Banjo Paterson web 200   

The Lost Leichhardt

Another search for Leichhardt’s tomb,
Though fifty years have fled
Since Leichhardt vanished in the gloom,
Our one Illustrious Dead!

But daring men from Britain’s shore,
The fearless bulldog breed,
Renew the fearful task once more,
Determined to succeed.

Rash men, that know not what they seek,
Will find their courage tried.
For things have changed on Cooper’s Creek
Since Ludwig Leichhardt died.

Along where Leichhardt journeyed slow
And toiled and starved in vain;
These rash excursionists must go
Per Queensland railway train.

Out on those deserts lone and drear
The fierce Australian black
Will say — “You show it pint o’ beer,
It show you Leichhardt track!”

And loud from every squatter’s door
Each pioneering swell
Will hear the wild pianos roar
The strains of “Daisy Bell”.

The watchers in those forests vast
Will see, at fall of night,
Commercial travellers bounding past
And darting out of sight.

About their path a fearful fate
Will hover always near.
A dreadful scourge that lies in wait –
The Longreach Horehound Beer!

And then, to crown this tale of guilt,
They’ll find some scurvy knave,
Regardless of their quest, has built
A pub on Leichhardt’s grave!

Ah, yes! Those British pioneers
Had best at home abide,
For things have changed in fifty years
Since Ludwig Leichhardt died.

 

A. B. “Banjo” Paterson OBE
(1864-1941)

One of Australia's most revered poets and writers, his famous works include Waltzing Matilda and The Man from Snowy River.

His prolific output ranged from these evocative, haunting ballads to verse of much drier whimsy. Hardships and pomposity lost their sting when looked at through Paterson's larrikin lens.

Typical is The Lost Leichhardt, the 128th of 276 works published during his lifetime. A very English scientific society is contemplating yet another search party, 50 years after the German's disappearance.

The poem first appeared in the 14 October 1899 issue of The Bulletin, and was the 11th of 18 Paterson works published that year.

Banjo's stanzas offer some sage, tongue-in-cheek advice to the august gentlemen. Australia is not the country it was 50 years before, and perhaps some 'sleeping dogs' are best left to lie.

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