Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, ed. A.G. Stephens (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1897): 52. Internet Archive. Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/oztexts
4Ride hard and fail not! there's the devil to pay:
6Cows and calves, calves of ours, without ever a brand,
7Fifty head, if there's one, on the camp there they stand.
8Come out to the stake-yards, nor fail me, or by all
10Boot and saddle it was to the rolling of curses:
11Snatching whip, snatching spurs, where they hung on the nail.
12In his wrath old McIvor, head stockman, turned pale,
13Spitting oaths with his head 'neath the flap of his saddle;
14Taking up the last hole in the girth with his teeth;
15Then a hand on the pommel, a quick catch of breath,
16A lift of the body, a swing to the right--
17And, ten half-broken nags with ten riders astraddle,
18We sped, arrow-swift, for the heart of the night.
19Thud of hoofs! thud of hearts! breath of man! breath of beast!
20With M'Ivor in front, and the rest heel to flank,
21So we rode in a bunch down the steep river bank,
22Churning up the black tide in the shallows like yeast.
25On scent of weak mother with puny calf drooping.
26Staring eyes, swaying forms o'er the saddle-bow stooping,
27With the wind in our shirts, grip of knee, grip of rein,
28Losing ground, falling back, creeping forward again.
29Behind us the low line of dark coolabah;
30Overhead a sky spangled by planet and star;
32While afoot the quick pulsing of hoof-beats disturbs
33Moist silence of grasses and salty-leaved herbs.
34Steering on by the stars, over hollow and crest;
35Tingling eyes looking out through a curtain of tears
36From the slap of the wind over forward-pricked ears,
37Over forehead and nose stretching out for the west,
38And into the face of the sombre night staring.
39Threading in, threading out, through a maze of sand rises
40That spring either side, loom a moment, then flee:
41Dim hillocks of herbage and sun-blasted tree,
42Till again a dark streak of far timber arises;
44Bare tendrils, back-springing, switch sharp on the knee.
45Plain again! and again, with the speed of the wind,
46The long miles in front join their comrades behind;
47Then a sound in our ears like to far summer thunder
48Or the booming of surf in a southerly gale;
49And we shouted aloud each to each in our wonder,
50For we knew that those beasts must have come fast and far,
51That they moaned as the breaking of waves on a bar.
52But behold! overhead the dark sky had grown pale,
53With the azure-tinged paleness of newly-skimmed milk,
54And the dawn-spiders floated on threads of floss-silk
55As the guards of the sun drew aside the thick veil
56And made ready to fling the dawn-portals asunder.
57Still that sound swelled and rolled, thrilling deep on the air,
58Calling long, calling loud in the ear of each steed,
59Bringing courage and strength in the moment of need,
60And light'ning the weight of the burdens they bare.
61But that moment behind us upshot a red glare
62As the sun swept the sky with a roseate sponge;
63And McIvor's blue roan gave a rear and a plunge,
64A half-sob, and so fell, like an over-ripe pear.
65Not a rein did we pull, not a stride did we stay,
66Speeding onward and speeding! For long we could hear
67Old Mac's maledictions ring loud in our rear
68As we rode in hot haste from the incoming day.
69Then all sudden and strangely we came face to face
70With the lead of the cattle, and lo! our long race
71Was run out; and we drew up the horses, all panting
72In stress of the chase, and yet ready for more;
73And our eager ears drank in that thunderous roar,
74While we watched the red squadrons come over the levels
75As if view-holloa'd by a pack of night-devils--
76Cow and calf chasing heifer and lumbering steer,
77With their grey, dripping nostrils, and eyes wide with fear,
79So we blocked them, and lo! the new sun laid a slanting
80Red finger on one who rode over the plain,
81Steed treading full slowly, head drooping, slack rein,
82Turning often aside through the dew-laden grasses
83To crop a sweet mouthful. We needed no glasses
84To see it was Fogarty. Once and again,
85And again did we hail--yet he never looked round,
86Neither made the least motion of hearing the sound.
87Riding on like a man who should ride in his sleep,
88Or as one in the web of some deep-woven charm,
89So he came through the grass--his horse striding breast-deep--
90With a woman held close in the crook of his arm;
91And her hair, all unbound, rippled over his shoulder,
92Dead black; and her brow, where the sweat of fierce pain
93Had dried, was brown-tinged as bronze is, but colder--
94Ah, many times colder! and as he pulled rein,
95He unwrapped saddle-blanket in which he had rolled her,
96And lo! the gay sunlight lit ominous stain,
97Where a murderous bullet had torn a blue vein
98And let out her life in a warm crimson rain.
99Then gently he laid his sad load on the ground,
100And with sorrowing glances we gathered around.
101Then he turned to the west, with his eyes all aflame,
102With his brawny fists raised, calling witness from Heaven--
103On his shoulder and flank the dark blood of the slain--
104And he hurled his curse back on the place whence he came:
105A loud curse, and a threat that he yet would stand even
106With those of Monkyra who wrought this foul shame--
107Though, to tell the God's truth, we'd have done just the same
108In their place, and have reckoned it nothing but right:
109For the black girl and Fogarty quietly crept
110On the Monkyra men in the dead of the night;
111And it happened the watchman was weary and slept,
113Slipped in, and brought both their night horses away,
114While Fogarty started the cattle that lay
115On the camp; and the trick was so bold it succeeded;
116For the Monkyra men, when their cattle stampeded,
117Had nothing to send in pursuit but a bullet.
118Yet that was as much as the little gin needed:
119She made no great fuss, though, nor murmured nor cried;
120Only rode on the right of her lord till she died.
122Where she went who can tell? But we branded the calves.
1] gin: Aboriginal woman or wife. myall: a native Australian living independently of society. Back to Line
2] run: pasture land. Back to Line
3] stake-yards: enclosures of wooden posts. Back to Line
5] Monkyra: a station (large ranch) in the Australian outback of Queensland. mustered: gathered the cattle together from the pasture land. Back to Line
9] drafted: divided into smaller groups. Back to Line
23] coolabahs: eucalyptus trees with long narrow leaves and smooth bark that are native to Australia and grow beside rivers in both inland and coastal areas. Back to Line
24] dingo pack: wild dogs, kin to the Asian gray wolf, found throughout Australia, but especially in the outback. Back to Line
31] Cross: the Southern Cross in the skies. Back to Line
43] lignum: a rainforest tree of eastern Australia preferring sub-tropical or tropical rainforest, also known as Yellow Hollywood. Back to Line
78] Burgess cob: "an eerie beast that awaits a historian" (poet's note). Back to Line
112] pullet: young woman. Back to Line
121] scamped: hurriedly half-done. Back to Line
Publication Start Year:
The Bulletin, March 19, 1892.
RPO poem Editors:
Cameron La Follette