Henry Lawson

(17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales)

The Skyline Riders - Poem by Henry Lawson

Against the light of a dawning white
My Skyline Riders stand—
There is trouble ahead for a dark year dead
And the selfish wrongs of a land;
There are hurrying feet of fools to repeat
The follies of Nineteen Eight,
But darkly still on each distant hill
My riders watch and wait.
My Skyline Riders are down and gone
As far as the eye can see,
And the horses stand in the shades of dawn
Where a single man holds three.
We feel the flush and we feel the thrill
Of the coming of Nineteen Nine,
For my Skyline Riders are over the hill
And into the firing line.

The skyline lifts while a storm-cloud lowers—
What’s that? A shot! All’s well!
There is news out there for this land of ours
That the tattling rifles tell.
A “thud” and a “thud” and a flash like blood!
There is light on the land at last!
Australian guns on the nearer hills
Are talking about the past.

O, a lonely place in the days gone by
Was the long first firing line,
Where we fought as strangers, you and I,
For the land that was yours and mine.
There was time to dream in the firing line,
There was time to starve and die,
When the only things in that world of mine
Were my Native Land and I.

O, a lonely place was the firing line
When the gaps were wide between—
Hundreds of miles, in this land of mine
And never a soldier seen.
The dying must die and the dead were left
Unmarked by the deadly tired—
When struck to the heart in a firing line
Where never a shot was fired.

O, a lonely place was the firing line
In the days of the dearth of men,
But hundreds and hundreds of soldiers’ sons
Have flocked to the line since then
We left it weak in the hour of pride,
When our rule seemed firmly set,
But danger threatened the firing line,
And there’s deadly danger yet.

Proud of virtue, and proud of sin,
Or proud ’neath a cruel wrong;
Proud in failure or proud to win—
Oh, the pride of man is strong!
Proud of gold or of being without
Or proud of women and wine—
But get you down from your horse of pride
And into the firing line.

Pride in poverty—all the same—
There’s work for all men to do,
With wrong to fight there is deathless fame
To win in a land so new.
Preacher and drunkard! and sportsman and bard!
In the dawning of Nineteen Nine—
Saints and sinners! ride hard! ride hard!
They are pressed in the Firing Line.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, March 27, 2010

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