The Old Pioneers
Ah, these old friends of ours! Sixty years back,
Bearded and booted, they followed the track,
Came like their Saxon forefathers of old,
Carving a nation from waste and from wold,
Mighty of purpose and stalwart of limb,
Clove they a path through the forest so dim,
Forward, adventuring, knowing no fears—
Honour and praise to the old pioneers.
Now they are feeble and bowed are their backs,
Long laid aside are the stockwhip and axe;
Dulled though each sense is, the hearing is quick
Oft-times to catch the faint ring of the pick,
Eyes, too, are closed yet they see clear and plain
The camp and the creek and the ranges again;
Australia’s first story and the world never hears,
It is locked in the hearts of the old pioneers.
Then to the workers of those distant days
Certain poor players came bringing their plays,
Lighter grew toil for the songs that they trolled,
Sweeter was life for the love-stories told,
Gone now the music, the laughter is stilled,
Audience and players together are chilled,
Yet—like the flowers—the smiles and the tears
Ever are fresh for the old pioneers.
Yes, they are old, nor of wealth have they hoard,
Heap we the fire, then, and plenish the board;
Age steals upon them and chilly life grows,
Workers and players have earned their repose.
Soon on their names all in vain we shall call,
For even the grandest old landmarks must fall.
Just a warm hand-clasp ere one disappears—
These are the last of the old pioneers.