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How the Land was Won

Written by: Henry Lawson | Biography
 | Quotes (1) |
 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-well 
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.