Life's Overland by Will H. Ogilvie

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Grey-lying miles to the nor'ward of Nor'ward,
Red-leaping leagues to the westward of West,
Further than keenest of sight follows forward,
Further than boldest of hearts ever guessed;
Still with its secret to Man unimparted,
Still with its beckoning wealth unattained,
Lies the dim goal that has Never been Charted,
Down the long Road that has Never been Chained.

Day after day, and from morrow to morrow,
Pointing the way where the wide road begins,
Sweep the red scorpion scourges of Sorrow,
Lashing her children out West for their sins;
Beef wood and white wood, and redgum and wilga,
Lead them and goad them, and guide them and guard,
Till hidden in tangle of sandal and mulga,
The gates to the East and the Southward are barred.

Westward and Nor'ward! and fainter behind them
The roll of the waggons, the roar of the whips,
The towering red dust-storms that waltz down and wind them,
The blue mocking mirage that rise to their lips;
Beyond the last camp of the furthest-west drover,
Beyond the last team-track, the last rotting steer,
Beyond the last foot-pad the camels crossed over,
Beyond the lone grave of the last pioneer.

Westward and Westward! Out past the last horror
Of thirst and starvation, of lorn lives and lost,
The bleaching white bones of the boldest explorer,
The scrubs and the plains that have never been crossed, --
Where the heat haze no lunger in mockery dances,
Where no more the sand-drift whirls brown on the blue,
Where the pitying Sun lays at rest his red lances,
With white flags of truce where his war banner flew.

The last birds have waked them -- they sleep now no longer!
The last dark has lifted -- they take no more rest!
For the aching feet heal and the tired heart grows stronger
As every league bears them a league to the West.
Gold ! Did they hear her sweet voice as they started?
Now she is dumb to them, scorned and disdained,
And their goal is a Goal that has Never been Charted;
Their route is a Road that has Never been Chained.

Westward and -- Homeward! Brown hands at the back of them;
Far in the distance white hands -- and the rest;
One by one, outward, we lose the last track of them,
All the world wending its way to the West;
One after one, till the last shall have started,
Yet no more the last than the first shall have gained
In the lore of the Goal that has Never been Charted,
Down the long Road that has Never been Chained.

First published in The Bulletin, 8 January 1898;
and later in:
Fair Girls and Gray Horses and Other Verses by Will H. Ogilvie, 1898

Author: Will H. Ogilvie (1869-1963) was born in Scotland and travelled to Australia in 1889, due, in part, to his love of the horses and the poetry of Adam Lindsay Gordon. He spent the next 12 years working in the bush and took to writing poetry that would later put him in the company of the best of bush balladists, especially the "horse poets".  He returned to Scotland in 1901 and stayed there until his death in 1963.  He continued to write poetry for Scottish publications throughout his life.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 8, 2011 9:34 AM.

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