Henry Lawson |
I'll tell you what you wanderers, who drift from town to town;
Don't look into a good girl's eyes, until you've settled down.
It's hard to go away alone and leave old chums behind-
It's hard to travel steerage when your tastes are more refined-
To reach a place when times are bad, and to be standing there,
No money in your pocket nor a decent rag to wear.
But be forced from that fond clasp, from that last clinging kiss-
By poverty! There is on earth no harder thing than this.
Henry Lawson |
Man, is the Sea your master? Sea, and is man your slave? –
This is the song of brave men who never know they are brave:
Ceaselessly watching to save you, stranger from foreign lands,
Soundly asleep in your state room, full sail for the Goodwin Sands!
Life is a dream, they tell us, but life seems very real,
When the lifeboat puts out from Ramsgate, and the buggers put out from Deal!
A gun from the lightship! – a rocket! – a cry of, "Turn out, me lad!"
"Ship on the Sands!" they're shouting, and a rush of the oilskin-clad.
The lifeboat leaping and swooping, in the wake of the fighting tug,
And the luggers afloat in Hell's water – Oh, "tourist", with cushion and rug! –
Think of the freezing fury, without one minute's relief,
When they stood all night in the blackness by the wreck of the Indian Chief!
Lashed to their seats, and crouching, to the spray that froze as it flew,
Twenty-six hours in midwinter! That was the lifeboat's crew.
Twice she was swamped, and she righted, in the rush of the heavy seas,
And her tug was mostly buried; but these were common things, these.
And the luggers go out whenever there's a hope to get them afloat,
And these things they do for nothing, and those fishermen say, "Oh! it's nowt!"
(Enemy, Friend or Stranger! In every sea or land,
And across the lives of most men run stretches of Goodwin Sand;
And across the life of a nation, as across the track of a ship,
Lies the hidden rock, or the iceberg, within the horizon dip.
And wise men know them, and warn us, with lightship, or voice, or pen;
But we strike, and the fool survivors sail on to strike again.
But this is a song of brave men, wherever is aught to save,
Christian or Jew or Wowser – and I knew one who was brave;
British or French or German, Dane or Latin or Dutch:
"Scandies" that ignorant British reckon with "Dagoes and such" –
(Where'er, on a wreck titanic, in a scene of wild despair,
The officers call for assistance, a Swede or a Norse is there.
Tale of a wreck titanic, with the last boat over the side,
And a brave young husband fighting his clinging, hysterical bride;
He strikes her fair on the temple, while the decks are scarce afloat,
And he kisses her once on the forehead, and he drops her into the boat.
So he goes to his death to save her; and she lives to remember and lie –
Or be true to his love and courage.
But that's how brave men die.
(I hate the slander: "Be British" – and I don't believe it, that's flat:
No British sailor and captain would stoop to such cant as that.
What – in the rush of cowards – of the help from before the mast –
Of the two big Swedes and the Norse, who stood by the mate to the last? –
In every mining disaster, in a New-World mining town,
In one of the rescue parties an Olsen or Hans goes down.
Men who fought for their village, away on their country's edge:
The priest with his cross – and a musket, and the blacksmith with his sledge;
The butcher with cleaver and pistols, and the notary with his pike.
And the clerk with what he laid hands on; but all were ready to strike.
And – Tennyson notwithstanding – when the hour of danger was come,
The shopman has struck full often with his "cheating yard-wand" home!
This is a song of brave men, ever, the wide world o'er –
Starved and crippled and murdered by the land they are fighting for.
Left to freeze in the trenches, sent to drown by the Cape,
Throttled by army contractors, and strangled bv old red-tape.
Fighting for "Home" and "Country", or "Glory", or what you choose –
Sacrificed for the Syndicates, and a monarch "in" with the Jews.
Australia! your trial is coming! Down with the party strife:
Send Your cackling, lying women back to the old Home Life.
Brush trom your Parliament benches the legal chaff and dust:
Make Federation perfect, as sooner or later you must.
Scatter your crowded cities, cut up your States – and so
Give your brave sons of the future the ghost of a White Man's show.
Henry Lawson |
You ask me to be gay and glad
While lurid clouds of danger loom,
And vain and bad and gambling mad,
Australia races to her doom.
You bid me sing the light and fair,
The dance, the glance on pleasure's wings –
While you have wives who will not bear,
And beer to drown the fear of things.
A war with reason you would wage
To be amused for your short span,
Until your children's heritage
Is claimed for China by Japan.
The football match, the cricket score,
The "scraps", the tote, the mad'ning Cup –
You drunken fools that evermore
"To-morrow morning" sober up!
I see again with haggard eyes,
The thirsty land, the wasted flood;
Unpeopled plains beyond the skies,
And precious streams that run to mud;
The ruined health, the wasted wealth,
In our mad cities by the seas,
The black race suicide by stealth,
The starved and murdered industries!
You bid me make a farce of day,
And make a mockery of death;
While not five thousand miles away
The yellow millions pant for breath!
But heed me now, nor ask me this –
Lest you too late should wake to find
That hopeless patriotism is
The strongest passion in mankind!
You'd think the seer sees, perhaps,
While staring on from days like these,
Politeness in the conquering Japs,
Or mercy in the banned Chinese!
I mind the days when parents stood,
And spake no word, while children ran
From Christian lanes and deemed it good
To stone a helpless Chinaman.
I see the stricken city fall,
The fathers murdered at their doors,
The sack, the massacre of all
Save healthy slaves and paramours –
The wounded hero at the stake,
The pure girl to the leper's kiss –
God, give us faith, for Christ's own sake
To kill our womankind ere this.
I see the Bushman from Out Back,
From mountain range and rolling downs,
And carts race on each rough bush track
With food and rifles from the towns;
I see my Bushmen fight and die
Amongst the torn blood-spattered trees,
And hear all night the wounded cry
For men! More men and batteries!
I see the brown and yellow rule
The southern lands and southern waves,
White children in the heathen school,
And black and white together slaves;
I see the colour-line so drawn
(I see it plain and speak I must),
That our brown masters of the dawn
Might, aye, have fair girls for their lusts!
With land and life and race at stake –
No matter which race wronged, or how –
Let all and one Australia make
A superhuman effort now.
Clear out the blasting parasites,
The paid-for-one-thing manifold,
And curb the goggled "social-lights"
That "scorch" to nowhere with our gold.
Store guns and ammunition first,
Build forts and warlike factories,
Sink bores and tanks where drought is worst,
Give over time to industries.
The outpost of the white man's race,
Where next his flag shall be unfurled,
Make clean the place! Make strong the place!
Call white men in from all the world!
Henry Lawson |
In these days of peace and money, free to all the Commonweal,
There are ancient dames in Buckland wearing wedding rings of steel;
Wedding rings of steel and iron, worn on wrinkled hands and old,
And the wearers would not give them, not for youth nor wealth untold.
In the days of black oppression, when the best abandoned hope,
And all Buckland crouched in terror of the prison and the rope,
Many fair young wives in Buckland prayed beside their lonely beds
For the absent ones who knew not where to lay their outlawed heads.
But a whisper went through Buckland, to the rebels only known,
That the man across the border had a chance to hold his own.
There were men that came in darkness, quiet, grim and travel-worn,
And, by twos, and threes, the young men stole away to join Kinghorn.
Slipping powder-horns and muskets from beneath the floors and thatch,
There were boys who kissed their mothers ere they softly dropped the latch;
There were hunters' wives in backwoods who sat strangely still and white
Till the dawn, because their men-folk went a-hunting in the night.
But the rebels needed money, and so, through the Buckland hills,
Came again, by night, the gloomy men of monosyllables;
And the ladies gave their jewels to be smuggled out and sold,
And the homely wives of Buckland gave their wedding rings of gold.
And a Buckland smith in secret, and in danger, in his shed
Made them rings of baser metals (from the best he had, to lead),
To be gilt and worn to market, or to meetings where they.
Lest the spies should get an inkling, and the husbands be betrayed.
Then a silence fell on Buckland; there was peace throughout the land,
And a loyalty that puzzled all the captains in command;
There was too much Law and Order for the men who weren't blind,
And the greatest of the king's men wasn't easy in his mind.
They were hunting rebels, certes, and the troops were understood
To be searching for a stronghold like a needle in a wood;
But whene'er the king was prayed for in the meeting-houses, then
It was strange with how much unction ancient sinners cried "Ah-men!"
Till at last, when all was quiet, through the gloomy Buckland hills
Once again there came those furtive men of monosyllables;
And their message was – "Take warning what the morrow may reveal,
Death and Freedom may be married with a wedding ring of steel.
In the morning, from the marshes, rose the night-mist, cold and damp,
From the shipping in the harbour and the sleeping royal camp;
From the lanes and from the by-streets and the high streets of the town,
And above the hills of Buckland, where the rebel guns looked down.
And the first one sent a message to the camp to fight or yield,
And the wintry sun looked redly on a bloody battlefield;
Till the man from 'cross the border marched through Buckland once again,
With a charter for the people and ten thousand fighting men.
There are ancient dames in Buckland with old secrets to reveal,
Wearing wedding rings of iron, wearing wedding rings of steel;
And their tears drop on the metal when their thoughts are far away
In the past where their young husbands died on Buckland field that day.
Henry Lawson |
Where the needle-woman toils
Through the night with hand and brain,
Till the sickly daylight shudders like a spectre at the pain –
Till her eyes seem to crawl,
And her brain seems to creep –
And her limbs are all a-tremble for the want of rest and sleep!
It is there the fire-brand blazes in my blood; and it is there
That I see the crimson banner of the Children of Despair!
That I feel the soul and music in a rebel's battle song,
And the greatest love for justice and the hottest hate for wrong!
When the foremost in his greed
Presses heavy on the last –
In the brutal spirit rising from the grave-yard of the past –
Where the poor are trodden down
And the rich are deaf and blind!
It is there I feel the greatest love and pity for mankind:
There – where heart to heart is saying, though the tongue and lip be still:
We've been through it all and know it! brother, we've been through the mill!
There the spirits of my brothers rise the higher for defeat,
And the drums of revolution roll for ever in the street!
Christ is coming once again,
And his day is drawing near;
He is leading on the thousands of the army of the rear!
We shall know the second advent
By the lower skies aflame
With the signals of his coming, for he comes not as he came –
Not humble, meek, and lowly, as he came in days of old,
But with hatred, retribution for the worshippers of gold!
And the roll of battle music and the steady tramp of feet
Sound for ever in the thunder and the rattle of the street!
Henry Lawson |
Across the stony ridges,
Across the rolling plain,
Young Harry Dale, the drover,
Comes riding home again.
And well his stock-horse bears him,
And light of heart is he,
And stoutly his old pack-horse
Is trotting by his knee.
Up Queensland way with cattle
He travelled regions vast;
And many months have vanished
Since home-folk saw him last.
He hums a song of someone
He hopes to marry soon;
And hobble-chains and camp-ware
Keep jingling to the tune.
Beyond the hazy dado
Against the lower skies
And yon blue line of ranges
The homestead station lies.
And thitherward the drover
Jogs through the lazy noon,
While hobble-chains and camp-ware
Are jingling to a tune.
An hour has filled the heavens
With storm-clouds inky black;
At times the lightning trickles
Around the drover's track;
But Harry pushes onward,
His horses' strength he tries,
In hope to reach the river
Before the flood shall rise.
The thunder from above him
Goes rolling o'er the plain;
And down on thirsty pastures
In torrents falls the rain.
And every creek and gully
Sends forth its little flood,
Till the river runs a banker,
All stained with yellow mud.
Now Harry speaks to Rover,
The best dog on the plains,
And to his hardy horses,
And strokes their shaggy manes;
‘We've breasted bigger rivers
When floods were at their height
Nor shall this gutter stop us
From getting home to-night!'
The thunder growls a warning,
The ghastly lightnings gleam,
As the drover turns his horses
To swim the fatal stream.
But, oh! the flood runs stronger
Than e'er it ran before;
The saddle-horse is failing,
And only half-way o'er!
When flashes next the lightning,
The flood's grey breast is blank,
And a cattle dog and pack-horse
Are struggling up the bank.
But in the lonely homestead
The girl will wait in vain—
He'll never pass the stations
In charge of stock again.
The faithful dog a moment
Sits panting on the bank,
And then swims through the current
To where his master sank.
And round and round in circles
He fights with failing strength,
Till, borne down by the waters,
The old dog sinks at length.
Across the flooded lowlands
And slopes of sodden loam
The pack-horse struggles onward,
To take dumb tidings home.
And mud-stained, wet, and weary,
Through ranges dark goes he;
While hobble-chains and tinware
Are sounding eerily.
The floods are in the ocean,
The stream is clear again,
And now a verdant carpet
Is stretched across the plain.
But someone's eyes are saddened,
And someone's heart still bleeds
In sorrow for the drover
Who sleeps among the reeds.
Henry Lawson |
When God's wrath-cloud is o'er me,
Affrighting heart and mind;
When days seem dark before me,
And days seem black behind;
Those friends who think they know me --
Who deem their insight keen --
They ne'er forget to show me
The man I might have been.
He's rich and independent,
Or rising fast to fame;
His bright star is ascendant,
The country knows his name;
His houses and his gardens
Are splendid to be seen;
His fault the wise world pardons --
The man I might have been.
His fame and fortune haunt me;
His virtues wave me back;
His name and prestige daunt me
When I would take the track;
But you, my friend true-hearted --
God keep our friendship green! --
You know how I was parted
From all I might have been.
But what avails the ache of
Remorse or weak regret?
We'll battle for the sake of
The men we might be yet!
We'll strive to keep in sight of
The brave, the true, and clean,
And triumph yet in spite of
The men we might have been.
Henry Lawson |
From Woolwich and Brentford and Stamford Hill, from Richmond into the Strand,
Oh, the Cockney soul is a silent soul – as it is in every land!
But out on the sand with a broken band it's sarcasm spurs them through;
And, with never a laugh, in a gale and a half, 'tis the Cockney cheers the crew.
Oh, send them a tune from the music-halls with a chorus to shake the sky!
Oh, give them a deep-sea chanty now – and a star to steer them by!
Now this is a song of the great untrained, a song of the Unprepared,
Who had never the brains to plead unfit, or think of the things they dared;
Of the grocer-souled and the draper-souled, and the clerks of the four o'clock,
Who stood for London and died for home in the nineteen-fourteen shock.
Oh, this is a pork-shop warrior's chant – come back from it, maimed and blind,
To a little old counter in Grey's Inn-road and a tiny parlour behind;
And the bedroom above, where the wife and he go silently mourning yet
For a son-in-law who shall never come back and a dead son's room "To Let".
(But they have a boy "in the fried-fish line" in a shop across the "wye",
Who will take them "aht" and "abaht" to-night and cheer their old eyes dry.
And this is a song of the draper's clerk (what have you all to say?) –
He'd a tall top-hat and a walking-coat in the city every day –
He wears no flesh on his broken bones that lie in the shell-churned loam;
For he went over the top and struck with his cheating yard-wand – home.
(Oh, touch your hat to the tailor-made before you are aware,
And lilt us a lay of Bank-holiday and the lights of Leicester-square!)
Hats off to the dowager lady at home in her house in Russell-square!
Like the pork-shop back and the Brixton flat, they are silently mourning there;
For one lay out ahead of the rest in the slush 'neath a darkening sky,
With the blood of a hundred earls congealed and his eye-glass to his eye.
(He gave me a cheque in an envelope on a distant gloomy day;
He gave me his hand at the mansion door and he said: "Good-luck! Good-bai!")
Henry Lawson |
It is stuffy in the steerage where the second-classers sleep,
For there's near a hundred for'ard, and they're stowed away like sheep, --
They are trav'lers for the most part in a straight 'n' honest path;
But their linen's rather scanty, an' there isn't any bath --
Stowed away like ewes and wethers that is shore 'n' marked 'n' draft.
But the shearers of the shearers always seem to travel aft;
In the cushioned cabins, aft,
With saloons 'n' smoke-rooms, aft --
There is sheets 'n' best of tucker for the first-salooners, aft.
Our beef is just like scrapin's from the inside of a hide,
And the spuds were pulled too early, for they're mostly green inside;
But from somewhere back amidships there's a smell o' cookin' waft,
An' I'd give my earthly prospects for a real good tuck-out aft --
Ham an' eggs 'n' coffee, aft,
Say, cold fowl for luncheon, aft,
Juicy grills an' toast 'n' cutlets -- tucker a-lor-frongsy, aft.
They feed our women sep'rate, an' they make a blessed fuss,
Just as if they couldn't trust 'em for to eat along with us!
Just because our hands are horny an' our hearts are rough with graft --
But the gentlemen and ladies always DINE together, aft --
With their ferns an' mirrors, aft,
With their flow'rs an' napkins, aft --
`I'll assist you to an orange' -- `Kindly pass the sugar', aft.
We are shabby, rough, 'n' dirty, an' our feelin's out of tune,
An' it's hard on fellers for'ard that was used to go saloon;
There's a broken swell among us -- he is barracked, he is chaffed,
An' I wish at times, poor devil, for his own sake he was aft;
For they'd understand him, aft,
(He will miss the bath-rooms aft),
Spite of all there's no denyin' that there's finer feelin's aft.
Last night we watched the moonlight as it spread across the sea --
`It is hard to make a livin',' said the broken swell to me.
`There is ups an' downs,' I answered, an' a bitter laugh he laughed --
There were brighter days an' better when he always travelled aft --
With his rug an' gladstone, aft,
With his cap an' spyglass, aft --
A careless, rovin', gay young spark as always travelled aft.
There's a notice by the gangway, an' it seems to come amiss,
For it says that second-classers `ain't allowed abaft o' this';
An' there ought to be a notice for the fellows from abaft --
But the smell an' dirt's a warnin' to the first-salooners, aft;
With their tooth and nail-brush, aft,
With their cuffs 'n' collars, aft --
Their cigars an' books an' papers, an' their cap-peaks fore-'n'-aft.
I want to breathe the mornin' breeze that blows against the boat,
For there's a swellin' in my heart -- a tightness in my throat --
We are for'ard when there's trouble! We are for'ard when there's graft!
But the men who never battle always seem to travel aft;
With their dressin'-cases, aft,
With their swell pyjamas, aft --
Yes! the idle and the careless, they have ease an' comfort, aft.
I feel so low an' wretched, as I mooch about the deck,
That I'm ripe for jumpin' over -- an' I wish there was a wreck!
We are driven to New Zealand to be shot out over there --
Scarce a shillin' in our pockets, nor a decent rag to wear,
With the everlastin' worry lest we don't get into graft --
There is little left to land for if you cannot travel aft;
No anxiety abaft,
They have stuff to land with, aft --
Oh, there's little left to land for if you cannot travel aft;
But it's grand at sea this mornin', an' Creation almost speaks,
Sailin' past the Bay of Islands with its pinnacles an' peaks,
With the sunny haze all round us an' the white-caps on the blue,
An' the orphan rocks an' breakers -- Oh, it's glorious sailin' through!
To the south a distant steamer, to the west a coastin' craft,
An' we see the beauty for'ard, better than if we were aft;
Spite of op'ra-glasses, aft;
But, ah well, they're brothers aft --
Nature seems to draw us closer -- bring us nearer fore-'n'-aft.
What's the use of bein' bitter? What's the use of gettin' mad?
What's the use of bein' narrer just because yer luck is bad?
What's the blessed use of frettin' like a child that wants the moon?
There is broken hearts an' trouble in the gilded first saloon!
We are used to bein' shabby -- we have got no overdraft --
We can laugh at troubles for'ard that they couldn't laugh at aft;
Spite o' pride an' tone abaft
(Keepin' up appearance, aft)
There's anxiety an' worry in the breezy cabins aft.
But the curse o' class distinctions from our shoulders shall be hurled,
An' the influence of woman revolutionize the world;
There'll be higher education for the toilin' starvin' clown,
An' the rich an' educated shall be educated down;
An' we all will meet amidships on this stout old earthly craft,
An' there won't be any friction 'twixt the classes fore-'n'-aft.
We'll be brothers, fore-'n'-aft!
Yes, an' sisters, fore-'n'-aft!
When the people work together, and there ain't no fore-'n'-aft.
Henry Lawson |
It was pleasant up the country, City Bushman, where you went,
For you sought the greener patches and you travelled like a gent;
And you curse the trams and buses and the turmoil and the push,
Though you know the squalid city needn't keep you from the bush;
But we lately heard you singing of the `plains where shade is not',
And you mentioned it was dusty -- `all was dry and all was hot'.
True, the bush `hath moods and changes' -- and the bushman hath 'em, too,
For he's not a poet's dummy -- he's a man, the same as you;
But his back is growing rounder -- slaving for the absentee --
And his toiling wife is thinner than a country wife should be.
For we noticed that the faces of the folks we chanced to meet
Should have made a greater contrast to the faces in the street;
And, in short, we think the bushman's being driven to the wall,
And it's doubtful if his spirit will be `loyal thro' it all'.
Though the bush has been romantic and it's nice to sing about,
There's a lot of patriotism that the land could do without --
Sort of BRITISH WORKMAN nonsense that shall perish in the scorn
Of the drover who is driven and the shearer who is shorn,
Of the struggling western farmers who have little time for rest,
And are ruined on selections in the sheep-infested West;
Droving songs are very pretty, but they merit little thanks
From the people of a country in possession of the Banks.
And the `rise and fall of seasons' suits the rise and fall of rhyme,
But we know that western seasons do not run on schedule time;
For the drought will go on drying while there's anything to dry,
Then it rains until you'd fancy it would bleach the sunny sky --
Then it pelters out of reason, for the downpour day and night
Nearly sweeps the population to the Great Australian Bight.
It is up in Northern Queensland that the seasons do their best,
But it's doubtful if you ever saw a season in the West;
There are years without an autumn or a winter or a spring,
There are broiling Junes, and summers when it rains like anything.
In the bush my ears were opened to the singing of the bird,
But the `carol of the magpie' was a thing I never heard.
Once the beggar roused my slumbers in a shanty, it is true,
But I only heard him asking, `Who the blanky blank are you?'
And the bell-bird in the ranges -- but his `silver chime' is harsh
When it's heard beside the solo of the curlew in the marsh.
Yes, I heard the shearers singing `William Riley', out of tune,
Saw 'em fighting round a shanty on a Sunday afternoon,
But the bushman isn't always `trapping brumbies in the night',
Nor is he for ever riding when `the morn is fresh and bright',
And he isn't always singing in the humpies on the run --
And the camp-fire's `cheery blazes' are a trifle overdone;
We have grumbled with the bushmen round the fire on rainy days,
When the smoke would blind a bullock and there wasn't any blaze,
Save the blazes of our language, for we cursed the fire in turn
Till the atmosphere was heated and the wood began to burn.
Then we had to wring our blueys which were rotting in the swags,
And we saw the sugar leaking through the bottoms of the bags,
And we couldn't raise a chorus, for the toothache and the cramp,
While we spent the hours of darkness draining puddles round the camp.
Would you like to change with Clancy -- go a-droving? tell us true,
For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you,
And be something in the city; but 'twould give your muse a shock
To be losing time and money through the foot-rot in the flock,
And you wouldn't mind the beauties underneath the starry dome
If you had a wife and children and a lot of bills at home.
Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky-black,
And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back
Till your saddle-weary backbone fell a-aching to the roots
And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots --
Sit and shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough
Till a squatter's irate dummy cantered up to warn you off?
Did you fight the drought and pleuro when the `seasons' were asleep,
Felling sheoaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep,
Drinking mud instead of water -- climbing trees and lopping boughs
For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?
Do you think the bush was better in the `good old droving days',
When the squatter ruled supremely as the king of western ways,
When you got a slip of paper for the little you could earn,
But were forced to take provisions from the station in return --
When you couldn't keep a chicken at your humpy on the run,
For the squatter wouldn't let you -- and your work was never done;
When you had to leave the missus in a lonely hut forlorn
While you `rose up Willy Riley' -- in the days ere you were born?
Ah! we read about the drovers and the shearers and the like
Till we wonder why such happy and romantic fellows strike.
Don't you fancy that the poets ought to give the bush a rest
Ere they raise a just rebellion in the over-written West?
Where the simple-minded bushman gets a meal and bed and rum
Just by riding round reporting phantom flocks that never come;
Where the scalper -- never troubled by the `war-whoop of the push' --
Has a quiet little billet -- breeding rabbits in the bush;
Where the idle shanty-keeper never fails to make a draw,
And the dummy gets his tucker through provisions in the law;
Where the labour-agitator -- when the shearers rise in might --
Makes his money sacrificing all his substance for The Right;
Where the squatter makes his fortune, and `the seasons rise and fall',
And the poor and honest bushman has to suffer for it all;
Where the drovers and the shearers and the bushmen and the rest
Never reach the Eldorado of the poets of the West.
And you think the bush is purer and that life is better there,
But it doesn't seem to pay you like the `squalid street and square'.
Pray inform us, City Bushman, where you read, in prose or verse,
Of the awful `city urchin who would greet you with a curse'.
There are golden hearts in gutters, though their owners lack the fat,
And we'll back a teamster's offspring to outswear a city brat.
Do you think we're never jolly where the trams and buses rage?
Did you hear the gods in chorus when `Ri-tooral' held the stage?
Did you catch a ring of sorrow in the city urchin's voice
When he yelled for Billy Elton, when he thumped the floor for Royce?
Do the bushmen, down on pleasure, miss the everlasting stars
When they drink and flirt and so on in the glow of private bars?
You've a down on `trams and buses', or the `roar' of 'em, you said,
And the `filthy, dirty attic', where you never toiled for bread.
(And about that self-same attic -- Lord! wherever have you been?
For the struggling needlewoman mostly keeps her attic clean.
But you'll find it very jolly with the cuff-and-collar push,
And the city seems to suit you, while you rave about the bush.
You'll admit that Up-the Country, more especially in drought,
Isn't quite the Eldorado that the poets rave about,
Yet at times we long to gallop where the reckless bushman rides
In the wake of startled brumbies that are flying for their hides;
Long to feel the saddle tremble once again between our knees
And to hear the stockwhips rattle just like rifles in the trees!
Long to feel the bridle-leather tugging strongly in the hand
And to feel once more a little like a native of the land.
And the ring of bitter feeling in the jingling of our rhymes
Isn't suited to the country nor the spirit of the times.
Let us go together droving, and returning, if we live,
Try to understand each other while we reckon up the div.
Henry Lawson |
He had offices in Sydney, not so many years ago,
And his shingle bore the legend `Peter Anderson and Co.
But his real name was Careless, as the fellows understood --
And his relatives decided that he wasn't any good.
'Twas their gentle tongues that blasted any `character' he had --
He was fond of beer and leisure -- and the Co.
was just as bad.
It was limited in number to a unit, was the Co.
'Twas a bosom chum of Peter and his Christian name was Joe.
'Tis a class of men belonging to these soul-forsaken years:
Third-rate canvassers, collectors, journalists and auctioneers.
They are never very shabby, they are never very spruce --
Going cheerfully and carelessly and smoothly to the deuce.
Some are wanderers by profession, `turning up' and gone as soon,
Travelling second-class, or steerage (when it's cheap they go saloon);
Free from `ists' and `isms', troubled little by belief or doubt --
Lazy, purposeless, and useless -- knocking round and hanging out.
They will take what they can get, and they will give what they can give,
God alone knows how they manage -- God alone knows how they live!
They are nearly always hard-up, but are cheerful all the while --
Men whose energy and trousers wear out sooner than their smile!
They, no doubt, like us, are haunted by the boresome `if' or `might',
But their ghosts are ghosts of daylight -- they are men who live at night!
Peter met you with the comic smile of one who knows you well,
And is mighty glad to see you, and has got a joke to tell;
He could laugh when all was gloomy, he could grin when all was blue,
Sing a comic song and act it, and appreciate it, too.
Only cynical in cases where his own self was the jest,
And the humour of his good yarns made atonement for the rest.
Seldom serious -- doing business just as 'twere a friendly game --
Cards or billiards -- nothing graver.
And the Co.
was much the same.
They tried everything and nothing 'twixt the shovel and the press,
And were more or less successful in their ventures -- mostly less.
Once they ran a country paper till the plant was seized for debt,
And the local sinners chuckle over dingy copies yet.
They'd been through it all and knew it in the land of Bills and Jims --
Using Peter's own expression, they had been in `various swims'.
Now and then they'd take an office, as they called it, -- make a dash
Into business life as `agents' -- something not requiring cash.
(You can always furnish cheaply, when your cash or credit fails,
With a packing-case, a hammer, and a pound of two-inch nails --
And, maybe, a drop of varnish and sienna, too, for tints,
And a scrap or two of oilcloth, and a yard or two of chintz).
They would pull themselves together, pay a week's rent in advance,
But it never lasted longer than a month by any chance.
The office was their haven, for they lived there when hard-up --
A `daily' for a table cloth -- a jam tin for a cup;
And if the landlord's bailiff happened round in times like these
And seized the office-fittings -- well, there wasn't much to seize --
They would leave him in possession.
But at other times they shot
The moon, and took an office where the landlord knew them not.
And when morning brought the bailiff there'd be nothing to be seen
Save a piece of bevelled cedar where the tenant's plate had been;
There would be no sign of Peter -- there would be no sign of Joe
Till another portal boasted `Peter Anderson and Co.
And when times were locomotive, billiard-rooms and private bars --
Spicy parties at the cafe -- long cab-drives beneath the stars;
Private picnics down the Harbour -- shady campings-out, you know --
No one would have dreamed 'twas Peter --
no one would have thought 'twas Joe!
Free-and-easies in their `diggings', when the funds began to fail,
Bosom chums, cigars, tobacco, and a case of English ale --
Gloriously drunk and happy, till they heard the roosters crow --
And the landlady and neighbours made complaints about the Co.
But that life! it might be likened to a reckless drinking-song,
For it can't go on for ever, and it never lasted long.
Debt-collecting ruined Peter -- people talked him round too oft,
For his heart was soft as butter (and the Co.
's was just as soft);
He would cheer the haggard missus, and he'd tell her not to fret,
And he'd ask the worried debtor round with him to have a wet;
He would ask him round the corner, and it seemed to him and her,
After each of Peter's visits, things were brighter than they were.
But, of course, it wasn't business -- only Peter's careless way;
And perhaps it pays in heaven, but on earth it doesn't pay.
They got harder up than ever, and, to make it worse, the Co.
Went more often round the corner than was good for him to go.
`I might live,' he said to Peter, `but I haven't got the nerve --
I am going, Peter, going -- going, going -- no reserve.
Eat and drink and love they tell us, for to-morrow we may die,
Buy experience -- and we bought it -- we're experienced, you and I.
Then, with a weary movement of his hand across his brow:
`The death of such philosophy's the death I'm dying now.
Pull yourself together, Peter; 'tis the dying wish of Joe
That the business world shall honour Peter Anderson and Co.
`When you feel your life is sinking in a dull and useless course,
And begin to find in drinking keener pleasure and remorse --
When you feel the love of leisure on your careless heart take holt,
Break away from friends and pleasure, though it give your heart a jolt.
Shun the poison breath of cities -- billiard-rooms and private bars,
Go where you can breathe God's air and see the grandeur of the stars!
Find again and follow up the old ambitions that you had --
See if you can raise a drink, old man, I'm feelin' mighty bad --
Hot and sweetened, nip o' butter -- squeeze o' lemon, Pete,' he sighed.
And, while Peter went to fetch it, Joseph went to sleep -- and died
With a smile -- anticipation, maybe, of the peace to come,
Or a joke to try on Peter -- or, perhaps, it was the rum.
Peter staggered, gripped the table, swerved as some old drunkard swerves --
At a gulp he drank the toddy, just to brace his shattered nerves.
It was awful, if you like.
But then he hadn't time to think --
All is nothing! Nothing matters! Fill your glasses -- dead man's drink.
Yet, to show his heart was not of human decency bereft,
Peter paid the undertaker.
He got drunk on what was left;
Then he shed some tears, half-maudlin, on the grave where lay the Co.
And he drifted to a township where the city failures go.
Where, though haunted by the man he was, the wreck he yet might be,
Or the man he might have been, or by each spectre of the three,
And the dying words of Joseph, ringing through his own despair,
Peter `pulled himself together' and he started business there.
But his life was very lonely, and his heart was very sad,
And no help to reformation was the company he had --
Men who might have been, who had been, but who were not in the swim --
'Twas a town of wrecks and failures -- they appreciated him.
They would ask him who the Co.
was -- that queer company he kept --
And he'd always answer vaguely -- he would say his partner slept;
That he had a `sleeping partner' -- jesting while his spirit broke --
And they grinned above their glasses, for they took it as a joke.
He would shout while he had money, he would joke while he had breath --
No one seemed to care or notice how he drank himself to death;
Till at last there came a morning when his smile was seen no more --
He was gone from out the office, and his shingle from the door,
And a boundary-rider jogging out across the neighb'ring run
Was attracted by a something that was blazing in the sun;
And he found that it was Peter, lying peacefully at rest,
With a bottle close beside him and the shingle on his breast.
Well, they analysed the liquor, and it would appear that he
Qualified his drink with something good for setting spirits free.
Though 'twas plainly self-destruction -- `'twas his own affair,' they said;
And the jury viewed him sadly, and they found -- that he was dead.
Henry Lawson |
The Shame of Going Back And the reason of your failure isn't anybody's fault --
When you haven't got a billet, and the times are very slack,
There is nothing that can spur you like the shame of going back;
Crawling home with empty pockets,
Going back hard-up;
Oh! it's then you learn the meaning of humiliation's cup.
When the place and you are strangers and you struggle all alone,
And you have a mighty longing for the town where you are known;
When your clothes are very shabby and the future's very black,
There is nothing that can hurt you like the shame of going back.
When we've fought the battle bravely and are beaten to the wall,
'Tis the sneers of men, not conscience, that make cowards of us all;
And the while you are returning, oh! your brain is on the rack,
And your heart is in the shadow of the shame of going back.
When a beaten man's discovered with a bullet in his brain,
They POST-MORTEM him, and try him, and they say he was insane;
But it very often happens that he'd lately got the sack,
And his onward move was owing to the shame of going back.
Ah! my friend, you call it nonsense, and your upper lip is curled,
I can see that you have never worked your passage through the world;
But when fortune rounds upon you and the rain is on the track,
You will learn the bitter meaning of the shame of going back;
Going home with empty pockets,
Going home hard-up;
Oh, you'll taste the bitter poison in humiliation's cup.
Henry Lawson |
So the time seems come at last,
And the drums go rolling past,
And above them in the sunlight Labour's banners float and flow;
They are marching with the sun,
But I look in vain for one
Of the men who fought for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
They were men who did the work
Out at Blackall, Hay, and Bourke –
They were men who fought the battle that the world shall never know;
And they vanished one by one
When their bitter task was done –
Men who worked and wrote for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
Some are scattered, some are dead,
By the shanty and the shed,
In the lignum and the mulga, by the river running low;
And I often wish in vain
I could call them back again –
Mates of mine who fought for freedom more than fifteen years ago.
From the country of their birth
Some have sailed and proved their worth;
Some have died on distant deserts, some have perished in the snow.
Some are gloomy, bitter men,
And I meet them now and then –
Men who'd give their lives for Labour more than fifteen years ago.
Oh, the drums come back to me,
And they beat for victory,
But my heart is scarcely quickened, and I never feel the glow;
For I've learnt the world since then,
And the hopelessness of men,
And the fire it burnt too fiercely more than fifteen years ago.
Lucky you who still are young,
When the rebel war-hymn's sung,
And the sons of slaves are marching with their faces all aglow,
When the revolution comes
And the blood is on the drums –
Oh! I wish the storm had found me more than fifteen years ago!
Bear the olden banner still!
Let the nations fight who will!
'Tis the flag of generations – the flag that all the peoples know;
And they'll bear it, brave and red,
Over ancient rebel dead,
In the future to the finish as a thousand years ago!
Henry Lawson |
The schools marched in procession in happiness and pride,
The city bands before them, the soldiers marched beside;
Oh, starched white frocks and sashes and suits that high schools wear,
The boy scout and the boy lout and all the rest were there,
And all flags save Australia's flag waved high in sun and air!
The Girls' High School, and Grammar School and colleges of stone
Flew all flags from their walls and towers – all flags except our own!
And down here in the alleys where Premiers never come,
Nor candidate, nor delegate, nor sound of fife and drum,
They packed them on the lorries, seared children of the slum.
Each face seemed soiled and faded, though scrubbed with household soap,
And older than a mother-face, but with less sign of hope:
The knowledge of things evil, of drunken wreck and hag,
Of sordid sounds and voices, the everlasting "nag" –
Oh, men without a battle-song! Oh, men without a flag!
They breed a nation's strength behind each shabby little door,
Where rent-collectors knock for aye, and Christ shall knock no more;
The sounds that hurt the mother's heart affright the children there –
Alarm-clocks on an empty tin, the tin tray on a chair;
For weary folk are hard to wake in hot and heavy air.
They sang in Pride's Procession that Mammon might endure –
Oh, wistful singing faces, the children of the poor!
Oh, hideous fiends of commerce! Oh, ghouls of business strife!
I wait the coming of the things to wake the land to life;
The flag without a cross or bar, the drum without a fife!
Henry Lawson |
They lie, the men who tell us for reasons of their own
That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street
Drifting on, drifting on,
To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.
In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street
Flowing in, flowing in,
To the beat of hurried feet
Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
The human river dwindles when 'tis past the hour of eight,
Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street
Grinding body, grinding soul,
Yielding scarce enough to eat
Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.
And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street,
Tells of the city's unemployed upon his weary beat
Drifting round, drifting round,
To the tread of listless feet
Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.
And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street
Ebbing out, ebbing out,
To the drag of tired feet,
While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.
And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day's sad pages end,
For while the short 'large hours' toward the longer 'small hours' trend,
With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street
Sinking down, sinking down,
Battered wreck by tempests beat
A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.
But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street
Rotting out, rotting out,
For the lack of air and meat
In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.
I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon's slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
The wrong things and the bad things
And the sad things that we meet
In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.
I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me the shadows of those faces in the street,
Flitting by, flitting by,
Flitting by with noiseless feet,
And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.
Once I cried: 'Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.
And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city's street,
And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
Coming near, coming near,
To a drum's dull distant beat,
And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.
Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution's heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
Pouring on, pouring on,
To a drum's loud threatening beat,
And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.
And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
But not until a city feels Red Revolution's feet
Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street
The dreadful everlasting strife
For scarcely clothes and meat
In that pent track of living death the city's cruel street.