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Poems about us
Since the days of Henry Lawson and before, Australians have loved to write poetry and songs about themselves, particularly in the bush.
If you have some poems you have written about the local region, send them to the administrator to be published on this website.
Here are some of Henry Lawson’s poems about the Mudgee region, and some by local authors on the next page.
by Henry Lawson
[Eurunderee is a locality of the Mudgee region.]
There are scenes in the distance where beauty is not,
On the desolate flats where gaunt appletrees rot.
Where the brooding old ridge rises up to the breeze
From his dark lonely gullies of stringy-bark trees,
There are voice-haunted gaps, ever sullen and strange,
But Eurunderee lies like a gem in the range.
Still I see in my fancy the dark-green and blue
Of the box-covered hills where the five-corners grew;
And the rugged old sheoaks that sighed in the bend
O'er the lily-decked pools where the dark ridges end,
And the scrub-covered spurs running down from the Peak
To the deep grassy banks of Eurunderee Creek.
On the knolls where the vineyards and fruit-gardens are
There's a beauty that even the drought cannot mar;
For I noticed it oft, in the days that are lost,
As I trod on the siding where lingered the frost,
When the shadows of night from the gullies were gone
And the hills in the background were flushed by the dawn.
I was there in late years, but there's many a change
Where the Cudgegong River flows down through the range,
For the curse of the town with the railroad had come,
And the goldfields were dead. And the girl and the chum
And the old home were gone, yet the oaks seemed to speak
Of the hazy old days on Eurunderee Creek.
And I stood by that creek, ere the sunset grew cold,
When the leaves of the sheoaks are traced on the gold,
And I thought of old things, and I thought of old folks,
Till I sighed in my heart to the sigh of the oaks;
For the years waste away like the waters that leak
Through the pebbles and sand of Eurunderee Creek.
by Henry Lawson
The rafters are open to sun, moon, and star,
Thistles and nettles grow high in the bar --
The chimneys are crumbling, the log fires are dead,
And green mosses spring from the hearthstone instead.
The voices are silent, the bustle and din,
For the railroad hath ruined the Cherry-tree Inn.
Save the glimmer of stars, or the moon's pallid streams,
And the sounds of the 'possums that camp on the beams,
The bar-room is dark and the stable is still,
For the coach comes no more over Cherry-tree Hill.
No riders push on through the darkness to win
The rest and the comfort of Cherry-tree Inn.
I drift from my theme, for my memory strays
To the carrying, digging, and bushranging days --
Far back to the seasons that I love the best,
When a stream of wild diggers rushed into the west,
But the `rushes' grew feeble, and sluggish, and thin,
Till scarcely a swagman passed Cherry-tree Inn.
Do you think, my old mate (if it's thinking you be),
Of the days when you tramped to the goldfields with me?
Do you think of the day of our thirty-mile tramp,
When never a fire could we light on the camp,
And, weary and footsore and drenched to the skin,
We tramped through the darkness to Cherry-tree Inn?
Then I had a sweetheart and you had a wife,
And Johnny was more to his mother than life;
But we solemnly swore, ere that evening was done,
That we'd never return till our fortunes were won.
Next morning to harvests of folly and sin
We tramped o'er the ranges from Cherry-tree Inn.
. . . . .
The years have gone over with many a change,
And there comes an old swagman from over the range,
And faint 'neath the weight of his rain-sodden load,
He suddenly thinks of the inn by the road.
He tramps through the darkness the shelter to win,
And reaches the ruins of Cherry-tree Inn.
by Henry Lawson
Only one old post is standing --
Solid yet, but only one --
Where the milking, and the branding,
And the slaughtering were done.
Later years have brought dejection,
Care, and sorrow; but we knew
Happy days on that selection
Underneath old Bukaroo.
Then the light of day commencing
Found us at the gully's head,
Splitting timber for the fencing,
Stripping bark to roof the shed.
Hands and hearts the labour strengthened;
Weariness we never knew,
Even when the shadows lengthened
Round the base of Bukaroo.
There for days below the paddock
How the wilderness would yield
To the spade, and pick, and mattock,
While we toiled to win the field.
Bronzed hands we used to sully
Till they were of darkest hue,
`Burning off' down in the gully
At the back of Bukaroo.
When we came the baby brother
Left in haste his broken toys,
Shouted to the busy mother:
`Here is dadda and the boys!'
Strange it seems that she was able
For the work that she would do;
How she'd bustle round the table
In the hut 'neath Bukaroo!
When the cows were safely yarded,
And the calves were in the pen,
All the cares of day discarded,
Closed we round the hut-fire then.
Rang the roof with boyish laughter
While the flames o'er-topped the flue;
Happy days remembered after --
Far away from Bukaroo.
But the years were full of changes,
And a sorrow found us there;
For our home amid the ranges
Was not safe from searching Care.
On he came, a silent creeper;
And another mountain threw
O'er our lives a shadow deeper
Than the shade of Bukaroo.
All the farm is disappearing;
For the home has vanished now,
Mountain scrub has choked the clearing,
Hid the furrows of the plough.
Nearer still the scrub is creeping
Where the little garden grew;
And the old folks now are sleeping
At the foot of Bukaroo.
The Fire at Ross’s Farm
by Henry Lawson
The squatter saw his pastures wide
Decrease, as one by one
The farmers moving to the west
Selected on his run;
Selectors took the water up
And all the black soil round;
The best grass-land the squatter had
Was spoilt by Ross's Ground.
Now many schemes to shift old Ross
Had racked the squatter's brains,
But Sandy had the stubborn blood
Of Scotland in his veins;
He held the land and fenced it in,
He cleared and ploughed the soil,
And year by year a richer crop
Repaid him for his toil.
Between the homes for many years
The devil left his tracks:
The squatter pounded Ross's stock,
And Sandy pounded Black's.
A well upon the lower run
Was filled with earth and logs,
And Black laid baits about the farm
To poison Ross's dogs.
It was, indeed, a deadly feud
Of class and creed and race;
But, yet, there was a Romeo
And a Juliet in the case;
And more than once across the flats,
Beneath the Southern Cross,
Young Robert Black was seen to ride
With pretty Jenny Ross.
One Christmas time, when months of drought
Had parched the western creeks,
The bush-fires started in the north
And travelled south for weeks.
At night along the river-side
The scene was grand and strange --
The hill-fires looked like lighted streets
Of cities in the range.
The cattle-tracks between the trees
Were like long dusky aisles,
And on a sudden breeze the fire
Would sweep along for miles;
Like sounds of distant musketry
It crackled through the brakes,
And o'er the flat of silver grass
It hissed like angry snakes.
It leapt across the flowing streams
And raced o'er pastures broad;
It climbed the trees and lit the boughs
And through the scrubs it roared.
The bees fell stifled in the smoke
Or perished in their hives,
And with the stock the kangaroos
Went flying for their lives.
The sun had set on Christmas Eve,
When, through the scrub-lands wide,
Young Robert Black came riding home
As only natives ride.
He galloped to the homestead door
And gave the first alarm:
`The fire is past the granite spur,
`And close to Ross's farm.'
`Now, father, send the men at once,
They won't be wanted here;
Poor Ross's wheat is all he has
To pull him through the year.'
`Then let it burn,' the squatter said;
`I'd like to see it done --
I'd bless the fire if it would clear
Selectors from the run.
`Go if you will,' the squatter said,
`You shall not take the men --
Go out and join your precious friends,
And don't come here again.'
`I won't come back,' young Robert cried,
And, reckless in his ire,
He sharply turned his horse's head
And galloped towards the fire.
And there, for three long weary hours,
Half-blind with smoke and heat,
Old Ross and Robert fought the flames
That neared the ripened wheat.
The farmer's hand was nerved by fears
Of danger and of loss;
And Robert fought the stubborn foe
For the love of Jenny Ross.
But serpent-like the curves and lines
Slipped past them, and between,
Until they reached the bound'ry where
The old coach-road had been.
`The track is now our only hope,
There we must stand,' cried Ross,
`For nought on earth can stop the fire
If once it gets across.'
Then came a cruel gust of wind,
And, with a fiendish rush,
The flames leapt o'er the narrow path
And lit the fence of brush.
`The crop must burn!' the farmer cried,
`We cannot save it now,'
And down upon the blackened ground
He dashed the ragged bough.
But wildly, in a rush of hope,
His heart began to beat,
For o'er the crackling fire he heard
The sound of horses' feet.
`Here's help at last,' young Robert cried,
And even as he spoke
The squatter with a dozen men
Came racing through the smoke.
Down on the ground the stockmen jumped
And bared each brawny arm,
They tore green branches from the trees
And fought for Ross's farm;
And when before the gallant band
The beaten flames gave way,
Two grimy hands in friendship joined --
And it was Christmas Day.
The Flour Bin
by Henry Lawson
By Lawson's Hill, near Mudgee,
On old Eurunderee –
The place they called "New Pipeclay",
Where the diggers used to be –
On a dreary old selection,
Where times were dry and thin,
In a slab and shingle kitchen
There stood a flour bin.
'Twas "ploorer" with the cattle,
'Twas rust and smut in wheat,
'Twas blight in eyes and orchards,
And coarse salt-beef to eat.
Oh, how our mothers struggled
Till eyes and brain were dull –
Oh, how our fathers slaved and toiled
To keep those flour bins full!
We've been in many countries,
We've sailed on many seas;
We've travelled in the steerage
And lived on land at ease.
We've seen the world together
Through laughter and through tears –
And not been far from baker's bread
These five and thirty years.
The flats are green as ever,
The creeks go rippling through;
The Mudgee Hills are showing
Their deepest shades of blue;
Those mountains in the distance
That ever held a charm
Are fairer than a picture
As seen from Cox's farm.
On a German farm by Mudgee,
That took long years to win,
On the wide bricked back verandah
There stands a flour bin;
And the dear old German lady –
Though the bakers' carts run out –
Still keeps a "fifty" in it
Against a time of drought.
It was my father made it,
It stands as good as new,
And of the others like it
There still remain a few.
God grant, when drought shall strike us,
The young will "take a pull",
And the old folk their strength anew
To keep those flour bins full.
The Roaring Days
by Henry Lawson
The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days!
Then stately ships came sailing
From every harbour's mouth,
And sought the land of promise
That beaconed in the South;
Then southward streamed their streamers
And swelled their canvas full
To speed the wildest dreamers
E'er borne in vessel's hull.
Their shining Eldorado,
Beneath the southern skies,
Was day and night for ever
Before their eager eyes.
The brooding bush, awakened,
Was stirred in wild unrest,
And all the year a human stream
Went pouring to the West.
The rough bush roads re-echoed
The bar-room's noisy din,
When troops of stalwart horsemen
Dismounted at the inn.
And oft the hearty greetings
And hearty clasp of hands
Would tell of sudden meetings
Of friends from other lands;
When, puzzled long, the new-chum
Would recognise at last,
Behind a bronzed and bearded skin,
A comrade of the past.
And when the cheery camp-fire
Explored the bush with gleams,
The camping-grounds were crowded
With caravans of teams;
Then home the jests were driven,
And good old songs were sung,
And choruses were given
The strength of heart and lung.
Oh, they were lion-hearted
Who gave our country birth!
Oh, they were of the stoutest sons
From all the lands on earth!
Oft when the camps were dreaming,
And fires began to pale,
Through rugged ranges gleaming
Would come the Royal Mail.
Behind six foaming horses,
And lit by flashing lamps,
Old `Cobb and Co.'s', in royal state,
Went dashing past the camps.
Oh, who would paint a goldfield,
And limn the picture right,
As we have often seen it
In early morning's light;
The yellow mounds of mullock
With spots of red and white,
The scattered quartz that glistened
Like diamonds in light;
The azure line of ridges,
The bush of darkest green,
The little homes of calico
That dotted all the scene.
I hear the fall of timber
From distant flats and fells,
The pealing of the anvils
As clear as little bells,
The rattle of the cradle,
The clack of windlass-boles,
The flutter of the crimson flags
Above the golden holes.
. . . . .
Ah, then our hearts were bolder,
And if Dame Fortune frowned
Our swags we'd lightly shoulder
And tramp to other ground.
But golden days are vanished,
And altered is the scene;
The diggings are deserted,
The camping-grounds are green;
The flaunting flag of progress
Is in the West unfurled,
The mighty bush with iron rails
Is tethered to the world.
The Old Bark School
by Henry Lawson
Henry Lawson, 1897, The poem tells of the slab-and-bark Eurunderee Public School that Henry’s mother, Louisa Lawson, tirelessly lobbied for and that Henry attended from the age of 9. The school opened in 1876.
It was built of bark and poles, and the floor was full of holes
Where each leak in rainy weather made a pool;
And the walls were mostly cracks lined with calico and sacks –
There was little need for windows in the school.
Then we rode to school and back by the rugged gully track,
On the old grey horse that carried three or four,
And he looked so very wise that he lit the master’s eyes
Every time he put his head in at the door.
He had run with Cobb & Co—’that grey leader, let him go!”
There were men ‘as knowed the brand upon his hide’,
And ‘as knowed it on the course’. Funeral service: ‘Good old horse!’
When we burnt him in the gully where he died.
And the master thought the same. ‘Twas from Ireland that he came,
Where the tanks are full all summer, and the feed is simply grand;
And the joker then in vogue said his lessons wid a brogue -
‘Twas unconscious imitation, let the reader understand.
And we learnt the world in scraps from some ancient dingy maps
Long discarded by the public-schools in town;
And as nearly every book dated back to Captain Cook
Our geography was somewhat upside-down.
It was ‘in the book’ and so—well, at that we’d let it go,
For we never would believe that print could lie;
And we all learnt pretty soon that when we came out at noon
The sun is in the south part of the sky.’
And Ireland! That was known from the coast-line to Athlone:
We got little information re the land that gave us birth;
Save that Captain Cook was killed (and was very likely grilled)
And ‘the natives of New Holland are the lowest race on earth’.
And woodcut, in its place, of the same degraded race
Seemed a lot more like a camel than the blackfellows we knew;
Jimmy Bullock, with the rest, scratched his head and gave it best;
But his faith was sadly shaken by a bobtailed kangaroo.
But the old bark school is gone, and the spot it stood upon
Is a cattle-camp in winter where the curlew’s cry is heard;
There’s a brick school on the flat, but a school-mate teaches that,
For, about the time they built it, our old master was ‘transferred’.
But the bark school comes again with exchanges cross the plain -
With the Out-Back Advertiser; and my fancy roams at large
When I read of passing stock, of a western mob or flock,
With ‘James Bullock’, ‘Grey' or “Henry Dale’ in charge.
And I think how Jimmy went from the old bark school content,
With his ‘eddication’ finished, with his pack-horse after him;
And perhaps if I were back I would take the self-same track,
For I wish my learning ended when the Master ‘finished’ Jim.
SONG OF THE OLD BULLOCK DRIVER
by Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922)
Far back in the days when the blacks used to ramble
In long single file 'neath the evergreen tree,
The wool-teams in season came down from Coonamble,
And journeyed for weeks on their way to the sea.
'Twas then that our hearts and our sinews were stronger,
For those were the days when the bushmen was bred.
We journeyed on roads that were rougher and longer
Than roads where the feet of our grandchildren tread.
With mates who have gone to the great Never-Never,
And mates whom I've not seen for many a day,
I camped on the banks of the Cudgegong River
And yarned at the fire by the old bullock-dray.
I would summon them back from the far Riverina,
From days that shall be from all others distinct.
And sing to the sound of an old concertina
Their rugged old songs where strange fancies were linked.
We never were lonely, for, camping together,
We yarned and we smoked the long evenings away,
And little I cared for the signs of the weather
When snug in my hammock slung under the dray.
We rose with the dawn, were it ever so chilly,
When yokes and tarpaulins were covered with frost,
And toasted the bacon and boiled the black billy,
Where high on the camp-fire the branches were tossed.
On flats where the air was suggestive of 'possums,
And homesteads and fences were hinting of change,
We saw the faint glimmer of appletree blossoms,
And far in the dstance the blue of the range;
And here in the rain, there was small use in flogging
The poor, tortured bullocks that tugged at the load,
When down to the axles the waggons were bogging
And traffic was making a marsh of the road.
'Twas hard on the beasts on the terrible pinches,
Where two teams of bullocks were yoked to a load,
And tugging and slipping, and moving by inches,
Half-way to the summit they clung to the road.
And then, when the last of the pinches was bested,
(You'll surely not say that a glass was a sin?)
The bullocks lay down 'neath the gum trees and rested -
The bullockies steered for the bar of the inn.
Then slowly we crawled by the trees that kept tally
Of miles that were passed on the long journey down.
We saw the wild beauty of Capertee Valley,
As slowly we rounded the base of the Crown.
But, ah! the poor bullocks were cruelly goaded
While climbing the hills from the flats and the vales;
'Twas here that the teams were so often unloaded
That all knew the meaning of "counting your bales".
And, oh! but the best-paying load that I carried
Was one to the run where my sweetheart was nurse.
We courted awhile, and agreed to get married,
And couple our futures for better or worse.
And as my old feet grew too weary to drag on
The miles of rough metal they met by the way,
My eldest grew up and I gave him the waggon -
He's plodding along by the bullocks to-day.
Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.
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Henry LawsonHenry Lawson's boyhood home, the remains of which have been turned into a memorial on Henry Lawson Drive, MudgeeThe Henry Lawson Study Centre in Gulgong