Cawnpore Country

The Cawnpore Hills majestically survey
The far-flung plains where dying cattle lay,
Where wasted land reveals a poignant scene
Which begs release from ravage’s routine.

Long have these hills seen cyclic weather shifts:
The dehydrated ground criss-crossed with rifts,
The withered landscape listless, mean and bare,
Where dust storms swelled brown waves of choking air.

Mirages mocked and beckoned those who dared
Traverse this desert; few whose lives were spared
Their tales to tell, with wonder and alarm,
Yet spellbound by the captivating charm.

From drought to flood recurrent patterns spanned
When rivers spread vast channels through the land –
The Bulloo, Cooper, Thompson and Baroo,
Disbursing northern monsoon residue.

Soon mitchell grass and wildflowers waved salute
To Cawnpore’s weathered mesa forms, astute
To Min Min’s secret of the dancing light –
That ghostly fascination of the night.

These Hills have witnessed changing transport modes:
Long teams of camels packed with swaying loads,
The heavy bullock wagons with supplies
For gold fields echoing “Eureka” cries.

When mobs of cattle passed by Cawnpore Hills
Did drovers’ gritty eyes see desert spills?
Or did eroded limestone cliffs afire
With coloured beauty rouse, restore, inspire?

Today the heavy transports pass this way,
While 4-wheel drives and caravans convey
Explorers born of modern times who pause
To wonder at this landscape’s magic scores.

No more the tracks through sandhills’ shifting scene,
Where bold explorers trudged hostile terrene;
Though modern systems now our world sustain,
The mystique of this country shall remain.

© Vivienne Ledlie