The Legend of Cooee Gully

Henry Lawson, 1887

      The night came down thro' Deadman's Gap,
             Where the ghostly saplings bent
      Before a wind that tore the fly
             From many a digger's tent.

      Dark as pitch, and the rain rushed past
             On a wind that howled again;
      And we crowded into the only but
             That stood on the hillside then.

      The strong pine rafters creaked and strained,
             'Til we thought that the roof would go;
      And we felt the box-bark walls bend in
             And bulge like calico.

      A flood had come from the gorges round:
             Thro' the gully's bed it poured.
      Down many a deep, deserted shaft
             The yellow waters roared.

      The scene leapt out when the lightning flashed
             And shone with a ghastly grey;
      And the night sprang back to the distant range
             'Neath a sky as bright as day.

      Then the darkness closed like a trap that was sprung,
             And the night grew black as coals,
      And we heard the ceaseless thunder
             Of the water down the holes.

      And now and then like a cannon's note
             That sounds in the battle din,
      We heard the louder thunder spring
             From a shaft, when the sides fell in.

      We had gathered close to the broad but fire
             To yarn of the by-gone years,
      When a coo-ee that came from the flooded grounds
             Fell sharp on our startled ears.

      We sprang to our feet, for well we knew
             That in speed lay the only hope;
      One caught and over his shoulder threw
             A coil of yellow rope.

      Then, blinded oft by the lightning's flash,
             Down the steep hillside we sped,
      And at times we slipped on the sodden path
             That ran to the gully's bed.

      And on past many a broken shaft
             All reckless of risk we ran,
      For the wind still brought in spiteful gusts
             The cry of the drowning man.

      But the cooeying ceased when we reached the place;
             And then, ere a man could think,
      We heard the treacherous earth give way
             And fall from a shaft's black brink.

      And deep and wide the rotten side
             Slipped into the hungry hole,
      And the phosphorus leapt and vanished
             Like the flight of the stranger's soul.

      And still in the sound of the rushing rain,
             When the night comes dark and drear,
      From the pitch-black side of that gully wide
             The coo-ee you'll hear and hear.

      Coo-ee — coo-e-e-e, low and eerily,
             It whispers afar and drear —
      And then to the heart like an icy dart
             It strikes thro' the startled ear!

      Dreader than wrung from the human tongue
             It shrieks o'er the sound of the rain,
      And back on the hill when the wind is still
             It whispers and dies again.

      And on thro' the night like the voice of a sprite
             That tells of a dire mishap
      It echoes around in the gully's bound
             And out thro' Deadman's Gap.