The Outside Track

Words: Henry Lawson; Music: Gerry Hallom

 

This poem is another from the great Australian bush poet Henry Lawson. Gerry Hallom, a British songmaker, set it to this lovely tune and sang it an Eisteddfod Festival where he and I found ourselves one year. The swagman's wandering life was not conducive to family-making, so if he wanted to marry he'd have to give it up the bad and the good together.

 

The port lights glow in the morning mist

That rolls from the water's brim

As over the railing we grasped his fist

'til the dark tides came between

We cheered the captain we cheered the crew

and out mates times out of mind

We cheered the land he was going to

and the land he had left behind

 

Chorus

For they marry and go and the world rolls back

They marry and vanish and die

But their spirits shall live on the outside track

long as the years go by

 

We roared lang syne as a last farewell

but my heart seemed out of joint

I well remember the hush that fell

as the steamer cleared the point

We drifted on home through the public bars

we were 10 times less by one

Who sailed out under the morning stars

and under the rising sun

 

Chorus

 

And one by one by two they've sailed

from the wharves since then

I've said goodbye to the best I knew

the last of the careless men

And I can't but think that the times we had

were the best times after all

As I turn aside with a lonely glass

and drink to the barroom wall

 

Chorus

 

 

The Outside Track is recorded on the album Harbors of Home