Rio Grande and other Verses

By the Grey Gulf-Water

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

FAR to the Northward there lies a land,
    A wonderful land that the winds blow over,
And none may fathom or understand
    The charm it holds for the restless rover;
A great grey chaos—a land half made,
    Where endless space is and no life stirreth;
There the soul of a man will recoil afraid
    From the sphinx-like visage that Nature weareth.
But old Dame Nature, though scornful, craves
    Her dole of death and her share of slaughter;
Many indeed are the nameless graves
    Where her victims sleep by the Grey Gulf-water.

Slowly and slowly those grey streams glide,
    Drifting along with a languid motion,
Lapping the reed-beds on either side,
    Wending their way to the North Ocean.
Grey are the plains where the emus pass
    Silent and slow, with their staid demeanour;
Over the dead men’s graves the grass
    Maybe is waving a trifle greener.
Down in the world where men toil and spin
    Dame Nature smiles as man’s hand has taught her;
Only the dead men her smiles can win
    In the great lone land by the Grey Gulf-water.

For the strength of man is an insect’s strength
    In the face of that mighty plain and river,
And the life of a man is a moment’s length
    To the life of the stream that will run for ever.
And so it comes that they take no part
    In small world worries; each hardy rover
Rides like a paladin, light of heart,
    With the plains around and the blue sky over.
And up in the heavens the brown lark sings
    The songs that the strange wild land has taught her;
Full of thanksgiving her sweet song rings—
    And I wish I were back by the Grey Gulf-water.

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