From the Far West

Original Text: 
Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, ed. A.G. Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1897): 1. Internet Archive. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/oztexts
2Set to the tune of a scorching gale
3        On the sandhills red,
4        When the grasses dead
5Loudly rustle, and bow the head
6To the breath of its dusty hail:
7Where the cattle trample a dusty pad
8Across the never-ending plain,
9        And come and go
10        With muttering low
11In the time when the rivers cease to flow,
12And the Drought King holds his reign;
14With lowered head in defiance proud,
15        Grown gaunt and weak,
16        Release doth seek
17In vain from the depths of the slimy creek--
18His sepulchre and his shroud;
19His requiem sung by an insect host,
20Born of the pestilential air,
21        That seethe and swarm
22        In hideous form
23Where the stagnant waters lie thick and warm,
24And Fever lurks in his lair:
25Where a placid, thirst-provoking lake
26Clear in the flashing sunlight lies--
27        But the stockman knows
28        No water flows
29Where the shifting mirage comes and goes
30Like a spectral paradise;
32Murmurs to Heaven a piteous prayer:
33        "O God! must I
34        Prepare to die?"
35And, gazing up at the brazen sky,
36Reads his death-warrant there.
38Watching his slowly-ebbing breath;
39        Crows are flying,
40        Hoarsely crying
41Burial service o'er the dying--
42Foul harbingers of Death.
43Full many a man has perished there,
44Whose bones gleam white from the waste of sand--
45        Who left no name
46        On the scroll of Fame,
47Yet died in his tracks, as well became
48A son of that desert land.

Notes

1] Never Never land: the desert interior of Australia. Back to Line
13] piker: an old wild bullock or cow with a habit of charging handlers. Back to Line
31] saltbush: common name for several species of a native shrub growing on the arid plains of central Australia, often where there is little or no vegetation. The plant's average height is four to twelve feet, and it throws little shade. Back to Line
37] dingoes: wild dogs. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1891
Publication Notes: 
The Sydney Mail, February 14, 1891.
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: