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Short poem

Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

The Teams

              1A cloud of dust on the long white road,
              2    And the teams go creeping on
              3Inch by inch with the weary load;
              4And by the power of the green-hide goad
              5    The distant goal is won.

              6With eyes half-shut to the blinding dust,
              7    And necks to the yokes bent low,
              8The beasts are pulling as bullocks must;
              9And the shining tires might almost rust
            10    While the spokes are turning slow.

            11With face half-hid 'neath a broad-brimmed hat
            12    That shades from the heat's white waves,
            13And shouldered whip with its green-hide plait,
            14The driver plods with a gait like that
            15    Of his weary, patient slaves.

            16He wipes his brow, for the day is hot,
            17    And spits to the left with spite;
            18He shouts at `Bally,' and flicks at `Scot,'
            19And raises dust from the back of `Spot,'
            20    And spits to the dusty right.

            21He'll sometimes pause as a thing of form
            22    In front of a settler's door,
            23And ask for a drink, and remark `It's warm,'
            24Or say `There's signs of a thunder-storm;'
            25    But he seldom utters more.

            26But the rains are heavy on roads like these;
            27    And, fronting his lonely home,
            28For weeks together the settler sees
            29The teams bogged down to the axletrees,
            30    Or ploughing the sodden loam.

            31And then when the roads are at their worst,
            32    The bushman's children hear
            33The cruel blows of the whips reversed
            34While bullocks pull as their hearts would burst,
            35    And bellow with pain and fear.

            36And thus with little of joy or rest
            37    Are the long, long journeys done;
            38And thus -- 'tis a cruel war at the best --
            39Is distance fought in the mighty West,
            40    And the lonely battles won.


4] green-hide goad: a goad or cattle-prod with a thong of salted but untanned hide.

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, In the Days when the World was Wide and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1896): 169-71. x.908/13059 British Library. shel 0660 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: December 1899
Publication date note: See Stone, 16
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23

Rhyme: abaab

Other poems by Henry Lawson