The Roaring Days

Henry Lawson, 1889

      The night too quickly passes
             And we are growing old,
      So let us fill our glasses
             And toast the Days of Gold;
      When finds of wondrous treasure
             Set all the South ablaze,
      And you and I were faithful mates
             All through the roaring days!

      Then stately ships came sailing
             From every harbour's mouth,
      And sought the land of promise
             That beaconed in the South;
      Then southward streamed their streamers
             And swelled their canvas full
      To speed the wildest dreamers
             E'er borne in vessel's hull.

      Their shining Eldorado,
             Beneath the southern skies,
      Was day and night for ever
             Before their eager eyes.
      The brooding bush, awakened,
             Was stirred in wild unrest,
      And all the year a human stream
             Went pouring to the West.

      The rough bush roads re-echoed
             The bar-room's noisy din,
      When troops of stalwart horsemen
             Dismounted at the inn.
      And oft the hearty greetings
             And hearty clasp of hands
      Would tell of sudden meetings
             Of friends from other lands;
      When, puzzled long, the new-chum
             Would recognise at last,
      Behind a bronzed and bearded skin,
             A comrade of the past.

      And when the cheery camp-fire
             Explored the bush with gleams,
      The camping-grounds were crowded
             With caravans of teams;
      Then home the jests were driven,
             And good old songs were sung,
      And choruses were given
             The strength of heart and lung.
      Oh, they were lion-hearted
             Who gave our country birth!
      Oh, they were of the stoutest sons
             From all the lands on earth!

      Oft when the camps were dreaming,
             And fires began to pale,
      Through rugged ranges gleaming
             Would come the Royal Mail.
      Behind six foaming horses,
             And lit by flashing lamps,
      Old 'Cobb and Co.'s', in royal state,
             Went dashing past the camps.

      Oh, who would paint a goldfield,
             And limn the picture right,
      As we have often seen it
             In early morning's light;
      The yellow mounds of mullock
             With spots of red and white,
      The scattered quartz that glistened
             Like diamonds in light;
      The azure line of ridges,
             The bush of darkest green,
      The little homes of calico
             That dotted all the scene.

      I hear the fall of timber
             From distant flats and fells,
      The pealing of the anvils
         As clear as little bells,
      The rattle of the cradle,
             The clack of windlass-boles,
      The flutter of the crimson flags
             Above the golden holes.

      Ah, then our hearts were bolder,
             And if Dame Fortune frowned
      Our swags we'd lightly shoulder
             And tramp to other ground.
      But golden days are vanished,
             And altered is the scene;
      The diggings are deserted,
             The camping-grounds are green;
      The flaunting flag of progress
             Is in the West unfurled,
      The mighty bush with iron rails
             Is tethered to the world.


      The Bulletin, 21 December 1889