By The Grey Gulf-Water

A poem by Andrew Barton Paterson

Far to the Northward there lies a land,
A wonderful land that the winds blow over,
And none may fathom or understand
The charm it holds for the restless rover;
A great grey chaos, a land half made,
Where endless space is and no life stirreth;
There the soul of a man will recoil afraid
From the sphinx-like visage that Nature weareth.
But old Dame Nature, though scornful, craves
Her dole of death and her share of slaughter;
Many indeed are the nameless graves
Where her victims sleep by the Grey Gulf-water.

Slowly and slowly those grey streams glide,
Drifting along with a languid motion,
Lapping the reed-beds on either side,
Wending their way to the North Ocean.
Grey are the plains where the emus pass
Silent and slow, with their dead demeanour;
Over the dead man's graves the grass
Maybe is waving a trifle greener.
Down in the world where men toil and spin
Dame Nature smiles as man's hand has taught her;
Only the dead men her smiles can win
In the great lone land by the Grey Gulf-water.

For the strength of man is an insect's strength
In the face of that mighty plain and river,
And the life of a man is a moment's length
To the life of the stream that will run for ever.
And so it comes that they take no part
In small world worries; each hardy rover
Rides like a paladin, light of heart,
With the plains around and the blue sky over.
And up in the heavens the brown lark sings
The songs the strange wild land has taught her;
Full of thanksgiving her sweet song rings,
And I wish I were back by the Grey Gulf-water.

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