Saltbush Bill and other Verses

Song of the Wheat

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

WE have sung the song of the droving days,
  Of the march of the travelling sheep;
By silent stages and lonely ways
  Thin, white battalions creep.
But the man who now by the land would thrive
  Must his spurs to a plough-share beat.
Is there ever a man in the world alive
  To sing the song of the Wheat!

It's west by south of the Great Divide
  The grim grey plains run out,
Where the old flock-masters lived and died
  In a ceaseless fight with drought.
Weary with waiting and hope deferred
  They were ready to own defeat,
Till at last they heard the master-word—
  And the master-word was Wheat.

Yarran and Myall and Box and Pine—
  ’Twas axe and fire for all;
They scarce could tarry to blaze the line
  Or wait for the trees to fall,
Ere the team was yoked, and the gates flung wide,
  And the dust of the horses’ feet
Rose up like a pillar of smoke to guide
  The wonderful march of Wheat.

Furrow by furrow, and fold by fold,
  The soil is turned on the plain;
Better than silver and better than gold
  Is the surface-mine of the grain;
Better than cattle and better than sheep
  In the fight with drought and heat;
For a streak of stubbornness, wide and deep,
  Lies hid in a grain of Wheat.

When the stock is swept by the hand of fate,
  Deep down in his bed of clay
The brave brown Wheat will lie and wait
  For the resurrection day:
Lie hid while the whole world thinks him dead;
  But the Spring-rain, soft and sweet,
Will over the steaming paddocks spread
  The first green flush of the Wheat.

Green and amber and gold it grows
  When the sun sinks late in the West;
And the breeze sweeps over the rippling rows
  Where the quail and the skylark nest.
Mountain or river or shining star,
  There’s never a sight can beat—
Away to the sky-line stretching far—
  A sea of the ripening Wheat.

When the burning harvest sun sinks low,
  And the shadows stretch on the plain,
The roaring strippers come and go
  Like ships on a sea of grain;
Till the lurching, groaning waggons bear
  Their tale of the load complete.
Of the world’s great work he has done his share
  Who has gathered a crop of wheat.

Princes and Potentates and Czars,
  They travel in regal state,
But old King Wheat has a thousand cars
  For his trip to the water-gate;
And his thousand steamships breast the tide
  And plough thro’ the wind and sleet
To the lands where the teeming millions bide
  That say: “Thank God for Wheat!”

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