The Skyline Riders

Henry Lawson, 1908

      Against the light of a dawning white
             My Skyline Riders stand —
      There is trouble ahead for a dark year dead
             And the selfish wrongs of a land;
      There are hurrying feet of fools to repeat
             The follies of Nineteen Eight,
      But darkly still on each distant hill
             My riders watch and wait.

      My Skyline Riders are down and gone
             As far as the eye can see,
      And the horses stand in the shades of dawn
             Where a single man holds three.
      We feel the flush and we feel the thrill
             Of the coming of Nineteen Nine,
      For my Skyline Riders are over the hill
             And into the firing line.

      The skyline lifts while a storm-cloud lowers —
             What's that? A shot! All's well!
      There is news out there for this land of ours
             That the tattling rifles tell.
      A "thud" and a "thud" and a flash like blood!
             There is light on the land at last!
      Australian guns on the nearer hills
             Are talking about the past.

      O, a lonely place in the days gone by
             Was the long first firing line,
      Where we fought as strangers, you and I,
             For the land that was yours and mine.
      There was time to dream in the firing line,
             There was time to starve and die,
      When the only things in that world of mine
             Were my Native Land and I.

      O, a lonely place was the firing line
             When the gaps were wide between —
      Hundreds of miles, in this land of mine
             And never a soldier seen.
      The dying must die and the dead were left
             Unmarked by the deadly tired —
      When struck to the heart in a firing line
             Where never a shot was fired.

      O, a lonely place was the firing line
             In the days of the dearth of men,
      But hundreds and hundreds of soldiers' sons
             Have flocked to the line since then
      We left it weak in the hour of pride,
             When our rule seemed firmly set,
      But danger threatened the firing line,
             And there's deadly danger yet.

      Proud of virtue, and proud of sin,
             Or proud 'neath a cruel wrong;
      Proud in failure or proud to win —
             Oh, the pride of man is strong!
      Proud of gold or of being without
             Or proud of women and wine —
      But get you down from your horse of pride
             And into the firing line.

      Pride in poverty — all the same —
             There's work for all men to do,
      With wrong to fight there is deathless fame
             To win in a land so new.
      Preacher and drunkard! and sportsman and bard!
             In the dawning of Nineteen Nine —
      Saints and sinners! ride hard! ride hard!
             They are pressed in the Firing Line.