[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913). Most of the poetry of C.J. Dennis is written in the style of the Australian vernacular. See the Glossary for explanations of words and phrases.]
Oh, we are the phantoms of rovers lost —
(See how the mocking mirages play!)
Men who have ventured and paid the cost.
(Lone, waiting women, ’tis vain to pray!)
We died unshriven, as rovers die,
And no man knows where our white bones lie.
(Black birds gather when rovers stray,
Out where the mocking mirages play.)
A maiden has waited a long year thro’.
(Mark where a crow from the northward flies!)
“Ah, can he be false who has sworn so true?”
(They say that a wanderer woos with lies.)
A maiden has waited and counted the days
Since a lover went roving the northward ways.
(What do they profit — unheeded sighs?
Mark where a crow from the northward flies!)
Out on the desert a still thing lies.
(Red in the west the sun dips low.)
Who is to mourn when a wanderer dies?
(Hark! ’Tis the caw of a carrion crow!)
Who is to tell of the mad’ning thirst —
Of the lonely death in a land accurst?
(“Merciful God! And she never shall know!”
Hark to the caw of a carrion crow.)
Oh, we are the rovers that never came back.
(Nay, but a ranger must reckon the cost.)
Men who went out on the venturer’s track —
(Out on the plain that was never recross’d)
And there’s never a mourner and never a stone;
Only a woman to linger and moan.
(Pray for the souls of the wanderers lost.
Ever have rovers to count the cost.)
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, , page 23