Trooper Campbell

Henry Lawson, 1891

      One day old Trooper Campbell
             Rode out to Blackman's Run,
      His cap-peak and his sabre
             Were glancing in the sun.
      'Twas New Year's Eve, and slowly
             Across the ridges low
      The sad Old Year was drifting
             To where the old years go.

      The trooper's mind was reading
             The love-page of his life —
      His love for Mary Wylie
             Ere she was Blackman's wife;
      He sorrowed for the sorrows
             Of the heart a rival won,
      For he knew that there was trouble
             Out there on Blackman's Run.

      The sapling shades had lengthened,
             The summer day was late,
      When Blackman met the trooper
             Beyond the homestead gate.
      And if the hand of trouble
             Can leave a lasting trace,
      The lines of care had come to stay
             On poor old Blackman's face.

      'Not good day, Trooper Campbell,
             It's a bad, bad day for me —
      You are of all the men on earth
             The one I wished to see.
      The great black clouds of trouble
             Above our homestead hang;
      That wild and reckless boy of mine
             Has joined M'Durmer's gang.

      'Oh! save him, save him, Campbell!
             I beg in friendship's name!
      For if they take and hang him,
             The wife would die of shame.
      Could Mary or her sisters
             Hold up their heads again,
      And face a woman's malice
             Or claim the love of men?

      'And if he does a murder
             'Twere better we were dead.
      Don't take him, Trooper Campbell,
             If a price be on his head;
      But shoot him! shoot him, Campbell,
             When you meet him face to face,
      And save him from the gallows,
             And us from that disgrace.'

      'Now, Tom,' cried Trooper Campbell,
      'You know your words are wild.
      Though he is wild and reckless,
             Yet still he is your child;
      So bear up in your trouble,
             And meet it like a man,
      And tell the wife and daughters
             I'll save him if I can.'

      The sad Australian sunset
             Had faded from the west;
      But night brings darker shadows
             To hearts that cannot rest;
      And Blackman's wife sat rocking
             And moaning in her chair.
      'I cannot bear disgrace,' she moaned;
             'Disgrace I cannot bear.

      'In hardship and in trouble
             I struggled year by year
      To make my children better
             Than other children here.
      And if my son's a felon
             How can I show my face?
      I cannot bear disgrace; my God,
             I cannot bear disgrace!

      'Ah, God in Heaven pardon!
             I'm selfish in my woe —
      My boy is better-hearted
             Than many that I know.
      And I will face the world's disgrace,
             And, till his mother's dead,
      My foolish child shall find a place
             To lay his outlawed head.'

      With a sad heart Trooper Campbell
             Rode back from Blackman's Run,
      Nor noticed aught about him
             Till thirteen miles were done;
      When, close beside a cutting,
             He heard the click of locks,
      And saw the rifle muzzles
             Were on him from the rocks.

      But suddenly a youth rode out,
             And, close by Campbell's side:
      'Don't fire! don't fire, in heaven's name!
             It's Campbell, boys!' he cried.
      Then one by one in silence
             The levelled rifles fell,
      For who'd shoot Trooper Campbell
             Of those who knew him well?

      Oh, bravely sat old Campbell,
             No sign of fear showed he.
      He slowly drew his carbine;
             It rested by his knee.
      The outlaws' guns were lifted,
             But none the silence broke,
      Till steadfastly and firmly
             Old Trooper Campbell spoke.

      'That boy that you would ruin
             Goes home with me, my men;
      Or some of us shall never
             Ride through the Gap again.
      You know old Trooper Campbell,
             And have you ever heard
      That bluff or lead could turn him,
             That e'er he broke his word?

      'That reckless lad is playing
             A heartless villain's part;
      He knows that he is breaking
             His poor old mother's heart.
      He'll bring a curse upon himself;
             But 'tis not that alone,
      He'll bring dishonour to a name
             That I'd be proud to own.

      'I speak to you, M'Durmer, —
             If your heart's not hardened quite,
      And if you'd seen the trouble
             At Blackman's home this night,
      You'd help me now, M'Durmer —
             I speak as man to man —
      I swore to save that foolish lad,
             And I'll save him if I can.'

      'Oh, take him!' said M'Durmer,
             'He's got a horse to ride.'
      The youngster thought a moment,
             Then rode to Campbell's side —
      'Good-bye!' the outlaws shouted,
             As up the range they sped.
      'A Merry New Year, Campbell,'
             Was all M'Durmer said.

      Then fast along the ridges
             Two bushmen rode a race,
      And the moonlight lent a glory
             To Trooper Campbell's face.
      And ere the new year's dawning
             They reached the home at last;
      And this is but a story
             Of trouble that is past!