Thomas William Heney (1862 - 1928 / Australia)
The Boundary Rider
THE BRIDLE reins hang loose in the hold of his lean left hand;
As the tether gives, the horse bends browsing down to the sand,
On the pommel the right hand rests with a smoking briar black,
Whose thin rings rise and break as he gazes from the track.
Already the sun is aslope, high still in a pale hot sky,
And the afternoon is fierce, in its glare the wide plains lie
Empty as heaven and silent, smit with a vast despair,
The face of a Titan bound, for whom is no hope nor care.
Hoar are its leagues of bush, and tawny brown is its soil,
In that immensity lost are human effort and toil,
A few scattered sheep in the scrub hardly themselves to be seen;
One man in the wilderness lone; beside, a primaeval scene.
Firm and upright in his saddle as a soldier upon parade,
Yet graceful too is his seat, for Nature this horseman made;
From childhood a fearless rider, now like a centaur he,
And half of his strength is gone when he jumps from the saddle-tree.
Back from his sweat-wet hair his felt is carelessly placed,
Handkerchief at his throat, sagging shirt round a lank firm waist;
True to the set of strong loins the belted moleskins are tight,
Plain from forehead to stirrup a virile vigour in sight.
Yet scarce more than a boy, but the long blaze not more sure
Has left on the countenance spare a hue that shall ever endure,
Than the life of the plains has set reliance and courage there,
Constancy, manliness frank in a young face debonair.
He should be no less who rides for ever each spacious bound,
Better than human speech he knows the desert around.
He journeys from dawn to dusk, and always he rides alone,
The hue of the wilderness takes, as his mind its monotone.
He hears the infrequent cries, shrieking or hoarse and slow,
Sheep bleating, the minah’s scream, the monologue of the crow;
He rides in a manless land, and in leagues of the salt-bush plain,
Seeks day after day for change, and seeks it ever in vain.
In his hands his life each morn as he swings to his leathern seat,
Woe to him if he falls where as water the plain sucks heat,
Alone in a vast still tomb, cruel and loth to spare,
Death waits for each sense and slays whilst the doomed wretch feels despair.
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