Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide
Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I sway'd,
All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull and dense,
The sunrise was a sullen, sluggish lamp;
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence,
I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze,
And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth;
To southward lay "Katawa", with the sandpeaks all ablaze,
And the flush'd fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
Now westward winds the bridle path that leads to Lindisfarm,
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch;
'Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase
Eight years ago -- or was it nine? -- last March.
'Twas merry in the glowing morn, among the gleaming grass,
To wander as we've wandered many a mile,
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass,
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
'Twas merry 'mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs,
To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stockwhips and a fiery run of hoofs;
Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!
Aye! we had a glorious gallop after "Starlight" and his gang,
When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat;
How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang
To the strokes of "Mountaineer" and "Acrobat".
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash'd;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath!
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash'd!
We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey,
And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay,
In the creek with stunted box-tree for a blind!
There you grappled with the leader, man to man and horse to horse,
And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd;
He blazed away and missed you in that shallow watercourse --
A narrow shave -- his powder singed your beard!
In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young
Come back to us; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung;
And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall?
Aye! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.
There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him;
But a steer ripp'd up MacPherson in the Cooraminta yards,
And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim.
And Mostyn -- poor Frank Mostyn -- died at last a fearful wreck,
In "the horrors", at the Upper Wandinong,
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck,
Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!
Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen --
The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then;
And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.
I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil,
And life is short -- the longest life a span;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for the wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For good undone and gifts misspent and resolutions vain,
'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know --
I should live the same life over, if I had to live again;
And the chances are I go where most men go.
The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim,
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall;
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim,
And on the very sun's face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
With never stone or rail to fence my bed;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.First published
in Colonial Monthly
, 29 January 1870;
and later inThe Queenslander
, 20 September 1879;Australian Ballads and Rhymes: Poems Inspired by Life and Scenery in Australia and New Zealand
edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;A Century of Australian Song
edited by Douglas Sladen, 1888;The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse
edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;The Lone Hand
, October 1912;Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes
by Adam Lindsay Gordon,1914;The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse
edited by Walter Murdoch, 1918;Selections from the Australian Poets
edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;New Song in an Old Land
edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;Australian Bush Songs and Ballads
edited by Will Lawson, 1944;Favourite Australian Poems
edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;From the Ballads to Brennan
edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;Old Australian Ballads
edited by W. N. Walker, 1967;The Penguin Book of Australian Verse
edited by Harry Heseltine, 1972;The Collins Book of Australian Poetry
compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;A Treasury of Colonial Poetry
, 1982;The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse
compiled by Beatrice Davis, 1984;Old Ballads from the Bush
edited by Bill Scott, 1987;A Collection of Australian Bush Verse
, 1989;The Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature
edited by Ken L. Goodwin and Alan Lawson, 1990;The Poet's Discovery: Nineteenth Century Australia in Verse
edited by Richard Douglas Jordan and Peter Pierce, 1990;A Treasury of Bush Verse
edited by G.A. Wilkes, 1991;On the Track with Bill Bowyang: With Australian Bush Recitations
edited by Dawn Anderson, 1991-1992;The Penguin Book of 19th Century Australian Literature
edited by Michael Ackland, 1993; The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads
edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterrs, 1993;The Romance of the Stockman: The Lore, Legend and Literature of Australia's Outback Heroes
, 1993;The Arnold Anthology of Post-Colonial Literatures in English
edited by John Thieme, 1996;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard 1998;Our Country: Classic Australian Poetry: From the Colonial Ballads to Paterson & Lawson
edited by Michael Cook, 2004;The Sick Stockrider and The Swimmer
by Adam Lindsay Gordon, 2007;Two Centuries of Australian Poetry
edited by Kathrine Bell, 2007;Sixty Classic Australian Poems
edited by Geoff Page, 2009; The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry
edited by John Kinsella, 2009; Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature
edited by Nicholas Jose, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, David McCooey, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore and Elizabeth Webby, 2009; andThe Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry
edited by John Leonard, 2009.Author:
Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70) was born at Fayal in the Azores where his mother's father had a plantation. He completed his education in England and was sent by his family to South Australia in 1853 where he enlisted in the mounted police. He was briefly a member of Parliament and lived in Western Australia and Ballarat before moving to Melbourne. During his time in Ballarat he suffered a severe head injury in a riding accident, was bankrupted by a fire in the livery stable and lost his infant daughter. The day after the publication of his poems in Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes
he committed suicide on Brighton Beach in Melbourne. He is the only Australian poet to be honoured with a bust in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. Author reference sites: Austlit
, Australian Dictionary of Biography