Song of the Darling River

In these weather crazy times, I am reminded that drought, bush-fires and flash floods have plagued Australia for thousands of years.

The famous Australian poet Henry Lawson, (1867-1922) wrote of such regular occurrences in 19th century Australia.  Here’s an extract from his poem “Song of the Darling River.”


The skies are brass and the plains are bare,

Death and ruin are everywhere–

And all that is left of the last year’s flood

Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;

The salt-springs bubble and quagmires quiver,

And–this is the Song of the Darling River:

“I rise in the drought from the Queensland rain,

I fill my branches again and again;

I drown dry gullies and lave bare hills,

I turn drought-ruts into rippling rills–

I form fair islands and glades all green

Till every bend is a sylvan scene.

I have watered the barren land ten leagues wide!

but in vain I have tried, ah! in vain I have tried

To show as a sign from the Great All-Giver;

His Word to a people: Oh, lock your river.”


What are your thoughts on this extract from this eastern Australian poem?  Is it a ballad?  What is a ballad?


write a poem, a prose poem or a micro-fiction about a river in flood. Think outside the box.  What other rivers are there besides the traditional “river” ?   For example: think of cliches such as “sell down the river” (betrayal) or “up the creek without a paddle”  etc.  Don’t use the cliche but perhaps write about its implication.

Kaye LindenSong of the Darling River

2 Comments on “Song of the Darling River”

  1. Frank Fiordalisi

    Yes, a well versed and respected friend once said of poetry and men is that first thing wrong with a poem is that it is called poetry. Somehow, the only male poet I can enjoy is Kipling. He got it right.
    I ran to the internet and looked up ‘ballard poetry.’ After a scan of wiki I concluded this was not a ballard. Probably wrong again but it certainly is not my strong suit, Kaye.

    1. Kaye Linden

      Thanks for your comment Frank. Definition of a ballad according to “The Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms” (Strand and Boland) is based on the following criteria:

      1. a short narrative often arranged in four-line stanzas with a memorable meter
      2. Usually the first and third line has four stresses iambic tetrameter and then a second and a fourth with three stresses of iambic trimeter.
      3.rhyme scheme of abab or abcb
      4. distinctive subject matter: usually love lost, supernatural happenings or recent events.
      5. popular and local speech and dialogue, especially with older ballads.

      Take a look at a contemporary ballad titled “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *