Bannerman of the Dandenong

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I rode through the Bush in the burning noon,
  Over the hills to my bride, -
The track was rough and the way was long,
And Bannerman of the Dandenong,
  He rode along by my side.

A day's march off my Beautiful dwelt,
  By the Murray streams in the West; -
Lightly lilting a gay love-song
Rode Bannerman of the Dandenong,
  With a blood-red rose on his breast.

"Red, red rose of the Western streams"
  Was the song he sang that day -
Truest comrade in hour of need, -
Bay Mathinna his peerless steed -
  I had my own good grey.

There fell a spark on the upland grass -
  The dry Bush leapt into flame; -
And I felt my heart go cold as death,
And Bannerman smiled and caught his breath, -
  But I heard him name Her name.

Down the hill-side the fire-floods rushed,
  On the roaring eastern wind; -
Neck and neck was the reckless race, -
Ever the bay mare kept her pace,
  But the grey horse dropped behind.

He turned in the saddle - "Let's change, I say!"
  And his bridle rein he drew.
He sprang to the ground, - "Look sharp!" he said
With a backward toss of his curly head -
  "I ride lighter than you!"

Down and up - it was quickly done -
  No words to waste that day! -
Swift as a swallow she sped along,
The good bay mare from Dandenong, -
  And Bannerman rode the grey.

The hot air scorched like a furnace blast
  From the very mouth of Hell: -
The blue gums caught and blazed on high
Like flaming pillars into the sky; . . .
  The grey horse staggered and fell.

"Ride, ride, lad, - ride for her sake!" he cried; -
  Into the gulf of flame
Were swept, in less than a breathing space
The laughing eyes, and the comely face,
  And the lips that named HER name.

She bore me bravely, the good bay mare; -
  Stunned, and dizzy and blind,
I heard the sound of a mingling roar -
'Twas the Lachlan River that rushed before,
  And the flames that rolled behind.

Safe - safe, at Nammoora gate,
  I fell, and lay like a stone.
O love! thine arms were about me then,
Thy warm tears called me to life again, -
  But - O God! that I came alone! -

We dwell in peace, my beautiful one
  And I, by the streams in the West, -
But oft through the mist of my dreams along
Rides Bannerman of the Dandenong,
  With the blood-red rose on his breast.

© Alice Werner