The Great Grey Plain

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Out West, where the stars are brightest,
   Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead gleam whitest,
   And the sun on a desert glows —
Yet within the selfish kingdom
   Where man starves man for gain,
Where white men tramp for existence —
   Wide lies the Great Grey Plain.

No break in its awful horizon,
   No blur in the dazzling haze,
Save where by the bordering timber
   The fierce, white heat-waves blaze,
And out where the tank-heap rises
   Or looms when the sunlights wane,
Till it seems like a distant mountain
   Low down on the Great Grey Plain.

No sign of a stream or fountain,
   No spring on its dry, hot breast,
No shade from the blazing noontide
   Where a weary man might rest.
Whole years go by when the glowing
   Sky never clouds for rain —
Only the shrubs of the desert
   Grow on the Great Grey Plain.

From the camp, while the rich man's dreaming,
   Come the 'traveller' and his mate,
In the ghastly dawnlight seeming
   Like a swagman's ghost out late;
And the horseman blurs in the distance,
   While still the stars remain,
A low, faint dust-cloud haunting
   His track on the Great Grey Plain.

And all day long from before them
   The mirage smokes away —
That daylight ghost of an ocean
   Creeps close behind all day
With an evil, snake-like motion,
   As the waves of a madman's brain:
'Tis a phantom NOT like water
   Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

There's a run on the Western limit
   Where a man lives like a beast,
And a shanty in the mulga
   That stretches to the East;
And the hopeless men who carry
   Their swags and tramp in pain —
The footmen must not tarry
   Out there on the Great Grey Plain.

Out West, where the stars are brightest,
   Where the scorching north wind blows,
And the bones of the dead seem whitest,
   And the sun on a desert glows —
Out back in the hungry distance
   That brave hearts dare in vain —
Where beggars tramp for existence —
   There lies the Great Grey Plain.

'Tis a desert not more barren
   Than the Great Grey Plain of years,
Where a fierce fire burns the hearts of men —
   Dries up the fount of tears:
Where the victims of a greed insane
   Are crushed in a hell-born strife
Where the souls of a race are murdered
   On the Great Grey Plain of Life!

This work is in the public domain because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired.

See Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright (August 2014).

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.


The author died in 1922, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.