Mulga-Land [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]


Land of stars and stunted gum, where the crawling camels come
To the “soaks” at night, like phantoms freighted down with pain and woe ;
Land of lustre and of love, where the meteors march above,
Like a band of constellations lamping Venus to her home !

’Tis a land where men lived lives — coddled not with homes and wives —
’Tis a land of desert places and of dawn-lifts grimly grand ;
’Tis a land where strong men toil in the golden-hearted soil
With begrimed and dusty faces all, a brown heroic band.

I have seen the Yilgarn coach through red seas of heat approach ;
I have seen the grim dry-blowers tramping store-ward for their mail ;
I have heard the driver swear while the red dust clogged the air
And hung o’er the dim horizon like a crimson battle-veil.

I have heard the ball-mills roar, I have watched the skips of ore
Flying upward to the platforms o’er the dumps at Golden Gate ;
I have sharpened picks and drills in the red Westralian hills,
And I’ve heard the stamps in chorus when the night waxed tired and late.

Ah ! the music that they made — it was like a cannonade
As the cams turned on serenely and the shoes came crashing down !
There’s a spirit dwelling there that bids men do and dare,
In that glowing land of glory where all things are big and brown.

Ha ! the strong, great-hearted men — men who toiled with pick and pen —
Who shall count the stalwart heroes in their far Westralian graves ?
They were big and they were strong — symbolistic of the throng
Where the roasters drip the ore-dust that the ’malgamator craves.

Yanks, Australians, Germans, Swedes — doers all of daring deeds —
Men whose hearts were mighty engines beating bravely to the last ;
Men who faced the desert brown, men who spurned the paltry town —
Men whose souls will drive through ether till the last long trumpet-blast !

Ha ! the life ! the life ! the life ! it was red and strong and rife ;
’Twas no place for fops or weaklings, unctuous, polite, and bland ;
Hagar’s children one and all — pearls the desert held in thrall —
Ay, the Ishmaels led the legions to the heart of Mulga-land !

Now electric fans are whirring where the Hannans crowds were stirring —
There are tram-cars on the Boulder and along the Golden Mile ;
Lo ! the locomotive urges past Binduli and Mount Burgess —
Where the camels once tramped slowly in a long, clay-coloured file.

The explorers are forgotten — ay, the bones of some are rotten —
But one breathes their strength and spirit in the wild Westralian air ;
There’s a something half immortal that Westralia throws athwart all —
There’s a something more than mirage in the dawn’s red-shrouded glare.

Bayley knew it, Bayley felt it — ay, the blazing roasters smelt it —
In the telluride it’s hidden — it’s within the diorite ;
You can feel it in the camps clustered round the Boulder ramps —
I have known it ’yond Kalgoorlie when the stampers shook the night.

When the stamps are sounding shrill — when the white stars watch the mill —
Then Westralia walks incarnate, with a firm, right royal tread ;
It is she who leads the brave to their fortune — or the grave —
And the Gods have bound the planets for a symbol round her head !

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 20-23

Editor’s notes:
dry-blowers = those engaged in the dry-blowing method of gold prospecting (i.e. without using water; such as pouring dirt from a height into a pan, allowing the light dust to blow away in the wind, whilst the heavier gold particles would land into the pan)

Mulga-Land = areas in Australia of semi-arid scrub land, commonly populated with mulga trees

Westralia = a contraction used to denote the state of Western Australia

Yilgarn = an area in the south-west of Western Australia; the Yilgarn Road District was gazetted in 1891, becoming the Shire of Yilgarn in 1961; presumably the Yilgarn coach was the coach that serviced that area; Yilgarn is an Aboriginal word for white stone (quartz)

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