Barcroft
Henry
Boake

Home

Index of Poems

Glossary

Where the Dead Men Lie

(Banjo Paterson thought this was one of Barcroft’s first class works)

Out on the wastes of the “Never Never,”
  That's where the dead men lie,
There where the heat-waves dance forever,
  That's where the dead men lie;
That's where the Earth's lov’d sons are keeping
endless tryst - not the west wind sweeping
feverish pinions, can wake their sleeping -
  Out where the dead men lie!

Where brown Summer and Death have mated,
  That's where the dead men lie,
Loving with fiery lust unsated,
  That's where the dead men lie;
Out where the grinning skulls bleach whitely,
Under the saltbush sparkling brightly,
Out where the wild dogs chorus nightly,
  That's where the dead men lie.

Deep in the yellow, flowing river,
  That's where the dead men lie,
Under the banks where the shadows quiver,
  That's where the dead men lie;
Where the platypus twists and doubles,
leaving a trail of tiny bubbles;
Rid at last of their earthly troubles,
  That's where the dead men lie.

East and backward pale faces turning,
  That's how the dead men lie;
Gaunt arms stretched with a voiceless yearning,
  That's how the dead men lie;
Oft in the fragrant hush of nooning,
Hearing again their mother's crooning,
Wrapt for aye in a dreadful swooning,
  That's how the dead men lie.

Nought but the hand of Night can free them;
  That's when the dead men fly;
Only the frightened cattle see them -
  See the dead men go by;
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
Bidding the stockman know no leisure,
That's when the dead men take their pleasure,
  That's when the dead men fly.

Ask, too, the never-sleeping drover,
  He sees the dead pass by,
Hearing them call to their friends - the plover,
  Hearing the dead men cry.
Seeing their faces stealing, stealing,
Hearing their laughter pealing, pealing,
Watching their grey forms wheeling, wheeling
  Round where the cattle lie.

Strangled by thirst and fierce privation -
  That's how the dead men die
Out on “Moneygrub's” furthest station,
  That's how the dead men die;
Hardfaced greybeards, youngsters callow,
Some mounds cared for, some left fallow,
Some deep down, yet others shallow,
  Some having but the sky.

“Moneygrub” as he sips his claret
  Looks with complacent eye
Down at his watch-chain, eighteen-carat,
  There in his club hard by:
Recks not that every link is stamped with
Names of the men whose limbs are cramped with
Too long lying in grave-mould, camped with
  Death where the dead men lie.