In the Days When the World was Wide and Other Verses

Trooper Campbell


Henry Lawson

ONE day old Trooper Campbell
    Rode out to Blackman’s Run,
His cap-peak and his sabre
    Were glancing in the sun.
’Twas New Year’s Eve, and slowly
    Across the ridges low
The sad Old Year was drifting
    To where the old years go.

The trooper’s mind was reading
    The love-page of his life—
His love for Mary Wylie
    Ere she was Blackman’s wife;
He sorrowed for the sorrows
    Of the heart a rival won,
For he knew that there was trouble
    Out there on Blackman’s Run.

The sapling shades had lengthened,
    The summer day was late,
When Blackman met the trooper
    Beyond the homestead gate.
And if the hand of trouble
    Can leave a lasting trace,
The lines of care had come to stay
    On poor old Blackman’s face.

‘Not good day, Trooper Campbell,
    It’s a bad, bad day for me—
You are of all the men on earth
    The one I wished to see.
The great black clouds of trouble
    Above our homestead hang;
That wild and reckless boy of mine
    Has joined M’Durmer’s gang.

‘Oh! save him, save him, Campbell!
    I beg in friendship’s name!
For if they take and hang him,
    The wife would die of shame.
Could Mary or her sisters
    Hold up their heads again,
And face a woman’s malice
    Or claim the love of men?

‘And if he does a murder
    ’Twere better we were dead.
Don’t take him, Trooper Campbell,
    If a price be on his head;
But shoot him! shoot him, Campbell,
    When you meet him face to face,
And save him from the gallows,
    And us from that disgrace.’

‘Now, Tom,’ cried Trooper Campbell,
‘You know your words are wild.
Though he is wild and reckless,
    Yet still he is your child;
So bear up in your trouble,
    And meet it like a man,
And tell the wife and daughters
    I’ll save him if I can.’

.     .     .     .     .

The sad Australian sunset
    Had faded from the west;
But night brings darker shadows
    To hearts that cannot rest;
And Blackman’s wife sat rocking
    And moaning in her chair.
‘I cannot bear disgrace,’ she moaned;
    ‘Disgrace I cannot bear.

‘In hardship and in trouble
    I struggled year by year
To make my children better
    Than other children here.
And if my son’s a felon
    How can I show my face?
I cannot bear disgrace; my God,
    I cannot bear disgrace!

‘Ah, God in Heaven pardon!
    I’m selfish in my woe—
My boy is better-hearted
    Than many that I know.
And I will face the world’s disgrace,
    And, till his mother’s dead,
My foolish child shall find a place
    To lay his outlawed head.’

.     .     .     .     .

With a sad heart Trooper Campbell
    Rode back from Blackman’s Run,
Nor noticed aught about him
    Till thirteen miles were done;
When, close beside a cutting,
    He heard the click of locks,
And saw the rifle muzzles
    Were on him from the rocks.

But suddenly a youth rode out,
    And, close by Campbell’s side:
‘Don’t fire! don’t fire, in heaven’s name!
    It’s Campbell, boys!’ he cried.
Then one by one in silence
    The levelled rifles fell,
For who’d shoot Trooper Campbell
    Of those who knew him well?

Oh, bravely sat old Campbell,
    No sign of fear showed he.
He slowly drew his carbine;
    It rested by his knee.
The outlaws’ guns were lifted,
    But none the silence broke,
Till steadfastly and firmly
    Old Trooper Campbell spoke.

‘That boy that you would ruin
    Goes home with me, my men;
Or some of us shall never
    Ride through the Gap again.
You know old Trooper Campbell,
    And have you ever heard
That bluff or lead could turn him,
    That e’er he broke his word?

‘That reckless lad is playing
     A heartless villain’s part;
He knows that he is breaking
     His poor old mother’s heart.
He’ll bring a curse upon himself;
     But ’tis not that alone,
He’ll bring dishonour to a name
     That I’d be proud to own.

‘I speak to you, M’Durmer,—
    If your heart’s not hardened quite,
And if you’d seen the trouble
    At Blackman’s home this night,
You’d help me now, M’Durmer—
    I speak as man to man—
I swore to save that foolish lad,
    And I’ll save him if I can.’

‘Oh, take him!’ said M’Durmer,
    ‘He’s got a horse to ride.’
The youngster thought a moment,
    Then rode to Campbell’s side—
‘Good-bye!’ the outlaws shouted,
    As up the range they sped.
‘A Merry New Year, Campbell,’
    Was all M’Durmer said.

.     .     .     .     .

Then fast along the ridges
    Two bushmen rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
    To Trooper Campbell’s face.
And ere the new year’s dawning
    They reached the home at last;
And this is but a story
    Of trouble that is past!

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