The Paroo

Henry Lawson, 1893

      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 long day seemed forever;
      Put 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.

      'Tis said the land out West is grand —
             I do not care who says it —
      It isn't even decent scrub,
             Nor yet an honest desert;
      It's plagued with flies, and broiling hot,
             A curse is on it ever;
      I really think that God forgot
             The country round that river.

      My mate — a native of the land —
             In fiery speech and vulgar,
      Condemned the flies and cursed the sand,
             And doubly damned the mulga.
      He peered ahead, he peered about —
             A bushman he, and clever —
      Now mind you keep a sharp look-out;
             'We must be near the 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 the west)
             In colour like a liver —
      We'd fondly hoped to camp and rest
             That night on Paroo River.

      A cloud was on my mate's broad brow,
             And once I heard him mutter:
      'I'd like to see the Darling now,
             'God bless the Grand Old Gutter!'
      And now and then he stopped and 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
             That crossed the track we followed —
      No barer than the surface round,
             But just a little hollowed.
      His brows assumed a thoughtful frown —
             This speech he did 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 nearly time you came out-back —
             'This is the Paroo River!'

      No place to camp — no spot of damp —
             No moisture to be seen there;
      If e'er there was it left no sign
             That it had ever been there.
      But ere the morn, with heart and soul
             We'd cause to thank the Giver —
      We found a muddy water-hole
             Some ten miles down the river.