Who's Riding Old Harlequin Now?

They are mustering cattle on Brigalow Vale
Where the stock-horses whinny and stamp,
And where long Andy Ferguson, you may go bail,
Is yet boss on a cutting-out camp.
Half the duffers I met would not know a fat steer
From a blessed old Alderney cow.
Whilst they're mustering there I am wondering here -
Who is riding brown Harlequin now?

Are the pikers as wild and the scrubs just as dense
In the brigalow country as when
There was never a homestead and never a fence
Between Brigalow Vale and The Glen?
Do they yard the big micks 'neath the light of the moon?
Do the yard-wings re-echo the row
Of stockwhips and hoof-beats? And what sort of coon
Is there riding old Harlequin now?

There was buckjumping blood in the brown gelding's veins,
But, lean-headed, with iron-like pins,
Of Pyrrhus and Panic he'd plentiful strains,
All their virtues, and some of their sins.
'Twas the pity, some said, that so shapely a colt
Fate should with such temper endow;
He would kick and would strike, he would buck and would bolt -
Ah! who's riding brown Harlequin now?

A demon to handle! a devil to ride!
Small wonder the surcingle burst;
You'd have thought that he'd buck himself out of his hide
On the morning we saddled him first.
I can mind how he cow-kicked the spur on my boot,
And though that's long ago, still I vow
If they're wheeling a piker no new-chum galoot
Is a-riding old Harlequin now!

I remember the boss - how he chuckled and laughed
When they yarded the brown colt for me:
"He'll be steady enough when we finish the graft
And have cleaned up the scrubs of Glen Leigh!'
I am wondering today if the brown horse yet live,
For the fellow who broke him, I trow,
A long lease of soul-ease would willingly give
To be riding brown Harlequin now!

'Do you think you can hold him?' old Ferguson said -
He was mounted on Homet, the grey;
I think Harlequin heard him - he shook his lean head,
And he needed no holding that day.
Not a prick from a spur, nor a sting from a whip
As he raced among deadwood and bough
While I sat fairly quiet and just let him rip -
But who's riding old Harlequin now?

I could hear 'em a-crashing the gidgee in front
As the Bryan colt streaked to the lead
Whilst the boss and the niggers were out of the hunt.
For their horses lacked Harlequin's speed;
The pikers were yarded and skies growing dim
When old Fergie was fain to allow:
'The colt's track through the scrub was a knocker' to him -
But who's riding brown Harlequin now?

From starlight to starlight - all day in between
The foam-flakes might fly from his bit,
But whatever the pace of the day's work had been,
The brown gelding was eager and fit.
On the packhorse's back they are fixing a load
Where the path climbs the hill's gloomy brow;
They are mustering bullocks to send on the road,
But - who's riding old Harlequin now?

Harry (Breaker) Morant


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2011 Selected Poetry
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