Riverine [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]


Its level lands are spread away
To meet the setting sun;
Fierce summers o’er them scorch and slay
The grass blades, one by one;
Long, wicked droughts have dried their breasts,
These virgin lands and clean;
But still a fertile promise rests
Upon the Riverine,
The fecund Riverine.
It rises, and its worth attests
The Phœnix Riverine.

It breeds no wasters on its lands —
The grim, defiant plains
Are held by strong Australian hands
That firmly grasp the reins;
Wild horsemen these, who race and wheel
The clustered gums between;
They keep the stirrup to the heel,
Way down in Riverine,
Far out in Riverine;
Undaunted souls and hearts of steel,
Are found in Riverine.

No green palms in the sunlight sway;
Nor doth the wild, red rose,
In dewy fragrance to the Day
Uncultured charms disclose:
But here and there a garden smiles;
And when the Spring falls green,
She puts her feet a thousand miles
Across the Riverine,
Along the Riverine.
She wooes, with Amazonian wiles,
Her Lord the Riverine!

Then glutted ewes beside their lambs
Know well the season’s “good.”
To billabongs and creeks and dams
Flocks down a feathered brood;
Unto a rotund beast hath grown
The packhorse lank and lean;
The squatter comes unto his own
Along the Riverine,
Across the Riverine.
The stock are fat and sleek and blown
Throughout the Riverine.

A wool-barge, in her steamer’s track,
Swings slowly round the bends;
Her hawser may not fitly slack
Until the journey ends.
The flood is over reef and sand,
The channel’s wide and clean;
There’s water in the rivers, and
There’s joy in Riverine,
Hurrah for Riverine!
The shearer and the steamboat hand
Find work thro’ Riverine.

White snows upon Monaro die
Beneath October suns;
Warm tropic rains in cowals lie
Along far Queensland runs;
The ’Bidgee and the Lachlan swell
Their crumbling banks between —
They’ll have a record clip to tell
This year in Riverine,
For once in Riverine.
They’re pulling round; they’re doing well
At last, in Riverine.

I walk dull streets; and in mine ear
A city’s tumult rings;
But through my heart a river clear
Beyond the ranges sings,
And visions of the plains come down
The by-ways drab, unclean.
I see the trackless prairies brown
Of dear old Riverine.
God bless the Riverine!
I would that I might shed the town
For you, old Riverine!

There’s strength and effort in the West,
There’s mateship staunch and true;
(And, sweetheart of my one-time quest,
’Twas there I courted you!)
A blight be on these city ways!
The wastrel and the quean
Can find no place where Manhood lays
Its grip on Riverine,
Its hand on Riverine.
No “pocket Venus” loud displays
Her charms in Riverine.

* * * * * *

The chiming horse-bells clink and ring
From Bourke to Tocumwal!
Around their fires the drovers sing,
The old bush Voices call.
And I must rise and get me gone
To ease my longings keen;
I’ll saddle up and journey on
Across the Riverine,
And down the Riverine.
I’m sure of welcome warm from One
Who waits in Riverine.

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 21-24

Editor’s notes:
’Bidgee = the Murrumbidgee River, a major river in New South Wales, a tributary of the Murray River

billabong = a dead-end water channel which forms a lagoon or pool; a backwater channel formed by water left behind after a river has flooded and then receded, or after a river has changed course; a creek bed which only contains water during the rainy season; a dried-up creek bed

Bourke = a town in New South Wales, located about 800 kilometres north-west of Sydney; Bourke was once considered to be the remotest town in New South Wales, hence the phrase “back of Bourke”, referring to people or places located far away

doth = (archaic) does

fecund = fruitful; producing or able to produce many offspring (can also refer to producing an abundance of fruit, vegetation, etc., such as regarding farmland; as well as to people who are very creative or productive culturally or intellectually)

hath = (archaic) has

Lachlan = the Lachlan River in New South Wales

Monaro = a region in the south of New South Wales

o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

quean = a girl or woman who is badly behaved, impudent, or overly forward; a hussy; a shrew; a disreputable woman; a prostitute; (British dialect) a girl or young woman, especially a robust woman; (Scottish) a woman, especially a young or unmarried woman

Riverine = the Riverina: a region of south-western New South Wales, which encompasses the Murrumbidgee River, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Deniliquin, Finley, Griffith, Gundagai, Jerilderie, Junee, Leeton, Narrandera, Temora, Tocumwal, Wagga Wagga, and West Wyalong

Tocumwal = a town in the southern Riverina region of New South Wales, located on the border with Victoria (south of Finley, NSW; north of Mywee, Vic.)

wastrel = someone who is wasteful, a good-for-nothing; someone who wastes their resources (e.g. their abilities, opportunities, time, and/or money) in a foolish, lazy, and/or self-indulgent manner; an idle or lazy person

wooes = an archaic spelling of “woos” (i.e. to woo: to try to gain the affection or love of someone, especially with a view to marriage; to court solicitously; to seek the favour, support, or business custom of someone)

thro’ = (vernacular) through

’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”

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