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Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

The Drover's Sweetheart


              1An hour before the sun goes down
              2    Behind the ragged boughs,
              3I go across the little run
              4    And bring the dusty cows;
              5And once I used to sit and rest
              6    Beneath the fading dome,
              7For there was one that I loved best
              8    Who'd bring the cattle home.

              9Our yard is fixed with double bails,
            10    Round one the grass is green,
            11The bush is growing through the rails,
            12    The spike is rusted in;
            13And 'twas from there his freckled face
            14    Would turn and smile at me --
            15He'd milk a dozen in the race
            16    While I was milking three.

            17I milk eleven cows myself
            18    Where once I milked but four;
            19I set the dishes on the shelf
            20    And close the dairy door;
            21And when the glaring sunlight fails
            22    And the fire shines through the cracks,
            23I climb the broken stockyard rails
            24    And watch the bridle-tracks.

            25He kissed me twice and once again
            26    And rode across the hill,
            27The pint-pots and the hobble-chain
            28    I hear them jingling still;
            29He'll come at night or not at all,
            30    He left in dust and heat,
            31And when the soft, cool shadows fall
            32    It would be nice to meet.

            33And he is coming back again,
            34    He wrote to let me know,
            35The floods were in the Darling then --
            36    It seems so long ago;
            37He'd come through miles of slush and mud,
            38    And it was weary work,
            39The creeks were bankers, and the flood
            40    Was forty miles round Bourke.

            41He said the floods had formed a block,
            42    The plains could not be crossed,
            43And there was foot-rot in the flock
            44    And hundreds had been lost;
            45The sheep were falling thick and fast,
            46    A hundred miles from town,
            47And when he reached the line at last
            48    He trucked the remnant down.

            49And so he'll have to stand the cost,
            50    His luck was always bad,
            51Instead of making more, he lost
            52    The money that he had;
            53And how he'll manage, heaven knows
            54    (My eyes are getting dim)
            55He says -- he says -- he don't -- suppose
            56    I'll want -- to -- marry -- him.

            57As if I wouldn't take his hand
            58    Without a golden glove;
            59Oh! Jack -- you men won't understand
            60    How much a girl can love.
            61I long to see his face once more --
            62    Jack's dog! thank God, it's Jack! --
            63(I never thought I'd faint before)
            64    He's coming -- up -- the track.

Notes

1] drover: someone who herds droves of livestock.

3] run: "range of pasture- or grazing-land; a sheep station", pastoral holding (OED "run" n1, 22; courtesy of Eric Sharpham).

6] dome: the firmament (the sky's concave vault).

9] bails: stakes, fence-posts.

27] pint-pots: bells, shaped like small beer pots.
the hobble-chain: a small loose chain around the hind fetlocks, preventing cattle from running.

35] Darling-River: the longest river in Australia, flowing from Queensland to join the Murray River at Wentworth in New South Wales and continuing on through South Australia to empty into the Great Australian Bight (courtesy of Eric Sharpham).

39] bankers: full up to their banks.

40] Bourke: in the centre of the Australian outback, once the largest inland port on the Darling River.


Online text copyright © 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Henry Lawson, In the Days when the World was Wide and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1896): 44-46. x.908/13059 British Library. shel 0660 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: June 1891
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23*1:2004/4/30

Rhyme: ababcdcd


Other poems by Henry Lawson