Stockman Bruce Simpson wrote a very atmospheric poem, published in his book IN LEICHHARDT'S FOOTSTEPS. Unlike 'Banjo' Paterson's more whimsical verse many decades earlier, Simpson's words paint a series of blistering images in the reader's imagination.
Is this the land where Leichhardt lies,
Unfound though the years have fled?
Stark red desert ‘neath blazing skies,
Where the ghostly pools of mirages rise,
From the claypan’s barren bed.
Where is the spot that he lies at rest,
By channel or gibber-plain?
Did he grimly hold to the journey west
Or, disillusioned and sorely pressed,
Did he turn to the north again?
Did he turn to the north as the Israelites
Once turned to the Promised Land?
Through days of torture and nightmare nights
To a fate unknown went the ill-starred whites
To death in the black men’s sand.
This is the land where the whirlwind goes
In the path of the men who fell;
Where the stars are pale and the min min glows,
And the sandhills shift when the storm wind blows
From the south like a blast from Hell.
Sweeping north go the dull red waves,
Storm-crests of a long-stilled sea –
Deep down under in smothered caves
Do they shield forever the long-lost graves,
And the key to the mystery?
Did he die a hero or die accursed
By the comrades he had led?
Did he fall to fever or blinding thirst?
Was he trapped by flood when the channels burst,
And the north-spawned waters spread?
This is the land where the desert blacks
Still wander, a scattered band.
Do they mutter low of the ‘debil tracks’
In the long-ago, and of fierce attacks
In the heart of their sacred land?
Where the fine red dust of the Centre cloaks
In a close embrace and strong,
The spinifex hills by the rock-bound soaks
Where the twisted limbs of the desert oaks,
Are crooning a deathless song.
Is this the land where Leichhardt lies? –
Land of the ‘great unknown’.
Grim red desert and blazing skies,
Guard well your secret from questing eyes
For this is his land alone.