There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
And one on the for'ard hatch;
No straighter man to his mates than he
Had ever said "Len's a match!"
"'Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
"'Twill be long ere we grip your hand" -
So we dragged him ashore for a final drink
And the whole wide world seemed grand.
For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
They marry and vanish and die;
But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
As long as the years go by.
The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
That rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
As the dark tide came between.
We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
And the land he had left behind.
We roared "Lang Syne" as a last farewell,
But my jeart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell
When the steamer had passed the point.
We drifted home through the public bars,
We were ten times less by one
Who sailed out under the morning stars,
And under the rising sun.
And one by one, and two by two,
They have sailed from the wharf since then;
I have said good-bye to the last 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 bar-room wall.
But I'll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
Then a last good-bye to the bush;
For my heart's away on the Outside track,
On the track of the steerage push.
"Poetical Works of Henry Lawson," Angus and Robertson Publishers. First published 1918. ISBN 0 207 94373 7
For more information on musical settings of Lawson's work, the definitive work is Chris Kempster's "Songs of Henry Lawson." It is out of print, so you'll have to be lucky. Can't give publishing references - some bastard knocked off my copy.
Lawson was lamenting the gradual passing of the circle of drinking and writing mates he had, centred on the "Bulletin" magazine - which, by the way, is also but a shell of its former self.