Henry Lawson

The Paroo

It was a week from Christmas-time, As near as I remember, And half a year since, in the rear, We’d left the Darling timber. The track was hot and more than drear; The day dragged out for ever; But now we knew that we were near Our camp – the Paroo River. With blighted eyes and blistered feet, With stomachs out of order, Half-mad with flies and dust and heat We’d crossed the Queensland border. I longed to hear a stream go by And see the circles quiver; I longed to lay me down and die That night on Paroo River. The nose-bags heavy on each chest (God bless one kindly squatter!), With grateful weight our hearts they pressed – We only wanted water. The sun was setting in a spray Of colour like a liver – We’d fondly hoped to camp and stay That night by Paroo River. A cloud was on my mate’s broad brow, And once I heard him mutter: ‘What price the good old Darling now? – God bless that grand old gutter! And then he stopped and slowly said In tones that made me shiver: It cannot well be on ahead – I think we’ve crossed the river. But soon we saw a strip of ground Beside the track we followed, No damper than the surface round, But just a little hollowed. His brow assumed a thoughtful frown – This speech did he deliver: I wonder if we’d best go down Or up the blessed river? But where, said I, ‘s the blooming stream?’ And he replied, ‘we’re at it! I stood awhile, as in a dream, Great Scott! I cried, is that it? Why, that is some old bridle-track! He chuckled, Well, I never! It’s plain you’ve never been Out Back – This is the Paroo River!

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