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The Ballad of the Drover

 

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 pack-horse is trotting by his knee.
Up Queensland way with cattle he travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished since home-folk 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 homestead station lies.
Thitherward the drover jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware keep 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 stealing o’er him goes rolling down the plain;
And sing on thirsty pastures in past the flashing rain.
And every creek and gully sends forth its trival flood,
The river runs with anger, 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 floods were at their height,
Nor shall this gutter stop us from getting home to-night!”

The thunder growls a warning, the blue fork lightnings streaks,
As the drover turns his horses to swim the fatal creek.
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,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse 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,
And then pluges through the current to where his master sank.
And round and round in circles he fights with failing strength,
Till, ripped by wilder waters, he fails and sinks at length.
O’er the flooded lowlands and slopes of sodden loam
The pack-horse struggles bravely, to take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary, he goes by rock and tree,
With flagon, chains and tinware are sounding eerily.

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