The Christ of the ‘Never’ [poem by Henry Lawson]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]

The Christ of the ‘Never’

With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
To the awful horizons of land,
Through the haze of hot days, and the fierce
White heat-waves that flow on the sand ;
Through the Never Land westward and nor’ward,
Bronzed, bearded and gaunt on the track,
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
The Christ of the Outer Out-back.

For the cause that will ne’er be relinquished
Spite of all the great cynics on earth —
In the ranks of the bush undistinguished
By manner or dress — if by birth —
God’s preacher, of churches unheeded —
God’s vineyard, though barren the sod —
Plain spokesman where spokesman is needed —
Rough link ’twixt the bushman and God.

He works where the hearts of all nations
Are withered in flame from the sky,
Where the sinners work out their salvations
In a hell-upon-earth ere they die.
In the camp or the lonely hut lying
In a waste that seems out of God’s sight,
He’s the doctor — the mate of the dying
Through the smothering heat of the night.

By his work in the hells of the shearers,
Where the drinking is ghastly and grim,
Where the roughest and worst of his hearers
Have listened bareheaded to him.
By his paths through the parched desolation
Hot rides and the terrible tramps ;
By the hunger, the thirst, the privation
Of his work in the furthermost camps ;

By his worth in the light that shall search men
And prove — ay ! and justify each —
I place him in front of all churchmen
Who feel not, who know not — but preach !



Source:
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 69-70

Editor’s notes:
Never-Never = remote and isolated sparsely-inhabited desert country in Australia

Out-back = remote rural areas; sparsely-inhabited back country; often given as one word and capitalized, “Outback”

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