Henry Lawson ( )

How the Land was Won

The future was dark and the past was dead 
As they gazed on the sea once more  
But a nation was born when the immigrants said 
Good-bye! as they stepped ashore! 
In their loneliness they were parted thus 
Because of the work to do, 
A wild wide land to be won for us 
By hearts and hands so few. 

The darkest land neath a blue skys dome, 
And the widest waste on earth; 
The strangest scenes and the least like home 
In the lands of our fathers birth; 
The loneliest land in the wide world then, 
And away on the furthest seas, 
A land most barren of life for men  
And they won it by twos and threes! 

With God, or a dog, to watch, they slept 
By the camp-fires ghastly glow, 
Where the scrubs were dark as the blacks that crept 
With nulla and spear held low; 
Death was hidden amongst the trees, 
And bare on the glaring sand 
They fought and perished by twos and threes  
And thats how they won the land! 

It was two that failed by the dry creek bed, 
While one reeled on alone  
The dust of Australias greatest dead 
With the dust of the desert blown! 
Gaunt cheek-bones cracking the parchment skin 
That scorched in the blazing sun, 
Black lips that broke in a ghastly grin  
And thats how the land was won! 

Starvation and toil on the tracks they went, 
And death by the lonely way; 
The childbirth under the tilt or tent, 
The childbirth under the dray! 
The childbirth out in the desolate hut 
With a half-wild gin for nurse  
Thats how the first were born to bear 
The brunt of the first mans curse! 

They toiled and they fought through the shame of it  
Through wilderness, flood, and drought; 
They worked, in the struggles of early days, 
Their sons salvation out. 
The white girl-wife in the hut alone, 
The men on the boundless run, 
The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown  
And thats how the land was won. 

No armchair rest for the old folk then  
But, ruined by blight and drought, 
They blazed the tracks to the camps again 
In the big scrubs further out. 
The worn haft, wet with a fathers sweat, 
Gripped hard by the eldest son, 
The boys back formed to the hump of toil  
And thats how the land was won! 

And beyond Up Country, beyond Out Back, 
And the rainless belt, they ride, 
The currency lad and the neer-do-well 
And the black sheep, side by side; 
In wheeling horizons of endless haze 
That disk through the Great North-west, 
They ride for ever by twos and by threes  
And thats how they win the rest.

Henry Lawson's other poems:
  1. Wide Lies Australia
  2. To an Old Mate
  3. The League of Nations
  4. Camerons Heart
  5. The Song of the Darling River

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