In the Days When the World was Wide and Other Verses

The Ballad of the Drover

Mar. — 1889

Henry Lawson

ACROSS the stony ridges,
    Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
    Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
    And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old pack-horse
    Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle
    He travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished
    Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
    He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
    Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado
    Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
    The homestead station lies.
And thitherward the drover
    Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
    Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens
    With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
    Around the drover’s track;
But Harry pushes onward,
    His horses’ strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
    Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder from above him
    Goes rolling o’er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
    In torrents falls the rain.
And every creek and gully
    Sends forth its little flood,
Till the river runs a banker,
    All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,
    The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
    And strokes their shaggy manes;
‘We’ve breasted bigger rivers
    When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
    From getting home to-night!’

The thunder growls a warning,
    The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As the drover turns his horses
    To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
    Than e’er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
    And only half-way o’er!

When flashes next the lightning,
    The flood’s grey breast is blank,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse
    Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
    The girl will wait in vain —
He’ll never pass the stations
    In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment
    Sits panting on the bank,
And then swims through the current
    To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
    He fights with failing strength,
Till, borne down by the waters,
    The old dog sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands
    And slopes of sodden loam
The pack-horse struggles onward,
    To take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
    Through ranges dark goes he;
While hobble-chains and tinware
    Are sounding eerily.

.     .     .     .     .

The floods are in the ocean,
    The stream is clear again,
And now a verdant carpet
    Is stretched across the plain.
But someone’s eyes are saddened,
    And someone’s heart still bleeds
In sorrow for the drover
    Who sleeps among the reeds.

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