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Vance Palmer

Youth and Age

Youth that rides the wildest horse,
Youth that throws the deadliest steer,
Spending strength without remorse,
Grappling with the ghosts of fear,
Knows it only holds to-day
All it freely flings away.

Youth that rides a race with Death
When the frightened cattle break,
Living in the moment’s breath,
Risking all for honour’s sake,
Lightly knows it holds in fee
Life and immortality.

Age that rides the spavined grey,
Age that seeks the safest track,
Scenting perils by the way,
Dreaming of the journey back,
Leaves behind it all the truth
Known to the wild heart of youth.

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The Farmer remembers the Somme

Will they never fade or pass!
The mud, and the misty figures endlessly coming
In file through the foul morass,
And the grey flood-water ripping the reeds and grass,
And the steel wings drumming.

The hills are bright in the sun:
There's nothing changed or marred in the well-known places;
When work for the day is done
There's talk, and quiet laughter, and gleams of fun
On the old folks' faces.

I have returned to these:
The farm, and the kindly Bush, and the young calves lowing;
But all that my mind sees
Is a quaking bog in a mist - stark, snapped trees,
And the dark Somme flowing.

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Song of the Old Boundary Rider

Fat and full of health are the valleys of the Condamine,
There the yellow maize and the green tobacco grow,
Through the little gardens runs the trailing passion-vine,
And softly to the North the white downs flow.

Here nothing changes, seed-time or harvest-time,
Mulga on the skyline, mulga round the place,
Riding round the fences I hear the bells of bullocks chime,
But homely sounds come rarer than a woman's face.

Lonely is the day and lonely is the firelight,
Lonely is the heart when the trees come creeping near,
When the bobock calls the very dogs are dumb with fright,
And when a voice starts singing it's my own voice that I hear.

Back let me ride to the valley of the Condamine,
There the little homesteads nestle in their green,
Opal where the mists rise, amber where the paddocks shine,
My own things round me and none to come between.

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The Road to Roma Jail

It's a long road, a cruel road, the road to Roma Jail,
birds in all the branches mocking as you pass,
the spiteful little soldier-bird, the stupid old jackass,
crying 'One, two three of them; riding head to tail'.
On the long road, the cruel road, the road to Roma Jail.

Crookedly the track runs beneath the grassy skies
silver shines the mulga, golden glows the plain,
Bullocks in the barley-grass start and stare again,
stockmen at the station-yars, watch the white dust rise,
but one man, jogging on, dare not raise his eyes.

Pride of life and wild blood, all must pay the toll,
stolen horses' mouths are hard as misers hearts
none knew where the end is once the journey starts,
and Steve rides a long ride to reach a bitter goal
where black imps, grinning imps, hover round his soul.

It's a long road, a cruel roaadm the road to roma Jail,
a trooper rides behind you, a tracker rides before,

[...] Read more

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The Pathfinders

Night, and a bitter sky, and strange birds crying,
The wan trees whisper and the winds make moan,
Here where in ultimate peace their bones are lying
In gaunt waste places that they made their own,
Beyond the ploughed lands where the corn is sown.

Death, and untrodden ways, and night before them,
From sheltering homes and friendly hearths they came;
Far from the mouldering dust of those that bore them
They rest in silence now and know no fame,
No proud stone speaks, no waters lip the name.

Brave and undaunted hearts, eyes lit with laughter,
Minds that outran the ancient doubts and fears,
They blazed the track for legions following after,
And bared new treasure to the hungry years,
Till spent with strife they sank amongst the spears.

Slow sinks the glowing flame and fades the ember,
No bright star flickers and the woods are stark,

[...] Read more

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