THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER AND OTHER VERSES
by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson
[Australian Poet, Reporter — 1864-1941.]
[Note on text: Italicized stanzas will be indented 5 spaces. Italicized words or phrases will be capitalized. Lines longer than 75 characters have been broken according to metre, and the continuation is indented two spaces. Also, some obvious errors, after being confirmed against other sources, have been corrected.]
[Note on content: Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson were writing for the Sydney 'Bulletin' in 1892 when Lawson suggested a 'duel' of poetry to increase the number of poems they could sell to the paper. It was apparently entered into in all fun, though there are reports that Lawson was bitter about it later. 'In Defence of the Bush', included in this selection, was one of Paterson's replies to Lawson.]
[The 1913 printing (Sydney, Fifty-third Thousand) of the Second Edition (first published in 1902) was used in the preparation of this etext. First edition was first published in 1895.]
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER AND OTHER VERSES
by A. B. Paterson ("The Banjo")
with preface by Rolf Boldrewood
It is not so easy to write ballads descriptive of the bushland of Australia as on light consideration would appear. Reasonably good verse on the subject has been supplied in sufficient quantity. But the maker of folksongs for our newborn nation requires a somewhat rare combination of gifts and experiences. Dowered with the poet's heart, he must yet have passed his 'wander-jaehre' amid the stern solitude of the Austral waste — must have ridden the race in the back-block township, guided the reckless stock-horse adown the mountain spur, and followed the night-long moving, spectral-seeming herd 'in the droving days'. Amid such scarce congenial surroundings comes oft that finer sense which renders visible bright gleams of humour, pathos, and romance, which, like undiscovered gold, await the fortunate adventurer. That the author has touched this treasure-trove, not less delicately than distinctly, no true Australian will deny. In my opinion this collection comprises the best bush ballads written since the death of Lindsay Gordon.
A number of these verses are now published for the first time, most of the others were written for and appeared in "The Bulletin" (Sydney, N.S.W.), and are therefore already widely known to readers in Australasia.
A. B. Paterson
I have gathered these stories afar, In the wind and the rain, In the land where the cattle camps are, On the edge of the plain. On the overland routes of the west, When the watches were long, I have fashioned in earnest and jest These fragments of song.
They are just the rude stories one hears In sadness and mirth, The records of wandering years, And scant is their worth Though their merits indeed are but slight, I shall not repine, If they give you one moment's delight, Old comrades of mine.
Contents with First Lines:
Prelude I have gathered these stories afar,
The Man from Snowy River There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve You never heard tell of the story?
Clancy of the Overflow I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Conroy's Gap This was the way of it, don't you know —
Our New Horse The boys had come back from the races
An Idyll of Dandaloo On Western plains, where shade is not,
The Geebung Polo Club It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
The Travelling Post Office The roving breezes come and go, the reed beds sweep and sway,
Saltbush Bill Now this is the law of the Overland that all in the West obey,
A Mountain Station I bought a run a while ago,
Been There Before There came a stranger to Walgett town,
The Man Who Was Away The widow sought the lawyer's room with children three in tow,
The Man from Ironbark It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
The Open Steeplechase I had ridden over hurdles up the country once or twice,
The Amateur Rider HIM going to ride for us! HIM — with the pants and the eyeglass and all.
On Kiley's Run The roving breezes come and go
Frying Pan's Theology Scene: On Monaro.
The Two Devines It was shearing-time at the Myall Lake,
In the Droving Days 'Only a pound,' said the auctioneer,
Lost 'He ought to be home,' said the old man, 'without there's something amiss.
Over the Range Little bush maiden, wondering-eyed,
Only a Jockey Out in the grey cheerless chill of the morning light,
How M'Ginnis Went Missing Let us cease our idle chatter,
A Voice from the Town I thought, in the days of the droving,
A Bunch of Roses Roses ruddy and roses white,
Black Swans As I lie at rest on a patch of clover
The All Right 'Un He came from 'further out',
The Boss of the 'Admiral Lynch' Did you ever hear tell of Chili? I was readin' the other day
A Bushman's Song I'm travellin' down the Castlereagh, and I'm a station hand,
How Gilbert Died There's never a stone at the sleeper's head,
The Flying Gang I served my time, in the days gone by,
Shearing at Castlereagh The bell is set a-ringing, and the engine gives a toot,
The Wind's Message There came a whisper down the Bland between the dawn and dark,
Johnson's Antidote Down along the Snakebite River, where the overlanders camp,
Ambition and Art I am the maid of the lustrous eyes
The Daylight is Dying The daylight is dying
In Defence of the Bush So you're back from up the country, Mister Townsman, where you went,
Last Week Oh, the new-chum went to the back block run,
Those Names The shearers sat in the firelight, hearty and hale and strong,
A Bush Christening On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
How the Favourite Beat Us 'Aye,' said the boozer, 'I tell you it's true, sir,
The Great Calamity MacFierce'un came to Whiskeyhurst
Come-by-Chance As I pondered very weary o'er a volume long and dreary —
Under the Shadow of Kiley's Hill This is the place where they all were bred;
Jim Carew Born of a thoroughbred English race,
The Swagman's Rest We buried old Bob where the bloodwoods wave
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER AND OTHER VERSES
The Man from Snowy River
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.
Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve
You never heard tell of the story? Well, now, I can hardly believe! Never heard of the honour and glory Of Pardon, the son of Reprieve? But maybe you're only a Johnnie And don't know a horse from a hoe? Well, well, don't get angry, my sonny, But, really, a young un should know.
They bred him out back on the 'Never', His mother was Mameluke breed. To the front — and then stay there — was ever The root of the Mameluke creed. He seemed to inherit their wiry Strong frames — and their pluck to receive — As hard as a flint and as fiery Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve.
We ran him at many a meeting At crossing and gully and town, And nothing could give him a beating — At least when our money was down. For weight wouldn't stop him, nor distance, Nor odds, though the others were fast, He'd race with a dogged persistence, And wear them all down at the last.
At the Turon the Yattendon filly Led by lengths at the mile-and-a-half, And we all began to look silly, While HER crowd were starting to laugh; But the old horse came faster and faster, His pluck told its tale, and his strength, He gained on her, caught her, and passed her, And won it, hands-down, by a length.
And then we swooped down on Menindie To run for the President's Cup — Oh! that's a sweet township — a shindy To them is board, lodging, and sup. Eye-openers they are, and their system Is never to suffer defeat; It's 'win, tie, or wrangle' — to best 'em You must lose 'em, or else it's 'dead heat'.
We strolled down the township and found 'em At drinking and gaming and play; If sorrows they had, why they drowned 'em, And betting was soon under way. Their horses were good 'uns and fit 'uns, There was plenty of cash in the town; They backed their own horses like Britons, And, Lord! how WE rattled it down!
With gladness we thought of the morrow, We counted our wagers with glee, A simile homely to borrow — 'There was plenty of milk in our tea.' You see we were green; and we never Had even a thought of foul play, Though we well might have known that the clever Division would 'put us away'.
Experience 'docet', they tell us, At least so I've frequently heard, But, 'dosing' or 'stuffing', those fellows Were up to each move on the board: They got to his stall — it is sinful To think what such villains would do — And they gave him a regular skinful Of barley — green barley — to chew.
He munched it all night, and we found him Next morning as full as a hog — The girths wouldn't nearly meet round him; He looked like an overfed frog. We saw we were done like a dinner — The odds were a thousand to one Against Pardon turning up winner, 'Twas cruel to ask him to run.
We got to the course with our troubles, A crestfallen couple were we; And we heard the 'books' calling the doubles — A roar like the surf of the sea; And over the tumult and louder Rang 'Any price Pardon, I lay!' Says Jimmy, 'The children of Judah Are out on the warpath to-day.'
Three miles in three heats: — Ah, my sonny, The horses in those days were stout, They had to run well to win money; I don't see such horses about. Your six-furlong vermin that scamper Half-a-mile with their feather-weight up; They wouldn't earn much of their damper In a race like the President's Cup.
The first heat was soon set a-going; The Dancer went off to the front; The Don on his quarters was showing, With Pardon right out of the hunt. He rolled and he weltered and wallowed — You'd kick your hat faster, I'll bet; They finished all bunched, and he followed All lathered and dripping with sweat.
But troubles came thicker upon us, For while we were rubbing him dry The stewards came over to warn us: 'We hear you are running a bye! If Pardon don't spiel like tarnation And win the next heat — if he can — He'll earn a disqualification; Just think over THAT, now, my man!'
Our money all gone and our credit, Our horse couldn't gallop a yard; And then people thought that WE did it! It really was terribly hard. We were objects of mirth and derision To folk in the lawn and the stand, And the yells of the clever division Of 'Any price Pardon!' were grand.
We still had a chance for the money, Two heats still remained to be run; If both fell to us — why, my sonny, The clever division were done. And Pardon was better, we reckoned, His sickness was passing away, So he went to the post for the second And principal heat of the day.
They're off and away with a rattle, Like dogs from the leashes let slip, And right at the back of the battle He followed them under the whip. They gained ten good lengths on him quickly He dropped right away from the pack; I tell you it made me feel sickly To see the blue jacket fall back.
Our very last hope had departed — We thought the old fellow was done, When all of a sudden he started To go like a shot from a gun. His chances seemed slight to embolden Our hearts; but, with teeth firmly set, We thought, 'Now or never! The old 'un May reckon with some of 'em yet.'
Then loud rose the war-cry for Pardon; He swept like the wind down the dip, And over the rise by the garden, The jockey was done with the whip The field were at sixes and sevens — The pace at the first had been fast — And hope seemed to drop from the heavens, For Pardon was coming at last.
And how he did come! It was splendid; He gained on them yards every bound, Stretching out like a greyhound extended, His girth laid right down on the ground. A shimmer of silk in the cedars As into the running they wheeled, And out flashed the whips on the leaders, For Pardon had collared the field.
Then right through the ruck he came sailing — I knew that the battle was won — The son of Haphazard was failing, The Yattendon filly was done; He cut down the Don and the Dancer, He raced clean away from the mare — He's in front! Catch him now if you can, sir! And up went my hat in the air!
Then loud from the lawn and the garden Rose offers of 'Ten to one ON!' 'Who'll bet on the field? I back Pardon!' No use; all the money was gone. He came for the third heat light-hearted, A-jumping and dancing about; The others were done ere they started Crestfallen, and tired, and worn out.
He won it, and ran it much faster Than even the first, I believe Oh, he was the daddy, the master, Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve. He showed 'em the method to travel — The boy sat as still as a stone — They never could see him for gravel; He came in hard-held, and alone.
. . . . .
But he's old — and his eyes are grown hollow; Like me, with my thatch of the snow; When he dies, then I hope I may follow, And go where the racehorses go. I don't want no harping nor singing — Such things with my style don't agree; Where the hoofs of the horses are ringing There's music sufficient for me.
And surely the thoroughbred horses Will rise up again and begin Fresh races on far-away courses, And p'raps they might let me slip in. It would look rather well the race-card on 'Mongst Cherubs and Seraphs and things, 'Angel Harrison's black gelding Pardon, Blue halo, white body and wings.'
And if they have racing hereafter, (And who is to say they will not?) When the cheers and the shouting and laughter Proclaim that the battle grows hot; As they come down the racecourse a-steering, He'll rush to the front, I believe; And you'll hear the great multitude cheering For Pardon, the son of Reprieve.
Clancy of the Overflow
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 thumb-nail dipped in tar) 'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and 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 wond'rous 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 cash-book and the journal — But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of 'The Overflow'.
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 rough 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 night 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 was the 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 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 slammed 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.
Our New Horse
The boys had come back from the races All silent and down on their luck; They'd backed 'em, straight out and for places, But never a winner they struck. They lost their good money on Slogan, And fell, most uncommonly flat, When Partner, the pride of the Bogan, Was beaten by Aristocrat.
And one said, 'I move that instanter We sell out our horses and quit, The brutes ought to win in a canter, Such trials they do when they're fit. The last one they ran was a snorter — A gallop to gladden one's heart — Two-twelve for a mile and a quarter, And finished as straight as a dart.
'And then when I think that they're ready To win me a nice little swag, They are licked like the veriest neddy — They're licked from the fall of the flag. The mare held her own to the stable, She died out to nothing at that, And Partner he never seemed able To pace it with Aristocrat.
'And times have been bad, and the seasons Don't promise to be of the best; In short, boys, there's plenty of reasons For giving the racing a rest. The mare can be kept on the station — Her breeding is good as can be — But Partner, his next destination Is rather a trouble to me.
'We can't sell him here, for they know him As well as the clerk of the course; He's raced and won races till, blow him, He's done as a handicap horse. A jady, uncertain performer, They weight him right out of the hunt, And clap it on warmer and warmer Whenever he gets near the front.
'It's no use to paint him or dot him Or put any 'fake' on his brand, For bushmen are smart, and they'd spot him In any sale-yard in the land. The folk about here could all tell him, Could swear to each separate hair; Let us send him to Sydney and sell him, There's plenty of Jugginses there.
'We'll call him a maiden, and treat 'em To trials will open their eyes, We'll run their best horses and beat 'em, And then won't they think him a prize. I pity the fellow that buys him, He'll find in a very short space, No matter how highly he tries him, The beggar won't RACE in a race.'
. . . . .
Next week, under 'Seller and Buyer', Appeared in the DAILY GAZETTE: 'A racehorse for sale, and a flyer; Has never been started as yet; A trial will show what his pace is; The buyer can get him in light, And win all the handicap races. Apply here before Wednesday night.'
He sold for a hundred and thirty, Because of a gallop he had One morning with Bluefish and Bertie, And donkey-licked both of 'em bad. And when the old horse had departed, The life on the station grew tame; The race-track was dull and deserted, The boys had gone back on the game.
. . . . .
The winter rolled by, and the station Was green with the garland of spring A spirit of glad exultation Awoke in each animate thing. And all the old love, the old longing, Broke out in the breasts of the boys, The visions of racing came thronging With all its delirious joys.
The rushing of floods in their courses, The rattle of rain on the roofs Recalled the fierce rush of the horses, The thunder of galloping hoofs. And soon one broke out: 'I can suffer No longer the life of a slug, The man that don't race is a duffer, Let's have one more run for the mug.
'Why, EVERYTHING races, no matter Whatever its method may be: The waterfowl hold a regatta; The 'possums run heats up a tree; The emus are constantly sprinting A handicap out on the plain; It seems like all nature was hinting, 'Tis time to be at it again.
'The cockatoo parrots are talking Of races to far away lands; The native companions are walking A go-as-you-please on the sands; The little foals gallop for pastime; The wallabies race down the gap; Let's try it once more for the last time, Bring out the old jacket and cap.
'And now for a horse; we might try one Of those that are bred on the place, But I think it better to buy one, A horse that has proved he can race. Let us send down to Sydney to Skinner, A thorough good judge who can ride, And ask him to buy us a spinner To clean out the whole countryside.'
They wrote him a letter as follows: 'We want you to buy us a horse; He must have the speed to catch swallows, And stamina with it of course. The price ain't a thing that'll grieve us, It's getting a bad 'un annoys The undersigned blokes, and believe us, We're yours to a cinder, 'the boys'.'
He answered: 'I've bought you a hummer, A horse that has never been raced; I saw him run over the Drummer, He held him outclassed and outpaced. His breeding's not known, but they state he Is born of a thoroughbred strain, I paid them a hundred and eighty, And started the horse in the train.'
They met him — alas, that these verses Aren't up to the subject's demands — Can't set forth their eloquent curses, FOR PARTNER WAS BACK ON THEIR HANDS. They went in to meet him in gladness, They opened his box with delight — A silent procession of sadness They crept to the station at night.
And life has grown dull on the station, The boys are all silent and slow; Their work is a daily vexation, And sport is unknown to them now. Whenever they think how they stranded, They squeal just like guinea-pigs squeal; They bit their own hook, and were landed With fifty pounds loss on the deal.
An Idyll of Dandaloo
On Western plains, where shade is not, 'Neath summer skies of cloudless blue, Where all is dry and all is hot, There stands the town of Dandaloo — A township where life's total sum Is sleep, diversified with rum.
It's grass-grown streets with dust are deep, 'Twere vain endeavour to express The dreamless silence of its sleep, Its wide, expansive drunkenness. The yearly races mostly drew A lively crowd to Dandaloo.
There came a sportsman from the East, The eastern land where sportsmen blow, And brought with him a speedy beast — A speedy beast as horses go. He came afar in hope to 'do' The little town of Dandaloo.
Now this was weak of him, I wot — Exceeding weak, it seemed to me — For we in Dandaloo were not The Jugginses we seemed to be; In fact, we rather thought we knew Our book by heart in Dandaloo.
We held a meeting at the bar, And met the question fair and square — 'We've stumped the country near and far To raise the cash for races here; We've got a hundred pounds or two — Not half so bad for Dandaloo.
'And now, it seems, we have to be Cleaned out by this here Sydney bloke, With his imported horse; and he Will scoop the pool and leave us broke Shall we sit still, and make no fuss While this chap climbs all over us?'
. . . . .
The races came to Dandaloo, And all the cornstalks from the West, On ev'ry kind of moke and screw, Came forth in all their glory drest. The stranger's horse, as hard as nails, Look'd fit to run for New South Wales.
He won the race by half a length — QUITE half a length, it seemed to me — But Dandaloo, with all its strength, Roared out 'Dead heat!' most fervently; And, after hesitation meet, The judge's verdict was 'Dead heat!'
And many men there were could tell What gave the verdict extra force: The stewards, and the judge as well — They all had backed the second horse. For things like this they sometimes do In larger towns than Dandaloo.
They ran it off; the stranger won, Hands down, by near a hundred yards He smiled to think his troubles done; But Dandaloo held all the cards. They went to scale and — cruel fate! — His jockey turned out under-weight.
Perhaps they'd tampered with the scale! I cannot tell. I only know It weighed him OUT all right. I fail To paint that Sydney sportsman's woe. He said the stewards were a crew Of low-lived thieves in Dandaloo.
He lifted up his voice, irate, And swore till all the air was blue; So then we rose to vindicate The dignity of Dandaloo. 'Look here,' said we, 'you must not poke Such oaths at us poor country folk.'
We rode him softly on a rail, We shied at him, in careless glee, Some large tomatoes, rank and stale, And eggs of great antiquity — Their wild, unholy fragrance flew About the town of Dandaloo.
He left the town at break of day, He led his race-horse through the streets, And now he tells the tale, they say, To every racing man he meets. And Sydney sportsmen all eschew The atmosphere of Dandaloo.
The Geebung Polo Club
It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub, That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club. They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side, And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride; But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash — They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash: And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong, Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long. And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub: They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam, That a polo club existed, called 'The Cuff and Collar Team'. As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success, For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress. They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek, For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week. So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame, For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game; And they took their valets with them — just to give their boots a rub Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed, When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road; And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone A spectator's leg was broken — just from merely looking on. For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead, While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead. And the Cuff and Collar Captain, when he tumbled off to die, Was the last surviving player — so the game was called a tie.
Then the Captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground, Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around; There was no one to oppose him — all the rest were in a trance, So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance, For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side; So he struck at goal — and missed it — then he tumbled off and died.
. . . . .
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass, There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass, For they bear a crude inscription saying, 'Stranger, drop a tear, For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here.' And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around, You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground; You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet, And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet, Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub — He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.
The Travelling Post Office
The roving breezes come and go, the reed beds sweep and sway, The sleepy river murmurs low, and loiters on its way, It is the land of lots o' time along the Castlereagh.
. . . . .
The old man's son had left the farm, he found it dull and slow, He drifted to the great North-west where all the rovers go. 'He's gone so long,' the old man said, 'he's dropped right out of mind, But if you'd write a line to him I'd take it very kind; He's shearing here and fencing there, a kind of waif and stray, He's droving now with Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh.
'The sheep are travelling for the grass, and travelling very slow; They may be at Mundooran now, or past the Overflow, Or tramping down the black soil flats across by Waddiwong, But all those little country towns would send the letter wrong, The mailman, if he's extra tired, would pass them in his sleep, It's safest to address the note to 'Care of Conroy's sheep', For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray, You write to 'Care of Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh'.'
. . . . .
By rock and ridge and riverside the western mail has gone, Across the great Blue Mountain Range to take that letter on. A moment on the topmost grade while open fire doors glare, She pauses like a living thing to breathe the mountain air, Then launches down the other side across the plains away To bear that note to 'Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh'.
And now by coach and mailman's bag it goes from town to town, And Conroy's Gap and Conroy's Creek have marked it 'further down'. Beneath a sky of deepest blue where never cloud abides, A speck upon the waste of plain the lonely mailman rides. Where fierce hot winds have set the pine and myall boughs asweep He hails the shearers passing by for news of Conroy's sheep. By big lagoons where wildfowl play and crested pigeons flock, By camp fires where the drovers ride around their restless stock, And past the teamster toiling down to fetch the wool away My letter chases Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh.
Now this is the law of the Overland that all in the West obey, A man must cover with travelling sheep a six-mile stage a day; But this is the law which the drovers make, right easily understood, They travel their stage where the grass is bad, but they camp where the grass is good; They camp, and they ravage the squatter's grass till never a blade remains, Then they drift away as the white clouds drift on the edge of the saltbush plains, From camp to camp and from run to run they battle it hand to hand, For a blade of grass and the right to pass on the track of the Overland. For this is the law of the Great Stock Routes, 'tis written in white and black — The man that goes with a travelling mob must keep to a half-mile track; And the drovers keep to a half-mile track on the runs where the grass is dead, But they spread their sheep on a well-grassed run till they go with a two-mile spread. So the squatters hurry the drovers on from dawn till the fall of night, And the squatters' dogs and the drovers' dogs get mixed in a deadly fight; Yet the squatters' men, though they hunt the mob, are willing the peace to keep, For the drovers learn how to use their hands when they go with the travelling sheep; But this is the tale of a Jackaroo that came from a foreign strand, And the fight that he fought with Saltbush Bill, the King of the Overland.
Now Saltbush Bill was a drover tough, as ever the country knew, He had fought his way on the Great Stock Routes from the sea to the big Barcoo; He could tell when he came to a friendly run that gave him a chance to spread, And he knew where the hungry owners were that hurried his sheep ahead; He was drifting down in the Eighty drought with a mob that could scarcely creep, (When the kangaroos by the thousands starve, it is rough on the travelling sheep), And he camped one night at the crossing-place on the edge of the Wilga run, 'We must manage a feed for them here,' he said, 'or the half of the mob are done!' So he spread them out when they left the camp wherever they liked to go, Till he grew aware of a Jackaroo with a station-hand in tow, And they set to work on the straggling sheep, and with many a stockwhip crack They forced them in where the grass was dead in the space of the half-mile track; So William prayed that the hand of fate might suddenly strike him blue But he'd get some grass for his starving sheep in the teeth of that Jackaroo. So he turned and he cursed the Jackaroo, he cursed him alive or dead, From the soles of his great unwieldy feet to the crown of his ugly head, With an extra curse on the moke he rode and the cur at his heels that ran, Till the Jackaroo from his horse got down and he went for the drover-man; With the station-hand for his picker-up, though the sheep ran loose the while, They battled it out on the saltbush plain in the regular prize-ring style.
Now, the new chum fought for his honour's sake and the pride of the English race, But the drover fought for his daily bread with a smile on his bearded face; So he shifted ground and he sparred for wind and he made it a lengthy mill, And from time to time as his scouts came in they whispered to Saltbush Bill — 'We have spread the sheep with a two-mile spread, and the grass it is something grand, You must stick to him, Bill, for another round for the pride of the Overland.' The new chum made it a rushing fight, though never a blow got home, Till the sun rode high in the cloudless sky and glared on the brick-red loam, Till the sheep drew in to the shelter-trees and settled them down to rest, Then the drover said he would fight no more and he gave his opponent best.
So the new chum rode to the homestead straight and he told them a story grand Of the desperate fight that he fought that day with the King of the Overland. And the tale went home to the Public Schools of the pluck of the English swell, How the drover fought for his very life, but blood in the end must tell. But the travelling sheep and the Wilga sheep were boxed on the Old Man Plain. 'Twas a full week's work ere they drafted out and hunted them off again, With a week's good grass in their wretched hides, with a curse and a stockwhip crack, They hunted them off on the road once more to starve on the half-mile track. And Saltbush Bill, on the Overland, will many a time recite How the best day's work that ever he did was the day that he lost the fight.
A Mountain Station
I bought a run a while ago, On country rough and ridgy, Where wallaroos and wombats grow — The Upper Murrumbidgee. The grass is rather scant, it's true, But this a fair exchange is, The sheep can see a lovely view By climbing up the ranges.
And She-oak Flat's the station's name, I'm not surprised at that, sirs: The oaks were there before I came, And I supplied the flat, sirs. A man would wonder how it's done, The stock so soon decreases — They sometimes tumble off the run And break themselves to pieces.
I've tried to make expenses meet, But wasted all my labours, The sheep the dingoes didn't eat Were stolen by the neighbours. They stole my pears — my native pears — Those thrice-convicted felons, And ravished from me unawares My crop of paddy-melons.
And sometimes under sunny skies, Without an explanation, The Murrumbidgee used to rise And overflow the station. But this was caused (as now I know) When summer sunshine glowing Had melted all Kiandra's snow And set the river going.
And in the news, perhaps you read: 'Stock passings. Puckawidgee, Fat cattle: Seven hundred head Swept down the Murrumbidgee; Their destination's quite obscure, But, somehow, there's a notion, Unless the river falls, they're sure To reach the Southern Ocean.'
So after that I'll give it best; No more with Fate I'll battle. I'll let the river take the rest, For those were all my cattle. And with one comprehensive curse I close my brief narration, And advertise it in my verse — 'For Sale! A Mountain Station.'
Been There Before
There came a stranger to Walgett town, To Walgett town when the sun was low, And he carried a thirst that was worth a crown, Yet how to quench it he did not know; But he thought he might take those yokels down, The guileless yokels of Walgett town.
They made him a bet in a private bar, In a private bar when the talk was high, And they bet him some pounds no matter how far He could pelt a stone, yet he could not shy A stone right over the river so brown, The Darling river at Walgett town.
He knew that the river from bank to bank Was fifty yards, and he smiled a smile As he trundled down, but his hopes they sank For there wasn't a stone within fifty mile; For the saltbush plain and the open down Produce no quarries in Walgett town.
The yokels laughed at his hopes o'erthrown, And he stood awhile like a man in a dream; Then out of his pocket he fetched a stone, And pelted it over the silent stream — He had been there before: he had wandered down On a previous visit to Walgett town.
The Man Who Was Away
The widow sought the lawyer's room with children three in tow, She told the lawyer man her tale in tones of deepest woe. Said she, 'My husband took to drink for pains in his inside, And never drew a sober breath from then until he died.
'He never drew a sober breath, he died without a will, And I must sell the bit of land the childer's mouths to fill. There's some is grown and gone away, but some is childer yet, And times is very bad indeed — a livin's hard to get.
'There's Min and Sis and little Chris, they stops at home with me, And Sal has married Greenhide Bill that breaks for Bingeree. And Fred is drovin' Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh, And Charley's shearin' down the Bland, and Peter is away.'
The lawyer wrote the details down in ink of legal blue — 'There's Minnie, Susan, Christopher, they stop at home with you; There's Sarah, Frederick, and Charles, I'll write to them to-day, But what about the other one — the one who is away?
'You'll have to furnish his consent to sell the bit of land.' The widow shuffled in her seat, 'Oh, don't you understand? I thought a lawyer ought to know — I don't know what to say — You'll have to do without him, boss, for Peter is away.'
But here the little boy spoke up — said he, 'We thought you knew; He's done six months in Goulburn gaol — he's got six more to do.' Thus in one comprehensive flash he made it clear as day, The mystery of Peter's life — the man who was away.
The Man from Ironbark
It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town, He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down. He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop, Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop. ''Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark, I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.'
The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are, He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar: He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee, He laid the odds and kept a 'tote', whatever that may be, And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered 'Here's a lark! Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark.'
There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber's wall, Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all; To them the barber passed the wink, his dexter eyelid shut, 'I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut.' And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark: 'I s'pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark.'
A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman's chin, Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in. He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat, Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat; Upon the newly shaven skin it made a livid mark — No doubt it fairly took him in — the man from Ironbark.
He fetched a wild up-country yell might wake the dead to hear, And though his throat, he knew full well, was cut from ear to ear, He struggled gamely to his feet, and faced the murd'rous foe: 'You've done for me! you dog, I'm beat! one hit before I go! I only wish I had a knife, you blessed murdering shark! But you'll remember all your life, the man from Ironbark.'
He lifted up his hairy paw, with one tremendous clout He landed on the barber's jaw, and knocked the barber out. He set to work with tooth and nail, he made the place a wreck; He grabbed the nearest gilded youth, and tried to break his neck. And all the while his throat he held to save his vital spark, And 'Murder! Bloody Murder!' yelled the man from Ironbark.
A peeler man who heard the din came in to see the show; He tried to run the bushman in, but he refused to go. And when at last the barber spoke, and said, ''Twas all in fun — 'Twas just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone.' 'A joke!' he cried, 'By George, that's fine; a lively sort of lark; I'd like to catch that murdering swine some night in Ironbark.'
And now while round the shearing floor the list'ning shearers gape, He tells the story o'er and o'er, and brags of his escape. 'Them barber chaps what keeps a tote, By George, I've had enough, One tried to cut my bloomin' throat, but thank the Lord it's tough.' And whether he's believed or no, there's one thing to remark, That flowing beards are all the go way up in Ironbark.
The Open Steeplechase
I had ridden over hurdles up the country once or twice, By the side of Snowy River with a horse they called 'The Ace'. And we brought him down to Sydney, and our rider Jimmy Rice, Got a fall and broke his shoulder, so they nabbed me in a trice — Me, that never wore the colours, for the Open Steeplechase.
'Make the running,' said the trainer, 'it's your only chance whatever, Make it hot from start to finish, for the old black horse can stay, And just think of how they'll take it, when they hear on Snowy River That the country boy was plucky, and the country horse was clever. You must ride for old Monaro and the mountain boys to-day.'
'Are you ready?' said the starter, as we held the horses back, All ablazing with impatience, with excitement all aglow; Before us like a ribbon stretched the steeplechasing track, And the sun-rays glistened brightly on the chestnut and the black As the starter's words came slowly, 'Are — you — ready? Go!'
Well, I scarcely knew we'd started, I was stupid-like with wonder Till the field closed up beside me and a jump appeared ahead. And we flew it like a hurdle, not a baulk and not a blunder, As we charged it all together, and it fairly whistled under, And then some were pulled behind me and a few shot out and led.
So we ran for half the distance, and I'm making no pretences When I tell you I was feeling very nervous-like and queer, For those jockeys rode like demons; you would think they'd lost their senses If you saw them rush their horses at those rasping five foot fences — And in place of making running I was falling to the rear.
Till a chap came racing past me on a horse they called 'The Quiver', And said he, 'My country joker, are you going to give it best? Are you frightened of the fences? does their stoutness make you shiver? Have they come to breeding cowards by the side of Snowy River? Are there riders on Monaro? ——' but I never heard the rest.
For I drove the Ace and sent him just as fast as he could pace it, At the big black line of timber stretching fair across the track, And he shot beside the Quiver. 'Now,' said I, 'my boy, we'll race it. You can come with Snowy River if you're only game to face it, Let us mend the pace a little and we'll see who cries a crack.'
So we raced away together, and we left the others standing, And the people cheered and shouted as we settled down to ride, And we clung beside the Quiver. At his taking off and landing I could see his scarlet nostril and his mighty ribs expanding, And the Ace stretched out in earnest and we held him stride for stride.
But the pace was so terrific that they soon ran out their tether — They were rolling in their gallop, they were fairly blown and beat — But they both were game as pebbles — neither one would show the feather. And we rushed them at the fences, and they cleared them both together, Nearly every time they clouted, but they somehow kept their feet.
Then the last jump rose before us, and they faced it game as ever — We were both at spur and whipcord, fetching blood at every bound — And above the people's cheering and the cries of 'Ace' and 'Quiver', I could hear the trainer shouting, 'One more run for Snowy River.' Then we struck the jump together and came smashing to the ground.
Well, the Quiver ran to blazes, but the Ace stood still and waited, Stood and waited like a statue while I scrambled on his back. There was no one next or near me for the field was fairly slated, So I cantered home a winner with my shoulder dislocated, While the man that rode the Quiver followed limping down the track.
And he shook my hand and told me that in all his days he never Met a man who rode more gamely, and our last set to was prime, And we wired them on Monaro how we chanced to beat the Quiver. And they sent us back an answer, 'Good old sort from Snowy River: Send us word each race you start in and we'll back you every time.'
The Amateur Rider
HIM going to ride for us! HIM — with the pants and the eyeglass and all. Amateur! don't he just look it — it's twenty to one on a fall. Boss must be gone off his head to be sending our steeplechase crack Out over fences like these with an object like that on his back.
Ride! Don't tell ME he can ride. With his pants just as loose as balloons, How can he sit on his horse? and his spurs like a pair of harpoons; Ought to be under the Dog Act, he ought, and be kept off the course. Fall! why, he'd fall off a cart, let alone off a steeplechase horse.
. . . . .
Yessir! the 'orse is all ready — I wish you'd have rode him before; Nothing like knowing your 'orse, sir, and this chap's a terror to bore; Battleaxe always could pull, and he rushes his fences like fun — Stands off his jump twenty feet, and then springs like a shot from a gun.
Oh, he can jump 'em all right, sir, you make no mistake, 'e's a toff; Clouts 'em in earnest, too, sometimes, you mind that he don't clout you off — Don't seem to mind how he hits 'em, his shins is as hard as a nail, Sometimes you'll see the fence shake and the splinters fly up from the rail.
All you can do is to hold him and just let him jump as he likes, Give him his head at the fences, and hang on like death if he strikes; Don't let him run himself out — you can lie third or fourth in the race — Until you clear the stone wall, and from that you can put on the pace.
Fell at that wall once, he did, and it gave him a regular spread, Ever since that time he flies it — he'll stop if you pull at his head, Just let him race — you can trust him — he'll take first-class care he don't fall, And I think that's the lot — but remember, HE MUST HAVE HIS HEAD AT THE WALL.
. . . . .
Well, he's down safe as far as the start, and he seems to sit on pretty neat, Only his baggified breeches would ruinate anyone's seat — They're away — here they come — the first fence, and he's head over heels for a crown! Good for the new chum, he's over, and two of the others are down!
Now for the treble, my hearty — By Jove, he can ride, after all; Whoop, that's your sort — let him fly them! He hasn't much fear of a fall. Who in the world would have thought it? And aren't they just going a pace? Little Recruit in the lead there will make it a stoutly-run race.
Lord! But they're racing in earnest — and down goes Recruit on his head, Rolling clean over his boy — it's a miracle if he ain't dead. Battleaxe, Battleaxe, yet! By the Lord, he's got most of 'em beat — Ho! did you see how he struck, and the swell never moved in his seat?
Second time round, and, by Jingo! he's holding his lead of 'em well; Hark to him clouting the timber! It don't seem to trouble the swell. Now for the wall — let him rush it. A thirty-foot leap, I declare — Never a shift in his seat, and he's racing for home like a hare.
What's that that's chasing him — Rataplan — regular demon to stay! Sit down and ride for your life now! Oh, good, that's the style — come away! Rataplan's certain to beat you, unless you can give him the slip; Sit down and rub in the whalebone now — give him the spurs and the whip!
Battleaxe, Battleaxe, yet — and it's Battleaxe wins for a crown; Look at him rushing the fences, he wants to bring t'other chap down. Rataplan never will catch him if only he keeps on his pins; Now! the last fence! and he's over it! Battleaxe, Battleaxe wins!
. . . . .
Well, sir, you rode him just perfect — I knew from the first you could ride. Some of the chaps said you couldn't, an' I says just like this a' one side: Mark me, I says, that's a tradesman — the saddle is where he was bred. Weight! you're all right, sir, and thank you; and them was the words that I said.
On Kiley's Run
The roving breezes come and go On Kiley's Run, The sleepy river murmurs low, And far away one dimly sees Beyond the stretch of forest trees — Beyond the foothills dusk and dun — The ranges sleeping in the sun On Kiley's Run.
'Tis many years since first I came To Kiley's Run, More years than I would care to name Since I, a stripling, used to ride For miles and miles at Kiley's side, The while in stirring tones he told The stories of the days of old On Kiley's Run.
I see the old bush homestead now On Kiley's Run, Just nestled down beneath the brow Of one small ridge above the sweep Of river-flat, where willows weep And jasmine flowers and roses bloom, The air was laden with perfume On Kiley's Run.
We lived the good old station life On Kiley's Run, With little thought of care or strife. Old Kiley seldom used to roam, He liked to make the Run his home, The swagman never turned away With empty hand at close of day From Kiley's Run.
We kept a racehorse now and then On Kiley's Run, And neighb'ring stations brought their men To meetings where the sport was free, And dainty ladies came to see Their champions ride; with laugh and song The old house rang the whole night long On Kiley's Run.
The station hands were friends I wot On Kiley's Run, A reckless, merry-hearted lot — All splendid riders, and they knew The 'boss' was kindness through and through. Old Kiley always stood their friend, And so they served him to the end On Kiley's Run.
But droughts and losses came apace To Kiley's Run, Till ruin stared him in the face; He toiled and toiled while lived the light, He dreamed of overdrafts at night: At length, because he could not pay, His bankers took the stock away From Kiley's Run.
Old Kiley stood and saw them go From Kiley's Run. The well-bred cattle marching slow; His stockmen, mates for many a day, They wrung his hand and went away. Too old to make another start, Old Kiley died — of broken heart, On Kiley's Run.
. . . . .
The owner lives in England now Of Kiley's Run. He knows a racehorse from a cow; But that is all he knows of stock: His chiefest care is how to dock Expenses, and he sends from town To cut the shearers' wages down On Kiley's Run.
There are no neighbours anywhere Near Kiley's Run. The hospitable homes are bare, The gardens gone; for no pretence Must hinder cutting down expense: The homestead that we held so dear Contains a half-paid overseer On Kiley's Run.
All life and sport and hope have died On Kiley's Run. No longer there the stockmen ride; For sour-faced boundary riders creep On mongrel horses after sheep, Through ranges where, at racing speed, Old Kiley used to 'wheel the lead' On Kiley's Run.
There runs a lane for thirty miles Through Kiley's Run. On either side the herbage smiles, But wretched trav'lling sheep must pass Without a drink or blade of grass Thro' that long lane of death and shame: The weary drovers curse the name Of Kiley's Run.
The name itself is changed of late Of Kiley's Run. They call it 'Chandos Park Estate'. The lonely swagman through the dark Must hump his swag past Chandos Park. The name is English, don't you see, The old name sweeter sounds to me Of 'Kiley's Run'.
I cannot guess what fate will bring To Kiley's Run — For chances come and changes ring — I scarcely think 'twill always be Locked up to suit an absentee; And if he lets it out in farms His tenants soon will carry arms On Kiley's Run.
Frying Pan's Theology
Scene: On Monaro. DRAMATIS PERSONAE: Shock-headed blackfellow, Boy (on a pony). Snowflakes are falling So gentle and slow, Youngster says, 'Frying Pan, What makes it snow?' Frying Pan confident Makes the reply — 'Shake 'em big flour bag Up in the sky!' 'What! when there's miles of it! Sur'ly that's brag. Who is there strong enough Shake such a bag?' 'What parson tellin' you, Ole Mister Dodd, Tell you in Sunday-school? Big feller God! He drive His bullock dray, Then thunder go, He shake His flour bag — Tumble down snow!'
The Two Devines
It was shearing-time at the Myall Lake, And there rose the sound thro' the livelong day Of the constant clash that the shear-blades make When the fastest shearers are making play, But there wasn't a man in the shearers' lines That could shear a sheep with the two Devines.
They had rung the sheds of the east and west, Had beaten the cracks of the Walgett side, And the Cooma shearers had giv'n them best — When they saw them shear, they were satisfied. From the southern slopes to the western pines They were noted men, were the two Devines.
'Twas a wether flock that had come to hand, Great struggling brutes, that the shearers shirk, For the fleece was filled with the grass and sand, And seventy sheep was a big day's work. 'At a pound a hundred it's dashed hard lines To shear such sheep,' said the two Devines.
But the shearers knew that they'd make a cheque When they came to deal with the station ewes; They were bare of belly and bare of neck With a fleece as light as a kangaroo's. 'We will show the boss how a shear-blade shines When we reach those ewes,' said the two Devines.
But it chanced next day when the stunted pines Were swayed and stirred with the dawn-wind's breath, That a message came for the two Devines That their father lay at the point of death. So away at speed through the whispering pines Down the bridle track rode the two Devines.
It was fifty miles to their father's hut, And the dawn was bright when they rode away; At the fall of night when the shed was shut And the men had rest from the toilsome day, To the shed once more through the dark'ning pines On their weary steeds came the two Devines.
'Well, you're back right sudden,' the super. said; 'Is the old man dead and the funeral done?' 'Well, no, sir, he ain't not exactly dead, But as good as dead,' said the eldest son — 'And we couldn't bear such a chance to lose, So we came straight back to tackle the ewes.'
. . . . .
They are shearing ewes at the Myall Lake, And the shed is merry the livelong day With the clashing sound that the shear-blades make When the fastest shearers are making play, And a couple of 'hundred and ninety-nines' Are the tallies made by the two Devines.
In the Droving Days
'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 never 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, Straightway the crowd and the auctioneer Seemed on a sudden to disappear, Melted away in a kind of 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 would 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, where Nature's ways Were revealed to me in the droving days.
We saw the fleet wild horses pass, And the 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 drover's dogs at his wretched heels. For we ran him down at a rattling pace, While the packhorse 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 the swing and the easy stride Of the grand old horse that I used to ride In drought or plenty, in good or ill, That 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 a 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 had 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 dear 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 the 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'd 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.
'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.
Over the Range
Little bush maiden, wondering-eyed, Playing alone in the creek-bed dry, In the small green flat on every side Walled in by the Moonbi ranges high; Tell us the tale of your lonely life, 'Mid the great grey forests that know no change. 'I never have left my home,' she said, 'I have never been over the Moonbi Range.
'Father and mother are both long dead, And I live with granny in yon wee place.' 'Where are your father and mother?' we said. She puzzled awhile with thoughtful face, Then a light came into the shy brown eye, And she smiled, for she thought the question strange On a thing so certain — 'When people die They go to the country over the range.'
'And what is this country like, my lass?' 'There are blossoming trees and pretty flowers, And shining creeks where the golden grass Is fresh and sweet from the summer showers. They never need work, nor want, nor weep; No troubles can come their hearts to estrange. Some summer night I shall fall asleep, And wake in the country over the range.'
Child, you are wise in your simple trust, For the wisest man knows no more than you Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust: Our views by a range are bounded too; But we know that God hath this gift in store, That when we come to the final change, We shall meet with our loved ones gone before To the beautiful country over the range.
Only a Jockey
'Richard Bennison, a jockey, aged 14, while riding William Tell in his training, was thrown and killed. The horse is luckily uninjured.' — Melbourne Wire.
Out in the grey cheerless chill of the morning light, Out on the track where the night shades still lurk; Ere the first gleam of the sungod's returning light, Round come the race-horses early at work.
Reefing and pulling and racing so readily, Close sit the jockey-boys holding them hard, 'Steady the stallion there — canter him steadily, Don't let him gallop so much as a yard.'
Fiercely he fights while the others run wide of him, Reefs at the bit that would hold him in thrall, Plunges and bucks till the boy that's astride of him Goes to the ground with a terrible fall.
'Stop him there! Block him there! Drive him in carefully, Lead him about till he's quiet and cool. Sound as a bell! though he's blown himself fearfully, Now let us pick up this poor little fool.
'Stunned? Oh, by Jove, I'm afraid it's a case with him; Ride for the doctor! keep bathing his head! Send for a cart to go down to our place with him' — No use! One long sigh and the little chap's dead.
Only a jockey-boy, foul-mouthed and bad you see, Ignorant, heathenish, gone to his rest. Parson or Presbyter, Pharisee, Sadducee, What did you do for him? — bad was the best.
Negroes and foreigners, all have a claim on you; Yearly you send your well-advertised hoard, But the poor jockey-boy — shame on you, shame on you, 'Feed ye, my little ones' — what said the Lord?
Him ye held less than the outer barbarian, Left him to die in his ignorant sin; Have you no principles, humanitarian? Have you no precept — 'go gather them in?'
. . . . .
Knew he God's name? In his brutal profanity, That name was an oath — out of many but one — What did he get from our famed Christianity? Where has his soul — if he had any — gone?
Fourteen years old, and what was he taught of it? What did he know of God's infinite grace? Draw the dark curtain of shame o'er the thought of it, Draw the shroud over the jockey-boy's face.
How M'Ginnis Went Missing
Let us cease our idle chatter, Let the tears bedew our cheek, For a man from Tallangatta Has been missing for a week.
Where the roaring flooded Murray Covered all the lower land, There he started in a hurry, With a bottle in his hand.
And his fate is hid for ever, But the public seem to think That he slumbered by the river, 'Neath the influence of drink.
And they scarcely seem to wonder That the river, wide and deep, Never woke him with its thunder, Never stirred him in his sleep.
As the crashing logs came sweeping, And their tumult filled the air, Then M'Ginnis murmured, sleeping, ''Tis a wake in ould Kildare.'
So the river rose and found him Sleeping softly by the stream, And the cruel waters drowned him Ere he wakened from his dream.
And the blossom-tufted wattle, Blooming brightly on the lea, Saw M'Ginnis and the bottle Going drifting out to sea.
A Voice from the Town
A sequel to [Mowbray Morris's] 'A Voice from the Bush'
I thought, in the days of the droving, Of steps I might hope to retrace, To be done with the bush and the roving And settle once more in my place. With a heart that was well nigh to breaking, In the long, lonely rides on the plain, I thought of the pleasure of taking The hand of a lady again.
I am back into civilisation, Once more in the stir and the strife, But the old joys have lost their sensation — The light has gone out of my life; The men of my time they have married, Made fortunes or gone to the wall; Too long from the scene I have tarried, And, somehow, I'm out of it all.
For I go to the balls and the races A lonely companionless elf, And the ladies bestow all their graces On others less grey than myself; While the talk goes around I'm a dumb one 'Midst youngsters that chatter and prate, And they call me 'the Man who was Someone Way back in the year Sixty-eight.'
And I look, sour and old, at the dancers That swing to the strains of the band, And the ladies all give me the Lancers, No waltzes — I quite understand. For matrons intent upon matching Their daughters with infinite push, Would scarce think him worthy the catching, The broken-down man from the bush.
New partners have come and new faces, And I, of the bygone brigade, Sharply feel that oblivion my place is — I must lie with the rest in the shade. And the youngsters, fresh-featured and pleasant, They live as we lived — fairly fast; But I doubt if the men of the present Are as good as the men of the past.
Of excitement and praise they are chary, There is nothing much good upon earth; Their watchword is NIL ADMIRARI, They are bored from the days of their birth. Where the life that we led was a revel They 'wince and relent and refrain' — I could show them the road — to the devil, Were I only a youngster again.
I could show them the road where the stumps are The pleasures that end in remorse, And the game where the Devil's three trumps are, The woman, the card, and the horse. Shall the blind lead the blind — shall the sower Of wind reap the storm as of yore? Though they get to their goal somewhat slower, They march where we hurried before.
For the world never learns — just as we did, They gallantly go to their fate, Unheeded all warnings, unheeded The maxims of elders sedate. As the husbandman, patiently toiling, Draws a harvest each year from the soil, So the fools grow afresh for the spoiling, And a new crop of thieves for the spoil.
But a truce to this dull moralising, Let them drink while the drops are of gold, I have tasted the dregs — 'twere surprising Were the new wine to me like the old; And I weary for lack of employment In idleness day after day, For the key to the door of enjoyment Is Youth — and I've thrown it away.
A Bunch of Roses
Roses ruddy and roses white, What are the joys that my heart discloses? Sitting alone in the fading light Memories come to me here to-night With the wonderful scent of the big red roses.
Memories come as the daylight fades Down on the hearth where the firelight dozes; Flicker and flutter the lights and shades, And I see the face of a queen of maids Whose memory comes with the scent of roses.
Visions arise of a scene of mirth, And a ball-room belle that superbly poses — A queenly woman of queenly worth, And I am the happiest man on earth With a single flower from a bunch of roses.
Only her memory lives to-night — God in His wisdom her young life closes; Over her grave may the turf be light, Cover her coffin with roses white — She was always fond of the big white roses.
. . . . .
Such are the visions that fade away — Man proposes and God disposes; Look in the glass and I see to-day Only an old man, worn and grey, Bending his head to a bunch of roses.
As I lie at rest on a patch of clover In the Western Park when the day is done, I watch as the wild black swans fly over With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun; And I hear the clang of their leader crying To a lagging mate in the rearward flying, And they fade away in the darkness dying, Where the stars are mustering one by one.
Oh! ye wild black swans, 'twere a world of wonder For a while to join in your westward flight, With the stars above and the dim earth under, Through the cooling air of the glorious night. As we swept along on our pinions winging, We should catch the chime of a church-bell ringing, Or the distant note of a torrent singing, Or the far-off flash of a station light.
From the northern lakes with the reeds and rushes, Where the hills are clothed with a purple haze, Where the bell-birds chime and the songs of thrushes Make music sweet in the jungle maze, They will hold their course to the westward ever, Till they reach the banks of the old grey river, Where the waters wash, and the reed-beds quiver In the burning heat of the summer days.
Oh! ye strange wild birds, will ye bear a greeting To the folk that live in that western land? Then for every sweep of your pinions beating, Ye shall bear a wish to the sunburnt band, To the stalwart men who are stoutly fighting With the heat and drought and the dust-storm smiting, Yet whose life somehow has a strange inviting, When once to the work they have put their hand.
Facing it yet! Oh, my friend stout-hearted, What does it matter for rain or shine, For the hopes deferred and the gain departed? Nothing could conquer that heart of thine. And thy health and strength are beyond confessing As the only joys that are worth possessing. May the days to come be as rich in blessing As the days we spent in the auld lang syne.
I would fain go back to the old grey river, To the old bush days when our hearts were light, But, alas! those days they have fled for ever, They are like the swans that have swept from sight. And I know full well that the strangers' faces Would meet us now in our dearest places; For our day is dead and has left no traces But the thoughts that live in my mind to-night.
There are folk long dead, and our hearts would sicken — We would grieve for them with a bitter pain, If the past could live and the dead could quicken, We then might turn to that life again. But on lonely nights we would hear them calling, We should hear their steps on the pathways falling, We should loathe the life with a hate appalling In our lonely rides by the ridge and plain.
. . . . .
In the silent park is a scent of clover, And the distant roar of the town is dead, And I hear once more as the swans fly over Their far-off clamour from overhead. They are flying west, by their instinct guided, And for man likewise is his fate decided, And griefs apportioned and joys divided By a mighty power with a purpose dread.
The All Right 'Un
He came from 'further out', That land of heat and drought And dust and gravel. He got a touch of sun, And rested at the run Until his cure was done, And he could travel.
When spring had decked the plain, He flitted off again As flit the swallows. And from that western land, When many months were spanned, A letter came to hand, Which read as follows:
'Dear sir, I take my pen In hopes that all your men And you are hearty. You think that I've forgot Your kindness, Mr. Scott, Oh, no, dear sir, I'm not That sort of party.
'You sometimes bet, I know, Well, now you'll have a show The 'books' to frighten. Up here at Wingadee Young Billy Fife and me We're training Strife, and he Is a all right 'un.
'Just now we're running byes, But, sir, first time he tries I'll send you word of. And running 'on the crook' Their measures we have took, It is the deadest hook You ever heard of.
'So when we lets him go, Why, then, I'll let you know, And you can have a show To put a mite on. Now, sir, my leave I'll take, Yours truly, William Blake. P.S. — Make no mistake, HE'S A ALL RIGHT 'UN.'
. . . . .
By next week's RIVERINE I saw my friend had been A bit too cunning. I read: 'The racehorse Strife And jockey William Fife Disqualified for life — Suspicious running.'
But though they spoilt his game, I reckon all the same I fairly ought to claim My friend a white 'un. For though he wasn't straight, His deeds would indicate His heart at any rate Was 'a all right 'un'.
The Boss of the 'Admiral Lynch'
Did you ever hear tell of Chili? I was readin' the other day Of President Balmaceda and of how he was sent away. It seems that he didn't suit 'em — they thought that they'd like a change, So they started an insurrection and chased him across the range. They seemed to be restless people — and, judging by what you hear, They raise up these revolutions 'bout two or three times a year; And the man that goes out of office, he goes for the boundary QUICK, For there isn't no vote by ballot — it's bullets that does the trick. And it ain't like a real battle, where the prisoners' lives are spared, And they fight till there's one side beaten and then there's a truce declared,
And the man that has got the licking goes down like a blooming lord To hand in his resignation and give up his blooming sword, And the other man bows and takes it, and everything's all polite — This wasn't that kind of a picnic, this wasn't that sort of a fight. For the pris'ners they took — they shot 'em; no odds were they small or great, If they'd collared old Balmaceda, they reckoned to shoot him straight. A lot of bloodthirsty devils they were — but there ain't a doubt They must have been real plucked 'uns — the way that they fought it out, And the king of 'em all, I reckon, the man that could stand a pinch, Was the boss of a one-horse gunboat. They called her the 'Admiral Lynch'.
Well, he was for Balmaceda, and after the war was done, And Balmaceda was beaten and his troops had been forced to run, The other man fetched his army and proceeded to do things brown, He marched 'em into the fortress and took command of the town. Cannon and guns and horses troopin' along the road, Rumblin' over the bridges, and never a foeman showed Till they came in sight of the harbour, and the very first thing they see Was this mite of a one-horse gunboat a-lying against the quay, And there as they watched they noticed a flutter of crimson rag, And under their eyes he hoisted old Balmaceda's flag. Well, I tell you it fairly knocked 'em — it just took away their breath, For he must ha' known if they caught him, 'twas nothin' but sudden death. An' he'd got no fire in his furnace, no chance to put out to sea, So he stood by his gun and waited with his vessel against the quay.
Well, they sent him a civil message to say that the war was done, And most of his side were corpses, and all that were left had run; And blood had been spilt sufficient, so they gave him a chance to decide If he'd haul down his bit of bunting and come on the winning side. He listened and heard their message, and answered them all polite, That he was a Spanish hidalgo, and the men of his race MUST fight! A gunboat against an army, and with never a chance to run, And them with their hundred cannon and him with a single gun: The odds were a trifle heavy — but he wasn't the sort to flinch, So he opened fire on the army, did the boss of the 'Admiral Lynch'.
They pounded his boat to pieces, they silenced his single gun, And captured the whole consignment, for none of 'em cared to run; And it don't say whether they shot him — it don't even give his name — But whatever they did I'll wager that he went to his graveyard game. I tell you those old hidalgos so stately and so polite, They turn out the real Maginnis when it comes to an uphill fight. There was General Alcantara, who died in the heaviest brunt, And General Alzereca was killed in the battle's front; But the king of 'em all, I reckon — the man that could stand a pinch — Was the man who attacked the army with the gunboat 'Admiral Lynch'.