As I pondered very weary o’er a volume long and dreary —
For the plot was void of interest — ’twas the Postal Guide, in fact,
There I learnt the true location, distance, size and population
Of each township, town, and village in the radius of the Act.
And I learnt that Puckawidgee stands beside the Murrumbidgee,
And the Booleroi and Bumble get their letters twice a year,
Also that the post inspector, when he visited Collector,
Closed the office up instanter, and re-opened Dungalear.
But my languid mood forsook me, when I found a name that took me,
Quite by chance I came across it — ‘Come-by-Chance’ was what I read;
No location was assigned it, not a thing to help one find it,
Just an N which stood for northward, and the rest was all unsaid.
I shall leave my home, and forthward wander stoutly to the northward
Till I come by chance across it, and I’ll straightway settle down,
For there can’t be any hurry, nor the slightest cause for worry
Where the telegraph don’t reach you nor the railways run to town.
And one’s letters and exchanges come by chance across the ranges,
Where a wiry young Australian leads a pack-horse once a week,
And the good news grows by keeping, and you’re spared the pain of weeping
Over bad news when the mailman drops the letters in the creek.
But I fear, and more’s the pity, that there’s really no such city,
For there’s not a man can find it of the shrewdest folk I know,
‘Come-by-chance,’ be sure it never means a land of fierce endeavour,
It is just the careless country where the dreamers only go.
* * * * * *
Though we work and toil and hustle in our life of haste and bustle,
All that makes our life worth living comes unstriven for and free;
Man may weary and importune, but the fickle goddess Fortune
Deals him out his pain or pleasure, careless what his worth may be.
All the happy times entrancing, days of sport and nights of dancing,
Moonlit rides and stolen kisses, pouting lips and loving glance:
When you think of these be certain you have looked behind the curtain,
You have had the luck to linger just a while in ‘Come-by-chance.’
Andrew Barton Paterson. The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896 [January 1896 reprinting of the October 1895 edition], pages 174-176
Previously published in: The Bulletin, 21 March 1891