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The Year o' the Flood by C.J. Dennis

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There's a drought-ridden, sun-blistered country,
   Away to the north o'er the ranges,
      Where the poor farming wreck
      Has a crick in his neck
Thro' lookin' for weather and changes.
Where the wind, from the furnace of Hades,
   Blows dust that has never been mud;
      Where the talk of the town
      Is of prices gone down,
And the drought since "the year o' the flood."

In every place there's a red-letter day,
   From which the folks reckon things up;
      Such as "When Riley's son
      Took a fall out of Dunne," 
"The year that Blind Mike won the Cup."
But, away in the dry, droughty country,
   Where the cattle live mostly on "end,"
      In that dull dusty clime,
      Every man counts the time
From "the year of the terrible flood."

It's a land of dull, disappointment;
   Of dreariness, drouth and despair;
      Where the farmin' folk live
      On what nature can give
In the way of sheoaks, and such fare.
It's the country of sore-eyes and sadness,
   Of "pip" and of poorness of blood.
      Ah, but watch their eyes light,
      In the pub of a night,
When they talk of "the year o' the flood."

Tho' the oldest inhabitant reckons
   He was "so 'igh, maybe at the time,"
      Ev'ry child above eight
      Has a yarn to relate
Of the joy of that deluge sublime.
And the landmarks have stood thro' the ages,
   Of the day when the streets last saw mud;
      When the poorest could get
      Any "lashin's" of wet
In the glorious year o' the flood.

High up in the limbs of a gumtree,
   That grows down by Tomlinson's shed,
      Is a huge withered stump,
      That a team couldn't hump;
Certain proof of the height, so 'tis said.
And they'll tell you that "up in that tree, sir,
   Is where Mathew Wimbleton stood,
      Where he hooked Johnson's daughter
      Up out of the water
That terrible year o' the flood!"

So they sit on the sun-blistered fences;
   They sit in the shade of the range;
      They sit on their nags,
      Or on bottles or bags;
Or they sit on their heels for a change.
And they've no time for Bedford or Dyson,
   And they ne'er heard of Lawson or Rudd;
      And they don't care a "darn,"
      For they've got a good yarn;
And they talk of "the year o' the flood." 

First published in The Critic, 16 August 1905

Her Last Message: The Heroine of Conenaugh Valley by Alice Ham

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"Mrs. Ogle, the operator, remained at her post, and wired to the stations below warnings of their danger from the advancing flood; wiring to South Fork she added the brave significant words: 'This is my last message.'"

A shout in the mountainous street,
A confusion of fugitive feet,
A roar that appalled in the air,
And an answering cry of despair.

"The great dam has burst!" Though as pale
As the rose in her gown, did she quail?
No! but sprang to her instrument straight;
"Let others escape, I shall wait" --

Tick! tick! and the message flies through
From the tremulous fingers but true,
To the valleys unconscious beneath
Of the rush of the waters of death.
Unrelenting and hungry they come,
"Forty feet and surmounted by foam,"  
They break from escarpment and wall,
They escape with a thunderous fall.

One brave woman has recognised fate,
And wires to South Fork ere too late ---
As the waters are nearing her fast:
"This is my last message --- my last!"  

Her last! and her best? Even so!  
On that day of unspeakable woe
She passed first through the flood-gates away,
But her message shall echo for aye!

First published in The Queenslander, 24 August 1889

Author reference site: Austlit

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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

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Snowy on the Spree by C. J. Dennis

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For the second time in two months the swollen Snowy River, which rises at Mt. Kosciusko, has disastrously flooded the Orbost plains.

Now, a stream may be a lady,
   Gleaming, dreaming placidly
Now 'twixt sunlit banks, now shady,
   Singing down to greet the sea;
Or, with passions curbed and bounded,
   Prone perchance a well-bred gent
By his code's restraints surrounded,
   Lest he should wax turbulent.

But the wild, wild Snowy River,
   He's a rough, tough mountain "bloke";
Nought can bind this fierce loose-liver
   On his periodic "soak".
Drinking deep of heady waters,
   By his Kosciusko home,
All his kindlier creed he slaughters
   When mad Snowy starts to roam.

Roaring, raving down the mountain,
   Forth fares he, on drunken legs,
Swilling more at each strong fountain
   Till he drains it to the dregs.
Eastward first he weaves and wobbles,
   Cursing, crazy, stained with clay,
Avidly he gizzles, gobbles
   Every drop that comes his way.

Southward now he makes a sally,
   Tearing at the trees and scrubs;
Down thro' many a peaceful valley,
   Calling in at all the "pubs".
On he rages, boasting, brawling,
   Till he sinks with fuddled brain,
In a drunken stupor sprawling
   Flat across the Orbost plain.

Blind to all the ill he rendered,
   Blocking many a plain-land path,
Here he lies, a sot surrendered
   To his orgy's aftermath;
Then he wakes, and, in meek fashion,
   Shamefaced, sneaks away, till he
Cools the embers of his passion
   Headlong in the healing sea.

Now a stream may be a lady
   Or a gentleman serene
Who, by sunlit ways or shady,
   Graces many a sylvan scene.
But that wild, wild woodsman, Snowy,
   Crude uncultured, swift to rage,
He's a hill "bloke", flash and showy,
   Roaring down on his rampage.

First published in The Herald, 28 February 1934

Author reference sites: C.J. Dennis, Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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