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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
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
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