When I was King and Other Verses

The Never-Never Country


Henry Lawson

BY homestead, hut, and shearing-shed,
     By railroad, coach, and track—
By lonely graves of our brave dead,
     Up-Country and Out-Back:
To where ’neath glorious clustered stars
     The dreamy plains expand—
My home lies wide a thousand miles
     In the Never-Never Land.

It lies beyond the farming belt,
     Wide wastes of scrub and plain,
A blazing desert in the drought,
     A lake-land after rain;
To the sky-line sweeps the waving grass,
     Or whirls the scorching sand—
A phantom land, a mystic land!
     The Never-Never Land.

Where lone Mount Desolation lies,
     Mounts Dreadful and Despair—
’Tis lost beneath the rainless skies
     In hopeless deserts there;
It spreads nor’-west by No-Man’s Land—
     Where clouds are seldom seen—
To where the cattle-stations lie
     Three hundred miles between.

The drovers of the Great Stock Routes
     The strange Gulf country know—
Where, travelling from the southern droughts,
     The big lean bullocks go;
And camped by night where plains lie wide,
     Like some old ocean’s bed,
The watchmen in the starlight ride
     Round fifteen hundred head.

And west of named and numbered days
     The shearers walk and ride—
Jack Cornstalk and the Ne’er-do-well,
     And the grey-beard side by side;
They veil their eyes from moon and stars,
     And slumber on the sand—
Sad memories sleep as years go round
     In Never-Never Land.

By lonely huts north-west of Bourke,
     Through years of flood and drought,
The best of English black-sheep work
     Their own salvation out:
Wild fresh-faced boys grown gaunt and brown—
     Stiff-lipped and haggard-eyed—
They live the Dead Past grimly down!
     Where boundary-riders ride.

The College Wreck who sunk beneath,
     Then rose above his shame,
Tramps West in mateship with the man
     Who cannot write his name.
’Tis there where on the barren track
     No last half-crust’s begrudged—
Where saint and sinner, side by side,
     Judge not, and are not judged.

Oh rebels to society!
     The Outcasts of the West—
Oh hopeless eyes that smile for me,
     And broken hearts that jest!
The pluck to face a thousand miles—
     The grit to see it through!
The communism perfected!—
     And—I am proud of you!

The Arab to true desert sand,
     The Finn to fields of snow;
The Flax-stick turns to Maoriland,
     Where the seasons come and go;
And this old fact comes home to me—
     And will not let me rest—
However barren it may be,
     Your own land is the best!

And, lest at ease I should forget
     True mateship after all,
My water-bag and billy yet
     Are hanging on the wall;
And if my fate should show the sign,
     I’d tramp to sunsets grand
With gaunt and stern-eyed mates of mine
     In Never-Never Land.

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