Henry Lawson

17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales

The Drovers

Shrivelled leather, rusty buckles, and the rot is in our knuckles,
Scorched for months upon the pommel while the brittle rein hung free;
Shrunken eyes that once were lighted with fresh boyhood, dull and blighted—
And the sores upon our eyelids are unpleasant sights to see.
And our hair is thin and dying from the ends, with too long lying
In the night dews on the ashes of the Dry Countree.
Yes, we’ve seen ’em ‘bleaching whitely’ where the salt-bush sparkles brightly,
But their grins were over-friendly, so we passed and let them be.
And we’ve seen them ‘rather recent,’ and we’ve stopped to hide ’em decent
When they weren’t nice to handle and they weren’t too nice to see;
We have heard the dry bones rattle under fifteen hundred cattle—
Seen the rags go up in dust-clouds and the brittle joints kicked free;
But there’s little time to tarry, if you wish to live and marry,
When the cattle shy at something in the Dry Countree.

No, you needn’t fear the blacks on the Never Never tracks—
For the Myall in his freedom’s an uncommon sight to see;
Oh! we do not stick at trifles—and the trackers sneak their rifles,
And go strolling in the gloaming while the sergeant’s yarning free:
Round the Myalls creep the trackers—there’s a sound like firing crackers
And—the blacks are getting scarcer in the Dry Countree.
(Goes an unprotected maiden-’cross the clearing carrion-laden—
Oh they ride ’em down on horseback in the Dry Countree.)

But you don’t know what might happen when a tank is but a trap on
Roofs of hell, and there is nothing but the blaze of hell to see;
And the phantom water’s lapping—and no limb for saddle-strapping—
Better carry your revolver through the Dry Countree.
But I’m feeling gay and frisky, come with me and have a whisky!
Change of hells is all we live for (that’s my mate that’s got D.T.);
We have fought through hell’s own weather, he and I and death together—
Oh, the devil grins to greet us from the Dry Countree!
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