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Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

Scots of the Riverina


              1The boy cleared out to the city from his home at harvest time --
              2They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
              3The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned,
              4And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife's back was turned.

              5A year went past and another. There were calls from the firing-line;
              6They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
              7His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai --
              8They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.

              9The boy came home on his "final", and the township's bonfire burned.
            10His mother's arms were about him; but the old man's back was turned.
            11The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand --
            12A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.

            13The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
            14There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai;
            15But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk --
            16There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk.

            17The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned;
            18And the old man died at the table when the old wife's back was turned.
            19Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair
            20Outspread o'er the open Bible and a name re-written there.

Notes

1] harvest: Lawson's manuscript (Collected Verse, ed. Colin Roderick, III [Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969]: 223) reads "Christmas".

2] Riverina: farming region in New South Wales.

4] wife's: Lawson's manuscript (Collected Verse, ed. Colin Roderick, III [Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969]: 223) reads "woman's".

5] for "another. There were calls from the firing-line;", Lawson's manuscript (Collected Verse,ed. Colin Roderick, III [Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969]: 223) reads "another; and the fruit went down the line."

7] Gundagai: small town by the Murrumbidgee River (which runs through Riverina).

8] kirk: church.

13] Flanders: World War I battle at Ypres, in which on April 22 the Germans first used poison gas, against Canadian troops.
best and bravest: Lawson's manuscript (Collected Verse, ed. Colin Roderick, III [Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969]: 223) reads "bravest heroes".

15] mirk: darkness.

18] wife's: Lawson's manuscript (Collected Verse, ed. Colin Roderick, III [Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1969]: 224) reads "woman's".


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: Selected Poems of Henry Lawson (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1918): 106-08. PR 6023 A94A6 1918 Robarts Library
First publication date: 24 May 1917
Publication date note: Bulletin; See Stone, 19
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23

Rhyme: aabb


Other poems by Henry Lawson