The Outside Track

Henry Lawson, 1896

      There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
             And one on the for'ard hatch;
      No straighter mate to his mates than he
             Had ever said: 'Len's a match!'
      'Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
             'Twill be long ere we grip your hand! —
      And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
             Till the whole wide world seemed grand.

             For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
             They marry and vanish and die;
             But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
             As long as the years go by.

      The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
             That rolled from the waters green;
      And over the railing we grasped his fist
             As the dark tide came between.
      We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
             And our mate, times out of mind;
      We cheered the land he was going to
             And the land he had left behind.

      We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
             But my heart seemed out of joint;
      I well remember the hush that fell
             When the steamer had passed the point
      We drifted home through the public bars,
             We were ten times less by one
      Who sailed out under the morning stars,
             And under the rising sun.

      And one by one, and two by two,
             They have sailed from the wharf since then;
      I have said good-bye to the last I knew,
             The last of the careless men.
      And I can't but think that the times we had
             Were the best times after all,
      As I turn aside with a lonely glass
             And drink to the bar-room wall.

             But I'll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
             Then a last good-bye to the bush;
             For my heart's away on the Outside Track,
             On the track of the steerage push.