Henry Lawson |
Now the tent poles are rotting, the camp fires are dead,
And the possums may gambol in trees overhead;
I am humping my bluey far out on the land,
And the prints of my bluchers sink deep in the sand:
I am out on the wallaby humping my drum,
And I came by the tracks where the sundowners come.
It is nor'-west and west o'er the ranges and far
To the plains where the cattle and sheep stations are,
With the sky for my roof and the grass for my bunk,
And a calico bag for my damper and junk;
And scarcely a comrade my memory reveals,
Save the spiritless dingo in tow of my heels.
But I think of the honest old light of my home
When the stars hang in clusters like lamps from the dome,
And I think of the hearth where the dark shadows fall,
When my camp fire is built on the widest of all;
But I'm following Fate, for I know she knows best,
I follow, she leads, and it's nor'-west by west.
When my tent is all torn and my blankets are damp,
And the rising flood waters flow fast by the camp,
When the cold water rises in jets from the floor,
I lie in my bunk and I list to the roar,
And I think how to-morrow my footsteps will lag
When I tramp 'neath the weight of a rain-sodden swag.
Though the way of the swagman is mostly up-hill,
There are joys to be found on the wallaby still.
When the day has gone by with its tramp or its toil,
And your camp-fire you light, and your billy you boil,
There is comfort and peace in the bowl of your clay
Or the yarn of a mate who is tramping that way.
But beware of the town -- there is poison for years
In the pleasure you find in the depths of long beers;
For the bushman gets bushed in the streets of a town,
Where he loses his friends when his cheque is knocked down;
He is right till his pockets are empty, and then --
He can hump his old bluey up country again.
Adam Lindsay Gordon |
Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide
Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I swayed,
All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull and dense,
The sun-rise was a sullen, sluggish lamp;
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence,
I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze,
And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth;
To southward lay "Katawa", with the sand peaks all ablaze,
And the flushed fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
Now westward winds the bridle-path that leads to Lindisfarm,
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch;
'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase
Eight years ago -- or was it nine? -- last March.
'Twas merry in the glowing morn among the gleaming grass,
To wander as we've wandered many a mile,
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass,
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs,
To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stock whips and a fiery run of hoofs;
Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!
Aye! we had a glorious gallop after "Starlight" and his gang,
When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat;
How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang,
To the strokes of "Mountaineer" and "Acrobat".
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath;
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd!
We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey,
And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay,
In the creek with stunted box-trees for a blind!
There you grappled with the leader, man to man, and horse to horse,
And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd;
He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course --
A narrow shave -- his powder singed your beard!
In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young
Come back to us; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung;
And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall?
Ay! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.
There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him;
But a steer ripp'd up Macpherson in the Cooraminta yards,
And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim;
And Mostyn -- poor Frank Mostyn -- died at last, a fearful wreck,
In the "horrors" at the Upper Wandinong,
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck;
Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!
Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen --
The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then;
And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.
I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil,
And life is short -- the longest life a span;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For good undone, and gifts misspent, and resolutions vain,
'Tis somewhat late to trouble.
This I know --
I should live the same life over, if I had to live again;
And the chances are I go where most men go.
The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim,
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall;
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim,
And on the very sun's face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
With never stone or rail to fence my bed;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush-flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.
I don't suppose I shall though, for I feel like sleeping sound,
That sleep, they say, is doubtful.
True; but yet
At least it makes no difference to the dead man underground
What the living men remember or forget.
Enigmas that perplex us in the world's unequal strife,
The future may ignore or may reveal;
Yet some, as weak as water, Ned, to make the best of life,
Have been to face the worst as true as steel.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
This was the way of it, don't you know --
Ryan was "wanted" for stealing sheep,
And never a trooper, high or low,
Could find him -- catch a weasel asleep!
Till Trooper Scott, from the Stockman's Ford --
A bushman, too, as I've heard them tell --
Chanced to find him drunk as a lord
Round at the Shadow of Death Hotel.
D'you know the place? It's a wayside inn,
A low grog-shanty -- a bushman trap,
Hiding away in its shame and sin
Under the shelter of Conroy's Gap --
Under the shade of that frowning range
The roughest crowd that ever drew breath --
Thieves and rowdies, uncouth and strange,
Were mustered round at the "Shadow of Death".
The trooper knew that his man would slide
Like a dingo pup, if he saw the chance;
And with half a start on the mountain side
Ryan would lead him a merry dance.
Drunk as he was when the trooper came,
to him that did not matter a rap --
Drunk or sober, he was the same,
The boldest rider in Conroy's Gap.
"I want you, Ryan," the trooper said,
"And listen to me, if you dare resist,
So help me heaven, I'll shoot you dead!"
He snapped the steel on his prisoner's wrist,
And Ryan, hearing the handcuffs click,
Recovered his wits as they turned to go,
For fright will sober a man as quick
As all the drugs that the doctors know.
There was a girl in that shanty bar
Went by the name of Kate Carew,
Quiet and shy as the bush girls are,
But ready-witted and plucky, too.
She loved this Ryan, or so they say,
And passing by, while her eyes were dim
With tears, she said in a careless way,
"The Swagman's round in the stable, Jim.
Spoken too low for the trooper's ear,
Why should she care if he heard or not?
Plenty of swagmen far and near --
And yet to Ryan it meant a lot.
That was the name of the grandest horse
In all the district from east to west;
In every show ring, on every course,
They always counted The Swagman best.
He was a wonder, a raking bay --
One of the grand old Snowdon strain --
One of the sort that could race and stay
With his mighty limbs and his length of rein.
Born and bred on the mountain side,
He could race through scrub like a kangaroo;
The girl herself on his back might ride,
And The Swagman would carry her safely through.
He would travel gaily from daylight's flush
Till after the stars hung out their lamps;
There was never his like in the open bush,
And never his match on the cattle-camps.
For faster horses might well be found
On racing tracks, or a plain's extent,
But few, if any, on broken ground
Could see the way that The Swagman went.
When this girl's father, old Jim Carew,
Was droving out on the Castlereagh
With Conroy's cattle, a wire came through
To say that his wife couldn't live the day.
And he was a hundred miles from home,
As flies the crow, with never a track
Through plains as pathless as ocean's foam;
He mounted straight on The Swagman's back.
He left the camp by the sundown light,
And the settlers out on the Marthaguy
Awoke and heard, in the dead of night,
A single horseman hurrying by.
He crossed the Bogan at Dandaloo,
And many a mile of the silent plain
That lonely rider behind him threw
Before they settled to sleep again.
He rode all noght, and he steered his course
By the shining stars with a bushman's skill,
And every time that he pressed his horse
The Swagman answered him gamely still.
He neared his home as the east was bright.
The doctor met him outside the town
"Carew! How far did you come last night?"
"A hundred miles since the sun went down.
And his wife got round, and an oath he passed,
So long as he or one of his breed
Could raise a coin, though it took their last,
The Swagman never should want a feed.
And Kate Carew, when her father died,
She kept the horse and she kept him well;
The pride of the district far and wide,
He lived in style at the bush hotel.
Such wasThe Swagman; and Ryan knew
Nothing about could pace the crack;
Little he'd care for the man in blue
If once he got on The Swagman's back.
But how to do it? A word let fall
Gave him the hint as the girl passed by;
Nothing but "Swagman -- stable wall;
Go to the stable and mind your eye.
He caught her meaning, and quickly turned
To the trooper: "Reckon you'll gain a stripe
By arresting me, and it's easily earned;
Let's go to the stable and get my pipe,
The Swagman has it.
" So off they went,
And as soon as ever they turned their backs
The girl slipped down, on some errand bent
Behind the stable and seized an axe.
The trooper stood at the stable door
While Ryan went in quite cool and slow,
And then (the trick had been played before)
The girl outside gave the wall a blow.
Three slabs fell out of the stable wall --
'Twas done 'fore ever the trooper knew --
And Ryan, as soon as he saw them fall,
Mounted The Swagman and rushed him through.
The trooper heard the hoof-beats ring
In the stable yard, and he jammed the gate,
But The Swagman rose with a mighty spring
At the fence, and the trooper fired too late
As they raced away, and his shots flew wide,
And Ryan no longer need care a rap,
For never a horse that was lapped in hide
Could catch The Swagman in Conroy's Gap.
And that's the story.
You want to know
If Ryan came back to his Kate Carew;
Of course he should have, as stories go,
But the worst of it is this story's true:
And in real life it's a certain rule,
Whatever poets and authors say
Of high-toned robbers and all their school,
These horsethief fellows aren't built that way.
Come back! Don't hope it -- the slinking hound,
He sloped across to the Queensland side,
And sold The Swagman for fifty pound,
And stole the money, and more beside.
And took to drink, and by some good chance
Was killed -- thrown out of a stolen trap.
And that was the end of this small romance,
The end of the story of Conroy's Gap.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
"Only a pound," said the auctioneer,
"Only a pound; and I'm standing here
Selling this animal, gain or loss --
Only a pound for the drover's horse?
One of the sort that was ne'er afraid,
One of the boys of the Old Brigade;
Thoroughly honest and game, I'll swear,
Only a little the worse for wear;
Plenty as bad to be seen in town,
Give me a bid and I'll knock him down;
Sold as he stands, and without recourse,
Give me a bid for the drover's horse.
Loitering there in an aimless way
Somehow I noticed the poor old grey,
Weary and battered and screwed, of course;
Yet when I noticed the old grey horse,
The rough bush saddle, and single rein
Of the bridle laid on his tangled mane,
Straighway the crowd and the auctioneer
Seemed on a sudden to disappear,
Melted away in a kind if haze --
For my heart went back to the droving days.
Back to the road, and I crossed again
Over the miles of the saltbush plain --
The shining plain that is said to be
The dried-up bed of an inland sea.
Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
And out in the dim horizon makes
The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.
At dawn of day we could feel the breeze
That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
That comes and goes in that scented air;
For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
for those that love it and understand
The saltbush plain is a wonderland,
A wondrous country, were Nature's ways
Were revealed to me in the droving days.
We saw the fleet wild horses pass,
And kangaroos through the Mitchell grass;
The emu ran with her frightened brood
All unmolested and unpursued.
But there rose a shout and a wild hubbub
When the dingo raced for his native scrub,
And he paid right dear for his stolen meals
With the drovers' dogs at his wretched heels.
For we ran him down at a rattling pace,
While the pack-horse joined in the stirring chase.
And a wild halloo at the kill we'd raise --
We were light of heart in the droving days.
'Twas a drover's horse, and my hand again
Made a move to close on a fancied rein.
For I felt a swing and the easy stride
Of the grand old horse that I used to ride.
In drought or plenty, in good or ill,
The same old steed was my comrade still;
The old grey horse with his honest ways
Was a mate to me in the droving days.
When we kept our watch in the cold and damp,
If the cattle broke from the sleeping camp,
Over the flats and across the plain,
With my head bent down on his waving mane,
Through the boughs above and the stumps below,
On the darkest night I could let him go
At a racing speed; he would choose his course,
And my life was safe with the old grey horse.
But man and horse had a favourite job,
When an outlaw broke from the station mob;
With a right good will was the stockwhip plied,
As the old horse raced at the straggler's side,
And the greenhide whip such a weal would raise --
We could use the whip in the droving days.
"Only a pound!" and was this the end --
Only a pound for the drover's friend.
The drover's friend that has seen his day,
And now was worthless and cast away
With a broken knee and a broken heart
To be flogged and starved in a hawker's cart.
Well, I made a bid for a sense of shame
And the memories of the good old game.
"Thank you? Guinea! and cheap at that!
Against you there in the curly hat!
Only a guinea, and one more chance,
Down he goes if there's no advance,
Third, and last time, one! two! three!"
And the old grey horse was knocked down to me.
And now he's wandering, fat and sleek,
On the lucerne flats by the Homestead Creek;
I dare not ride him for fear he's fall,
But he does a journey to beat them all,
For though he scarcely a trot can raise,
He can take me back to the droving days.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
Out where the grey streams glide,
Sullen and deep and slow,
And the alligators slide
From the mud to the depths below
Or drift on the stream like a floating death,
Where the fever comes on the south wind's breath,
There is the buffalo.
Out of the big lagoons,
Where the Regia lilies float,
And the Nankin heron croons
With a deep ill-omened note,
In the ooze and the mud of the swamps below
Lazily wallows the buffalo,
Buried to nose and throat.
From the hunter's gun he hides
In the jungle's dark and damp,
Where the slinking dingo glides
And the flying foxes camp;
Hanging like myriad fiends in line
Where the trailing creepers twist and twine
And the sun is a sluggish lamp.
On the edge of the rolling plains
Where the coarse cane grasses swell,
Lush with the tropic rains
In the noontide's drowsy spell,
Slowly the buffalo grazes through
Where the brolgas dance, and the jabiru
Stands like a sentinel.
All that the world can know
Of the wild and the weird is here,
Where the black men come and go
With their boomerang and spear,
And the wild duck darken the evening sky
As they fly to their nests in the reed beds high
When the tropic night is near.
Henry Lawson |
You almost heard the surface bake, and saw the gum-leaves turn --
You could have watched the grass scorch brown had there been grass to burn.
In such a drought the strongest heart might well grow faint and weak --
'Twould frighten Satan to his home -- not far from Dingo Creek.
The tanks went dry on Ninety Mile, as tanks go dry out back,
The Half-Way Spring had failed at last when Marshall missed the track;
Beneath a dead tree on the plain we saw a pack-horse reel --
Too blind to see there was no shade, and too done-up to feel.
And charcoaled on the canvas bag (`twas written pretty clear)
We read the message Marshall wrote.
It said: `I'm taken queer --
I'm somewhere off of Deadman's Track, half-blind and nearly dead;
Find Crowbar, get him sobered up, and follow back,' it said.
`Let Mitchell go to Bandicoot.
You'll find him there,' said Mack.
`I'll start the chaps from Starving Steers, and take the dry-holes back.
We tramped till dark, and tried to track the pack-horse on the sands,
And just at daylight Crowbar came with Milroy's station hands.
His cheeks were drawn, his face was white, but he was sober then --
In times of trouble, fire, and flood, 'twas Crowbar led the men.
`Spread out as widely as you can each side the track,' said he;
`The first to find him make a smoke that all the rest can see.
We took the track and followed back where Crowbar followed fate,
We found a dead man in the scrub -- but 'twas not Crowbar's mate.
The station hands from Starving Steers were searching all the week --
But never news of Marshall's fate came back to Dingo Creek.
And no one, save the spirit of the sand-waste, fierce and lone,
Knew where Jack Marshall crawled to die -- but Crowbar might have known.
He'd scarcely closed his quiet eyes or drawn a sleeping breath --
They say that Crowbar slept no more until he slept in death.
A careless, roving scamp, that loved to laugh and drink and joke,
But no man saw him smile again (and no one saw him smoke),
And, when we spelled at night, he'd lie with eyes still open wide,
And watch the stars as if they'd point the place where Marshall died.
The search was made as searches are (and often made in vain),
And on the seventh day we saw a smoke across the plain;
We left the track and followed back -- 'twas Crowbar still that led,
And when his horse gave out at last he walked and ran ahead.
We reached the place and turned again -- dragged back and no man spoke --
It was a bush-fire in the scrubs that made the cursed smoke.
And when we gave it best at last, he said, `I'LL see it through,'
Although he knew we'd done as much as mortal men could do.
`I'll not -- I won't give up!' he said, his hand pressed to his brow;
`My God! the cursed flies and ants, they might be at him now.
I'll see it so in twenty years, 'twill haunt me all my life --
I could not face his sister, and I could not face his wife.
It's no use talking to me now -- I'm going back,' he said,
`I'm going back to find him, and I will -- alive or dead!'
He packed his horse with water and provisions for a week,
And then, at sunset, crossed the plain, away from Dingo Creek.
We watched him tramp beside the horse till we, as it grew late,
Could not tell which was Bonypart and which was Marshall's mate.
The dam went dry at Dingo Creek, and we were driven back,
And none dared face the Ninety Mile when Crowbar took the track.
They saw him at Dead Camel and along the Dry Hole Creeks --
There came a day when none had heard of Marshall's mate for weeks;
They'd seen him at No Sunday, he called at Starving Steers --
There came a time when none had heard of Marshall's mate for years.
They found old Bonypart at last, picked clean by hungry crows,
But no one knew how Crowbar died -- the soul of Marshall knows!
And now, way out on Dingo Creek, when winter days are late,
The bushmen talk of Crowbar's ghost `what's looking for his mate';
For let the fools indulge their mirth, and let the wise men doubt --
The soul of Crowbar and his mate have travelled further out.
Beyond the furthest two-rail fence, Colanne and Nevertire --
Beyond the furthest rabbit-proof, barbed wire and common wire --
Beyond the furthest `Gov'ment' tank, and past the furthest bore --
The Never-Never, No Man's Land, No More, and Nevermore --
Beyond the Land o' Break-o'-Day, and Sunset and the Dawn,
The soul of Marshall and the soul of Marshall's mate have gone
Unto that Loving, Laughing Land where life is fresh and clean --
Where the rivers flow all summer, and the grass is always green.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
There's nothing here sublime,
But just a roving rhyme,
Run off to pass the time,
With nought titanic in.
The theme that it supports,
And, though it treats of quarts,
It's bare of golden thoughts --
It's just a pannikin.
I think it's rather hard
That each Australian bard --
Each wan, poetic card --
With thoughts galvanic in
His fiery thought alight,
In wild aerial flight,
Will sit him down and write
About a pannikin.
He makes some new-chum fare
From out his English lair
To hunt the native bear,
That curious mannikin;
And then the times get bad
That wandering English lad
Writes out a message sad
Upon his pannikin:
"O mother, think of me
Beneath the wattle tree"
(For you may bet that he
Will drag the wattle in)
"O mother, here I think
That I shall have to sink,
There ain't a single drink
The water-bottle in.
The dingo homeward hies,
The sooty crows uprise
And caw their fierce surprise
A tone Satanic in;
And bearded bushmen tread
Around the sleeper's head --
"See here -- the bloke is dead!
Now where's his pannikin?"
They read his words and weep,
And lay him down to sleep
Where wattle branches sweep,
A style mechanic in;
And, reader, that's the way
The poets of today
Spin out their little lay
About a pannikin.
Andrew Barton Paterson |
'Twas the dingo pup to his dam that said,
"It's time I worked for my daily bread.
Out in the world I intend to go,
And you'd be surprised at the things I know.
"There's a wild duck's nest in a sheltered spot,
And I'll go right down and I'll eat the lot.
But when he got to his destined prey
He found that the ducks had flown away.
But an egg was left that would quench his thirst,
So he bit the egg and it straightway burst.
It burst with a bang, and he turned and fled,
For he thought that the egg had shot him dead.
"Oh, mother," he said, "let us clear right out
Or we'll lose our lives with the bombs about;
And it's lucky I am that I'm not blown up -
It's a very hard life," said the dingo pup.