The Prospectors

A poem by Edward Dyson

When the white sun scorches the fair, green land in the rage of his fierce desires,
Or looms blood red on the Western hills, through the smoke of their waning fires;
When the winds at war strew the mountain side with limbs of the mangled trees,
Or the flood tides wheel in the valleys low, or sweep to the distant seas,
We are leading back, and the faintest track that we leave in the desert wild
Or we blaze for fear through the forest drear will be tramped by the settler’s child.

We have turned our backs on the City’s joys, on the glare of its myriad lights,
On the measured peace of its bloodless days, and the strife of its shining nights;
We have fled the pubs in the dull bush towns and the furthermost shanty bars,
And have camped away at the edge of space, or aloft by the brooding stars.
We have stirred the world as our dishes swirled and we drummed on the matted gold,
And from East and West we beguile their best with a wonderful tale oft-told.

We go pushing on when the mirage glints o’er the rim of the voiceless plain,
And we leave our bones to be finger posts for the seekers who come again.
At the jealous heart of the secret bush, we have battered with clamour loud
And have made a way for the squatter bold, or a path for the busy crowd.
We have gone before through the shadowy door of the Never, the Great Unknown,
And have journeyed back with a golden pack, or as dust in the wild winds blown.

In the chilling breath of the ice-bound range, we have laboured and lost and won;
On the blazing hills we have striven long in the face of the angry sun.
We have fallen spitted with niggers’ spears in the graves ourselves have dug,
And have bitten grass, with a cloven skull, and the turf in our arms to hug.
From our rifled dead have the natives fled, blood-drunk, to their camping place,
Whilst the crows enthroned on a limb intoned to the devil a measured grace.

We have butchered too when the camp ran wild, with a mad, malignant hate,
For the lust of gold, or the hope we had, or the love of a murdered mate.
We have shocked the night with our ribald songs in the sullen, savage lands,
And have died the death that the lone man dies in the grip of the reeling sands,
Or have lived to die in a city sty, with the help of a charity prayer,
Or to do the swell at a grand hotel on our thousands of pounds a year.

We are moving still, and not love, nor fear, nor a wife’s nor mother’s grief,
Can distract the longing that drives us forth on the track of the hidden reef.
Some will face the heathen in lands afar by rivers and looming peaks,
Some will stay to ravage their own home bills, or to dig by the sluggish creeks,
Some go pushing West on the old, old quest, and wherever their tents abide
Will the world flow in and its swift tide spin till it scatter them far and wide.

Is it greed alone that impels our ranks? Is it only the lust of gold
Drives them past where the sentinel ranges stand where the plains to the sky unfold;
Is there nothing more in this dull unrest that remains in the hearts of man,
’Till the swag is rolled, or the pack-horse strapped, or the ship sails out again?
Is it this alone, or in blood and bone does the venturous spirit glow
That was noble pride when the world was wide and the tracks were all Westward Ho?

We are common men, with the faults of most, and a few that ourselves have grown,
With the good traits too of the common herd, and some more that are all our own;
We have drunk like beasts, and have fought like brutes, and have stolen, and lied, and slain,
And have paid the score in the way of men—in remorse and fear and pain.
We have done great deeds in our direst needs in the horrors of burning drought,
And at mateship’s call have been true through all to the death with the Furthest Out.

As the soft breeze stirs all the tender green of the bush that is newly born,
And the wattles blaze on the flats and gladden the hills with the glow of morn.
We are trenching high in the stony slopes, or turning the creeks below,

Or the gorge re-echoes the thud of picks and the songs that the miners know.
When the lode strips clean with a yellow sheen our fortunes are fairly won;
When the dish pans bare, up with tents and ware, and hurrah! for the outward run.

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