Some poems cry out to be songs, as if the sympathetic addition of music will carry the words and story to a new level. This poem does that for me and, luckily, the Queensland folklorist, Ron Edwards, collected a song version that marries the two beautifully.
There’s a lonely grave half hidden where the blue-grass droops above,
And the slab is rough that marks it, but we planted it for love;
There’s a well-worn saddle hanging in the harness-room at home
And a good old stock-horse waiting for the steps that never come;
There’s a mourning rank of riders closing in on either hand
O’er the vacant place he left us — he, the best of all the band,
Who is lying cold and silent with his hoarded hopes unwon
Where the brumbies come to water at the setting of the sun.
Some other mate with rougher touch will twist our greenhide thongs,
And round the fire some harsher voice will sing his lilting songs;
His dog will lick some other hand, and when the wild mob swings
We’ll get some slower rider to replace him in the wings;
His horse will find a master new ere twice the sun goes down,
But who will kiss his light-o’-love a-weeping in the town? —
His light-o’-love who kneels at night beyond the long lagoon
Where the brumbies come to water at the rising of the moon.
We’ve called her hard and bitter names who chose — another’s wife —
To chain our comrade in her thrall and wreck his strong young life;
We’ve cursed her for her cruel love that seared like hate — and yet
We know when all is over there is one will no forget,
As she piles the white bush blossoms where her poor lost lover lies
With the death-dew on his forehead and the grave-dark in his eyes,
Where the shadow-line is broken by the moonbeam’s silver bars,
And the brumbies come to water at the lightning of the stars.