The Horseman on the Skyline

Henry Lawson, 1907

      Who's that mysterious rider,
      Full-sized, yet far away,
      Seen by the Western-sider —
      A spectre of the day?
      On ridge or seeming high line
      Where East the plain expands,
      The horseman on the skyline
      Is known in many lands.

      With summer insects drumming
      And summer skies aglow,
      He's there — none saw him coming —
      He's gone — none saw him go.
      Too plain for superstition,
      Too blurred for one we sought,
      He rides across our vision
      To vanish like a thought.

      He never halts nor hurries,
      But slowly, in broad day,
      Along the skyline eastward
      He seems to pick his way.
      He rides against the sunrise,
      He rides against the gloom,
      Where suddenly, in summer,
      The lurid storm-clouds loom.

      He never rides in starlight,
      Nor underneath the moon,
      But often in the distant
      And dazzling haze of noon.
      The sad Australian sunset
      (Too sad for pen or tongue)
      Has often seen him riding
      Out where the night was young.

      Our rolling cattle ranches,
      In "country" far away,
      Where cowboys took their chances,
      They saw him every day.
      And many try to find him
      Where riders never tire —
      He leaves no trail behind him
      And never lights a fire.

      On run and ranch and veldtland
      He leaves them all in doubt —
      A cowboy, or a stockman,
      A horse thief, or a scout.
      The glass brings him no nearer,
      Nor hints the way he came;
      His features are no clearer,
      He vanishes the same.

      Too blurred and dark his clothing
      To hint of his degree;
      Inquiries lead to nothing,
      No hoof-marks do we see.
      He leaves the watcher puzzled,
      Or leaves the watcher pained:
      The horseman on the skyline
      Has never been explained.

      Still, where by foot or saddle,
      Or train or motor car,
      The people hurry westward —
      It matters not how far —
      And, plainly seen by many,
      The greatest and the least —
      The rider on the skyline
      Is scouting to the east.


      The Bulletin