When I was King and Other Verses

‘Sacred to the Memory

Who Was Found Dead
    Near This Tree
(Don’t Cut Down this Tree, for a White Man Lies Beneath It).’

Henry Lawson

OH, the wild black swans fly westward still,
    While the sun goes down in glory—
And away o’er lonely plain and hill
    Still runs the same old story:
The sheoaks sigh it all day long—
    It is safe in the Big Scrub’s keeping—
’Tis the butcher-birds’ and the bell-birds’ song
    In the gum where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping—
(It is heard in the chat of the soldier-birds
    O’er the grave where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping).

Ah! the Bushmen knew not his name or land,
    Or the shame that had sent him here—
But the Bushmen knew by the dead man’s hand
    That his past life lay not near.
The law of the land might have watched for him,
    Or a sweetheart, wife, or mother;
But they bared their heads, and their eyes were dim,
    For he might have been a brother!
(Ah! the death he died brought him near to them,
    For he might have been a brother.)

Oh, the wild black swans to the westward fade,
    And the sunset burns to ashes,
And three times bright on an eastern range
    The light of a big star flashes,
Like a signal sent to a distant strand
    Where a dead man’s love sits weeping.
And the night comes grand to the Great Lone Land
    O’er the grave where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping,
And the big white stars in their clusters blaze
    O’er the Bush where ‘Unknown’ lies sleeping.

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