Scots of the Riverina
The boy cleared out to the city from his home at harvest time —
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned,
And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife’s back was turned.
A year went past and another. There were calls from the firing-line;
They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai —
They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.
The boy came home on his “final”, and the township’s bonfire burned.
His mother’s arms were about him; but the old man’s back was turned.
The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand —
A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.
The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai;
But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk —
There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk.
The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned;
And the old man died at the table when the old wife’s back was turned.
Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair
Outspread o’er the open Bible and a name re-written there
Born: 17 June 1867, Grenfell, Australia
Died: 2 September 1922, Abbotsford, Australia
Lawson was a writer and bush poet. He is one of the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period. The son of the poet, publisher and feminist Louisa Lawson he was a vocal nationalist and republican and regularly contributed to The Bulletin helping to popularise the Australian vernacular in fiction writing. After he died in 1922 he became the first Australian writer to be granted a state funeral