Sunday, June 26, 2011

Out Back - Henry Lawson

I love Australian poetry and verse.

I am sharing this one, as it is titled with the same name as my blog. It was found here

Henry Lawson is a famous Australian Poet and writer.

Out Back

by Henry Lawson

The old year went, and the new returned, in the withering weeks of drought;
The cheque was spent that the shearer earned, and the sheds were all cut out;
The publican's words were short and few, and the publican's looks were black-
And the time had come, as the shearer knew, to carry his swag Out Back.

For time means tucker, and tramp you must, where the scrubs and plains are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the dust and heat- when summer is on the track-
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, they carry their swags Out Back.

He tramped away from the shanty there, when the days were long and hot,
With never a soul to know or care if he died on the track or not.
The poor of the city have friends in woe, no matter how much they lack,
But only God and the swagman know how a poor man fares Out Back.

He begged his way on the parched Paroo and the Warrego tracks once more,
And lived like a dog, as the swagmen do, til the western station shore;
But men were many, and sheds were full, for work in the town was slack-
The traveller never got hands in wool, though he tramped for a year Out Back.

In stifling noons when his back was wrung by its load, and the air seemed dead,
And the water warmed in the bag that hung to his aching arm like lead.
For in times of flood, when plains were seas and the scrubs were cold and black,
He ploughed in mud to his trembling knees, and paid for his sins Out Back.

And dirty and careless and old he wore, as his lamp of hope grew dim;
He tramped for years, til the swag he bore seemed part of himself to him.
As a bullock drags in the sandy ruts, he followed the dreary track,
With never a thought but to reach the huts when the sun went down Out Back.

He chanced one day when the north wind blew in his face like a burnace-breath.
He left the track for a tank he knew- twas a shorter cut to death;
For the bed of the tank was hard and dry, and crossed with many a crack.
And, oh! it's a terrible thing to die of thirst in the scrub Out Back.

A drover came, but the fringe of law was eastward many a mile:
He never reported the thing he saw, for it was not worth his while.
The tanks are full, and the grass is high in the mulga off the track,
Where the bleaching bones of a white man lie by his mouldering swag Out Back.

For time means tucker, and tramp they must, where the plains and scrubs are wide,
With seldom a track that a man can trust, or a mountain peak to guide;
All day long in the flies and heat the men of the outside track,
With stinted stomachs and blistered feet, must carry their swags Out Back.

Do you like poetry?


  1. This poem makes me grateful that I'm not a swaggie living in the Outback! I did see a feature on the ABC about a fellow who lives like a swaggie though and just moves from place to place..and seems to love being outside just moving on.

  2. Hi we have all his works and it can be ages between times of reading them but we never tire of it,just lovely thanks for reminding me to hit the bookshelf again.

  3. Thanks Tania - I love Henry Lawson. On a bad farm day I read "The Drover's Wife" to remind myself that things are OK!!!!

    For me this post is quite timely as I was reminded about how hard things used to be today. An old man dropped into The Farm and left me a first hand account written by his father who originally cleared 1500 acres that is now part of our farm. Interesting reading and a complete surprise on a quiet Sunday afternoon....

  4. Isn't early Aussie poetry great !
    We are reading Pattersons "Mulga Bill" at the moment.
    And the kids have been in tears over Waltzing Matilda - gives you perspective that !

  5. Thank you Tania, I've never heard of Henry Lawson before and that poem was so touching.

    I will definitely be reading more of his work.

    Sft x

  6. Really love poetry now. Hated learning poetry when I was at school though.

  7. Henry Lawson also wrote fantastic short stories. My favourite is "Water them Geraniums". :)


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