The Ballad of the Drover by Henry Lawson

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Across the stony ridges,
   Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
   Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
   And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old pack-horse
   Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle
   He travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished
   Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
   He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
   Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado
   Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
   The homestead station lies.
And thitherward the drover
   Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
   Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens
   With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
   Around the drover's track;
But Harry pushes onward,
   His horses' strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
   Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder from above him
   Goes rolling o'er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
   In torrents falls the rain.
And every creek and gully
   Sends forth its little flood,
Till the river runs a banker,
   All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,
   The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
   And strokes their shaggy manes;
"We've breasted bigger rivers
   When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
   From getting home to-night!"

The thunder growls a warning,
   The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As the drover turns his horses
   To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
   Than e'er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
   And only half-way o'er!

When flashes next the lightning,
   The flood's grey breast is blank,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse
   Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
   The girl will wait in vain --
He'll never pass the stations
   In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment
   Sits panting on the bank,
And then swims through the current
   To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
   He fights with failing strength,
Till, borne down by the waters,
   The old dog sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands
   And slopes of sodden loam
The pack-horse struggles onward,
   To take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
   Through ranges dark goes he;
While hobble-chains and tinware
   Are sounding eerily.

      .    .    .    .    .

The floods are in the ocean,
   The stream is clear again,
And now a verdant carpet
   Is stretched across the plain.
But someone's eyes are saddened,
   And someone's heart still bleeds
In sorrow for the drover
   Who sleeps among the reeds.

First published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 9 March 1889,
then in the same newspaper on 21 September 1889;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
The Coo-ee Reciter: Humourous, Pathetic, Dramatic, Dialect, and Readings compiled by William T. Pyke, 1904; 
The Children's Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1913;
Winnowed Verse by Henry Lawson, 1924;
Selection from Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;
The Children's Lawson by Henry Lawson, 1949;
Songs from Lawson by Henry Lawson, 1957;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
An Australian Treasury of Popular Verse edited by Kathrine Bell, 2002,
amongst many others.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 9, 2011 9:10 AM.

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