Henry Lawson - The Shearers

No church-bell rings them from the Track,
No pulpit lights theirblindness–
‘Tis hardship, drought, and homelessness
That teach those Bushmen kindness:
The mateship born, in barren lands,
Of toil and thirst and danger,
The camp-fare for the wanderer set,
The first place to the stranger.
They do the best they can to-day–
Take no thought of the morrow;
Their way is not the old-world way–
They live to lend and borrow.
When shearing’s done and cheques gone wrong,
They call it “time to slither”–
They saddle up and say “So-long!”
And ride the Lord knows whither.

And though he may be brown or black,
Or wrong man there, or right man,
The mate that’s steadfast to his mates
They call that man a “white man!”
They tramp in mateship side by side–
The Protestant and Roman–
They call no biped lord or sir,
And touch their hat to no man!

They carry in their swags perhaps,
A portrait and a letter–
And, maybe, deep down in their hearts,
The hope of “something better.”
Where lonely miles are long to ride,
And long, hot days recurrent,
There’s lots of time to think of men
They might have been–but weren’t.

They turn their faces to the west
And leave the world behind them
(Their drought-dry graves are seldom set
Where even mates can find them).
They know too little of the world
To rise to wealth or greatness;
But in these lines I gladly pay
My tribute to their greatness.

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