A Selection of

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Bush Poems

 
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The Australian Authors featured on this site

A B BanjoPaterson

Henry Lawson

Henry Kendall

G Essex Evans

Dorothea MacKellar

"John O'Brien"

Will Ogilvie

 

     
 
 
 
 
The Swagman's Rest
 
A Bush Christening
 
 
The Women of the West My Country
 
The Riding of The Rebel  
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If you have been inspired to write a poem about our beloved land, Australia,
and would like me to include it in this section, please email me

Many thanks to the people from far and wide who continue to email me with their kind comments on my site. I am forever grateful to you - you give me the impetus needed to continue. One such person, COL, continues to inspire me greatly with his very colourful descriptions of his time and experiences in the outback as a drover. He very kindly sent me this poem by Veronica Weal of Mount Isa. I urge you all to read it and remember......

THE SPIRITS OF THE OUTBACK

Veronica Weal – Mount Isa, Queensland

 
When those aircraft started falling in an outrage so appalling
That the world was changed forever on a clear September day,
Did you shed some tears of pity for the pain of New York City?
Did you grieve for senseless slaughter in a country far away?
 
Do you feel a fear of flying, and of shattered aircraft lying
In the piles of smoking rubble in some city overseas?
Have the sites of foreign action lost a lot of their attraction?
Do you think of coming holidays with feelings of unease?
 
At a time of narrowed choices, clear your mind and hear the voices
Of the Spirits of the Outback, as they praise their ancient land.
Hear their whispered words come stealing as they softly start appealing
For a nation to appreciate the wonders close at hand.
 
You’re an Aussie, so you reckon.  Follow where the Spirits beckon!
Go and see the wide horizons as the dusty tracks unwind!
Take your car and dare to travel over western dust and gravel.
Feel the sense of isolation when the city’s far behind!
 
See the kangaroos go bounding.  Hear the thump of tails resounding!
See the wily snakes and lizards in their careful camouflage.
See the bright green budgies winging, with a thousand of them singing!
See a string of camels striding through a distant blue mirage.
 
Go and see the sunset glowing where the coolabahs are growing
Near Kynuna, where the legends of the past can touch your soul.
See, in wild imagination, as the icon of a nation
Meets his fate in muddy waters at the Combo waterhole!
 
See the headstones sadly angle, in the weeds and grass entangled,
Where the dead men lie forever now their lonely lives are spent,
Sense their selfless sacrifices as they paid the loser’s prices
In the game of dice with danger, in a stark environment.
 
Go and watch as riders battle with the speedy bush-bred cattle.
Hear the stockwhips crack and rattle when the muster has begun!
Stand and feel an eerie shiver as the ghosts of Snowy River
Gallop silent through the snow gums on an alpine mountain run!
 
See the purple storm clouds banking when the mill has ceased its clanking
And the lives of stock depend upon the rain about to fall!
Go and see the grasses growing where the rivers have been flowing,
And the way the wildflowers carpet all the country, wall to wall!
 
See the distant mountains shimmer in the hazy mid-day simmer.
See the wide blue vaulted heavens where the wedge-tailed eagles fly.
Go and see the rivers shining where the ghost gums are entwining.
See a windmill silhouetted up against a sunset sky.
 
When the blackened billy’s boiling and the campfire smoke is coiling,
See the sparks that dance like fireflies as they float into the night!
Go to sleep, when day has ended, ‘neath the Southern Cross, suspended
Like a precious jewel above you, with its pure and lustrous light!
 
View the painting, dotted, mystic, of an ancient race, artistic
And simplistic in their spirit.  Go and see and understand
Why they love their Keeping Places in these endless open spaces.
Go and sense their total bonding with their Rainbow Serpent land!
 
Go and see the West’s aorta – source of life, artesian water!
See the lilies splashing colour on the creeks of Kakadu!
Heed the Spirits!  Go and do it, or forever you will rue it!
Flash resorts and frantic cities are the same the whole world through.
 
Do not sit at home stagnating when Australia is waiting!
Go and see the opal colours of the country “further out”!
Meet the people unassuming!  See the golden wattle blooming!
Go and see the “vision splendid” that “The Banjo” wrote about!
 
Leave your comfort zone behind you!  Let the inland core remind you
Of the courage of our pioneers, who played a vital part
In the gradual formation of our image as a nation.
Let the Spirits of the Outback live forever in your heart!

 

Clancy of The Overflow

by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just 'on spec', addressed as follows: 'Clancy, of The Overflow'.
 
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar);
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, verbatim I will quote it;
'Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are.'

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving 'down the Cooper' where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
 
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street.
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
 
And the hurrying people daunt me and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
 
And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of the 'Overflow'.
 

The Swagman's Rest

by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

We buried old Bob where the bloodwoods wave
At the foot of the Eaglehawk;
We fashioned a cross on the old man's grave
For fear that his ghost might walk;
We carved his name on a bloodwood tree
With the date of his sad decease
And in place of "Died from effects of spree"
We wrote "May he rest in peace".

For Bob was known on the Overland,
A regular old bush wag,
Tramping along in the dust and sand,
Humping his well-worn swag.
He would camp for days in the river-bed,
And loiter and "fish for whales".
"I'm into the swagman's yard," he said.
"And I never shall find the rails."

But he found the rails on that summer night
For a better place -- or worse,
As we watched by turns in the flickering light
With an old black gin for nurse.
The breeze came in with the scent of pine,
The river sounded clear,
When a change came on, and we saw the sign
That told us the end was near.

He spoke in a cultured voice and low --
"I fancy they've 'sent the route';
I once was an army man, you know,
Though now I'm a drunken brute;
But bury me out where the bloodwoods wave,
And, if ever you're fairly stuck,
Just take and shovel me out of the grave
And, maybe, I'll bring you luck.

"For I've always heard --" here his voice grew weak,
His strength was wellnigh sped,
He gasped and struggled and tried to speak,
Then fell in a moment -- dead.
Thus ended a wasted life and hard,
Of energies misapplied --
Old Bob was out of the "swagman's yard"
And over the Great Divide.

The drought came down on the field and flock,
And never a raindrop fell,
Though the tortured moans of the starving stock
Might soften a fiend from hell.
And we thought of the hint that the swagman gave
When he went to the Great Unseen --
We shovelled the skeleton out of the grave
To see what his hint might mean.

We dug where the cross and the grave posts were,
We shovelled away the mould,
When sudden a vein of quartz lay bare
All gleaming with yellow gold.
'Twas a reef with never a fault nor baulk
That ran from the range's crest,
And the richest mine on the Eaglehawk
Is known as "The Swagman's Rest".

A Bush Christening

by A. B. "Banjo" Paterson

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a road never cross'd 'cept by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.

Now this Mike was the dad of a ten-year-old lad,
Plump, healthy, and stoutly conditioned;
He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest
For the youngster had never been christened.

And his wife used to cry, "If the darlin' should die
Saint Peter would not recognize him."
But by luck he survived till a preacher arrived,
Who agreed straightaway to baptize him.

Now the artful young rogue, while they held their collogue,
With his ear to the keyhole was listenin';
And he muttered in fright, while his features turned white,
"What the divil and all is this christenin'?"
 
He was none of your dolts -- He had seen them brand colts,
And it seemed to his small understanding,
If the man in the frock made him one of the flock,
It must mean something very like branding.

So away with a rush he set off for the bush,
While the tears in his eyelids they glistened --
"'Tis outrageous," says he, "to brand youngsters like me;
I'll be dashed if I'll stop to be christened!"

Like a young native dog he ran into a log,
And his father with language uncivil,
Never heeding the "praste", cried aloud in his haste
"Come out and be christened, you divil!"

But he lay there as snug as a bug in a rug,
And his parents in vain might reprove him,
Till his reverence spoke (he was fond of a joke)
"I've a notion," says he, "that'll move him.

"Poke a stick up the log, give the spalpeen a prog;
Poke him aisy -- don't hurt him or maim him;
'Tis not long that he'll stand, I've the water at hand,
As he rushes out this end I'll name him.

"Here he comes, and for shame, ye've forgotten the name -
Is it Patsy or Michael or Dinnis?"
Here the youngster ran out, and the priest gave a shout --
"Take your chance, anyhow, wid `Maginnis'!"

As the howling young cub ran away to the scrub
Where he knew that pursuit would be risky,
The priest, as he fled, flung a flask at his head
That was labelled "Maginnis's Whisky"!

Now Maginnis Magee has been made a J.P.,
And the one thing he hates more than sin is
To be asked by the folk, who have heard of the joke,
How he came to be christened Maginnis!

My Country
by Dorothea MacKellar

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens,
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft dim skies,
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror,
This wide brown land for me.

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The saphirre misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart around us
We watch the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze

An opal hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

by A B Banjo Paterson
 
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and
waited till his billy boiled,
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he watched and
waited till his billy boiled,
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee, And he sang as he shoved that
jumbuck in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he shoved that
jumbuck in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he shoved that
jumbuck in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Up rode a squatter mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers one, two, three,
"Who's that jolly jumbuck
you've got in your tucker-bag,"
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me,
"Who's that jolly jumbuck
you've got in your tucker-bag,"
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Up jumped the swagman and
jumped into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive!" said he,
And his ghost may be heard
as you pass by the billabong,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me,
And his ghost may be heard
as you pass by the billabong,
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.

 

 
Note the Three Policemen and the Squatter Bob Macpherson (4th from right).This photo was taken at Dagworth Station on the 26th September 1894, just a few short months before Banjo Paterson stayed there when he penned Waltzing Matilda.
And so he wrote...
Up came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred,
Up came Policemen - one two and three!

AUSTRALIAN SCENERY

The Mountains
A land of sombre, silent hills, where mountain cattle go
By twisted tracks, on sidelings steep, where giant gum trees grow
And the wind replies, in the river oaks, to the song of the stream below.
A land where the hills keep watch and ward, silent and wide awake
As those who sit by a dead campfire, and wait for the dawn to break,
Or those who watched by the Holy Cross for the dead Redeemer's sake.
 
A land where silence so deep that sound itself is dead
And a gaunt grey bird, like a homeless soul, drifts, noiseless overhead
And the world's great story is left untold, and the message is left unsaid.
The Plains
A land, as far as the eye can see, where the waving grasses grow
Or the plains are blackened and burnt and bare, where the false mirages go
Like shifting symbols of hope deferred - land where you never know.
 
Land of the plenty or land of want, where the grey Companions dance,
Feast or famine, or hope or fear, and in all things land of chance,
Where Nature pampers or Nature slays, in her ruthless, red, romance.
 
And we catch a sound of a fairy's song, as the wind goes whipping by,
Or a scent like incense drifts along from the herbage ripe and dry
- Or the dust storms dance on their ballroom floor, where the bones of the cattle lie.
A B PATERSON
from 'The Animals Noah Forgot' Prologue
 
 
by Henry Lawson
 
By hut, homestead, 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 skyline 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 from the southern droughts,
The big lean bullocks go;
And camped by night where plains lie wide,
Like some old ocean's bed,
The watchmen in the starlight ride
Round fifteen hundred head.
 
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.
 

THE WOMEN OF THE WEST

by G. ESSEX EVANS
1863 - 1909
 
They left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,
The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,
The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best;
For love they faced the wilderness - the Women of the West.
The roar, and rush, and fever of the city died away,
And the old-time joys and faces-they were gone for many a day,
In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock-chains,
O'er the everlasting sameness of the never-ending plains.
In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately taken run,
In the tent beside the bankment of a railway just begun,
In the huts on new selections, in the camps of man's unrest,
On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.

The red sun robs their beauty and, in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;
And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say -
The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away.
The wide bush holds the secrets of their longing and desire,
When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar fires,
And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast-
Perchance He hears and understands the Women of the West.
Well have we held our father's creed. No call has passed us by.
We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent our sons to die.
And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet, o'er all the rest,
The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.
 
by John O'Brien


"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

"It's lookin' crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out.

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak--
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

"We want a inch of rain, we do,"
O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
To put the danger past.

"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."
John O'Brien
by A B Banjo Paterson
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses, he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
 

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up,
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand, No better
horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony, three parts thoroughbred at least,
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry, just the sort that won't say die
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, `That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop, lad, you'd better stop away, Those hills
are far too rough for such as you.'
So he waited sad and wistful, only Clancy stood his friend,
`I think we ought to let him come,' he said;
`I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, For both his
horse and he are mountain bred.

`He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.'

So he went, they found the horses by the big mimosa clump,
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, `Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight, If once they
gain the shelter of those hills.'

So Clancy rode to wheel them, he was racing on the wing Where the
best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash, And off into the mountain scrub they flew.


 

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way, Where
mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, `We may bid the mob good day,
NO man can hold them down the other side.'

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, He cleared
the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat, It was grand
to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet, With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home, And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day, And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

Lost
by A.B.'Banjo' Paterson (1864 - 1941)
Andy’s Gone With Cattle
by Henry Lawson
‘He ought to be home,’ said the old man, ‘without there’s something amiss.
He only went to the Two-mile — he ought to be back by this.
He would ride the Reckless filly, he would have his wilful way;
And, here, he’s not back at sundown — and what will his mother say?

‘He was always his mother’s idol, since ever his father died;
And there isn’t a horse on the station that he isn’t game to ride.
But that Reckless mare is vicious, and if once she gets away
He hasn’t got strength to hold her — and what will his mother say?’
 
The old man walked to the sliprail, and peered up the dark’ning track,
And looked and longed for the rider that would never more come back;
And the mother came and clutched him, with sudden, spasmodic fright:
‘What has become of my Willie? — why isn’t he home to-night?’
 
Away in the gloomy ranges, at the foot of an ironbark,
The bonnie, winsome laddie was lying stiff and stark;
For the Reckless mare had smashed him against a leaning limb,
And his comely face was battered, and his merry eyes were dim.
 
And the thoroughbred chestnut filly, the saddle beneath her flanks,
Was away like fire through the ranges to join the wild mob’s ranks;
And a broken-hearted woman and an old man worn and grey
Were searching all night in the ranges till the sunrise brought the day.
 
And the mother kept feebly calling, with a hope that would not die,
‘Willie! where are you, Willie?’ But how can the dead reply;
And hope died out with the daylight, and the darkness brought despair,
God pity the stricken mother, and answer the widow’s prayer!
 
Though far and wide they sought him, they found not where he fell;
For the ranges held him precious, and guarded their treasure well.
The wattle blooms above him, and the blue bells blow close by,
And the brown bees buzz the secret, and the wild birds sing reply.
 
But the mother pined and faded, and cried, and took no rest,
And rode each day to the ranges on her hopeless, weary quest.
Seeking her loved one ever, she faded and pined away,
But with strength of her great affection she still sought every day.
 
‘I know that sooner or later I shall find my boy,’ she said.
But she came not home one evening, and they found her lying dead,
And stamped on the poor pale features, as the spirit homeward pass’d,
Was an angel smile of gladness — she had found the boy at last.
 

OUR Andy’s gone to battle now
  ’Gainst Drought, the red marauder;
Our Andy’s gone with cattle now
  Across the Queensland border.

He’s left us in dejection now;
  Our hearts with him are roving.
It’s dull on this selection now,
  Since Andy went a-droving.

Who now shall wear the cheerful face
  In times when things are slackest?
And who shall whistle round the place
  When Fortune frowns her blackest?

Oh, who shall cheek the squatter now
  When he comes round us snarling?
His tongue is growing hotter now
  Since Andy cross’d the Darling.

The gates are out of order now,
  In storms the ’riders’ rattle;
For far across the border now
  Our Andy’s gone with cattle.

Poor Aunty’s looking thin and white;
  And Uncle’s cross with worry;
And poor old Blucher howls all night
  Since Andy left Macquarie.

Oh, may the showers in torrents fall,
  And all the tanks run over;
And may the grass grow green and tall
  In pathways of the drover;

And may good angels send the rain
  On desert stretches sandy;
And when the summer comes again
  God grant ’twill bring us Andy

Tangmalangaloo

- P J Hartigan ("John O'Brien")

The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
And galvanised the old bush church at confirmation time;
And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
With Sunday clothes and staring eyes and ignorance profound.
Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
An overgrown two-story lad from Tangmalangaloo?

A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has her fling,
And grows the trefoil three feet high and mats it in the spring;
Where mighty oaks uplift their heads to pierce the welkin's rim,
And trees sprout up a hundred yards before they shoot a limb;
There everything is big and grand, and men are giants too -
But Christian Knowledge wilts, alas, at Tangmalangaloo.

The bishop summed the youngsters up, as bishops only can;
He cast a searching eye around, then fixed upon his man.
But glum and dumb and undismayed through every bout he sat;
He seemed to think that he was there, but wasn't sure of that.
The bishop gave a scornful look, as bishops sometimes do,
And glared right through the pagan in from Tangmalangaloo.

"Come, tell me, boy," his lordship said in crushing tones severe,
"Come, tell me why is Christmas Day the greatest in the year?
How is it that around the world we celebrate that day
And send a name upon a card to those who're far away?
Why is it wandering ones return with smiles and greetings, too?"
A squall of knowledge hit the lad from Tangmalangaloo.

He gave a lurch which set a-shake the vases on the shelf,
He knocked the benches all askew, up-ending of himself.
And oh, how pleased his lordship was, and how he smiled to say,
"That's good, my boy. Come, tell me now; and what is Christmas day?"
The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew -
"It's the day before the races out at Tangmalangaloo."

THE RIDING OF THE REBEL
By Will Ogilvie

He was the Red Creek  overseer, a trusted man and true,
Whose shoulder never left the wheel when there was work to do;
Through all the day he rode the run, and when the lights grew dim
The sweetest wife that ever loved would wait and watch for him.
She brought him dower of golden hair and eyes of laughing blue,
Stout heart and cunning bridle-hand to guide the mulga through;
And when the mob was mustered from the box flats far and wide
She loved to mount the wildest colts that no one else would ride.

And once it chanced a wayward steed, half-mouthed and roughly broke,
Denied the touch of gentle hand and gentler words she spoke,
And, plunging forward like the ship that feels the autumn gales,
He reared and lost his footing and fell backwards on the rails.
Her husband bent above her with cold terror at his heart --
The form was still he loved so well, the wan lips would not part;
And all the day in trance she lay, but when the stars smiled down
He heard his name low-whispered and he claimed her still his own.

And afterwards he spoke his fear: "Heart's love, if you should die! . . .
Unless you take our orders from some other man than I,
You shall  never finger bridle, never mount on horse's back,
Till the outlaw on Glenidol is a broken lady's hack!"
There's an outlaw on Glenidol that is known through all the West,
And three men's lives are on his head, bold riders of the best;
The station lads have heard the sneer that travelled far and wide,
And flung the answering challenge: "Come and teach us how to ride!"

Roll up, ye merry riders all, whose honour is to guard!
We've mustered up the ranges and the Rebel's in the yard,
His open mouth and stamping foot and keen eye flashing fire
Repeat the temper of his dam, the mettle of his sire.
Roll up, ye merry riders all, from hut and camp and town!
You'll have to stick like plaster when the stockyard rails go down.
But the boss will come down handsome, as the boss is wont to come,
To the first who brings The Rebel under spurs and greenhide home.

And the stockmen heard the challenge from the Cooper to the Bree,
And rode from hut and cattle-camp by one and two and three
To keep their horseman's honour clean and play a hero's part,
To best the bold Glenidol boys and break The Rebel's heart.
And Ruddy Neil, the breaker, from the Riverine came through
With all the latest breaking-gear and all the wiles he knew,
But ere the saddle was secured, before a girth was drawn,
The Rebel's forefoot split his skull -- they buried him at dawn!

Marora Mick, the half-caste, from the Flinders River came
To give the South-the-Border boys a lesson at the game;
But he got a roguish welcome when he entered New South Wales,
For The Rebel used his blood and brains to paint the stockyard rails!
And Mulga Jack came over from the Yuinburra side --
The horse was never foaled, they say, that Mulga could not ride;
With a mouth as hard as a miser's heart, a will like the Devil's own,
The Rebel made for the Stony Range, with the man who wouldn't be thrown;

The Rebel made for the Stony Range, where the plain and the scrub-land meet,
And the dead boughs cracked at his shoulder-blade, the stones leapt under his feet,
And the ragged stems of the gidyeas cut and tore as they blundered past . . .
And Jack lay cold in the sunset gold -- he had met with his match at last.
And once again the challenge rang, the bitterer for scorn,
And spoke the bold Glenidol boys, their jackets mutlga-torn:
"A week have we been hunting him and riding fast and hard
To give you all another chance -- The Rebel's in the yard!"

And the stockmen heard the challenge from the Cooper to the Bree;
But "I'm getting old!" "I'm getting stiff!" or "I've a wife, you see!"
Came whispered to the border; and the horse they could not tame
Had saved Glenidol from disgrace and cleansed a sullied name.
But ere the reddening sun went down and night on the ranges broke
A stranger youth to the slip-rails rode, and fastened his horse and spoke
Softly and low, yet none so low but that every man there heard:
"I've come to tackle your outlaw colt," -- and he looked as good as his word.

He bridled The Rebel in failing light, and saddled the colt and drew
The straps of his gearing doubly tight, and looked that his "length" was true.
He mounted The Rebel and gave the word, and the clattering rails went down,
And the outlaw leapt at the open gate and into the shadows brown;
But he settled himself to the soothing voice and the touch of the fondling hand,
As it followed the curve of his arching neck from wither to forehead-band;
His flanks were wet with the fresh-sprung sweat, his shoulders lathered with foam,
And he bent to the bridle and played with the bit as he came at a canter home.

And the boys were dumb with wonder, and sat, and the Red Creek overseer
Was first to drop from the stockyard fence and give him a hearty cheer.
He raised his hat in answer and --- the golden hair floated free!
And the blue eyes lit with laughter as she shouted merrily:
"You can reach me down my bridle, give my girths and saddle back,
For the outlaw of Glenidol is a broken lady's hack!"  
Poems by
HENRY KENDALL
(1839 - 1882)
"His poetry is perhaps the most lyrical of any of the Australian poets - 'singing pictures'"
 
He crouches, and buries his face on his knees,
And hides in the dark of his hair;
For he cannot look up to the storm-smitten trees,
Or think of the loneliness there --
Of the loss and the loneliness there.

The wallaroos grope through the tufts of the grass,
And turn to their coverts for fear;
But he sits in the ashes and lets them pass
Where the boomerangs sleep with the spear --
With the nullah, the sling and the spear.

Uloola, behold him! The thunder that breaks
On the tops of the rocks with the rain,
And the wind which drives up with the salt of the lakes,
Have made him a hunter again --
A hunter and fisher again.

For his eyes have been full with a smouldering thought;
But he dreams of the hunts of yore,
And of foes that he sought, and of fights that he fought
With those who will battle no more --
Who will go to the battle no more.

It is well that the water which tumbles and fills,
Goes moaning and moaning along;
For an echo rolls out from the sides of the hills,
And he starts at a wonderful song --
At the sound of a wonderful song.

And he sees, through the rents of the scattering fogs,
The corroboree warlike and grim,
And the lubra who sat by the fire on the logs,
To watch, like a mourner, for him --
Like a mother and mourner for him.

Will he go in his sleep from these desolate lands,
Like a chief, to the rest of his race,
With the honey-voiced woman who beckons and stands,
And gleams like a dream in his face --
Like a marvellous dream in his face?
 
By channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling:
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges.
Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.

The silver-voiced bell birds, the darlings of daytime!
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;
When shadows wax strong, and the thunder bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.
October, the maiden of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in these cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses, to listen,
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the Morning. 

Welcome as waters unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to the thirsty far-comers.
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels who torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and the leaves in the currents. 
Often I sit, looking back to a childhood,
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion,
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of Passion; -
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest-rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys:
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.
About the author
Henry Kendall was born on 18 April 1839 in Yatteyattah near Milton on the coast of New South Wales. His birthplace was a bush hut of slab and stone. He lived in the coastal regions of Illawarra in the south of NSW and Clarence River in the north before spending two years aboard a whaling vessel. After returning to live in Sydney he published his first volume of poetry, Poems and Songs in 1862. He moved to Melbourne in 1868 after his marriage and published his second volume, Leaves from Australian Forests in 1869. Neither of these brought him much success, so with the death of his daughter Araluen and his disappointment at his lack of success he turned to alcohol and he was to spend various periods in a Sydney asylum for his addiction. He was finally cured, reunited with his wife in Camden and began writing again. In 1879 he wrote the words for the cantata to be sung at the opening of the Sydney International Exhibition and won the 100 guinea prize for the poem to celebrate the same Exhibition.
He published and achieved success with his final volume of poetry, Songs from the Mountains, in 1880,
but sadly, he passed away on 1 August 1882.
Many of Kendall's poems are today claimed to be amongst the finest and most well loved Australian poems.
 

YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS

The following poem was written by
Robbie Le 'Nepveu
who has given me his permission
to include it in my
Collection of Favourite Australian Poems
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do

AUSTRALIA - I'M COMING HOME

by Robbie Le 'Nepveu

I loved my good old Australia
For she was my handsome home
Branded with desolate territory
From way back she allowed any man to roam
 
Her hills gave rise to the countryside
And her valleys be backdrops of heavens
To the front of her land was her seaside
With politely lit capes and bright beacons
 
She let me walk tracks primed by captives
And taught me the times gone by of dreamtimes
She told me to hold hands with these natives
For they were my people and teachers of my peacetime
 
She showed me we Australian’s were of several breeds
And would ever stand up for far away outcast needs
For in that beloved land, we always took our stand
I know for another an Australian would bleed
 
And to the west I remember ginger sunsets
To the east I bring to mind pale dawns
And the south I recall creeping grape plants
To the north those memoirs still spawn
I yearn to bathe in her salty sapphire sea
And long forever to swelter beneath her fiery sun
I want to steer leisurely down her wide snaky roads
And handhold the soil as it reddens to ripen the baron
 
I am proud to be from the land under southern skies
And miss the morning sound of the devilish magpie
I theorised it best to come across kingdoms and roam
But my fortress is down under - Australia I’m coming home
by Robbie Le'Nepveu
________________________
 
 
My thanks to Marc for the following contribution, "I've Seen"
 

I'VE SEEN
by Marc Glasby

I've seen the desert bloom with colour
I've seen the red land turn to green
I've seen the sunset's wild abandon
The wide brown land is where I've been

I've seen the mountains cloaked in thunder
seen the mighty Fitzroy flow
seen the land they call 'Down Under'
seen the whales that breach and blow

I've seen a land of open spaces
seen a sea of cobalt blue
seen a sea of smiling faces
felt the thing they call 'true blue'

I've walked a mile upon the footsteps
pioneers trod once before
packed my swag in lonely places
pitched a tent upon the shore

I've walked the rim of Wolfe Creek Crater
rode the mighty Murray down
seen the ore they ship by freighter
seen the bridge in Sydney town

I've been away to foreign places
seen the world in other parts
but nothing there I've seen replaces
the wide brown land within my heart

(c) Marc Glasby 25/2/01
I make no apology for including the following piece of prose in my Bush Poetry page.
It was sent to me by a dinkum Aussie who, as a stockman and drover
has seen more of the Australian bush than most of us will ever see.
In an email to me recently he wrote -
 
"visiting your site is an  emotional experience for me. I  can smell the gum leaves, see my quart pot boiling at dinner camp on the bank of a lagoon, my horse tied nearby switching flies with his tail.
You have had the ability to take me back in time."
 
Many years ago whilst working in the bush, a friend of his lost all his teeth.
A local alcoholic who was a dental mechanic in 'another lifetime' made him a
very badly fitting set of dentures.
This funny event inspired him to write the following poem.

I hope you get a smile out of it, as I did.

Un-Named
by Col
 
It sounds rather absurd , I've just received word
There's problems down at the infirmary,
All the patients now curse a young first year nurse,
Whose mistake was so elementary.
 
Because matron decreed, all the dentures did need
To be collected and given a scrub.
Without any debate the nurse gathered each plate,
Placed them in a big galvanised tub.
 
She was in quite a rush with soap and big brush,
Till those molars shone like they were new,
Oh what a nark not one did she mark,
Then it dawned she was in quite a stew.
 
As those dentures did soak those teeth saw the joke.
They all smiled with a terrible grin,
Would a solution evolve and her problem solve,
To find the owners for the teeth in that tin.
 
Well it upset the staff to see those dentures laugh,
While the owners they just couldnt find,
Using tenacity and wit they just wouldnt fit
They were all in one terrible bind.
 
Until in due course they resorted to force,
With the patients mouths held open wide,
They did push and did shove with no sign of love,
Till each mouth had teeth firmly inside.
 
Now you should be discreet should ever you meet,
A person with a very fixed grin,
You can bet your whole purse that a very young nurse,
mixed their dentures up in that tin.
more work by
Col Deering
 
The Ten Chain Track
 
 
The days long passed to memory when we rode the ten chain track
with mobs of spooky bullocks on those dusty routs outback,
Shimmering heat waves cross those plains, distort our distant view
Of sunburnt clumps of spinnafex, the half dead trees are few.
Horses fat and flighty when we start our long hot trek
Saddles, packs and bridles all gear we double check,
Supplies will all be carried upon our horses backs
All we need for the weeks ahead are loaded in those packs.
 
First signs now of day break a spartan meal we're eating
Of corn beef, tea and damper, the suns gold rays we're greeting.
As we move the mob off slowly the long hot day ahead
With little grass along the route to keep our charges fed,
Not easy for the drover to keep his cattle prime,
The sparse dry grass is scattered , the water holes just slime.
As water holes get better, lush grass from recent rain,
Any drover worth his salt will surely drag the chain.
 
The long hot day now over, dusk brings on the night,
Cattle now are settled, God help they don't take fright.
As we sit around the camp fire many a tale is told
Of the errie quiet before a rush that would make your blood run cold.
The night watch cold and lonely, but keeps the mob at rest
As the drover hums his tuneless song, on the ten chain route outwest,
But when the trip is over and you hear the ringer swear
Of rotten heat, stinkin flys and squatters who don't care,
A few days in the boozer, the cheque now down the drain
And it's back into the saddle down the ten chain route again  
 

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Updated April 2003
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