The Rovers

A poem by Henry Lawson

Some born of homely parents
For ages settled down,
The steady generations
Of village, farm, and town:
And some of dusky fathers
Who wandered since the flood,
The fairest skin or darkest
Might hold the roving blood,

Some born of brutish peasants,
And some of dainty peers,
In poverty or plenty
They pass their early years;
But, born in pride of purple,
Or straw and squalid sin,
In all the far world corners
The wanderers are kin.

A rover or a rebel,
Conceived and born to roam,
As babies they will toddle
With faces turned from home;
They’ve fought beyond the vanguard
Wherever storm has raged,
And home is but a prison
They pace like lions caged.

They smile and are not happy;
They sing and are not gay;
They weary, yet they wander;
They love, and cannot stay;
They marry, and are single
Who watch the roving star,
For, by the family fireside,
Oh, lonely men they are!

They die of peace and quiet,
The deadly ease of life;
They die of home and comfort;
They live in storm and strife;
No poverty can tie them,
Nor wealth nor place restrain,
Girl, wife, or child might draw them,
But they’ll be gone again!

Across the glowing desert;
Through naked trees and snow;
Across the rolling prairies
The skies have seen them go;
They fought to where the ocean
Receives the setting sun;,
But where shall fight the rovers
When all the lands are won?

They thirst on Greenland snowfields,
On Never-Never sands;
Where man is not to conquer
They conquer barren lands;
They feel that most are cowards,
That all depends on ‘nerve,’
They lead who cannot follow,
They rule who cannot serve.

Across the plains and ranges,
Away across the seas,
On blue and green horizons
They camp by twos and threes;
They hold on stormy borders
Of states that trouble earth
The honour of the country
That only gave them birth.

Unlisted, uncommissioned,
Untaught of any school,
In far-away world corners
Unconquered tribes they rule;
The lone hand and revolver,
Sad eyes that never quail,
The lone hand and the rifle
That win where armies fail.

They slumber sound where murder
And treachery are bare,
The pluck of self-reliance,
The pluck of past despair;
Thin brown men in pyjamas,
The thin brown wiry men!,
The helmet and revolver
That lie beside the pen.

Through drought and desolation
They won the way Out Back;
The commonplace and selfish
Have followed on their track;
They conquer lands for others,
For others find the gold,
But where shall go the rovers
When all the lands are old?

A rover and a rebel,
And so the worlds commence!
Their hearts shall beat as wildly
Ten generations hence;
And when the world is crowded,
’Tis signed and sealed by Fate,
The roving blood will rise to make
The countries desolate.

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