The Ballad of the Drover

Henry Lawson, 1889

      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 pack-horse
             Is trotting by his knee.

      Up Queensland way with cattle
             He travelled regions vast;
      And many months have vanished
             Since home-folk 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 homestead station 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 from above him
             Goes rolling o'er the plain;
      And down on thirsty pastures
             In torrents falls the rain.
      And every creek and gully
             Sends forth its little flood,
      Till the river runs a banker,
             All stained with yellow mud.

      Now Harry speaks to Rover,
             The best dog on the plains,
      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 to-night!'

      The thunder growls a warning,
             The ghastly lightnings gleam,
      As the drover turns his horses
             To swim the fatal stream.
      But, oh! the flood runs stronger
             Than e'er 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,
      And a cattle dog and pack-horse
             Are struggling up the bank.
      But in the lonely homestead
             The girl will wait in vain —
      He'll never pass the stations
             In charge of stock again.

      The faithful dog a moment
             Sits panting on the bank,
      And then swims through the current
             To where his master sank.
      And round and round in circles
             He fights with failing strength,
      Till, borne down by the waters,
             The old dog sinks at length.

      Across the flooded lowlands
             And slopes of sodden loam
      The pack-horse struggles onward,
             To take dumb tidings home.
      And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
             Through ranges dark goes he;
      While hobble-chains and tinware
             Are sounding eerily.

      The floods are in the ocean,
             The stream is clear again,
      And now a verdant carpet
             Is stretched across the plain.
      But someone's eyes are saddened,
             And someone's heart still bleeds
      In sorrow for the drover
             Who sleeps among the reeds.