Skyline Riders and Other Verses

The Skyline Riders

Henry Lawson

AGAINST the light of a dawning white
    My Skyline Riders stand—
There is trouble ahead for a dark year dead
    And the selfish wrongs of a land;
There are hurrying feet of fools to repeat
    The follies of Nineteen Eight,
But darkly still on each distant hill
    My riders watch and wait.

My Skyline Riders are down and gone
    As far as the eye can see,
And the horses stand in the shades of dawn
    Where a single man holds three.
We feel the flush and we feel the thrill
    Of the coming of Nineteen Nine,
For my Skyline Riders are over the hill
    And into the firing line.

The skyline lifts while a storm-cloud lowers—
    What’s that? A shot! All’s well!
There is news out there for this land of ours
    That the tattling rifles tell.
A “thud” and a “thud” and a flash like blood!
    There is light on the land at last!
Australian guns on the nearer hills
    Are talking about the past.

O, a lonely place in the days gone by
    Was the long first firing line,
Where we fought as strangers, you and I,
    For the land that was yours and mine.
There was time to dream in the firing line,
    There was time to starve and die,
When the only things in that world of mine
    Were my Native Land and I.

O, a lonely place was the firing line
    When the gaps were wide between—
Hundreds of miles, in this land of mine
    And never a soldier seen.
The dying must die and the dead were left
    Unmarked by the deadly tired—
When struck to the heart in a firing line
    Where never a shot was fired.

O, a lonely place was the firing line
    In the days of the dearth of men,
But hundreds and hundreds of soldiers’ sons
    Have flocked to the line since then
We left it weak in the hour of pride,
    When our rule seemed firmly set,
But danger threatened the firing line,
    And there’s deadly danger yet.

Proud of virtue, and proud of sin,
    Or proud ’neath a cruel wrong;
Proud in failure or proud to win—
    Oh, the pride of man is strong!
Proud of gold or of being without
    Or proud of women and wine—
But get you down from your horse of pride
    And into the firing line.

Pride in poverty—all the same—
    There’s work for all men to do,
With wrong to fight there is deathless fame
    To win in a land so new.
Preacher and drunkard! and sportsman and bard!
    In the dawning of Nineteen Nine—
Saints and sinners! ride hard! ride hard!
    They are pressed in the Firing Line.

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