The Barcoo [poem by Henry Kendall]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Kendall was published in Poems and Songs (1862).]

The Barcoo.

(The Squatter’s Song.)


From the runs of the Narran, wide-dotted with sheep,
And loud with the lowing of cattle,
We speed for a Land where the strange Forests sleep
And the hidden creeks bubble and brattle !
Now call on the horses, and leave the blind courses
And sources of rivers that all of us know ;
For, crossing the ridges, and passing the ledges,
And running up gorges, we’ll come to the verges
Of gullies where waters eternally flow !
Oh ! the herds they will rush down the spurs of the hill
To feed on the grasses so cool and so sweet ;
And I think that my life with delight will stand still
When we halt with the pleasant Barcoo at our feet.


Good-bye to the Barwan, and brigalow scrubs !
Adieu to the Culgoä ranges !
But look for the malga and salt-bitten shrubs,
Though the face of the forest-land changes.
The leagues we may travel down beds of hot gravel,
And clay-crusted reaches where moisture hath been,
While searching for waters, may vex us and thwart us,
Yet who would be quailing, or fainting, or failing ?
Not you, who are men of the Narran, I ween !
When we leave the dry channels away to the South,
And reach the far plains we are journeying to,
We will cry, though our lips may be glued with the drouth,
“Hip, hip, and hurrah for the pleasant Barcoo !”

Henry Kendall, Poems and Songs, J. R. Clarke, Sydney, 1862, pages 78-79

Editor’s notes:
Barwan = Barwon River; “Barwan” was another spelling of “Barwon”, so it is perhaps not surprising that there have been two spellings of this name, considering that it derives from varying Aboriginal names, originating from barwum, bawon, or baawan (meaning great wide river of muddy water)

brigalow = several species of wattle trees (especially Acacia harpophylla), predominantly located in eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales

drouth = drought (a prolonged period of no rain or an abnormally low amount of rain); or, in general terms, a prolonged shortage or lack of something

malga = mulga (the spelling of “malga” appears elsewhere and is possibly an alternative spelling of “mulga”, rather than a misspelling)

ween = believe, suppose, think

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