Ballad of the Drover by Henry Lawson


Across the stony ridges,

Across the rolling plain,

Young Harry dale, the drover,

Comes riding home again.

And well his stock-horse bears him,

And light of heart is he,

And stoutly his old packhorse

Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle

He’s travelled regions vast;

And many months have vanished

Since home-folks saw him last.

He hums a song of someone

He hopes to marry soon;

And hobble-chains and camp-ware

Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado

Against the lower skies

And yon blue line of ranges

The station homestead lies.

And thitherward the drover

Jogs through the lazy noon,

While hobble-chains and camp-ware

Are jingling to a tune

An hour has filled the heavens

With storm-clouds inky black;

At times the lightning trickles

Around the drover’s track;

But Harry pushes onward,

His horses’ strength he tries,

In hope to reach the river

Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder, pealing o’er him,

Goes rumbling down the plain;

And sweet on thirsty pastures

Beats fast the plashing rain;

The every creek and gully

Sends forth its tribute flood—

The river runs a banker,

All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,

The best dog on the plain

And to his hardy horses,

And strokes their shaggy manes:

‘We’ve breasted bigger rivers

When floods were at their height,

Nor shall this gutter stop us

From getting home tonight!’

The thunder growls a warning

The blue, forked lightings gleam;

The drover turns his horses

To swim the fatal stream.

But, oh! the floods runs stronger

Than e’re it ran before;

The saddle-horse is failing,

And only half-way o’er!

When flashes next the lightning,

The flood’s grey breast is blank

A cattle dog and packhorse

Are struggling up the bank.

But in the lonely homestead

The girl shall wait in vain –

He’ll never pass the stations

In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment

Lies panting on the bank,

Then plunges through the current

To where his master sank.

And round and round in circles

He fights with failing strength,

Till, gripped by wilder waters,

He fails and sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands

And slopes of sodden loam

The packhorse struggles bravely

To take dumb tiding home;

And mud-stained wet and weary,

He goes by rock and tree,

With clanging chain and tinware,

All sounding eerily.


Source: The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: a treasury for young people compiled by Libby Hathorn (ABC Books 2010)


One response

  1. I’d not read that one before. Now I’m in dire need of a tissue. Is it wrong to want to go and slap the lad?