The Swagman and His Mate


Henry Lawson

FROM north to south throughout the year
    The shearing seasons run,
The Queensland stations start to shear
    When Maoriland has done;
But labour’s cheap and runs are wide,
    And some the track must tread
From New Year’s Day till Christmastide
    And never get a shed!
North, west, and south—south, west and north—
    They lead and follow Fate—
The stoutest hearts that venture forth—
    The swagman and his mate.

A restless, homeless class they are
    Who tramp in Borderland.
They take their rest ’neath moon and star—
    Their bed the desert sand,
On sunset tracks they ride and tramp,
    Till speech has almost died,
And still they drift from camp to camp
    In silence side by side.
They think and dream, as all men do;
    Perchance their dreams are great—
Each other’s thoughts are sacred to
    The swagman and his mate.

With scrubs beneath the stifling skies
    Unstirred by heaven’s breath;
Beyond the Darling Timber lies
    The land of living death!
A land that wrong-born poets brave
    Till dulled minds cease to grope——
A land where all things perish, save
    The memories of Hope.
When daylight’s fingers point out back
    (And seem to hesitate)
The far faint dust cloud marks their track—
    The swagman and his mate.

And one who followed through the scrub
    And out across the plain,
And only in a bitter mood
    Would seek those tracks again,
Can only write what he has seen—
    Can only give his hand—
And greet those mates in words that mean
    “I know”, “I understand.”

I hope they’ll find the squatter “white”,
    The cook and shearers “straight”,
When they have reached the shed to-night—
    The swagman and his mate.

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