Bayley’s Reward.


To M.J.C.

Avenel’s in Victoria, where the winds of Summer die,
And the slender, sleepy gum-trees lean up to a breathless sky;
At Avenel in Victoria there’s a plot four-square and barred,
With a mound, and a grim white headstone—and this is Bayley’s Reward.

Good gamester he! for he played with Death and staked his life on the chance;
The table was Death’s, and the dice were Death’s, and the game was Death’s in advance;
Far and away in the wilderness he struggled and fought—and won,
To go out on flukes when the lights blazed up, with the new life just begun.

Many a man Australia has, many a man as brave,
Many a man who firmly trod the path to the Western grave,
Many a man with heart as high to follow a leader’s call—
He with the first was a pioneer: he blazed the track for all.

The hot noons, the slow noons, he sought and struggled and strove;
The long nights, the wan nights, when the chill stars mocked above;
The drink that leaves still thirsting, the hard and hoarded fare—
These he knew, and worse he knew; but he never knew despair.

He was the first to snatch from the West her glorious golden prize;
He followed his Luck with a manly heart, and wooed in a manly guise;
He grasped his Luck by the girdle close, and looked in her shining eyes,
And he won his Luck, and lost his Luck—and low in the dust he lies.

There is a valley, a valley of valleys, aswoon in the sweetest South:
Never a night of storm comes there, and never a day of drouth;
The hills that hem it are high, so high, and the bland, scarce-breathing air
Brings pain surcease from the breast of peace—but Australia is not there.

There is a river, a river of rivers, that brides with the velvet East,
And the mouth is a ripple of whitest sands, where blue waves cream and yeast;
The banks are tossing with fern and bloom, and the drooping trees are fair,
And it beads like wine when the sun’s ashine—but Australia is not there.

There is a mountain, a mountain of mountains, that towers in the radiant North,
And ‘twixt its peaks by the lightning scarred the clouds come eddying forth;
Its shoulders are stately with cedars, but its noble brow is bare:
It stands like a god in a land untrod—but Australia is not there.

She sits in the West—Australia!—brooding in proud disdain,
And her gaze goes out to the burning sky, far over the burning plain:
Never her word the silence breaks, never she laughs or sighs,
And her mouth is set in the fiercest smile; but a man would die for her eyes.

She sits in the West, in the desert West, till her web of fate be spun;
Her feet are swathed in the sand-wreaths, her head flung free to the sun;
Ever she beckons and threatens, threatens and beckons the bold,
And of whitened bone she has built her throne, above a reef of gold.

Some die in the East in a quiet bed, with friends and children round;
The bells are rung, and the chant is sung, and the grave is hallowed ground;
And some by the dried-up rock-holes die, in the agony of the West,
And the wind moans their requiem—but Australia loves them best.

To think that a man can dare so much! to think what men endure!
Wherever the light of her eyes is shed they follow and follow her lure;
The plough stands still, the shears are dropped, the good horse left alone,
And love and wife count cheap as life, when Australia calls her own.

They follow and follow on every track, and over the trackless waste;
One falls here, and another there, yet the followers no less haste;
Where the salt-pans gleam with bleaching bones, where the samphire turns blood-red
They fall, and never to yearning homes comes news of the nameless dead.

But she moulds them to her measure, her desperate desolate sons;
She gives them hearts to fight and defy, hard hands to carry her guns
With a courage stern as her fastnesses, in the day—come soon or late—
When an enemy proud beats challenge loud at the bars of her golden gate.

She gives success in the seeking, her treasure is hope that flies,
Her losing is greatest gaining, her struggle is goal and prize;
And far in the lonely desert she holds in eternal guard
The pride to live, and the strength to die—and these are Australia’s Reward.

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