Rio Grande and other Verses

Old Australian Ways

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

THE London lights are far abeam
    Behind a bank of cloud,
Along the shore the gaslights gleam,
    The gale is piping loud;
And down the Channel, groping blind,
    We drive her through the haze
Towards the land we left behind—
The good old land of “never mind”,
    And old Australian ways.

The narrow ways of English folk
    Are not for such as we;
They bear the long-accustomed yoke
    Of staid conservancy:
But all our roads are new and strange,
    And through our blood there runs
The vagabonding love of change
That drove us westward of the range
    And westward of the suns.

The city folk go to and fro
    Behind a prison’s bars,
They never feel the breezes blow
    And never see the stars;
They never hear in blossomed trees
    The music low and sweet
Of wild birds making melodies,
Nor catch the little laughing breeze
    That whispers in the wheat.

Our fathers came of roving stock
    That could not fixed abide:
And we have followed field and flock
    Since e’er we learnt to ride;
By miner’s camp and shearing shed,
    In land of heat and drought,
We followed where our fortunes led,
With fortune always on ahead
    And always farther out.

The wind is in the barley-grass,
    The wattles are in bloom;
The breezes greet us as they pass
    With honey-sweet perfume;
The parakeets go screaming by
    With flash of golden wing,
And from the swamp the wild-ducks cry
Their long-drawn note of revelry,
    Rejoicing at the Spring.

So throw the weary pen aside
    And let the papers rest,
For we must saddle up and ride
    Towards the blue hill’s breast:
And we must travel far and fast
    Across their rugged maze,
To find the Spring of Youth at last,
And call back from the buried past
    The old Australian ways.

When Clancy took the drover’s track
    In years of long ago,
He drifted to the outer back
    Beyond the Overflow;
By rolling plain and rocky shelf,
    With stockwhip in his hand,
He reached at last (oh, lucky elf!)
The Town of Come-and-Help-Yourself
    In Rough-and-Ready Land.

And if it be that you would know
    The tracks he used to ride,
Then you must saddle up and go
    Beyond the Queensland side,
Beyond the reach of rule or law,
    To ride the long day through,
In Nature’s homestead—filled with awe,
You then might see what Clancy saw
    And know what Clancy knew.

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