The Sliprails and the Spur by Henry Lawson

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The colours of the setting sun
Withdrew across the Western land ---
He raised the sliprails, one by one,
And shot them home with trembling hand;
Her brown hands clung --- her face grew pale ---
Ah! quivering chin and eyes that brim! ---
One quick, fierce kiss across the rail,
And, "Good-bye, Mary!" "Good-bye, Jim!"

      Oh! he rides hard to race the pain
      Who rides from love, who rides from home;
      But he rides slowly home again
      Whose heart has learnt to love and roam.

A hand upon the horse's mane,
And one foot in the stirrups set,
And, stooping back to kiss again,
With "Good-bye, Mary! don't you fret!
When I come back" --- he laughed for her ---
"We do not know how soon 'twill be;
I'll whistle as I round the 'spur' ---
You let the sliprails down for me."

She gasped for sudden loss of hope,
As, with a backward wave to her,
He cantered down the grassy slope
And swiftly round the dark'ning spur.
Black-pencilled panels standing high,
And darkness fading into stars,
And blurring fast against the sky,
A faint white form beside the bars.

And often at the set of sun,
In winter bleak and summer brown,
She'd steal across the little run,
And shyly let the sliprails down.
And listen there when darkness shut
The nearer spur in silence deep;
And when they called her from the hut
Steal home and cry herself to sleep.

A great white gate where sliprails were,
A brick house 'neath the mountain brow,
The "mad girl" buried by the spur
So long ago, forgotten now.

      And he rides hard to dull the pain
      Who rides from one that loves him best;
      And he rides slowly back again,
      Whose restless heart must rove for rest.

First published in The Bulletin, 1 April 1899;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
An Anthology of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1907;
The Golden Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Bertram Stevens, 1909;
Winnowed Verse by Henry Lawson, 1924;
The Oxford Book of Australasian Verse edited by Walter Murdoch, 1924;
Selections from Australian Poets edited by Bertram Stevens, 1925;
The Australian Women's Mirror, 5 January 1926;
An Australasian Anthology: Australian and New Zealand Poems edited by Percival Serle, R. H. Croll and Frank Wilmot, 1927;
New Song in an Old Land edited by Rex Ingamells, 1943;
Out Back and Other Poems by Henry Lawson, 1943;
Spoils of Time: Some Poems of the English Speaking Peoples edited by Rex Ingamells, 1948;
From the Ballads to Brennan edited by T. Inglis Moore, 1964;
Poems of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1973;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
The Essential Henry Lawson edited by Brian Kiernan, 1982;
A Treasury of Colonial Poetry, 1982;
Cross-Country: A Book of Australian Verse edited by John Barnes, 1984;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
The Language of Love: An Anthology of Australian Love Letters, Poetry and Prose edited by Pamela Allardice, 1991;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998; and
The Puncher & Wattmann Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

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 April 1, 2012 8:47 AM.

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