The Sick Stockrider

Original Text: 
Poems, ed. Robert A. Thompson (London and Melbourne: A. H. Massina, 1920). Sydney Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS), digital text sponsored by AustLit: http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit
1Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
2    Old man, you've had your work cut out to guide
3Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I sway'd,
4    All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
6    The sunrise was a sullen, sluggish lamp;
7I was dozing in the gateway of Arbuthnot's bound'ry fence,
8    I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
10    And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth;
12    And the flush'd fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
14    And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
15From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
16    You can see Sylvester's woolshed fair enough.
17Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place
18    Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch;
20    Eight years ago -- or was it nine? -- last March.
21'Twas merry in the glowing morn, among the gleaming grass,
22    To wander as we've wandered many a mile,
23And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass,
24    Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
26    To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
28    Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!
29Aye! we had a glorious gallop after 'Starlight' and his gang,
30    When they bolted from Sylvester's on the flat;
31How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang
32    To the strokes of 'Mountaineer' and 'Acrobat'.
33Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
35And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath!
37We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey,
38    And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
41There you grappled with the leader, man to man and horse to horse,
42    And you roll'd together when the chestnut rear'd;
43He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course --
44    A narrow shave -- his powder singed your beard!
45In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young
46    Come back to us; how clearly I recall
47Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung;
48    And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall?
49Aye! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
50    Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone;
51Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
52    It seems that you and I are left alone.
53There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards,
54    It matters little what became of him;
56    And Sullivan was drown'd at Sink-or-swim.
57And Mostyn -- poor Frank Mostyn -- died at last a fearful wreck,
59And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck,
60    Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!
61Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans' in the glen --
62    The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
63Elsie's tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then;
64    And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.
65I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil,
66    And life is short -- the longest life a spa;
67I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
68    Or for the wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
69For good undone and gifts misspent and resolutions vain,
70    'Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know --
71I should live the same life over, if I had to live again;
72    And the chances are I go where most men go.
73The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim,
74    The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall;
75And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim,
76    And on the very sun's face weave their pall.
78    With never stone or rail to fence my bed;
79Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave,
80    I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

Notes

5] Moorabinda: an area in New South Wales. Back to Line
9] Carricksford: unidentified. Back to Line
11] Katawa: an area in South Australia. Back to Line
13] Lindisfarm: possibly Lindisfarne. Back to Line
19] dingo: the native Australian wild dog. Back to Line
25] blackwood: an acacia species native to eastern Australia. Blackwood prefers colder climates, and is highly valued for cabinets, musical instruments and boat-building.
station roofs: a station is the term in Australia for a large landholding used primarily for livestock (cattle) production. Back to Line
27] stockwhip: an Australian whip made of a tapered length of flexible, plaited leather with a stiff handle, and used when mustering cattle. Back to Line
34] Tea-tree: one of some 83 species of plants (often growing as low scrub) native to Australia and southeast Asia. It is commonly found in many areas, but prefers wetter habitats. Back to Line
36] osiers: small willows that grow mostly in wet habitats. Back to Line
39] bushrangers: originally runaway convicts who hid in the Australian bush to escape authorities, during the early era of British settlement in Australia. The term then evolved to mean highwaymen who took up "robbery under arms" as a way of life, using the bush as their base. The heyday of bushrangers was from about the 1850s through the 1870s. Back to Line
40] box-tree: popular Australian name for some of the more than 700 species of eucalyptus, most of which are native to Australia. Back to Line
55] Cooraminta: an area in Victoria.
yards: stockyards, where cattle or sheep are held for processing or sale. Back to Line
58] Upper Wandinong: an area in New South Wales. Back to Line
77] wattle blossoms: wattle is the popular name for several flowering acacia trees native to Australia. The majority of the world's wattle species are native to Australia, where they range from creepers to tall forest trees. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1870
Publication Notes: 
Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes (1870)
RPO poem Editors: 
Cameron La Follette
RPO Edition: 
2012