Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HIS LAST STAGE, by JOHN PHILIP BURKE



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HIS LAST STAGE, by            
First Line: With steps that were limping and slow
Last Line: The only ones there for his sake.
Alternate Author Name(s): B., J. P.
Subject(s): Death; Desolation; Dead, The


WITH steps that were limping and slow,
With feet that were weary and sore,
A sundowner tramped with a sundowner's swag
On his back and a billy before—
Tramp, tramp, tramp,
From the dawn till the shadows of night
Crept out from the trees, like a thief from his camp,
And never a station in sight.

His visage was wrinkled and sad,
His rig-out more spicy than neat,
A Condamine toga enveloped his pelt,
And greenhide enveloped his feet—
Drag, drag, drag,
Over miles that were dusty and drear,
He revelled in visions of limitless scrag,
And bottomless pewters of beer.

His dog toddled on by his side,
He was wall-eyed and mangy and old,
His voice, shrill and cracked, had been broken at "graft",
In yelping the sheep to the fold—
Jog, jog, jog,
With his load on the sundowner's course,
For sharers in labour were master and dog,
And sharers in damper and "horse".

The hair of his head stood erect,
In a manner peculiar and grim,
Through the top, where his cadie had parted its crown,
And his "flappers" supported the rim—
Creep, creep, creep,
The dead-beat and dog on the track,
Over gullies and hills, that were rugged and steep;
Through the night, that was bitter and black.

His old brain grew puzzled and queer,
Then he stopped for a moment or two
And fell on his knees at the side of his swag
And rummaged the kit through and through—
Slip, curse, lurch;
His hand in each corner was thrust,
A shivering hand in a desperate search
For a plug hidden there, or a crust.

But, ah! now his eye brightens up!
And he places his ear to the ground,
For plainly there comes through the storm of the night
A bullock-bell's echoing sound—
On, on, on,
Still he rushes and tumbles ahead,
But winds are now hushed, and the hunger is gone,
And snugly he coils in his bed....

His bed at the foot of a cliff,
Where the rocks jutted down to the creek;
How often he'd sat here, and yelled to his dog,
For a crown and his tucker a week—
Caw, caw, caw,
Sang watchers attending his wake,
For crows were to him, as to hundreds before,
The only ones there for his sake.





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