Roderic Quinn

(1867 - 1949 / Australia)

Drovers Twain


WHERE was no shadow on the land,
No cloud in heaven's dome,
When, bearded man and beardless boy,
Our hearts alight with morning joy,
Across the hills of Duckmaloi
We drove the cattle home.
The sunrays danced a merry jig
On grass and bracken brown;
And right and left, and left and right,
The magpies piped in sheer delight,
As over creekside flat and height
We drove the cattle down.
With fiery eyes and tossing horns,
And swaying sides and hips,
They moved — red hides and hides of black —
And ever, as they left the track,
We wheeled, and held, and drove them back
With shouts and cracking whips.
There is no joy in all the world
Of such a bloom and blush
As that the charging rider feels
When at some frenzied scrubber's heels,
His stockwhip making curves and wheels,
He thunders through the bush.
Knees gripping hard, he dashes on,
The swift wind in his hair;
Whate'er befall, whate'er betide,
All thought of peril thrust aside,
He feels the glory and the pride
Of those who finely dare.
The moving mob was mountain-reared
And mountain-bred and born,
Their hides of brand and marking clear —
As shy as deer, as swift as deer
Who over heath and highland hear
The huntsman's early horn.
And yet with dog and spur and whip,
Our horses flaked with foam,
The magpies singing all the while,
Through hour and hour and mile and mile,
For all their speed of hoof and guile,
We brought the cattle home.
A score of years has passed away,
Slow filing on, since then;
And Time, who knows no sparing ruth,
And Wisdom, armed with bitter truth,
Have tamed the heart of reckless youth
And greyed the beards of men.
Yet evermore, when cattle low
Across the bracken brown,
I see again that man and boy
As when, alight with morning joy,
Across the hills of Duckmaloi
They drove the cattle down.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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