~ Borderland – Henry Lawson

I am back from up the country — very sorry that I went —
Seeking for the Southern poets’ land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have lost a lot of idols, which were broken on the track —
Burnt a lot of fancy verses, and I’m glad that I am back.
Further out may be the pleasant scenes of which our poets boast,
But I think the country’s rather more inviting round the coast —
Anyway, I’ll stay at present at a boarding-house in town
Drinking beer and lemon-squashes, taking baths and cooling down.

Sunny plains! Great Scot! — those burning wastes of barren soil and sand
With their everlasting fences stretching out across the land!
Desolation where the crow is! Desert! where the eagle flies,
Paddocks where the luny bullock starts and stares with reddened eyes;
Where, in clouds of dust enveloped, roasted bullock-drivers creep
Slowly past the sun-dried shepherd dragged behind his crawling sheep.
Stunted “peak” of granite gleaming, glaring! like a molten mass
Turned, from some infernal furnace, on a plain devoid of grass.

Miles and miles of thirsty gutters — strings of muddy waterholes
In the place of “shining rivers” (walled by cliffs and forest boles).
“Range!” of ridgs, gullies, ridges, barren! where the madden’d flies —
Fiercer than the plagues of Egypt — swarm about your blighted eyes!
Bush! where there is no horizon! where the buried bushman sees
Nothing. Nothing! but the maddening sameness of the stunted trees!
Lonely hut where drought’s eternal — suffocating atmosphere —
Where the God forgottcn hatter dreams of city-life and beer.

Treacherous tracks that trap the stranger, endless roads that gleam and glare,
Dark and evil-looking gullies — hiding secrets here and there!
Dull, dumb flats and stony “rises,” where the bullocks sweat and bake,
And the sinister “gohanna,” and the lizard, and the snake.
Land of day and night — no morning freshness, and no afternoon,
For the great, white sun in rising brings with him the heat of noon.
Dismal country for the exile, when the shades begin to fall
From the sad, heart-breaking sunset, to the new-chum, worst of all.

Dreary land in rainy weather, with the endless clouds that drift
O’er the bushman like a blanket that the Lord will never lift —
Dismal land when it is raining — growl of floods and oh! the “woosh”
Of the rain and wind together on the dark bed of the bush —
Ghastly fires in lonely humpies where the granite rocks are pil’d
On the rain-swept wildernesses that are wildest of the wild.

Land where gaunt and haggard women live alone and work like men,
Till their husbands, gone a-droving, will return to them again —
Homes of men! if homes had ever such a God-forgotten place,
Where the wild selector’s children fly before a stranger’s face.
Home of tragedy applauded by the dingoes’ dismal yell,
Heaven of the shanty-keeper — fitting fiend for such a hell —
And the wallaroos and wombats, and, of course, the “curlew’s call” —
And the lone sundowner tramping ever onward thro’ it all!

I am back from up the country — up the country where I went
Seeking for the Southern poets’ land whereon to pitch my tent;
I have left a lot of broken idols out along the track,
Burnt a lot of fancy verses — and I’m glad that I am back —
I believe the Southern poet’s dream will not be realised
Till the plains are irrigated and the land is humanised.
I intend to stay at present — as I said before — in town
Drinking beer and lemon-squashes — taking baths and cooling down.

~ Borderland – Henry Lawson

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~ Black Bonnet – Henry Lawson

A day of seeming innocence,
A glorious sun and sky,
And, just above my picket fence,
Black Bonnet passing by.
In knitted gloves and quaint old dress,
Without a spot or smirch,
Her worn face lit with peacefulness,
Old Granny goes to church.

Her hair is richly white, like milk,
That long ago was fair —
And glossy still the old black silk
She keeps for “chapel wear”;
Her bonnet, of a bygone style,
That long has passed away,
She must have kept a weary while
Just as it is to-day.

The parasol of days gone by —
Old days that seemed the best —
The hymn and prayer books carried high
Against her warm, thin breast;
As she had clasped — come smiles come tears,
Come hardship, aye, and worse —
On market days, through faded years,
The slender household purse.

Although the road is rough and steep,
She takes it with a will,
For, since she hushed her first to sleep
Her way has been uphill.
Instinctively I bare my head
(A sinful one, alas!)
Whene’er I see, by church bells led,
Brave Old Black Bonnet pass.

For she has known the cold and heat
And dangers of the Track:
Has fought bush-fires to save the wheat
And little home Out Back.
By barren creeks the Bushman loves,
By stockyard, hut, and pen,
The withered hands in those old gloves
Have done the work of men.

…..

They called it “Service” long ago
When Granny yet was young,
And in the chapel, sweet and low,
As girls her daughters sung.
And when in church she bends her head
(But not as others do)
She sees her loved ones, and her dead
And hears their voices too.

Fair as the Saxons in her youth,
Not forward, and not shy;
And strong in healthy life and truth
As after years went by:
She often laughed with sinners vain,
Yet passed from faith to sight —
God gave her beauty back again
The more her hair grew white.

She came out in the Early Days,
(Green seas, and blue — and grey) —
The village fair, and English ways,
Seemed worlds and worlds away.
She fought the haunting loneliness
Where brooding gum trees stood;
And won through sickness and distress
As Englishwomen could.

…..

By verdant swath and ivied wall
The congregation’s seen —
White nothings where the shadows fall,
Black blots against the green.
The dull, suburban people meet
And buzz in little groups,
While down the white steps to the street
A quaint old figure stoops.

And then along my picket fence
Where staring wallflowers grow —
World-wise Old Age, and Common-sense! —
Black Bonnet, nodding slow.
But not alone; for on each side
A little dot attends
In snowy frock and sash of pride,
And these are Granny’s friends.

To them her mind is clear and bright,
Her old ideas are new;
They know her “real talk” is right,
Her “fairy talk” is true.
And they converse as grown-ups may,
When all the news is told;
The one so wisely young to-day,
The two so wisely old.

At home, with dinner waiting there,
She smooths her hair and face,
And puts her bonnet by with care
And dons a cap of lace.
The table minds its p’s and q’s
Lest one perchance be hit
By some rare dart which is a part
Of her old-fashioned wit.

…..

Her son and son’s wife are asleep,
She puts her apron on —
The quiet house is hers to keep,
With all the youngsters gone.
There’s scarce a sound of dish on dish
Or cup slipped into cup,
When left alone, as is her wish,
Black Bonnet “washes up.”

~ Black Bonnet – Henry Lawson

~ Ben Duggan – Henry Lawson

Jack Denver died on Talbragar when Christmas Eve began,
And there was sorrow round the place, for Denver was a man;
Jack Denver’s wife bowed down her head — her daughter’s grief was wild,
And big Ben Duggan by the bed stood sobbing like a child.
But big Ben Duggan saddled up, and galloped fast and far,
To raise the longest funeral ever seen on Talbragar.

By station home
And shearing shed
Ben Duggan cried, `Jack Denver’s dead!
Roll up at Talbragar!’

He borrowed horses here and there, and rode all Christmas Eve,
And scarcely paused a moment’s time the mournful news to leave;
He rode by lonely huts and farms, and when the day was done
He turned his panting horse’s head and rode to Ross’s Run.
No bushman in a single day had ridden half so far
Since Johnson brought the doctor to his wife at Talbragar.

By diggers’ camps
Ben Duggan sped —
At each he cried, `Jack Denver’s dead!
Roll up at Talbragar!’

That night he passed the humpies of the splitters on the ridge,
And roused the bullock-drivers camped at Belinfante’s Bridge;
And as he climbed the ridge again the moon shone on the rise;
The soft white moonbeams glistened in the tears that filled his eyes;
He dashed the rebel drops away — for blinding things they are —
But ’twas his best and truest friend who died on Talbragar.

At Blackman’s Run
Before the dawn,
Ben Duggan cried, `Poor Denver’s gone!
Roll up at Talbragar!’

At all the shanties round the place they’d heard his horse’s tramp,
He took the track to Wilson’s Luck, and told the diggers’ camp;
But in the gorge by Deadman’s Gap the mountain shades were black,
And there a newly-fallen tree was lying on the track —
He saw too late, and then he heard the swift hoof’s sudden jar,
And big Ben Duggan ne’er again rode home to Talbragar.

`The wretch is drunk,
And Denver’s dead —
A burning shame!’ the people said
Next day at Talbragar.

For thirty miles round Talbragar the boys rolled up in strength,
And Denver had a funeral a good long mile in length;
Round Denver’s grave that Christmas day rough bushmen’s eyes were dim —
The western bushmen knew the way to bury dead like him;
But some returning homeward found, by light of moon and star,
Ben Duggan dying in the rocks, five miles from Talbragar.

They knelt around,
He raised his head
And faintly gasped, `Jack Denver’s dead,
Roll up at Talbragar!’

But one short hour before he died he woke to understand,
They told him, when he asked them, that the funeral was `grand’;
And then there came into his eyes a strange victorious light,
He smiled on them in triumph, and his great soul took its flight.
And still the careless bushmen tell by tent and shanty bar
How Duggan raised a funeral years back on Talbragar.

And far and wide
When Duggan died,
The bushmen of the western side
Rode in to Talbragar.

~ Ben Duggan – Henry Lawson

~ Australian Engineers – Henry Lawson

Ah, well! but the case seems hopeless, and the pen might write in vain;

The people gabble of old things over and over again.

For the sake of the sleek importer we slave with the pick and the shears,

While hundreds of boys in Australia long to be engineers.

A new generation has risen under Australian skies,

Boys with the light of genius deep in their dreamy eyes—

Not as of artists or poets with their vain imaginings,

But born to be thinkers and doers, and makers of wonderful things.

Born to be builders of vessels in the Harbours of Waste and Loss,

That shall carry our goods to the nations, flying the Southern Cross;

And fleets that shall guard our seaboard—while the

East is backed by the Jews—

Under Australian captains, and manned by Australian crews.

Boys who are slight and quiet, but boys who are strong and true,

Dreaming of great inventions—always of something new;

With brains untrammelled by training, but quick where reason directs—

Boys with imagination and keen, strong intellects.

They long for the crank and the belting, the gear and the whirring wheel,

The stamp of the giant hammer, the glint of the polished steel,

For the mould, and the vice, and the turning-lathe

—they are boys who long for the keys

To the doors of the world’s mechanics and science’s mysteries.

They would be makers of fabrics, of cloth for the continents—

Makers of mighty engines and delicate instruments,

It is they who would set fair cities on the western plains far out,

They who would garden the deserts—it is they who would conquer the drought!

They see the dykes to the skyline, where a dust-waste blazes to-day,

And they hear the lap of the waters on the miles of sand and clay;

They see the rainfall increasing, and the bountiful sweeps of grass,

And all the year on the rivers long strings of their barges pass.

. . . . . . .

But still are the steamers loading with our timber and wood and gold,

To return with the costly shoddy stacked high in the foreign hold,

With cardboard boots for our leather, and Brum-magem goods and slops

For thin, white-faced Australians to sell in our sordid shops.

~ Australian Engineers – Henry Lawson

~ Australian Bards And Bush Reviewers – Henry Lawson

While you use your best endeavour to immortalise in verse
The gambling and the drink which are your country’s greatest curse,
While you glorify the bully and take the spieler’s part —
You’re a clever southern writer, scarce inferior to Bret Harte.

If you sing of waving grasses when the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there’s only mud and sticks;
If you picture `mighty forests’ where the mulga spoils the view —
You’re superior to Kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.

If you swear there’s not a country like the land that gave you birth,
And its sons are just the noblest and most glorious chaps on earth;
If in every girl a Venus your poetic eye discerns,
You are gracefully referred to as the `young Australian Burns’.

But if you should find that bushmen — spite of all the poets say —
Are just common brother-sinners, and you’re quite as good as they —
You’re a drunkard, and a liar, and a cynic, and a sneak,
Your grammar’s simply awful and your intellect is weak.

~ Australian Bards And Bush Reviewers – Henry Lawson