Verses Popular and Humorous

The Paroo

Henry Lawson

IT WAS a week from Christmas-time,
    As near as I remember,
And half a year since in the rear
    We’d left the Darling Timber.
The track was hot and more than drear;
    The long day seemed forever;
Put now we knew that we were near
    Our camp—the Paroo River.

With blighted eyes and blistered feet,
    With stomachs out of order,
Half mad with flies and dust and heat
    We’d crossed the Queensland Border.
I longed to hear a stream go by
    And see the circles quiver;
I longed to lay me down and die
    That night on Paroo River.

’Tis said the land out West is grand—
    I do not care who says it—
It isn’t even decent scrub,
    Nor yet an honest desert;
It’s plagued with flies, and broiling hot,
    A curse is on it ever;
I really think that God forgot
    The country round that river.

My mate—a native of the land—
    In fiery speech and vulgar,
Condemned the flies and cursed the sand,
    And doubly damned the mulga.
He peered ahead, he peered about—
    A bushman he, and clever—
Now mind you keep a sharp look-out;
    ‘We must be near the river.’

The ‘nose-bags’ heavy on each chest
    (God bless one kindly squatter!)
With grateful weight our hearts they pressed—
    We only wanted water,
The sun was setting (in the west)
    In colour like a liver—
We’d fondly hoped to camp and rest
    That night on Paroo River.

A cloud was on my mate’s broad brow,
    And once I heard him mutter:
‘I’d like to see the Darling now,
    ‘God bless the Grand Old Gutter!’
And now and then he stopped and said
    In tones that made me shiver—
‘It cannot well be on ahead,
    ‘I think we’ve crossed the river.

But soon we saw a strip of ground
    That crossed the track we followed—
No barer than the surface round,
    But just a little hollowed.
His brows assumed a thoughtful frown—
    This speech he did deliver:
‘I wonder if we’d best go down
    ‘Or up the blessed river?’

‘But where,’ said I, ‘’s the blooming stream?’
    And he replied, ‘We’re at it!’
I stood awhile, as in a dream,
    ‘Great Scott!’ I cried, ‘is that it?
‘Why, that is some old bridle-track!’
    He chuckled, ‘Well, I never!
‘It’s nearly time you came out-back—
    ‘This is the Paroo River!’

No place to camp—no spot of damp—
    No moisture to be seen there;
If e’er there was it left no sign
    That it had ever been there.
But ere the morn, with heart and soul
    We’d cause to thank the Giver—
We found a muddy water-hole
    Some ten miles down the river.

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