Fire lighted; on the table a meal for sleepy men;
A lantern in the stable; a jingle now and then;
The mail-coach looming darkly by light on moon and star;
The growl of sleepy voices; a candle in the bar;
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom – the shout of “All aboard!”
“Tekh tehk! Git-up!” “Hold fast, there!” and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.
Old coaching towns already decaying for their sins;
Uncounted “Half-way Houses,” and scores of “Ten-Mile Inns;”
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a Digger’s Rest;”
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles
who sailed for weal or woe –
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.
The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone.
In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;
A flask of friendly whisky – each other’s hopes we share –
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trop of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go –
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.
We take a bright girl actress through western dust and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To stir our hearts and break them, wind hearts that hope and ache –
(Ah! When she thinks again of these
her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side of the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With “Auld Lang Syne” in chorus, through roaring camp they go
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.
Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidlings sweep,
A flash on shrouded wagons, on water ghastly white;
Weird brush and scattered remnants of “rushes in the night;”
Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:
Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!
But on the bank to westward a broad and cheerful glow –
New camps extend across the plains new routes for Cobb and Co.
Swift scramble up the sidling where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit then breakneck down the pinch;
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Past haunted half-way houses where convicts made the bricks –
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go –
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co!