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Short poem

Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

The Song of the Darling River

              1The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
              2Death and ruin are everywhere --
              3And all that is left of the last year's flood
              4Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
              5The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
              6And -- this is the dirge of the Darling River:

              7`I rise in the drought from the Queensland rain,
              8`I fill my branches again and again;
              9`I hold my billabongs back in vain,
            10`For my life and my peoples the South Seas drain;
            11`And the land grows old and the people never
            12`Will see the worth of the Darling River.

            13`I drown dry gullies and lave bare hills,
            14`I turn drought-ruts into rippling rills --
            15`I form fair island and glades all green
            16`Till every bend is a sylvan scene.
            17`I have watered the barren land ten leagues wide!
            18`But in vain I have tried, ah! in vain I have tried
            19`To show the sign of the Great All Giver,
            20`The Word to a people: O! lock your river.

            21`I want no blistering barge aground,
            22`But racing steamers the seasons round;
            23`I want fair homes on my lonely ways,
            24`A people's love and a people's praise --
            25`And rosy children to dive and swim --
            26`And fair girls' feet in my rippling brim;
            27`And cool, green forests and gardens ever' --
            28Oh, this is the hymn of the Darling River.

            29The sky is brass and the scrub-lands glare,
            30Death and ruin are everywhere;
            31Thrown high to bleach, or deep in the mud
            32The bones lie buried by last year's flood,
            33And the Demons dance from the Never Never
            34To laugh at the rise of the Darling River.


6] the Darling: the longest river in Australia, flowing from Queensland through New South Wales and into the Indian Ocean.

7] Queensland: state in eastern Australia.

9] billabongs: watercourses coming out of a stream and then going nowhere, or returning into it.

13] lave: wash.

33] Never Never: deep outback.

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, Verses Popular and Humorous (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1900): 73-74. x.981/3738 British Library; PR 6023 A94H8 1905 Robarts Library
First publication date: 25 March 1899
Publication date note: Bulletin; See Stone, 10
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23

Form: couplets

Other poems by Henry Lawson