voices from the past


By The Grey Gulf Water

by Banjo Paterson (1864-1941)

Australian writer

Far to the Northward there lies a land,
 A wonderful land that the winds blow over,
And none may fathom nor understand
   The charm it holds for the restless rover;
A great grey chaos a land half made,
   Where endless space is and no life stirreth;
And the soul of a man will recoil afraid
   From the sphinx-like visage that Nature weareth.
But old Dame Nature, though scornful, craves
   Her dole of death and her share of slaughter;
Many indeed are the nameless graves
   Where her victims sleep by the Grey Gulf-water.

Slowly and slowly those grey streams glide,
   Drifting along with a languid motion,
Lapping the reed-beds on either side,
   Wending their way to the Northern Ocean.
Grey are the plains where the emus pass
   Silent and slow, with their staid demeanour;
Over the dead men's graves the grass
   Maybe is waving a trifle greener.
Down in the world where men toil and spin
   Dame Nature smiles as man's hand has taught her;
Only the dead men her smiles can win
   In the great lone land by the Grey Gulf-water.

For the strength of man is an insect's strength
   In the face of that mighty plain and river,
And the life of a man is a moment's length
   To the life of the stream that will run for ever.
And so it cometh they take no part
   In small-world worries; each hardy rover
Rideth abroad and is light of heart,
   With the plains around and the blue sky over.
And up in the heavens the brown lark sings
   The songs that the strange wild land has taught her;
Full of thanksgiving her sweet song rings
   And I wish I were back by the Grey Gulf-water.

About the Author

See our page on Banjo Paterson. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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