‘I’M OFF on the wallaby!’ cries Old Ben,
And his pipe is lit, and his swag is rolled;
‘There is nothing here for us old-time men,
But up north, I hear, they are on the gold.’
And he shuffles off with a feeble stride,
With his ragged swag and his billy black.
He is making tracks for the other side,
O’er the river deep, or the Great Divide;
But at night, dead beat, he travels back.
Then at morn next day he is off again,
With an eager light in his aged eyes,
Tramping away on his journey vain
For the land of promise beyond the rise.
Over the range there is work to do,
There is roaring life at the shanty bars.
He will tramp the plains whilst the skies are blue,
And will wander the great wide bushland through,
And be soothed to sleep by the blinking stars.
In the garden gay where the old man roams
Pied poppies sway on their supple stalks,
And the fair white rose on the soft breeze foams,
And the pansies peep by the gravelled walks;
But his brow by the breeze of the hills is fanned,
And the clink of bells to his quick ear comes.
When he shades his eyes with a withered hand,
He sees silent rivers and ranges grand,
Or a still lagoon under silver gums.
‘Are you bound out back, Dan?’ the children cry,
And they peer at him through the fence, and shout
‘Well, it’s so long, Dan,’ as he hobbles by,
With his ‘Ay, ay, sonny lad—tramping out!’
On his back he’s bearing his house and bed,
As he bore them both in his manhood’s pride,
Pressing on each day till his strength has fled
By the force of a dauntless spirit led—
There’s a rush somewhere on the Sydney side.
Though his sight may fail and his limbs give way,
Yet no weakness touches his brave old heart,
And he cries each night: ‘At the break of day
I must strap up bluey and make a start!’
And they humour him; for the time is near
When he’ll tramp no more under changeful skies,
But will leave his travels and troubles here,
Take the track God blazed with His stars, and steer
To the Never Land just across the rise.