old man yelled for Bill;
‘But, save for her, could I live my while again in the old bush way,
‘I’d give it all for the last half-mile in the race we rode to-day!’
And he passed away as the stars came out—he died as old heroes die—
I heard the sound of the distant rout, and the Southern Cross was high.

 

The Old Jimmy Woodser

The old Jimmy Woodser comes into the bar,
    Unwelcomed, unnoticed, unknown,
Too old and too odd to be drunk with, by far;
And he glides to the end where the lunch baskets are
    And they say that he tipples alone.

His frock-coat is green and the nap is no more,
    And the style of his hat is at rest.
He wears the peaked collar our grandfathers wore,
The black-ribboned tie that was legal of yore,
    And the coat buttoned over his breast.

When first he came in, for a moment I thought
    That my vision or wits were astray;
For a picture and page out of Dickens he brought,
’Twas an old file dropped in from the Chancery Court
    To a wine-vault just over the way.

But I dreamed as he tasted his bitters to-night,
    And the lights in the bar-room grew dim,
That the shades of the friends of that other day’s light,
And of girls that were bright in our grandfathers’ sight,
    Lifted shadowy glasses to him.

And I opened the door as the old man passed out,
    With his short, shuffling step and bowed head;
And I sighed, for I felt as I turned me about,
An odd sense of respect—born of whisky no doubt—
    For the life that was fifty years dead.

And I thought—there are times when our memory trends
    Through the future, as ’twere, on its own—
That I, out of date ere my pilgrimage ends,
In a new fashioned bar to dead loves and dead friends
Might drink like the old man alone:
    While they whisper, ‘He boozes alone.’

 

The Christ of the ‘Never’

With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
    To the awful horizons of land,
Through the haze of hot days, and the fierce
    White heat-waves that flow on the sand;
Through the Never Land westward and nor’ward,
    Bronzed, bearded and gaunt on the track,
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
    The Christ of the Outer Out-back.

For the cause that will ne’er be relinquished
    Spite of all the great cynics on earth—
In the ranks of the bush undistinguished
    By manner or dress—if by birth—
God’s preacher, of churches unheeded—
    God’s vineyard, though barren the sod—
Plain spokesman where spokesman is needed—
    Rough link ’twixt the bushman and God.

He works where the hearts of all nations
    Are withered in flame from the sky,
Where the sinners work out their salvations
    In a hell-upon-earth ere they die.
In the camp or the lonely hut lying
    In a waste that seems out of God’s sight,
He’s the doctor—the mate of the dying
    Through the smothering heat of the night.

By his work in the hells of the shearers,
    Where the drinking is ghastly and grim,
Where the roughest and worst of his hearers
    Have listened bareheaded to him.
By his paths through the parched desolation
    Hot rides and the terrible tramps;
By the hunger, the thirst, the privation
    Of his work in the furthermost camps

By his worth in the light that shall search men
    And prove—ay! and justify each—
I place him in front of all churchmen
    Who feel not, who know not—but preach!

 

The Cattle-Dog’s Death

The plains lay bare on the homeward route,
And the march was heavy on man and brute;
For the Spirit of Drouth was on all the land,
And the white heat danced on the glowing sand.

The best of our cattle-dogs lagged at last,
His strength gave out ere the plains were passed,
And our hearts grew sad when he crept and laid
His languid limbs in the nearest shade.

He saved our lives in the years gone by,
When no one dreamed of the danger nigh,
And the treacherous blacks in the darkness crept
On the silent camp where the drovers slept.

‘The dog is dying,’ a stockman said,
As he knelt and lifted the shaggy head;
‘’Tis a long day’s march ere the run be near,
‘And he’s dying fast; shall we leave him here?’

But the super cried, ‘There’s an answer there!’
As he raised a tuft of the dog’s grey hair;
And, strangely vivid, each man descried
The old spear-mark on the shaggy hide.

We laid a ‘bluey’ and coat across
The camping pack of the lightest horse,
And raised the dog to his deathbed high,
And brought him far ’neath the burning sky.

At the kindly touch of the stockmen rude
His eyes grew human with gratitude;
And though we parched in the heat that fags,
We gave him the last of the water-bags.

The super’s daughter we knew would chide
If we left the dog in the desert wide;
So we brought him far o’er the burning sand
For a parting stroke of her small white hand.

But long ere the station was seen ahead,
His pain was o’er, for the dog was dead
And the folks all knew by our looks of gloom
’Twas a comrade’s corpse that we carried home.

 

The Song of the Darling River

The only national work of the blacks was a dam or dyke of stones across the Darling River at Brewarrina. The stones they carried from Lord knows where—and the Lord knows how. The people of Bourke kept up navigation for months above the town by a dam of sand-bags. The Darling rises in blazing droughts from the Queensland rains. There are banks and beds of good clay and rock along the river.

The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere—
And all that is left of the last year’s flood
Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And—this is the dirge of the Darling River:

‘I rise in the drought from the Queensland rain,
‘I fill my branches again and again;
‘I hold my billabongs back in vain,
‘For my life and my peoples the South Seas drain;
‘And the land grows old and the people never
‘Will see the worth of the Darling River.

‘I drown dry gullies and lave bare hills,
‘I turn drought-ruts into rippling rills—
‘I form fair island and glades all green
‘Till every bend is a sylvan scene.
‘I have watered the barren land ten leagues wide!
‘But in vain I have tried, ah! in vain I have tried
‘To show the sign of the Great All Giver,
‘The Word to a people: O! lock your river.

‘I want no blistering barge aground,
‘But racing steamers the seasons round;
‘I want fair homes on my lonely ways,
‘A people’s love and a people’s praise—
‘And rosy children to dive and swim—
‘And fair girls’ feet in my rippling brim;
‘And cool, green forests and gardens ever’—
Oh, this is the hymn of the Darling River.

The sky is brass and the scrub-lands glare,
Death and ruin are everywhere;
Thrown high to bleach, or deep in the mud
The bones lie buried by last year’s flood,
And the Demons dance from the Never Never
To laugh at the rise of the Darling River.

 

Rain in the Mountains

The valley’s full of misty cloud,
    Its tinted beauty drowning,
The Eucalypti roar aloud,
    The mountain fronts are frowning.

The mist is hanging like a pall
    From many granite ledges,
And many a little waterfall
    Starts o’er the valley’s edges.

The sky is of a leaden grey,
    Save where the north is surly,
The driven daylight speeds away,
    And night comes o’er us early.

But, love, the rain will pass full soon,
    Far sooner than my sorrow,
And in a golden afternoon
    The sun may set to-morrow.

 

A May Night on the Mountains

’Tis a wonderful time when these hours begin,
    These long ‘small hours’ of night,
When grass is crisp, and the air is thin,
    And the stars come close and bright.
The moon hangs caught in a silvery veil,
    From clouds of a steely grey,
And the hard, cold blue of the sky grows pale
    In the wonderful Milky Way.

There is something wrong with this star of ours,
    A mortal plank unsound,
That cannot be charged to the mighty powers
    Who guide the stars around.
Though man is higher than bird or beast,
    Though wisdom is still his boast,
He surely resembles Nature least,
    And the things that vex her most.

Oh, say, some muse of a larger star,
    Some muse of the Universe,
If they who people those planets far
    Are better than we, or worse?
Are they exempted from deaths and births,
    And have they greater powers,
And greater heavens, and greater earths,
    And greater Gods than ours?

Are our lies theirs, and our truth their truth,
    Are they cursed for pleasure’s sake,
Do they make their hells in their reckless youth
    Ere they know what hells they make?
And do they toil through each weary hour
    Till the tedious day is o’er,
For food that gives but the fleeting power
    To toil and strive for more?

 

The New Chum Jackeroo

Let bushmen think as bushmen will,
    And say whate’er they choose,
I hate to hear the stupid sneer
    At New Chum Jackaroos.

He may not ride as you can ride,
    Or do what you can do;
But sometimes you’d seem small beside
    The New Chum Jackaroo.

His share of work he never shirks,
    And through the blazing drought,
He lives the old things down, and works
    His own salvation out.

When older, wiser chums despond
    He battles brave of heart—
’Twas he who sailed of old beyond
    The margin of the chart.

’Twas he who proved the world was round—
    In crazy square canoes;
The lands you’re living in were found
    By New Chum Jackaroos.

He crossed the deserts hot and bare,
    From barren, hungry shores—
The plains that you would scarcely dare
    With all your tanks and bores.

He fought a way through stubborn hills
    Towards the setting sun—
Your fathers all and Burke and Wills
    Were New Chums, every one.

When England fought with all the world
    In those brave days gone by,
And all its strength against her hurled,
    He held her honour high.

By Southern palms and Northern pines—
    Where’er was life to lose—
She held her own with thin red lines
    Of New Chum Jackaroos.

Through shot and shell and solitudes,
    Wherever feet have gone,
The New Chums fought while eye-glass dudes
    And Johnnies led them on.

And though he wear a foppish coat,
    And these old things forget,
In stormy times I’d give a vote
    For Cuffs and Collars yet.

 

The Dons of Spain

The Eagle screams at the beck of trade, so Spain, as the world goes round,
Must wrestle the right to live or die from the sons of the land she found;
For, as in the days when the buccaneer was abroad on the Spanish Main,
The national honour is one thing dear to the hearts of the Dons of Spain.

She has slaughtered thousands with fire and sword, as the Christian world might know;
We murder millions, but, thank the Lord! we only starve ’em slow.
The times have changed since the days of old, but the same old facts remain—
We fight for Freedom, and God, and Gold, and the Spaniards fight for Spain.

We fought with the strength of the moral right, and they, as their ships went down,
They only fought with the grit to fight and their armour to help ’em drown.
It mattered little what chance or hope, for ever their path was plain,
The Church was the Church, and the Pope the Pope—but the Spaniards fought for Spain.

If Providence struck for the honest thief at times in the battle’s din—
If ever it struck at the hypocrite—well, that’s where the Turks came in;
But this remains ere we leave the wise to argue it through in vain—
There’s something great in the wrong that dies as the Spaniards die for Spain.

The foes of Spain may be kin to us who are English heart and soul,
And proud of our national righteousness and proud of the lands we stole;
But we yet might pause while those brave men die and the death-drink pledge again—
For the sake of the past, if you’re doomed, say I, may your death be a grand one, Spain!

Then here’s to the bravest of Freedom’s foes who ever with death have stood—
For the sake of the courage to die on steel as their fathers died on wood;
And here’s a cheer for the flag unfurled in a hopeless cause again,
For the sake of the days when the Christian world was saved by the Dons of Spain.

 

The Bursting of the Boom

The shipping-office clerks are ‘short,’ the manager is gruff—
‘They cannot make reductions,’ and ‘the fares are low enough.’
They ship us West with cattle, and we go like cattle too;
And fight like dogs three times a day for what we get to chew. . . .
We’ll have the pick of empty bunks and lots of stretching room,
And go for next to nothing at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show:
Then when the Boom bursts is our time to go.
We’ll meet ’em coming back in shoals, with looks of deepest gloom,
But we’re the sort that battle through at the Bursting of the Boom.

The captain’s easy-going when Fremantle comes in sight;
He can’t say when you’ll get ashore—perhaps tomorrow night;
Your coins are few, the charges high; you must not linger here—
You’ll get your boxes from the hold when she’s ‘longside the pier.’
The launch will foul the gangway, and the trembling bulwarks loom
Above a fleet of harbour craft—at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show;
He’ll ‘take you for a bob, sir,’ and where you want to go.
He’ll ‘take the big portmanteau, sir, if he might so presume’—
You needn’t hump your luggage at the Bursting of the Boom.

It’s loafers—Customs-loafers—and you pay and pay again;
They hinder you and cheat you from the gangway to the train;
The pubs and restaurants are full—they haven’t room for more;
They charge us each three shillings for a shakedown on the floor;
But, ‘Show this gentleman upstairs—the first front parlour room.
We’ll see about your luggage, sir’—at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a show;
And wait till the Boom bursts, and swear mighty low.
‘We mostly charge a pound a week. How do you like the room?’
And ‘Show this gentleman the bath’—at the Bursting of the Boom.

I go down to the timber-yard (I cannot face the rent)
To get some strips of oregon to frame my hessian tent;
To buy some scraps of lumber for a table or a shelf:
The boss comes up and says I might just look round for myself;
The foreman grunts and turns away as silent as the tomb—
The boss himself will wait on me at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—we’ll all get a load.
‘You had better take those scraps, sir, they’re only in the road.’
‘Now, where the hell’s the carter?’ you’ll hear the foreman fume;
And, ‘Take that timber round at once!’ at the Bursting of the Boom.

Each one-a-penny grocer, in his box of board and tin,
Will think it condescending to consent to take you in;
And not content with twice as much as what is just and right,
They charge and cheat you doubly, for the Boom is at its height.
It’s ‘Take it now or leave it now;’ ‘your money or your room;’
But ‘Who’s attending Mr. Brown?’ at the Bursting of the Boom.

So wait till the Boom bursts!—and take what you can get,
‘There’s not the slightest hurry, and your bill ain’t ready yet.’
They’ll call and get your orders until the crack o’ doom,
And send them round directly, at the Bursting of the Boom.

* * * * * * * * * *

No Country and no Brotherhood—such things are dead and cold;
A camp from all the lands or none, all mad for love of gold;
Where T’othersider number one makes slave of number two,
And the vilest women of the world the vilest ways pursue;
And men go out and slave and bake and die in agony
In western hells that God forgot, where never man should be.
I feel a prophet in my heart that speaks the one word ‘Doom!’
And aye you’ll hear the Devil laugh at the Bursting of the Boom.

 

Antony Villa

A Ballad of Ninety-three

Over there, above the jetty, stands the mansion of the Vardens,
With a tennis ground and terrace, and a flagstaff in the gardens:
They are gentlemen and ladies — they’ve been ‘toffs’ for generations,
But old Varden’s been unlucky — lost a lot in speculations.

Troubles gathered fast upon him when the mining bubble ‘busted,’
Then the bank suspended payment, where his little all he trusted;
And the butcher and the baker sent their bills in when they read it,
Even John, the Chow that served him, has refused to give him ‘cledit.’

And the daughters of the Vardens — they are beautiful as Graces —
But the balcony’s deserted, and they rarely show their faces;
And the swells of their acquaintance never seem to venture near them,
And the bailiff says they seldom have a cup of tea to cheer them.

They were butterflies — I always was a common caterpillar,
But I’m sorry for the ladies over there in ’Tony Villa,
Shut up there in ’Tony Villa with the bailiff and their trouble;
And the dried-up reservoir, where my tears were seems to bubble.

Mrs. Rooney thinks it nothing when she sends a brat to ‘borry’
Just a pinch of tea and sugar till the grocer comes ‘temorry;’
But it’s dif’rent with the Vardens — they would starve to death as soon as
Knuckle down. You know, they weren’t raised exactly like the Rooneys!

There is gossip in the ‘boxes’ and the drawing-rooms and gardens —
‘Have you heard of Varden’s failure? Have you heard about the Vardens?’
And no doubt each toney mother on the Point across the water’s
Mighty glad about the downfall of the rivals of her daughters.

(Tho’ the poets and the writers say that man to man’s inhuman,
I’m inclined to think it’s nothing to what woman is to woman,
More especially, the ladies, save perhaps a fellow’s mother;
And I think that men are better — they are kinder to each other.)

* * * * * *

There’s a youngster by the jetty gathering cinders from the ashes,
He was known as ‘Master Varden’ ere the great financial crashes.
And his manner shows the dif’rence ’twixt the nurs’ry and gutter —
But I’ve seen him at the grocer’s buying half a pound of butter.

And his mother fights her trouble in the house across the water,
She is just as proud as Varden, though she was a ‘cocky’s’ daughter;
And at times I think I see her with the flick’ring firelight o’er her,
Sitting pale and straight and quiet, gazing vacantly before her.

There’s a slight and girlish figure — Varden’s youngest daughter, Nettie —
On the terrace after sunset, when the boat is near the jetty;
She is good and pure and pretty, and her rivals don’t deny it,
Though they say that Nettie Varden takes in sewing on the quiet.

(How her sister graced the ‘circle,’ all unconscious of a lover
In the seedy ‘god’ who watched her from the gallery above her!
Shade of Poverty was on him, and the light of Wealth upon her,
But perhaps he loved her better than the swells attending on her.)

* * * * * *

There’s a white man’s heart in Varden, spite of all the blue blood in him,
There are working men who wouldn’t stand and hear a word agin’ him;
But his name was never printed by the side of his ‘donations,’
Save on hearts that have — in this world — very humble circulations.

He was never stiff or hoggish — he was affable and jolly,
And he’d always say ‘Good morning’ to the deck hand on the ‘Polly;’
He would ‘barrack’ with the newsboys on the Quay across the ferry,
And he’d very often tip ’em coming home a trifle merry.

But his chin is getting higher, and his features daily harden
(He will not ‘give up possession’ — there’s a lot of fight in Varden);
And the way he steps the gangway! oh, you couldn’t but admire it!
Just as proud as ever hero walked the plank aboard a pirate!

He will think about the hardships that his girls were never ‘useter,’
And it must be mighty heavy on the thoroughbred old rooster;
But he’ll never strike his colours, and I tell a lying tale if
Varden’s pride don’t kill him sooner than the bankers or the bailiff.

You remember when we often had to go without our dinners,
In the days when Pride and Hunger fought a finish out within us;
And how Pride would come up groggy — Hunger whooping loud and louder —
And the swells are proud as we are; they are just as proud — and prouder.

Yes, the toffs have grit, in spite of all our sneering and our scorning —
What’s the crowd? What’s that? God help us! — Varden shot himself this morning! . . . .
There’ll be gossip in the ‘circle,’ in the drawing-rooms and gardens;
But I’m sorry for the family; yes I’m sorry for the Vardens.

 

Second Class Wait Here

On suburban railway stations — you may see them as you pass —
There are signboards on the platforms saying, ‘Wait here second class;’
And to me the whirr and thunder and the cluck of running gear
Seem to be for ever saying, saying ‘Second class wait here’ —
      ‘Wait here second class,
      ‘Second class wait here.’
Seem to be for ever saying, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

And the second class were waiting in the days of serf and prince,
And the second class are waiting — they’ve been waiting ever since.
There are gardens in the background, and the line is bare and drear,
Yet they wait beneath a signboard, sneering ‘Second class wait here.’

I have waited oft in winter, in the mornings dark and damp,
When the asphalt platform glistened underneath the lonely lamp.
Ghastly on the brick-faced cutting ‘Sellum’s Soap’ and ‘Blower’s Beer;’
Ghastly on enamelled signboards with their ‘Second class wait here.’

And the others seemed like burglars, slouched and muffled to the throats,
Standing round apart and silent in their shoddy overcoats,
And the wind among the wires, and the poplars bleak and bare,
Seemed to be for ever snarling, snarling ‘Second class wait there.’

Out beyond the further suburb, ’neath a chimney stack alone,
Lay the works of Grinder Brothers, with a platform of their own;
And I waited there and suffered, waited there for many a year,
Slaved beneath a phantom signboard, telling our class to wait here.

Ah! a man must feel revengeful for a boyhood such as mine.
God! I hate the very houses near the workshop by the line;
And the smell of railway stations, and the roar of running gear,
And the scornful-seeming signboards, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

There’s a train with Death for driver, which is ever going past,
And there are no class compartments, and we all must go at last
To the long white jasper platform with an Eden in the rear;
And there won’t be any signboards, saying ‘Second class wait here.’

 

The Ships That Won’t Go Down

We hear a great commotion
    ’Bout the ship that comes to grief,
That founders in mid-ocean,
    Or is driven on a reef;
Because it’s cheap and brittle
    A score of sinners drown.
But we hear but mighty little
    Of the ships that won’t go down.

Here’s honour to the builders —
    The builders of the past;
Here’s honour to the builders
    That builded ships to last;
Here’s honour to the captain,
    And honour to the crew;
Here’s double-column head-lines
    To the ships that battle through.

They make a great sensation
    About famous men that fail,
That sink a world of chances
    In the city morgue or gaol,
Who drink, or blow their brains out,
    Because of ‘Fortune’s frown.’
But we hear far too little
    Of the men who won’t go down.

The world is full of trouble,
    And the world is full of wrong,
But the heart of man is noble,
    And the heart of man is strong!
They say the sea sings dirges,
    But I would say to you
That the wild wave’s song’s a paean
    For the men that battle through.

 

The Men We Might Have Been

When God’s wrath-cloud is o’er me,
    Affrighting heart and mind;
When days seem dark before me,
    And days seem black behind;
Those friends who think they know me —
    Who deem their insight keen —
They ne’er forget to show me
    The man I might have been.

He’s rich and independent,
    Or rising fast to fame;
His bright star is ascendant,
    The country knows his name;
His houses and his gardens
    Are splendid to be seen;
His fault the wise world pardons —
    The man I might have been.

His fame and fortune haunt me;
    His virtues wave me back;
His name and prestige daunt me
    When I would take the track;
But you, my friend true-hearted —
    God keep our friendship green! —
You know how I was parted
    From all I might have been.

But what avails the ache of
    Remorse or weak regret?
We’ll battle for the sake of
    The men we might be yet!
We’ll strive to keep in sight of
    The brave, the true, and clean,
And triumph yet in spite of
    The men we might have been.

 

The Way of the World

When fairer faces turn from me,
    And gayer friends grow cold,
And I have lost through poverty
    The friendship bought with gold;
When I have served the selfish turn
    Of some all-worldly few,
And Folly’s lamps have ceased to burn,
    Then I’ll come back to you.

When my admirers find I’m not
    The rising star they thought,
And praise or blame is all forgot
    My early promise brought;
When brighter rivals lead a host
    Where once I led a few,
And kinder times reward their boast,
    Then I’ll come back to you.

You loved me, not for what I had
    Or what I might have been.
You saw the good, but not the bad,
    Was kind, for that between.
I know that you’ll forgive again —
    That you will judge me true;
I’ll be too tired to explain
    When I come back to you.

 

The Battling Days

So, sit you down in a straight-backed chair, with your pipe and your wife content,
And cross your knees with your wisest air, and preach of the ‘days mis-spent;’
Grown fat and moral apace, old man! you prate of the change ‘since then’ —
In spite of all, I’d as lief be back in those hard old days again.

They were hard old days; they were battling days; they were cruel at times — but then,
In spite of all, I would rather be back in those hard old days again.
The land was barren to sow wild oats in the days when we sowed our own —
(’Twas little we thought or our friends believed that ours would ever be sown)
But the wild oats wave on their stormy path, and they speak of the hearts of men —
I would sow a crop if I had my time in those hard old days again.

We travel first, or we go saloon — on the planned-out trips we go,
With those who are neither rich nor poor, and we find that the life is slow;
It’s ‘a pleasant trip’ where they cried, ‘Good luck! There was fun in the steerage then —
In spite of all, I would fain be back in those vagabond days again.

On Saturday night we’ve a pound to spare — a pound for a trip down town —
We took more joy in those hard old days for a hardly spared half-crown;
We took more pride in the pants we patched than the suits we have had since then —
In spite of all, I would rather be back in those comical days again.

’Twas We and the World — and the rest go hang — as the Outside tracks we trod;
Each thought of himself as a man and mate, and not as a martyred god;
The world goes wrong when your heart is strong — and this is the way with men —
The world goes right when your liver is white, and you preach of the change ‘since then.’

They were hard old days; they were battling days; they were cruel times — but then,
In spite of all, we shall live to-night in those hard old days again.

 

Written Afterwards

So the days of my tramping are over,
    And the days of my riding are done —
I’m about as content as a rover
    Will ever be under the sun;
I write, after reading your letter —
    My pipe with old memories rife —
And I feel in a mood that had better
    Not meet the true eyes of the wife.

You must never admit a suggestion
    That old things are good to recall;
You must never consider the question:
    ‘Was I happier then, after all?’
You must banish the old hope and sorrow
    That make the sad pleasures of life,
You must live for To-day and To-morrow
    If you want to be just to the wife.

I have changed since the first day I kissed her.
    Which is due — Heaven bless her! — to her;
I’m respected and trusted — I’m ‘Mister,’
    Addressed by the children as ‘Sir.’
And I feel the respect without feigning —
    But you’d laugh the great laugh of your life
If you only saw me entertaining
    An old lady friend of the wife.

By-the-way, when you’re writing, remember
    That you never went drinking with me,
And forget our last night of December,
    Lest our sev’ral accounts disagree.
And, for my sake, old man, you had better
    Avoid the old language of strife,
For the technical terms of your letter
    May be misunderstood by the wife.

Never hint of the girls appertaining
    To the past (when you’re writing again),
For they take such a lot of explaining,
    And you know how I hate to explain.
There are some things, we know to our sorrow,
    That cut to the heart like a knife,
And your past is To-day and To-morrow
    If you want to be true to the wife.

I believe that the creed we were chums in
    Was grand, but too abstract and bold,
And the knowledge of life only comes in
    When you’re married and fathered and old.
And it’s well. You may travel as few men,
    You may stick to a mistress for life;
But the world, as it is, born of woman
    Must be seen through the eyes of the wife.

No doubt you are dreaming as I did
    And going the careless old pace,
While my future grows dull and decided,
    And the world narrows down to the Place.
Let it be. If my ‘treason’s’ resented,
    You may do worse, old man, in your life;
Let me dream, too, that I am contented —
    For the sake of a true little wife.

 

The Uncultured Rhymer To His Cultured Critics

Fight through ignorance, want, and care —
    Through the griefs that crush the spirit;
Push your way to a fortune fair,
    And the smiles of the world you’ll merit.
Long, as a boy, for the chance to learn —
    For the chance that Fate denies you;
Win degrees where the Life-lights burn,
    And scores will teach and advise you.

My cultured friends! you have come too late
    With your bypath nicely graded;
I’ve fought thus far on my track of Fate,
    And I’ll follow the rest unaided.
Must I be stopped by a college gate
    On the track of Life encroaching?
Be dumb to Love, and be dumb to Hate,
    For the lack of a college coaching?

You grope for Truth in a language dead —
    In the dust ’neath tower and steeple!
What know you of the tracks we tread?
    And what know you of our people?
‘I must read this, and that, and the rest,’
    And write as the cult expects me? —
I’ll read the book that may please me best,
    And write as my heart directs me!

You were quick to pick on a faulty line
    That I strove to put my soul in:
Your eyes were keen for a ‘dash’ of mine
    In the place of a semi-colon —
And blind to the rest. And is it for such
    As you I must brook restriction?
‘I was taught too little?’ I learnt too much
    To care for a pedant’s diction!

Must I turn aside from my destined way
    For a task your Joss would find me?
I come with strength of the living day,
    And with half the world behind me;
I leave you alone in your cultured halls
    To drivel and croak and cavil:
Till your voice goes further than college walls,
    Keep out of the tracks we travel!

 

The Writer’s Dream

A writer wrote of the hearts of men, and he followed their tracks afar;
For his was a spirit that forced his pen to write of the things that are.
His heart grew tired of the truths he told, for his life was hard and grim;
His land seemed barren, its people cold — yet the world was dear to him; —
So he sailed away from the Streets of Strife, he travelled by land and sea,
In search of a people who lived a life as life in the world should be.

And he reached a spot where the scene was fair, with forest and field and wood,
And all things came with the seasons there, and each of its kind was good;
There were mountain-rivers and peaks of snow, there were lights of green and gold,
And echoing caves in the cliffs below, where a world-wide ocean rolled.
The lives of men from the wear of Change and the strife of the world were free —
For Steam was barred by the mountain-range and the rocks of the Open Sea.

And the last that were born of a noble race — when the page of the South was fair —
The last of the conquered dwelt in peace with the last of the victors there.
He saw their hearts with the author’s eyes who had written their ancient lore,
And he saw their lives as he’d dreamed of such — ah! many a year before.
And ‘I’ll write a book of these simple folk ere I to the world return,
‘And the cold who read shall be kind for these — and the wise who read shall learn.

‘Never again in a song of mine shall a jarring note be heard:
‘Never again shall a page or line be marred by a bitter word;
‘But love and laughter and kindly hours will the book I’ll write recall,
‘With chastening tears for the loss of one, and sighs for their sorrows all.
‘Old eyes will light with a kindly smile, and the young eyes dance with glee —
‘And the heart of the cynic will rest awhile for my simple folk and me.’

The lines ran on as he dipped his pen — ran true to his heart and ear —
Like the brighter pages of memory when every line is clear.
The pictures came and the pictures passed, like days of love and light —
He saw his chapters from first to last, and he thought it grand to write.
And the writer kissed his girlish wife, and he kissed her twice for pride:
‘’Tis a book of love, though a book of life! and a book you’ll read!’ he cried.

He was blind at first to each senseless slight (for shabby and poor he came)
From local ‘Fashion’ and mortgaged pride that scarce could sign its name.
What dreamer would dream of such paltry pride in a scene so fresh and fair?
But the local spirit intensified — with its pitiful shams — was there;
There were cliques wherever two houses stood (no rest for a family ghost!)
They hated each other as women could — but they hated the stranger most.

The writer wrote by day and night and he cried in the face of Fate —
‘I’ll cleave to my dream of life in spite of the cynical ghosts that wait.
‘’Tis the shyness born of their simple lives,’ he said to the paltry pride —
(The homely tongues of the simple wives ne’er erred on the generous side) —
‘They’ll prove me true and they’ll prove me kind ere the year of grace be passed,’
But the ignorant whisper of ‘axe to grind!’ went home to his heart at last.

The writer sat by his drift-wood fire three nights of the South-east gale,
His pen lay idle on pages vain, for his book was a fairy tale.
The world-wise lines of an elder age were plain on his aching brow,
As he sadly thought of each brighter page that would never be written now.
‘I’ll write no more!’ But he bowed his head, for his heart was in Dreamland yet —
‘The pages written I’ll burn,’ he said, ‘and the pages thought forget.’

But he heard the hymn of the Open Sea, and the old fierce anger burned,
And he wrenched his heart from its dreamland free as the fire of his youth returned:—
‘The weak man’s madness, the strong man’s scorn — the rebellious hate of youth
‘From a deeper love of the world are born! And the cynical ghost is Truth!’
And the writer rose with a strength anew wherein Doubt could have no part;
‘I’ll write my book and it shall be true — the truth of a writer’s heart.

‘Ay! cover the wrong with a fairy tale — who never knew want or care —
‘A bright green scum on a stagnant pool that will reek the longer there.
‘You may starve the writer and buy the pen — you may drive it with want and fear —
‘But the lines run false in the hearts of men — and false to the writer’s ear.
‘The bard’s a rebel and strife his part, and he’ll burst from his bonds anew,
‘Till all pens write from a single heart! And so may the dream come true.

* * * * * *

‘’Tis ever the same in the paths of men where money and dress are all,
‘The crawler will bully whene’er he can, and the bully who can’t will crawl.
‘And this is the creed in the local hole, where the souls of the selfish rule;
‘Borrow and cheat while the stranger’s green, then sneer at the simple fool.
‘Spit your spite at the men whom Fate has placed in the head-race first,
‘And hate till death, with a senseless hate, the man you have injured worst!

‘There are generous hearts in the grinding street, but the Hearts of the World go west;
‘For the men who toil in the dust and heat of the barren lands are best!
‘The stranger’s hand to the stranger, yet — for a roving folk are mine —
‘The stranger’s store for the stranger set — and the camp-fire glow the sign!
‘The generous hearts of the world, we find, thrive best on the barren sod,
‘And the selfish thrive where Nature’s kind (they’d bully or crawl to God!)

‘I was born to write of the things that are! and the strength was given to me.
‘I was born to strike at the things that mar the world as the world should be!
‘By the dumb heart-hunger and dreams of youth, by the hungry tracks I’ve trod —
‘I’ll fight as a man for the sake of truth, nor pose as a martyred god.
‘By the heart of “Bill” and the heart of “Jim,” and the men that their hearts deem “white,”
‘By the handgrips fierce, and the hard eyes dim with forbidden tears! — I’ll write!

‘I’ll write untroubled by cultured fools, or the dense that fume and fret —
‘For against the wisdom of all their schools I would stake mine instinct yet!
‘For the cynical strain in the writer’s song is the world, not he, to blame,
‘And I’ll write as I think, in the knowledge strong that thousands think the same;
‘And the men who fight in the Dry Country grim battles by day, by night,
‘Will believe in me, and will stand by me, and will say to the world, “He’s right!”’

 

The Jolly Dead March

If I ever be worthy or famous —
    Which I’m sadly beginning to doubt —
When the angel whose place ’tis to name us
    Shall say to my spirit, ‘Pass out!’
I wish for no sniv’lling about me
    (My work was the work of the land),
But I hope that my country will shout me
    The price of a decent brass band.

Thump! thump! of the drum and ‘Ta-ra-rit,’
    Thump! thump! and the music — it’s grand,
If only in dreams, or in spirit,
    To ride or march after the band!
And myself and my mourners go straying,
    And strolling and drifting along
With a band in the front of us playing
    The tune of an old battle song!

I ask for no ‘turn-out’ to bear me;
    I ask not for railings or slabs,
And spare me! my country — oh, spare me!
    The hearse and the long string of cabs!
I ask not the baton or ‘starts’ of
    The bore with the musical ear,
But the music that’s blown from the hearts of
    The men who work hard and drink beer.

And let ’em strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’
    And let them burst out with ‘Lang Syne’ —
Twin voices of sadness and glory,
    That have ever been likings of mine.
And give the French war-hymn deep-throated
    The Watch of the Germans between,
And let the last mile be devoted
    To ‘Britannia’ and ‘Wearing the Green.’

And if, in the end — more’s the pity —
    There is fame more than money to spare —
There’s a van-man I know in the city
    Who’ll convey me, right side up with care.
True sons of Australia, and noble,
    Have gone from the long dusty way,
While the sole mourner fought down his trouble
    With his pipe on the shaft of the dray.
        But let them strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’ &c.

And my spirit will join the procession —
    Will pause, if it may, on the brink —
Nor feel the least shade of depression
    When the mourners drop out for a drink;
It may be a hot day in December,
    Or a cold day in June it may be,
And the drink will but help them remember
    The good points the world missed in me.
        And help ’em to love ‘Annie Laurie,’
        And help ’em to raise ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ &c.

‘Unhook the West Port’ for an orphan,
    An old digger chorus revive —
If you don’t hear a whoop from the coffin,
    I am not being buried alive.
But I’ll go with a spirit less bitter
    Than mine own on the earth may have been,
And, perhaps, to save trouble, Saint Peter
    Will pass me, two comrades between.

And let them strike up ‘Annie Laurie,’
    And let ’em burst out with ‘Lang Syne,’
Twin voices of sadness and glory
    That have ever been likings of mine.
Let them swell the French war-hymn deep-throated
    (And I’ll not buck at ‘God Save the Queen’),
But let the last mile be devoted
    To ‘Britannia’ and ‘Wearing the Green.’

Thump! thump! of the drums we inherit —
    War-drums of my dreams! Oh it’s grand,
If only in fancy or spirit,
    To ride or march after a band!
And we, the World-Battlers, go straying
    And loving and laughing along —
With Hope in the lead of us playing
    The tune of a life-battle song!


THE END

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