THE 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 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.
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-cloud 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 from above him
Goes rolling o'er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
In torrents fall the rain.
And every creek and gully
Sends forth its little flood,
Till 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 floods were at their height,
Nor shall this gutter stop us
From getting home to-night!"
The thunder growls a warning,
The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As 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,
And a cattle-dog and pack-horse
Are struggling up the bank.
But on the bank to northward,
Or on the southern shore,
The stock-horse and his rider
Will struggle out no more.
 
The faithful dog a moment
Sits panting on the bank,
And then swims through the current
To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles,
He fights with failing strength,
Till borne down by the waters,
The old dog sinks at length.
Across the flooded lowlands
And slopes of sodden loam,
The pack-horse struggles onward,
To take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
Through ranges dark goes he;
The hobble-chains and tinware
Are sounding eerily.
           *      *      *      *
The floods are in the ocean,
The stream is clear again,
And now a verdant carpet
Is stretched across the plain.
But someone's eyes are saddened,
And someone's heart still bleeds,
In sorrow for the drover
Who sleeps among the reeds.