― 53 ―

John Riley's Last Ride

John Riley, said to be the original of “The Man from Snowy River,” whilst being carried over the mountains from Groggin to Corryong Hospital, died on the way. The party carried his body the remainder of the fifty-mile journey into Corryong and buried him there.

THE flanks of Kosciusko
Loomed vast and veiled and grey,
And the dark vale of Groggin
Was darker than the day
When “The Man from Snowy River”
Went away.

Half scared, the mountain eagle
Rose up with heavy flight,
To watch the strange procession
From height to ragged height
Wind out by crag and cliff-head
Out of sight.

Low moaned the mountain torrent
By gorge and granite crest,
Loud shrilled the wailing plover
From his deep-shadowed nest,
To “The Man from Snowy River”
Drifting west.

By paths he paced at pleasure,
By roads he spurned with speed….
Through the wild vale of Groggin
With grave and patient heed….
They strode with one grim shadow
In the lead.

  ― 54 ―
Up, up The Hermit's shoulder,
With twain upon his back,
The sweating mountain pony
Strained, snorting at the wrack….
Or was it that strange leader,
Striding slack?

But “The Man from Snowy River”
Heard no wild plover's strain,
Or beat of muffled footsteps
That bore him, drowsed with pain,
From the wild vale of Groggin
In the rain.

Belike he felt slow fingers
Close colder on his wrist,
And heard a low voice calling
Across the solemn mist,
When the twilight turned to ghostly

But haply with the brumbies,
Full tilt adown the steep,
Or heading mountain scrubbers,
Flung out a thousand deep,
Rode “The Man from Snowy River”
In his sleep.

In Carter's hut the shadows
Danced dim on roof and door,
When Peace, on earth descending,
Brimmed Life's dark ranges o'er….
And “The Man from Snowy River”
Dreamed no more.

  ― 55 ―
With rain-song on the roof-tree,
His pent soul quit the husk,
With sway of censer branches
And drip of funeral musk,
And a bittern's far bell tolling
In the dusk.

As he would have it ordered,
Who loved his Bush the best,
With Her grave garments folded
To Her stern bosom pressed,
He turned from Life's vain questing
To his rest.

Far, far from Kosciusko
He slumbers deep and long,
While the wild vale of Groggin
Is bursting into song,
And strange winds croon above him….
“Corryong”…. “Corryong.”