The Men Who Made Australia

A poem by Henry Lawson

There'll be royal times in Sydney for the Cuff and Collar Push,
There’ll be lots of dreary drivel and clap-trap
From the men who own Australia, but who never knew the Bush,
And who could not point their runs out on the map.
Oh, the daily Press will grovel as it never did before,
There’ll be many flags of welcome in the air,
And the Civil Service poet, he shall write odes by the score,
But the men who made the land will not be there.

You shall meet the awful Lady of the latest Birthday Knight,
(She is trying to be English, don’t-cher-know?)
You shall hear the empty mouthing of the champion blatherskite,
You shall hear the boss of local drapers blow.
There’ll be ‘majahs’ from the counter, tailors’ dummies from the fleet,
And to represent Australia here to-day,
There’s the today with his card-case and his cab in Downing-street;
But the men who made Australia, where are they?

Call across the blazing sand wastes of the Never-Never Land!
There are some who will not answer yet awhile,
Some whose bones rot in the mulga or lie bleaching on the sand,
Died of thirst to win the land another mile.
Thrown from horses, ripped by cattle, lost on deserts; and the weak,
Mad through loneliness or drink (no matter which),
Drowned in floods or dead of fever by the sluggish slimy creek,
These are men who died to make the Wool-Kings rich.

Call across the scrubby ridges where they clear the barren soil,
And the gaunt Bush-women share the work of men,
Toil and loneliness for ever, hardship, loneliness and toil,
Where the brave drought-ruined farmer starts again!
Call across the boundless sheep-runs of a country cursed for sheep,
Call across the awful scrublands west of Bourke!
But they have no time to listen, they have scarcely time to sleep,
For the men who conquer deserts have to work.

Dragged behind the crawling sheep-flock on the hot and dusty plain,
They must make a cheque to feed the wife and kids,
Riding night-watch round the cattle in the pelting, freezing rain,
While world-weariness is pressing down the lids.
And away on far out-stations, seldom touched by Heaven’s breath,
In a loneliness that smothers love and hate,
Where they never take white women, there they live the living death
With a half-caste or a black-gin for a mate.

They must toil to save the gaunt stock in the blazing months of drought,
When the stinging, blinding blight is in men’s eyes,
On the wretched, burnt selections, on the big runs further out
Where the sand-storm rises lurid to the skies.
Not to profit when the grass is waving waist-high after rain,
And the mighty clip of wool comes rolling in,
For the Wool-King goes to Paris with his family again
And the gold that souls are sacrificed to win.

There are carriages in waiting for the swells from over-sea,
There are banquets in the latest London style,
While the men who made Australia live on damper, junk and tea,
But the quiet voices whisper, ‘Wait a while!’
For the sons of all Australia, they were born to conquer fate,
And, where charity and friendship are sincere,
Where a sinner is a brother and a stranger is a mate,
There the future of a nation’s written clear.

Aye, the cities claim the triumphs of a land they do not know,
But all empty is the day they celebrate!
For the men who made Australia federated long ago,
And the men to rule Australia, they can wait.
Though the bed may be the rough bunk or the gum leaves or the sand,
And the roof for half the year may be the sky,
There are men amongst the Bushmen who were born to save the land!
And they’ll take their places sternly by-and-by.

There’s a whisper on the desert though the sunset breeze hath died
In the scrubs, though not a breath to stir a bough,
There’s a murmur, not of waters, down the Lachlan River side,
’Tis the spirit of Australia waking now!
There’s the weird hymn of the drought-night on the western water-shed,
Where the beds of unlocked rivers crack and parch;
’Tis the dead that we have buried, and our great unburied dead,
Who are calling now on living men to march!

Round the camp fire of the fencers by the furthest panel west,
In the men’s hut by the muddy billabong,
On the Great North-Western Stock-routes where the drovers never rest,
They are sorting out the right things from the wrong.
In the shearers’ hut the slush lamp shows a haggard, stern-faced man
Preaching war against the Wool-King to his mates;
And wherever go the billy, water-bag and frying-pan,
They are drafting future histories of states!

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