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Bush Poetry

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The following verses are some of my favourite bush poetry verses. Please read and enjoy.

The Man from Snowy River

by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses, he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.
 

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up,
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand, No better
horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony, three parts thoroughbred at least,
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry, just the sort that won't say die
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, `That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop, lad, you'd better stop away, Those hills
are far too rough for such as you.'
So he waited sad and wistful, only Clancy stood his friend,
`I think we ought to let him come,' he said;
`I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end, For both his
horse and he are mountain bred.

`He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.'

So he went, they found the horses by the big mimosa clump,
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, `Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight, If once they
gain the shelter of those hills.'

So Clancy rode to wheel them, he was racing on the wing Where the
best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way, Where
mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, `We may bid the mob good day,
NO man can hold them down the other side.'

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet, He cleared
the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat, It was grand
to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

Clancy of the Overflow
by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
   Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
   Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
   (And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
   "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
   Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
   For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
  And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
    Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
   Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
   Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
   Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
  As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
   For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
   Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
   But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".      

The Old Australian Ways
by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

The London lights are far abeam
Behind a bank of cloud
Along the shore the gas lights gleam
The gale is piping loud
And down the channel groping blind
We drive her through the haze
Towards the land we left behind
The good old land of never mind
And old Australian ways

The narrow ways of English folk
Are not for such as we
They bear the long accustomed yolk
Of staid conservancy
But all our roads are new and strange
And through our blood there runs
The vagabonding love of change
That drove us westward of the range
And westward of the suns

The city folk go to and fro
Behind the prison bars
They never hear the breezes blow
And never see the stars
They never hear in blossomed trees
The music low and sweet
Of wild birds making melodies
Nor catch the little laughing breeze
That whispers in the wheat

Our fathers came from roving stock
That could not fixed abide
And we have followed field and flock
Since e're we learned to ride
By miner's camp and shearing shed
In land of heat and drought
We followed where our fortune led
With fortune always up ahead
And always further out

The wind is in the barley grass
The wattles are in bloom
The breezes greet us as they pass
With honey sweet perfume
The parakeets go screaming by
With flash of golden wing
And from the swamp the wild ducks cry
Their long drawn note of revelry
Rejoicing at the Spring

So cast the weary pen aside
And let the papers rest
For we must saddle up and ride
Towards the blue hills breast
And we must travel far and fast
Across their rugged maze
Towards the Spring of youth at last
And bring back from the buried past
The old Australian ways

When Clancy took the drover's track
In years of long ago
He drifted to the outer back
Beyond the Overflow
By rolling plain and rocky shelf
With stockwhip in his hand
He came at last, the lucky elf
To the town of Come-and-help-yourself
In rough and ready land

And if it be that you would know
The tracks he used to ride
Then you must saddle up and go
Beyond the Queensland side
Beyond the reach of rule or law
To ride the long day through
In Nature's homestead filled with awe
Then you might see what Clancy saw
And know what Clancy knew

The Man From Ironbark
by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

IT WAS the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop,
Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop.
`'Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark,
I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.'

The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar:
He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee,
He laid the odds and kept a `tote', whatever that may be,
And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered `Here's a lark!
Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark.'

There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber's wall,
Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all;
To them the barber passed the wink, his dexter eyelid shut,
`I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut.'
And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark:
`I s'pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark.'

A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman's chin,
Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in.
He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat,
Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat;
Upon the newly shaven skin it made a livid mark —
No doubt it fairly took him in — the man from Ironbark.

He fetched a wild up-country yell might wake the dead to hear,
And though his throat, he knew full well, was cut from ear to ear,
He struggled gamely to his feet, and faced the murd'rous foe:
`You've done for me! you dog, I'm beat! one hit before I go!
I only wish I had a knife, you blessed murdering shark!
But you'll remember all your life, the man from Ironbark.'

He lifted up his hairy paw, with one tremendous clout
He landed on the barber's jaw, and knocked the barber out.
He set to work with tooth and nail, he made the place a wreck;
He grabbed the nearest gilded youth, and tried to break his neck.
And all the while his throat he held to save his vital spark,
And `Murder! Bloody Murder!' yelled the man from Ironbark.

A peeler man who heard the din came in to see the show;
He tried to run the bushman in, but he refused to go.
And when at last the barber spoke, and said, `'Twas all in fun —
'Twas just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone.'
`A joke!' he cried, `By George, that's fine; a lively sort of lark;
I'd like to catch that murdering swine some night in Ironbark.'

And now while round the shearing floor the list'ning shearers gape,
He tells the story o'er and o'er, and brags of his escape.
`Them barber chaps what keeps a tote, By George, I've had enough,
One tried to cut my bloomin' throat, but thank the Lord it's tough.'
And whether he's believed or no, there's one thing to remark,
That flowing beards are all the go way up in Ironbark.

MY COUNTRY
by Dorothea Mackellar

The love of field and coppice,
  Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
  Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance
  Brown streams and soft, dim skies -
I know but I cannot share it,
  My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
  A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
  Of droughts and flooding plains.
I love her far horizons,
  I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
  The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
  All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
  The hot gold rush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
  Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree tops
  And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
  Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
  We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
  And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
  The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
  Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
  She pays us back three-fold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
 Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
  That thickens as we gaze ...

A opal-hearted country,
  A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
  You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
  Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
  My homing thoughts will fly.      

The Lights of Cobb & Co
by Henry Lawson

Fire lighted; on the table a meal for sleepy men;
A lantern in the stable; a jingle now and then;
The mail-coach looming darkly by light of moon and star;
The growl of sleepy voices; a candle in the bar;
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom - the shout of "All aboard!"
"Tchk-tchk! Git-up!" "Hold fast, there!" and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.

Old coaching towns already decaying for their sins;
Uncounted "Half-Way Houses", and scores of "Ten-Mile Inns";
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a "Digger's Rest";
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.

The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone,
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky - each other's hopes we share
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trot of horses' feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.

We take a bright girl actress through western dusts and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To stir our hearts and break them, wild hearts that hope and ache
(Ah! when she thinks again of these her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side the goldfield, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With "Auld Lang Syne" in chorus, through roaring camps they go
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.

Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidlings sweep,
A flash on shrouded wagons, on water ghastly white;
Weird bush and scattered remnants of "rushes in the night";
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
Ride hard to warn the driver! He's drunk or mad, good Lord!
But on the bank to westward a broad and cheerful glow
New camps extend across the plains, new routes for Cobb and Co.

Swift scramble up the sidling where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit - then breakneck down the pinch;
By clear ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Past haunted half-way houses - where convicts made the bricks
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six;
Through stringybark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go
A hundred miles shall see tonight the lights of Cobb and Co!

Ballad of the Drover
by Henry Lawson

Across the stony ridges,
Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old packhorse
Is trotting by his knee.

Up Queensland way with cattle
He's travelled regions vast,
And many months have vanished
Since home-folks saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
Keep jingling to the tune.

Beyond the hazy dado
Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
The station homestead lies.
And thitherward the drover
Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
Are jingling to a tune.

An hour has filled the heavens
With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
Around the drover's track;
But Harry pushes onward,
His horses' strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
Before the flood shall rise.

The thunder, pealing o'er him,
Goes rumbling down the plain;
And sweet on thirsty pastures
Beats fast the plashing rain;
Then every creek and gully
Sends forth its tribute flood
The river runs a banker,
All stained with yellow mud.

Now Harry speaks to Rover,
The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
And strokes their shaggy manes:
"We've breasted bigger rivers
When Hoods were at their height,
Nor shall this gutter stop us
From getting home tonight!"

The thunder growls a warning,
The blue, forked lightning's gleam;
The drover turns his horses
To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
Than e'er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
And only half-way o'er!

When flashes next the lightning
The flood's grey breast is blank;
A cattle-dog and packhorse
Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
The girl shall wait in vain
He'll never pass the stations
In charge of stock again.

The faithful dog a moment
Lies panting on the bank,
Then plunges through the current
To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
He fights with failing strength,
Till, gripped by wilder waters,
He fails and sinks at length.

Across the flooded lowlands
And slopes of sodden loam
The packhorse struggles bravely
To take dumb tidings home;
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
He goes by rock and tree,
With clanging chains and tinware
All sounding eerily.

The Bush, My Lover
by
Will Ogilvie

The campfire gleams resistance
To every twinkling star;
The horse-bells in the distance
Are jangling faint and far;

Through gum boughs 'lorn and lonely
The passing breezes sigh;
In all the world are only
My star crowned Love and I.

The still night wraps Macquarie;
The white moon, drifting slow,
Takes back her silver glory
From watching waves below;

To dalliance I give over
Though half the world may chide,
And clasp my one true lover
Here on Macquarie side.

The loves of earth grow olden
Or kneel at some new shrine;
Her locks are always golden
This brave Bush Love of mine;

And for her starlit beauty,
And for her dawns dew pearled,
Her name in love and duty
I guard against the world.

They curse her desert places
How can they understand
Who know not what her face is
And never held her hand

Who may have heard the meeting
Of boughs the wind has stirred,
Yet missed the whispered greeting
Our listening hearts have heard.

For some have travelled over
The long miles at her side,
Yet claimed her not as Lover
Nor thought of her as Bride:

And some have followed after
Through sun and mist for years,
Nor held the sunshine laughter,
Nor guessed the raindrops tears.

And if her droughts are bitter,
Her dancing mirage vain
Are all things gold that glitter?
What pleasure but hath pain?

And since among love's blisses
Love's penalties must live,
Shall we not take her kisses,
And, taking them, forgive?

The winds of dawn are roving
The river oaks astir
What heart were torn of loving
That had no love but her?

Till last red stars are lighted
And last winds wander West,
Her troth and mine are plighted
The lover I love best!

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