Preface

Henry Lawson was born in rural New South Wales in 1867, moved to Sydney and later travelled to both Britain and New Zealand. He lapsed into alcoholism in his later years, and was given a state funeral when he died in 1922, as befitted a man seen by many as Australia's national poet.

The poems selected here give a feel for the Australia that many Australians still believe in, though like America's Wild West, it has been gone for the best part of a hundred years.

Lawson’s poems are spread over three separate titles – this one, and also HENRY LAWSON POEMS -- PART I and HENRY LAWSON POEMS -- PART III.

The poems are in alphabetical order, with 12 poems in this PART II title. Clicking on any link below will take you directly to that poem.

PART I goes from Andy’s Gone With Cattle to Saint Peter.

PART III goes from the The Old Bark School to Wide Spaces.

HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Ballad of the Drover

The Blue Mountains

The City Bushman

The Fight at Eureka Stockade

The Fire at Ross's Farm

The Flour Bin

The Free-Selector's Daughter

The Glass on the Bar

The Great Grey Plain

The Grog-an'-Grumble Steeplechase

The Lights of Cobb and Co

The Never-Never Land

The Ballad of the Drover

Across the stony ridges,

Across the rolling plain,

Young Harry Dale, the drover,

Comes riding home again.

And well his stock-horse bears him,

And light of heart is he,

And stoutly his old pack-horse

Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle

He travelled regions vast;

And many months have vanished

Since home-folk saw him last.

He hums a song of someone

He hopes to marry soon;

And hobble-chains and camp-ware

Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado

Against the lower skies

And yon blue line of ranges

The homestead station lies.

And thitherward the drover

Jogs through the lazy noon,

While hobble-chains and camp-ware

Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens

With storm-clouds inky black;

At times the lightning trickles

Around the drover's track;

But Harry pushes onward,

His horses' strength he tries,

In hope to reach the river

Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder from above him

Goes rolling o'er the plain;

And down on thirsty pastures

In torrents falls the rain.

And every creek and gully

Sends forth its little flood,

Till the river runs a banker,

All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,

The best dog on the plains,

And to his hardy horses,

And strokes their shaggy manes;

'We've breasted bigger rivers

When floods were at their height

Nor shall this gutter stop us

From getting home to-night!'

The thunder growls a warning,

The ghastly lightnings gleam,

As the drover turns his horses

To swim the fatal stream.

But, oh! the flood runs stronger

Than e'er it ran before;

The saddle-horse is failing,

And only half-way o'er!

When flashes next the lightning,

The flood's grey breast is blank,

And a cattle dog and pack-horse

Are struggling up the bank.

But in the lonely homestead

The girl will wait in vain -

He'll never pass the stations

In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment

Sits panting on the bank,

And then swims through the current

To where his master sank.

And round and round in circles

He fights with failing strength,

Till, borne down by the waters,

The old dog sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands

And slopes of sodden loam

The pack-horse struggles onward,

To take dumb tidings home.

And mud-stained, wet, and weary,

Through ranges dark goes he;

While hobble-chains and tinware

Are sounding eerily.

The floods are in the ocean,

The stream is clear again,

And now a verdant carpet

Is stretched across the plain.

But someone's eyes are saddened,

And someone's heart still bleeds

In sorrow for the drover

Who sleeps among the reeds.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Blue Mountains

Above the ashes straight and tall,

Through ferns with moisture dripping,

I climb beneath the sandstone wall,

My feet on mosses slipping.

Like ramparts round the valley's edge

The tinted cliffs are standing.

With many a broken wall and ledge,

And many a rocky landing.

And round about their rugged feet

Deep ferny dells are hidden

In shadowed depths, whence dust and heat

Are banished and forbidden.

The stream that, crooning to itself,

Comes down a tireless rover,

Flows calmly to the rocky shelf,

And there leaps bravely over.

Now pouring down, now lost in spray

When mountain breezes sally,

The water strikes the rock midway,

And leaps into the valley.

Now in the west the colours change,

The blue with crimson blending;

Behind the far Dividing Range,

The sun is fast descending.

And mellowed day comes o'er the place,

And softens ragged edges;

The rising moon's great placid face

Looks gravely o'er the ledges.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The City Bushman

It was pleasant up the country, City Bushman, where you went,

For you sought the greener patches and you travelled like a gent;

And you curse the trams and buses and the turmoil and the push,

Though you know the squalid city needn't keep you from the bush;

But we lately heard you singing of the "plains where shade is not",

And you mentioned it was dusty - "all was dry and all was hot".

True, the bush "hath moods and changes" - and the bushman hath 'em, too,

For he's not a poet's dummy - he's a man, the same as you;

But his back is growing rounder - slaving for the absentee -

And his toiling wife is thinner than a country wife should be.

For we noticed that the faces of the folks we chanced to meet

Should have made a greater contrast to the faces in the street;

And, in short, we think the bushman's being driven to the wall,

And it's doubtful if his spirit will be "loyal through it all".

Though the bush has been romantic and it's nice to sing about,

There's a lot of patriotism that the land could do without -

Sort of British Workman nonsense that shall perish in the scorn

Of the drover who is driven and the shearer who is shorn,

Of the struggling western farmers who have little time for rest,

And are ruined on selections in the sheep-infested West;

Droving songs are very pretty, but they merit little thanks

From the people of a country in possession of the Banks.

No, the "rise and fall of seasons" suits the rise and fall of rhyme,

But we know that western seasons do not run on schedule time;

For the drought will go on drying while there's anything to dry,

Then it rains until you'd fancy it would bleach the sunny sky -

Then it pelters out of reason, till the downpour day and night

Nearly sweeps the population to the Great Australian Bight.

It is up in Northern Queensland that the seasons do their best,

But it's doubtful if you ever saw a season in the West;

There are years without an autumn or a winter or a spring,

There are broiling Junes, and summers when it rains like anything.

In the bush my ears were opened to the singing of the bird,

But the "carol of the magpie" was a thing I never heard.

Once the beggar roused my slumbers in a shanty, it is true,

But I only heard him asking, "Who the blanky blank are you?"

And the bell-bird in the ranges - well, his "silver chime" is harsh

When it's heard beside the solo of the curlew in the marsh.

No, the bushman isn't always "trapping brumbies in the night",

Nor is he for ever riding when "the morn is fresh and bright",

And he isn't always singing in the humpies on the run -

And the camp-fire's "cheery blazes" are a trifle overdone;

We have grumbled with the bushmen round the fire on rainy days,

When the smoke would blind a bullock and there wasn't any blaze,

Save the blazes of our language, for we cursed the fire in turn

Till the atmosphere was heated and the wood began to burn.

Then we had to wring our blueys which were rotting in the swags,

And we saw the sugar leaking through the bottoms of the bags,

And we couldn't raise a chorus, for the toothache and the cramp,

While we spent the hours of darkness draining puddles round the camp.

Would you like to change with Clancy - go a-droving? tell us true,

For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you,

And be something in the city; but 'twould give your muse a shock

To be losing time and money through the foot-rot in the flock,

And you wouldn't mind the beauties underneath the starry dome

If you had a wife and children and a lot of bills at home.

Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky-black,

And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back

Till your saddle-weary backbone started aching at the roots

And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots -

Did you shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough

Till a squatter's blanky dummy cantered up to warn you off?

Did you fight the drought and pleuro when the "seasons" were asleep,

Felling sheoaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep,

Drinking mud instead of water - climbing trees and lopping boughs

For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?

Do you think the bush was better in the "good old droving days",

When the squatter ruled supremely as the king of western ways,

When you got a slip of paper for the little you could earn,

But were forced to take provisions from the station in return -

When you couldn't keep a chicken at your humpy on the run,

For the squatter wouldn't let you - and your work was never done;

When you had to leave the missus in a lonely hut forlorn

While you "rose up Willy Riley" - in the days ere you were born?

Ah! we read about the drovers and the shearers and the like

Till we wonder why such happy and romantic fellows strike.

Don't you fancy that the poets ought to give the bush a rest

Ere they raise a just rebellion in the over-written West?

Where the simple-minded bushman gets a meal and bed and rum

Just by riding round reporting phantom flocks that never come;

There the scalper - never troubled by the "war-whoop of the push" -

Has a quiet little billet - breeding rabbits in the bush;

There the idle shanty-keeper never fails to make a draw,

And the dummy gets his tucker through provisions in the law;

There the labour-agitator - when the shearers rise in might -

Makes his money sacrificing all his substance for The Right;

Where the squatter makes his fortune, and "the seasons rise and fall",

And the poor and honest bushman has to suffer for it all;

Where the drovers and the shearers and the bushmen and the rest

Never reach that Eldorado of the poets of the West.

So you think the bush is purer and that life is better there,

But it doesn't seem to pay you like the "squalid street and square".

Pray inform us, City Bushman, where you read, in prose or verse,

Of the awful "city urchin who would greet you with a curse".

There are golden hearts in gutters, though their owners lack the fat,

And I'll back a teamster's offspring to outswear a city brat.

Do you think we're never jolly where the trams and buses rage?

Did you hear the gods in chorus when "Ri-tooral" held the stage?

Did you catch a ring of sorrow in the city urchin's voice

When he yelled for Billy Elton, when he thumped the floor for Royce?

Do the bushmen, down on pleasure, miss the everlasting stars

When they drink and flirt and so on in the glow of private bars?

You've a down on "trams and buses", or the "roar" of 'em, you said,

And the "filthy, dirty attic", where you never toiled for bread.

(And about that self-same attic - Lord! wherever have you been?

For the struggling needlewoman mostly keeps her attic clean.)

But you'll find it very jolly with the cuff-and-collar push,

And the city seems to suit you, while you rave about the bush.

You'll admit that Up-the Country, more especially in drought,

Isn't quite the Eldorado that the poets rave about,

Yet at times we long to gallop where the reckless bushman rides

In the wake of startled brumbies that are flying for their hides,

Long to feel the saddle tremble once again between our knees

And to hear the stockwhips rattle just like rifles in the trees!

Long to feel the bridle-leather tugging strongly in the hand -

And to feel once more a little like a native of the land!

And the ring of bitter feeling in the jingling of our rhymes

Isn't suited to the country nor the spirit of the times.

Let us go together droving, and returning, if we live,

Try to understand each other while we reckon up the div.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Fight at Eureka Stockade

"Was I at Eureka?" His figure was drawn to a youthful height,

And a flood of proud recollections made the fire in his grey eyes bright;

With pleasure they lighted and glisten'd, tho' the digger was grizzled and old,

And we gathered about him and listen'd while the tale of Eureka he told.

"Ah, those were the days," said the digger, "twas a glorious life that we led,

When fortunes were dug up and lost in a day in the whirl of the years that are dead.

But there's many a veteran now in the land - old knights of the pick and the spade,

Who could tell you in language far stronger than mine 'bout the fight at Eureka Stockade.

"We were all of us young on the diggings in days when the nation had birth -

Light-hearted, and careless, and happy, and the flower of all nations on earth;

But we would have been peaceful an' quiet if the law had but let us alone;

And the fight - let them call it a riot - was due to no fault of our own.

"The creed of our rulers was narrow - they ruled with a merciless hand,

For the mark of the cursed broad arrow was deep in the heart of the land.

They treated us worse than the negroes were treated in slavery's day -

And justice was not for the diggers, as shown by the Bently affray.

"P'r'aps Bently was wrong. If he wasn't the bloodthirsty villain they said,

He was one of the jackals that gather where the carcass of labour is laid.

'Twas b'lieved that he murdered a digger, and they let him off scot-free as well,

And the beacon o' battle was lighted on the night that we burnt his hotel.

"You may talk as you like, but the facts are the same (as you've often been told),

And how could we pay when the license cost more than the worth of the gold?

We heard in the sunlight the clanking o' chains in the hillocks of clay,

And our mates, they were rounded like cattle an' handcuffed an' driven away.

"The troopers were most of them new-chums, with many a gentleman's son;

And ridin' on horseback was easy, and hunting the diggers was fun.

Why, many poor devils who came from the vessel in rags and down-heeled,

Were copped, if they hadn't their license, before they set foot on the field.

"But they roused the hot blood that was in us, and the cry came to roll up at last;

And I tell you that something had got to be done when the diggers rolled up in the past.

Yet they say that in spite o' the talkin' it all might have ended in smoke,

But just at the point o' the crisis, the voice of a quiet man spoke.

" 'We have said all our say and it's useless, you must fight or be slaves!' said the voice;

" 'If it's fight, and you're wanting a leader, I will lead to the end - take your choice!'

I looked, it was Pete! Peter Lalor! who stood with his face to the skies,

But his figure seemed nobler and taller, and brighter the light of his eyes.

"The blood to his forehead was rushin' as hot as the words from his mouth;

He had come from the wrongs of the old land to see those same wrongs in the South;

The wrongs that had followed our flight from the land where the life of the worker was spoiled.

Still tyranny followed! no wonder the blood of the Irishman boiled.

"And true to his promise, they found him - the mates who are vanished or dead,

Who gathered for justice around him with the flag of the diggers o'erhead.

When the people are cold and unb'lieving, when the hands of the tyrants are strong,

You must sacrifice life for the people before they'll come down on the wrong.

"I'd a mate on the diggings, a lad, curly-headed, an' blue-eyed, an' white,

And the diggers said I was his father, an', well, p'r'aps the diggers were right.

I forbade him to stir from the tent, made him swear on the book he'd obey,

But he followed me in, in the darkness, and - was - shot - on Eureka that day.

" 'Down, down with the tyrant an' bully,' these were the last words from his mouth

As he caught up a broken pick-handle and struck for the Flag of the South

An' let it in sorrow be written - the worst of this terrible strife,

'Twas under the 'Banner of Britain' came the bullet that ended his life.

"I struck then! I struck then for vengeance! When I saw him lie dead in the dirt,

And the blood that came oozing like water had darkened the red of his shirt,

I caught up the weapon he dropped an' I struck with the strength of my hate,

Until I fell wounded an' senseless, half-dead by the side of 'my mate'.

"Surprised in the grey o' the morning half-armed, and the Barricade bad,

A battle o' twenty-five minutes was long 'gainst the odds that they had,

But the light o' the morning was deadened an' the smoke drifted far o'er the town

An' the clay o' Eureka was reddened ere the flag o' the diggers came down.

"But it rose in the hands of the people an' high in the breezes it tost,

And our mates only died for a cause that was won by the battle they lost.

When the people are selfish and narrow, when the hands of the tyrants are strong,

You must sacrifice life for the public before they come down on a wrong.

"It is thirty-six years this December - (December the first) since we made

The first stand 'gainst the wrongs of old countries that day in Eureka Stockade,

But the lies and the follies and shams of the North have all landed since then

An' it's pretty near time that you lifted the flag of Eureka again.

"You boast of your progress an' thump empty thunder from out of your drums,

While two of your 'marvellous cities' are reeking with alleys an' slums.

An' the landsharks, an' robbers, an' idlers an' -! Yes, I had best draw it mild

But whenever I think o' Eureka my talking is apt to run wild.

"Even now in my tent when I'm dreaming I'll spring from my bunk, strike a light,

And feel for my boots an' revolver, for the diggers' march past in the night.

An' the faces an' forms of old mates an' old comrades go driftin' along,

With a band in the front of 'em playing the tune of an old battle song."

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Fire at Ross's Farm

The squatter saw his pastures wide

Decrease, as one by one

The farmers moving to the west

Selected on his run;

Selectors took the water up

And all the black soil round;

The best grass-land the squatter had

Was spoilt by Ross's Ground.

Now many schemes to shift old Ross

Had racked the squatter's brains,

But Sandy had the stubborn blood

Of Scotland in his veins;

He held the land and fenced it in,

He cleared and ploughed the soil,

And year by year a richer crop

Repaid him for his toil.

Between the homes for many years

The devil left his tracks:

The squatter pounded Ross's stock,

And Sandy pounded Black's.

A well upon the lower run

Was filled with earth and logs,

And Black laid baits about the farm

To poison Ross's dogs.

It was, indeed, a deadly feud

Of class and creed and race;

But, yet, there was a Romeo

And a Juliet in the case;

And more than once across the flats,

Beneath the Southern Cross,

Young Robert Black was seen to ride

With pretty Jenny Ross.

One Christmas time, when months of drought

Had parched the western creeks,

The bush-fires started in the north

And travelled south for weeks.

At night along the river-side

The scene was grand and strange -

The hill-fires looked like lighted streets

Of cities in the range.

The cattle-tracks between the trees

Were like long dusky aisles,

And on a sudden breeze the fire

Would sweep along for miles;

Like sounds of distant musketry

It crackled through the brakes,

And o'er the flat of silver grass

It hissed like angry snakes.

It leapt across the flowing streams

And raced o'er pastures broad;

It climbed the trees and lit the boughs

And through the scrubs it roared.

The bees fell stifled in the smoke

Or perished in their hives,

And with the stock the kangaroos

Went flying for their lives.

The sun had set on Christmas Eve,

When, through the scrub-lands wide,

Young Robert Black came riding home

As only natives ride.

He galloped to the homestead door

And gave the first alarm:

'The fire is past the granite spur,

'And close to Ross's farm.'

'Now, father, send the men at once,

They won't be wanted here;

Poor Ross's wheat is all he has

To pull him through the year.'

'Then let it burn,' the squatter said;

'I'd like to see it done -

I'd bless the fire if it would clear

Selectors from the run.

'Go if you will,' the squatter said,

'You shall not take the men -

Go out and join your precious friends,

And don't come here again.'

'I won't come back,' young Robert cried,

And, reckless in his ire,

He sharply turned his horse's head

And galloped towards the fire.

And there, for three long weary hours,

Half-blind with smoke and heat,

Old Ross and Robert fought the flames

That neared the ripened wheat.

The farmer's hand was nerved by fears

Of danger and of loss;

And Robert fought the stubborn foe

For the love of Jenny Ross.

But serpent-like the curves and lines

Slipped past them, and between,

Until they reached the bound'ry where

The old coach-road had been.

'The track is now our only hope,

There we must stand,' cried Ross,

'For nought on earth can stop the fire

If once it gets across.'

Then came a cruel gust of wind,

And, with a fiendish rush,

The flames leapt o'er the narrow path

And lit the fence of brush.

'The crop must burn!' the farmer cried,

'We cannot save it now,'

And down upon the blackened ground

He dashed the ragged bough.

But wildly, in a rush of hope,

His heart began to beat,

For o'er the crackling fire he heard

The sound of horses' feet.

'Here's help at last,' young Robert cried,

And even as he spoke

The squatter with a dozen men

Came racing through the smoke.

Down on the ground the stockmen jumped

And bared each brawny arm,

They tore green branches from the trees

And fought for Ross's farm;

And when before the gallant band

The beaten flames gave way,

Two grimy hands in friendship joined -

And it was Christmas Day.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Flour Bin

The flats are green as ever,

The creeks go rippling through;

The Mudgee hills are showing

Their deepest shade of blue.

Those mountains in the distance,

That ever held a charm,

Are fairer than a picture

As seen from Cox's farm.

On a German farm by Mudgee,

That took long years to win,

On the wide-bricked verandah

There stands a flour bin;

And the dear old German lady -

Though the bakers' carts run out -

Still keeps a fifty in it,

Against a time of drought.

It was my father made it,

It stands as good as new,

And of the others like it,

There still remain a few.

God grant when drought will strike us,

The young will take a pull,

And the old folk their strength anew

To keep those flour bins full.

By Lawson's Hill near Mudgee,

On old Eurunderee -

The place they call New Pipeclay,

Where the diggers used to be -

On a dreary old selection,

Where times were dry and thin,

In a slab and shingle kitchen

There stood a flour bin.

'Twas poorer with the cattle,

'Twas rust and smut in wheat,

'Twas blight in eyes and orchards,

And coarse salt beef to eat.

Oh, how our mothers struggled,

Till eyes and brain were dull,

Oh, how our fathers slaved and toiled

To keep those flour bins full.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Free-Selector's Daughter

I met her on the Lachlan Side -

A darling girl I thought her,

And ere I left I swore I'd win

The free-selector's daughter.

I milked her father's cows a month,

I brought the wood and water,

I mended all the broken fence,

Before I won the daughter.

I listened to her father's yarns,

I did just what I 'oughter',

And what you'll have to do to win

A free-selector's daughter.

I broke my pipe and burnt my twist,

And washed my mouth with water;

I had a shave before I kissed

The free-selector's daughter.

Then, rising in the frosty morn,

I brought the cows for Mary,

And when I'd milked a bucketful

I took it to the dairy.

I poured the milk into the dish

While Mary held the strainer,

I summoned heart to speak my wish,

And, oh! her blush grew plainer.

I told her I must leave the place,

I said that I would miss her;

At first she turned away her face,

And then she let me kiss her.

I put the bucket on the ground,

And in my arms I caught her:

I'd give the world to hold again

That free-selector's daughter!

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Glass on the Bar

Three bushmen one morning rode up to an inn,

And one of them called for the drinks with a grin;

They'd only returned from a trip to the North,

And, eager to greet them, the landlord came forth.

He absently poured out a glass of Three Star.

And set down that drink with the rest on the bar.

'There, that is for Harry,' he said, 'and it's queer,

'Tis the very same glass that he drank from last year;

His name's on the glass, you can read it like print,

He scratched it himself with an old piece of flint;

I remember his drink - it was always Three Star' -

And the landlord looked out through the door of the bar.

He looked at the horses, and counted but three:

'You were always together - where's Harry?' cried he.

Oh, sadly they looked at the glass as they said,

'You may put it away, for our old mate is dead;'

But one, gazing out o'er the ridges afar,

Said, 'We owe him a shout - leave the glass on the bar.'

They thought of the far-away grave on the plain,

They thought of the comrade who came not again,

They lifted their glasses, and sadly they said:

'We drink to the name of the mate who is dead.'

And the sunlight streamed in, and a light like a star

Seemed to glow in the depth of the glass on the bar.

And still in that shanty a tumbler is seen,

It stands by the clock, ever polished and clean;

And often the strangers will read as they pass

The name of a bushman engraved on the glass;

And though on the shelf but a dozen there are,

That glass never stands with the rest on the bar.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS – PART II

The Great Grey Plain

Out West, where the stars are brightest,

Where the scorching north wind blows,

And the bones of the dead gleam whitest,

And the sun on a desert glows -

Yet within the selfish kingdom

Where man starves man for gain,

Where white men tramp for existence -

Wide lies the Great Grey Plain.

No break in its awful horizon,

No blur in the dazzling haze,

Save where by the bordering timber

The fierce, white heat-waves blaze,

And out where the tank-heap rises

Or looms when the sunlights wane,

Till it seems like a distant mountain

Low down on the Great Grey Plain.

No sign of a stream or fountain,

No spring on its dry, hot breast,

No shade from the blazing noontide

Where a weary man might rest.

Whole years go by when the glowing

Sky never clouds for rain -

Only the shrubs of the desert

Grow on the Great Grey Plain.

From the camp, while the rich man's dreaming,

Come the 'traveller' and his mate,

In the ghastly dawnlight seeming

Like a swagman's ghost out late;

And the horseman blurs in the distance,

While still the stars remain,

A low, faint dust-cloud haunting

His track on the Great Grey Plain.

And all day long from before them

The mirage smokes away -

That daylight ghost of an ocean

Creeps close behind all day

With an evil, snake-like motion,

As the waves of a madman's brain:

'Tis a phantom NOT like water

Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

There's a run on the Western limit

Where a man lives like a beast,

And a shanty in the mulga

That stretches to the East;

And the hopeless men who carry

Their swags and tramp in pain -

The footmen must not tarry

Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

Out West, where the stars are brightest,

Where the scorching north wind blows,

And the bones of the dead seem whitest,

And the sun on a desert glows -

Out back in the hungry distance

That brave hearts dare in vain -

Where beggars tramp for existence -

There lies the Great Grey Plain.

'Tis a desert not more barren

Than the Great Grey Plain of years,

Where a fierce fire burns the hearts of men -

Dries up the fount of tears:

Where the victims of a greed insane

Are crushed in a hell-born strife -

Where the souls of a race are murdered

On the Great Grey Plain of Life!

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Grog-an'-Grumble Steeplechase

'Twixt the coastline and the border lay the town of Grog-an'-Grumble

(Just two pubs beside a racecourse in a wilderness of sludge)

An' they say the local meeting was a drunken rough-and-tumble,

Which was ended pretty often by an inquest on the judge.

Yes 'tis said the city talent very often caught a tartar

In the Grog-an'-Grumble sportsman, 'n' retired with broken heads,

For the fortune, life, and safety of the Grog-an'-Grumble starter

Mostly hung upon the finish of the local thoroughbreds.

Pat M'Durmer was the owner of a horse they called the Screamer,

Which he called "the quickest shtepper 'twixt the Darling and the sea",

But I think it's very doubtful if a Banshee-haunted dreamer

Ever saw a more outrageous piece of equine scenery;

For his points were most decided, from his end to his beginning,

He had eyes of different colour, and his legs they wasn't mates.

Pat M'Durmer said he always came "widin a flip av winnin'",

An' his sire had come from England, 'n' his dam was from the States.

Friends would argue with M'Durmer, and they said he was in error

To put up his horse The Screamer, for he'd lose in any case,

And they said a city racer by the name of Holy Terror

Was regarded as the winner of the coming steeplechase;

Pat said he had the knowledge to come in when it was raining,

And irrevelantly mentioned that he knew the time of day,

So he rose in their opinion. It was noticed that the training

Of the Screamer was conducted in a dark, mysterious way.

Well, the day arrived in glory; 'twas a day of jubilation

With careless-hearted bushmen quite a hundred miles around,

An' the rum 'n' beer 'n' whisky came in waggons from the station,

An' the Holy Terror talent were the first upon the ground.

Judge M'Ard - with whose opinion it was scarcely safe to wrestle -

Took his dangerous position on the bark-and-sapling stand:

He was what the local Stiggins used to speak of as a "wessel

Of wrath", and he'd a bludgeon that he carried in his hand.

"Off ye go!" the starter shouted, as down fell a stupid jockey -

Off they started in disorder - left the jockey where he lay -

And they fell and rolled and galloped down the crooked course and rocky,

Till the pumping of The Screamer could be heard a mile away.

But he kept his legs and galloped; he was used to rugged courses,

And he lumbered down the gully till the ridge began to quake:

And he ploughed along the sidling, raising earth till other horses

An' their riders, too, were blinded by the dust-cloud in his wake.

From the ruck he'd struggle slowly - they were much surprised to find him

Close abeam of Holy Terror as along the flat they tore -

Even higher still and denser rose the cloud of dust behind him,

While in more divided splinters flew the shattered rails before.

"Terror!" "Dead heat!" they were shouting - "Terror!" but The Screamer hung out

Nose to nose with Holy Terror as across the creek they swung,

An' M'Durmer shouted loudly, "Put yer tongue out! put yer tongue out!"

An ' the Screamer put his tongue out, and he won by half-a-tongue.

Henry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

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 the 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 - a 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 farther west;

Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe -

The bravest hears 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 dusts and damps,

To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,

To stir our hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache -

(Ah! when she thinks again of these 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:

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 sidlings 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 and cheerful glow -

New camps extend across the plains new routes for Cobb and Co.

Swift scramble up the sidling where teams climb inch by inch;

Pause, bird-like, on the summit - then breakneck down the pinch;

By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,

Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;

Past haunted half-way houses - where convicts make the bricks -

Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six;

Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go -

A hundred miles shall see tonight the lights of Cobb and Co.

BHenry Lawson

Back to HENRY LAWSON LIST OF POEMS -- PART II

The Never-Never Land

By homestead, hut, and shearing-shed,

By railroad, coach, and track -

By lonely graves where rest our dead,

Up Country and Out Back:

To where beneath the clustered stars

The dreamy plains expand -

My home lies wide a thousand miles

In the Never-Never Land.

It lies beyond the farming belt,

Wide wastes of scrub and plain,

A blazing desert in the drought,

A lake-land after rain;

To the sky-line sweeps the waving grass,

Or whirls the scorching sand -

A phantom land, a mystic realm!

The Never-Never Land.

Where lone Mount Desolation lies,

Mounts Dreadful and Despair -

'Tis lost beneath the rainless skies

In hopeless deserts there;

It spreads nor'-west by No-Man's Land -

Where clouds are seldom seen -

To where the cattle-stations lie

Three hundred miles between.

The drovers of the Great Stock Routes

The strange Gulf country know -

Where, travelling for th northern grass

The big lean bullocks go;

And camped by night where plains lie wide,

Like some old ocean's bed,

The stockmen in the starlight ride

Round fifteen hundred head.

And west of named and numbered days

The shearers walk and ride -

Jack Cornstalk and the Ne'er-do-well,

And Greybeard side by side;

They veil their eyes from moon and stars,

And slumber on the sand -

Sad memories sleep as years go round

In Never-Never Land.

Oh rebels to society!

The Outcasts of the West -

Oh hopeless eyes that smile for me,

And broken hearts that jest!

The pluck to face a thousand miles,

The grit to see it through!

The Communism perfected! -

Till man to man is True!

The Arab to true desert sand,

The Finn to fens and snow;

The "Flax-stick" dreams of Maoriland,

While seasons come and go;

Whatever stars may glow or burn

O'er lands of East and West,

The wanering heart of man will turn

To one it loves the best.

Lest in the city I forget

True mateship after all,

My water-bag and billy yet

Are hanging on the wall.

And I to save my soul again

Would tramp to sunsets grand

With sad-eyed mates across the plain

In the Never-Never Land.

Henry Lawson

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