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Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

The Never-Never Country


              1By homestead, hut, and shearing-shed,
              2    By railroad, coach, and track --
              3By lonely graves of our brave dead,
              4    Up-Country and Out-Back:
              5To where 'neath glorious the clustered stars
              6    The dreamy plains expand --
              7My home lies wide a thousand miles
              8    In the Never-Never Land.

              9It lies beyond the farming belt,
            10    Wide wastes of scrub and plain,
            11A blazing desert in the drought,
            12    A lake-land after rain;
            13To the sky-line sweeps the waving grass,
            14    Or whirls the scorching sand --
            15A phantom land, a mystic land!
            16    The Never-Never Land.

            17Where lone Mount Desolation lies,
            18    Mounts Dreadful and Despair --
            19'Tis lost beneath the rainless skies
            20    In hopeless deserts there;
            21It spreads nor'-west by No-Man's-Land --
            22    Where clouds are seldom seen --
            23To where the cattle-stations lie
            24    Three hundred miles between.

            25The drovers of the Great Stock Routes
            26    The strange Gulf country know --
            27Where, travelling from the southern drought
            28    The big lean bullocks go;
            29And camped by night where plains lie wide,
            30    Like some old ocean's bed,
            31The watchmen in the starlight ride
            32    Round fifteen hundred head.

            33And west of named and numbered days
            34    The shearers walk and ride --
            35Jack Cornstalk and the Ne'er-do-well
            36    And the grey-beard side by side;
            37They veil their eyes -- from moon and stars,
            38    And slumber on the sand --
            39Sad memories steep as years go round
            40    In Never-Never Land.

            41By lonely huts north-west of Bourke,
            42    Through years of flood and drought,
            43The best of English black-sheep work
            44    Their own salvation out:
            45Wild fresh-faced boys grown gaunt and brown --
            46    Stiff-lipped and haggard-eyed --
            47They live the Dead Past grimly down!
            48    Where boundary-riders ride.

            49The College Wreck who sank beneath,
            50    Then rose above his shame,
            51Tramps west in mateship with the man
            52    Who cannot write his name.
            53'Tis there where on the barren track
            54    No last half-crust's begrudged --
            55Where saint and sinner, side by side,
            56    Judge not, and are not judged.

            57Oh rebels to society!
            58    The Outcasts of the West --
            59Oh hopeless eyes that smile for me,
            60    And broken hearts that jest!
            61The pluck to face a thousand miles --
            62    The grit to see it through!
            63The communion perfected! --
            64    And -- I am proud of you!

            65The Arab to true desert sand,
            66    The Finn to fields of snow,
            67The Flax-stick turns to Maoriland,
            68    While the seasons come and go;
            69And this old fact comes home to me --
            70    And will not let me rest --
            71However barren it may be,
            72    Your own land is the best!

            73And, lest at ease I should forget
            74    True mateship after all,
            75My water-bag and billy yet
            76    Are hanging on the wall;
            77And if my fate should show the sign
            78    I'd tramp to sunsets grand
            79With gaunt and stern-eyed mates of mine
            80    In the Never-Never Land.

Notes

4] Up-Country and Out-Back: remote inland part of a country; and the interior Australian desert.

8] Never-Never Land: northern (uninhabited) Queensland.

25] drover: herders of droves of livestock (to market).

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

67] Flax-stick: slang for New Zealand Maori native, evidently after his raft, often made of flax stocks.

75] billy: pot with lid and wire handle for cooking over a fire.


Online text copyright © 2003, 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, When I was King and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1906): 40-43. x.908/578 British Library
First publication date: 1901
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23

Rhyme: ababcdcd


Other poems by Henry Lawson