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Best Famous Henry Lawson Poems

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Written by Henry Lawson | |

The Vagabond

 Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see, Bread I dip in the river - There's the life for a man like me, There's the life for ever.
Let the blow fall soon or late, Let what will be o'er me; Give the face of earth around And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love, Nor a friend to know me; All I seek, the heaven above And the road below me.
Or let autumn fall on me Where afield I linger, Silencing the bird on tree, Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field - Warm the fireside haven - Not to autumn will I yield, Not to winter even! Let the blow fall soon or late, Let what will be o'er me; Give the face of earth around, And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love, Nor a friend to know me; All I ask, the heaven above And the road below me.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

As far as your Rifles Cover

 Do you think, you slaves of a thousand years to poverty, wealth and pride, 
You can crush the spirit that has been free in a land that's new and wide? 
When you've scattered the last of the farmer bands, and the war for a while is over, 
You will hold the land – ay, you'll hold the land – the land that your rifles cover.
Till your gold has levelled each mountain range where a wounded man can hide, Till your gold has lighted the moonless night on the plains where the rebels ride; Till the future is proved, and the past is bribed from the son of the land's dead lover – You may hold the land – you may hold the land just as far as your rifles cover.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Sez You

 When the heavy sand is yielding backward from your blistered feet, 
And across the distant timber you can SEE the flowing heat; 
When your head is hot and aching, and the shadeless plain is wide, 
And it's fifteen miles to water in the scrub the other side -- 
Don't give up, don't be down-hearted, to a man's strong heart be true! 
Take the air in through your nostrils, set your lips and see it through -- 
For it can't go on for ever, and -- `I'll have my day!' says you.
When you're camping in the mulga, and the rain is falling slow, While you nurse your rheumatism 'neath a patch of calico; Short of tucker or tobacco, short of sugar or of tea, And the scrubs are dark and dismal, and the plains are like a sea; Don't give up and be down-hearted -- to the soul of man be true! Grin! if you've a mate to grin for, grin and jest and don't look blue; For it can't go on for ever, and -- `I'll rise some day,' says you.
When you've tramped the Sydney pavements till you've counted all the flags, And your flapping boot-soles trip you, and your clothes are mostly rags, When you're called a city loafer, shunned, abused, moved on, despised -- Fifty hungry beggars after every job that's advertised -- Don't be beaten! Hold your head up! To your wretched self be true; Set your pride to fight your hunger! Be a MAN in all you do! For it cannot last for ever -- `I will rise again!' says you.
When you're dossing out in winter, in the darkness and the rain, Crouching, cramped, and cold and hungry 'neath a seat in The Domain, And a cloaked policeman stirs you with that mighty foot of his -- `Phwat d'ye mane? Phwat's this? Who are ye? Come, move on -- git out av this!' Don't get mad; 'twere only foolish; there is nought that you can do, Save to mark his beat and time him -- find another hole or two; But it can't go on for ever -- `I'll have money yet!' says you.
Bother not about the morrow, for sufficient to the day Is the evil (rather more so).
Put your trust in God and pray! Study well the ant, thou sluggard.
Blessed are the meek and low.
Ponder calmly on the lilies -- how they idle, how they grow.
A man's a man! Obey your masters! Do not blame the proud and fat, For the poor are always with them, and they cannot alter that.
Lay your treasures up in Heaven -- cling to life and see it through! For it cannot last for ever -- `I shall die some day,' says you.


More great poems below...

Written by Henry Lawson | |

When The `Army Prays For Watty

 When the kindly hours of darkness, save for light of moon and star, 
Hide the picture on the signboard over Doughty's Horse Bazaar; 
When the last rose-tint is fading on the distant mulga scrub, 
Then the Army prays for Watty at the entrance of his pub.
Now, I often sit at Watty's when the night is very near, With a head that's full of jingles and the fumes of bottled beer, For I always have a fancy that, if I am over there When the Army prays for Watty, I'm included in the prayer.
Watty lounges in his arm-chair, in its old accustomed place, With a fatherly expression on his round and passive face; And his arms are clasped before him in a calm, contented way, And he nods his head and dozes when he hears the Army pray.
And I wonder does he ponder on the distant years and dim, Or his chances over yonder, when the Army prays for him? Has he not a fear connected with the warm place down below, Where, according to good Christians, all the publicans should go? But his features give no token of a feeling in his breast, Save of peace that is unbroken and a conscience well at rest; And we guzzle as we guzzled long before the Army came, And the loafers wait for `shouters' and -- they get there just the same.
It would take a lot of praying -- lots of thumping on the drum -- To prepare our sinful, straying, erring souls for Kingdom Come; But I love my fellow-sinners, and I hope, upon the whole, That the Army gets a hearing when it prays for Watty's soul.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

The Great Grey Plain

 Out West, where the stars are brightest, 
Where the scorching north wind blows, 
And the bones of the dead gleam whitest, 
And the sun on a desert glows -- 
Yet within the selfish kingdom 
Where man starves man for gain, 
Where white men tramp for existence -- 
Wide lies the Great Grey Plain.
No break in its awful horizon, No blur in the dazzling haze, Save where by the bordering timber The fierce, white heat-waves blaze, And out where the tank-heap rises Or looms when the sunlights wane, Till it seems like a distant mountain Low down on the Great Grey Plain.
No sign of a stream or fountain, No spring on its dry, hot breast, No shade from the blazing noontide Where a weary man might rest.
Whole years go by when the glowing Sky never clouds for rain -- Only the shrubs of the desert Grow on the Great Grey Plain.
From the camp, while the rich man's dreaming, Come the `traveller' and his mate, In the ghastly dawnlight seeming Like a swagman's ghost out late; And the horseman blurs in the distance, While still the stars remain, A low, faint dust-cloud haunting His track on the Great Grey Plain.
And all day long from before them The mirage smokes away -- That daylight ghost of an ocean Creeps close behind all day With an evil, snake-like motion, As the waves of a madman's brain: 'Tis a phantom NOT like water Out there on the Great Grey Plain.
There's a run on the Western limit Where a man lives like a beast, And a shanty in the mulga That stretches to the East; And the hopeless men who carry Their swags and tramp in pain -- The footmen must not tarry Out there on the Great Grey Plain.
Out West, where the stars are brightest, Where the scorching north wind blows, And the bones of the dead seem whitest, And the sun on a desert glows -- Out back in the hungry distance That brave hearts dare in vain -- Where beggars tramp for existence -- There lies the Great Grey Plain.
'Tis a desert not more barren Than the Great Grey Plain of years, Where a fierce fire burns the hearts of men -- Dries up the fount of tears: Where the victims of a greed insane Are crushed in a hell-born strife -- Where the souls of a race are murdered On the Great Grey Plain of Life!


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Above Eurunderee

 There are scenes in the distance where beauty is not,
On the desolate flats where gaunt appletrees rot.
Where the brooding old ridge rises up to the breeze From his dark lonely gullies of stringy-bark trees, There are voice-haunted gaps, ever sullen and strange, But Eurunderee lies like a gem in the range.
Still I see in my fancy the dark-green and blue Of the box-covered hills where the five-corners grew; And the rugged old sheoaks that sighed in the bend O'er the lily-decked pools where the dark ridges end, And the scrub-covered spurs running down from the Peak To the deep grassy banks of Eurunderee Creek.
On the knolls where the vineyards and fruit-gardens are There's a beauty that even the drought cannot mar; For I noticed it oft, in the days that are lost, As I trod on the siding where lingered the frost, When the shadows of night from the gullies were gone And the hills in the background were flushed by the dawn.
I was there in late years, but there's many a change Where the Cudgegong River flows down through the range, For the curse of the town with the railroad had come, And the goldfields were dead.
And the girl and the chum And the old home were gone, yet the oaks seemed to speak Of the hazy old days on Eurunderee Creek.
And I stood by that creek, ere the sunset grew cold, When the leaves of the sheoaks are traced on the gold, And I thought of old things, and I thought of old folks, Till I sighed in my heart to the sigh of the oaks; For the years waste away like the waters that leak Through the pebbles and sand of Eurunderee Creek.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Mount Bukaroo

 Only one old post is standing -- 
Solid yet, but only one -- 
Where the milking, and the branding, 
And the slaughtering were done.
Later years have brought dejection, Care, and sorrow; but we knew Happy days on that selection Underneath old Bukaroo.
Then the light of day commencing Found us at the gully's head, Splitting timber for the fencing, Stripping bark to roof the shed.
Hands and hearts the labour strengthened; Weariness we never knew, Even when the shadows lengthened Round the base of Bukaroo.
There for days below the paddock How the wilderness would yield To the spade, and pick, and mattock, While we toiled to win the field.
Bronzed hands we used to sully Till they were of darkest hue, `Burning off' down in the gully At the back of Bukaroo.
When we came the baby brother Left in haste his broken toys, Shouted to the busy mother: `Here is dadda and the boys!' Strange it seems that she was able For the work that she would do; How she'd bustle round the table In the hut 'neath Bukaroo! When the cows were safely yarded, And the calves were in the pen, All the cares of day discarded, Closed we round the hut-fire then.
Rang the roof with boyish laughter While the flames o'er-topped the flue; Happy days remembered after -- Far away from Bukaroo.
But the years were full of changes, And a sorrow found us there; For our home amid the ranges Was not safe from searching Care.
On he came, a silent creeper; And another mountain threw O'er our lives a shadow deeper Than the shade of Bukaroo.
All the farm is disappearing; For the home has vanished now, Mountain scrub has choked the clearing, Hid the furrows of the plough.
Nearer still the scrub is creeping Where the little garden grew; And the old folks now are sleeping At the foot of Bukaroo.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Eurunderee

 There are scenes in the distance where beauty is not, 
On the desolate flats where gaunt appletrees rot.
Where the brooding old ridge rises up to the breeze From his dark lonely gullies of stringy-bark trees, There are voice-haunted gaps, ever sullen and strange, But Eurunderee lies like a gem in the range.
Still I see in my fancy the dark-green and blue Of the box-covered hills where the five-corners grew; And the rugged old sheoaks that sighed in the bend O'er the lily-decked pools where the dark ridges end, And the scrub-covered spurs running down from the Peak To the deep grassy banks of Eurunderee Creek.
On the knolls where the vineyards and fruit-gardens are There's a beauty that even the drought cannot mar; For I noticed it oft, in the days that are lost, As I trod on the siding where lingered the frost, When the shadows of night from the gullies were gone And the hills in the background were flushed by the dawn.
I was there in late years, but there's many a change Where the Cudgegong River flows down through the range, For the curse of the town with the railroad had come, And the goldfields were dead.
And the girl and the chum And the old home were gone, yet the oaks seemed to speak Of the hazy old days on Eurunderee Creek.
And I stood by that creek, ere the sunset grew cold, When the leaves of the sheoaks are traced on the gold, And I thought of old things, and I thought of old folks, Till I sighed in my heart to the sigh of the oaks; For the years waste away like the waters that leak Through the pebbles and sand of Eurunderee Creek.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

When the Children Come Home

 On a lonely selection far out in the West 
An old woman works all the day without rest, 
And she croons, as she toils 'neath the sky's glassy dome, 
`Sure I'll keep the ould place till the childer come home.
' She mends all the fences, she grubs, and she ploughs, She drives the old horse and she milks all the cows, And she sings to herself as she thatches the stack, `Sure I'll keep the ould place till the childer come back.
' It is five weary years since her old husband died; And oft as he lay on his deathbed he sighed `Sure one man can bring up ten children, he can, An' it's strange that ten sons cannot keep one old man.
' Whenever the scowling old sundowners come, And cunningly ask if the master's at home, `Be off,' she replies, `with your blarney and cant, Or I'll call my son Andy; he's workin' beyant.
' `Git out,' she replies, though she trembles with fear, For she lives all alone and no neighbours are near; But she says to herself, when she's like to despond, That the boys are at work in the paddock beyond.
Ah, none of her children need follow the plough, And some have grown rich in the city ere now; Yet she says: `They might come when the shearing is done, And I'll keep the ould place if it's only for one.
'


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Sez You

 When the heavy sand is yielding backward from your blistered feet, 
And across the distant timber you can SEE the flowing heat; 
When your head is hot and aching, and the shadeless plain is wide, 
And it's fifteen miles to water in the scrub the other side -- 
Don't give up, don't be down-hearted, to a man's strong heart be true! 
Take the air in through your nostrils, set your lips and see it through -- 
For it can't go on for ever, and -- `I'll have my day!' says you.
When you're camping in the mulga, and the rain is falling slow, While you nurse your rheumatism 'neath a patch of calico; Short of tucker or tobacco, short of sugar or of tea, And the scrubs are dark and dismal, and the plains are like a sea; Don't give up and be down-hearted -- to the soul of man be true! Grin! if you've a mate to grin for, grin and jest and don't look blue; For it can't go on for ever, and -- `I'll rise some day,' says you.
When you've tramped the Sydney pavements till you've counted all the flags, And your flapping boot-soles trip you, and your clothes are mostly rags, When you're called a city loafer, shunned, abused, moved on, despised -- Fifty hungry beggars after every job that's advertised -- Don't be beaten! Hold your head up! To your wretched self be true; Set your pride to fight your hunger! Be a MAN in all you do! For it cannot last for ever -- `I will rise again!' says you.
When you're dossing out in winter, in the darkness and the rain, Crouching, cramped, and cold and hungry 'neath a seat in The Domain, And a cloaked policeman stirs you with that mighty foot of his -- `Phwat d'ye mane? Phwat's this? Who are ye? Come, move on -- git out av this!' Don't get mad; 'twere only foolish; there is nought that you can do, Save to mark his beat and time him -- find another hole or two; But it can't go on for ever -- `I'll have money yet!' says you.
.
.
.
.
.
Bother not about the morrow, for sufficient to the day Is the evil (rather more so).
Put your trust in God and pray! Study well the ant, thou sluggard.
Blessed are the meek and low.
Ponder calmly on the lilies -- how they idle, how they grow.
A man's a man! Obey your masters! Do not blame the proud and fat, For the poor are always with them, and they cannot alter that.
Lay your treasures up in Heaven -- cling to life and see it through! For it cannot last for ever -- `I shall die some day,' says you.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Corny Bill

 His old clay pipe stuck in his mouth, 
His hat pushed from his brow, 
His dress best fitted for the South -- 
I think I see him now; 
And when the city streets are still, 
And sleep upon me comes, 
I often dream that me an' Bill 
Are humpin' of our drums.
I mind the time when first I came A stranger to the land; And I was stumped, an' sick, an' lame When Bill took me in hand.
Old Bill was what a chap would call A friend in poverty, And he was very kind to all, And very good to me.
We'd camp beneath the lonely trees And sit beside the blaze, A-nursin' of our wearied knees, A-smokin' of our clays.
Or when we'd journeyed damp an' far, An' clouds were in the skies, We'd camp in some old shanty bar, And sit a-tellin' lies.
Though time had writ upon his brow And rubbed away his curls, He always was -- an' may be now -- A favourite with the girls; I've heard bush-wimmin scream an' squall -- I've see'd 'em laugh until They could not do their work at all, Because of Corny Bill.
He was the jolliest old pup As ever you did see, And often at some bush kick-up They'd make old Bill M.
C.
He'd make them dance and sing all night, He'd make the music hum, But he'd be gone at mornin' light A-humpin' of his drum.
Though joys of which the poet rhymes Was not for Bill an' me, I think we had some good old times Out on the wallaby.
I took a wife and left off rum, An' camped beneath a roof; But Bill preferred to hump his drum A-paddin' of the hoof.
The lazy, idle loafers what In toney houses camp Would call old Bill a drunken sot, A loafer, or a tramp; But if the dead should ever dance -- As poets say they will -- I think I'd rather take my chance Along of Corny Bill.
His long life's-day is nearly o'er, Its shades begin to fall; He soon must mount his bluey for The last long tramp of all; I trust that when, in bush an' town, He's lived and learnt his fill, They'll let the golden slip-rails down For poor old Corny Bill.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

The Wander-Light

 And they heard the tent-poles clatter, 
And the fly in twain was torn – 
'Tis the soiled rag of a tatter 
Of the tent where I was born.
And what matters it, I wonder? Brick or stone or calico? – Or a bush you were born under, When it happened long ago? And my beds were camp beds and tramp beds and damp beds, And my beds were dry beds on drought-stricken ground, Hard beds and soft beds, and wide beds and narrow – For my beds were strange beds the wide world round.
And the old hag seemed to ponder ('Twas my mother told me so), And she said that I would wander Where but few would think to go.
"He will fly the haunts of tailors, He will cross the ocean wide, For his fathers, they were sailors All on his good father's side.
" Behind me, before me, Oh! my roads are stormy The thunder of skies and the sea's sullen sound, The coaster or liner, the English or foreign, The state-room or steerage the wide world round.
And the old hag she seemed troubled As she bent above the bed, "He will dream things and he'll see things To come true when he is dead.
He will see things all too plainly, And his fellows will deride, For his mothers they were gipsies All on his good mother's side.
" And my dreams are strange dreams, are day dreams, are grey dreams, And my dreams are wild dreams, and old dreams and new; They haunt me and daunt me with fears of the morrow – My brothers they doubt me – but my dreams come true.
And so I was born of fathers From where ice-bound harbours are Men whose strong limbs never rested And whose blue eyes saw afar.
Till, for gold, one left the ocean, Seeking over plain and hill; And so I was born of mothers Whose deep minds were never still.
I rest not, 'tis best not, the world is a wide one And, caged for an hour, I pace to and fro; I see things and dree things and plan while I'm sleeping, I wander for ever and dream as I go.
I have stood by Table Mountain On the Lion at Capetown, And I watched the sunset fading From the roads that I marked down, And I looked out with my brothers From the heights behind Bombay, Gazing north and west and eastward, Over roads I'll tread some day.
For my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low; I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

The Paroo

 It was a week from Christmas-time, 
As near as I remember, 
And half a year since, in the rear, 
We'd left the Darling timber.
The track was hot and more than drear; The day dragged out for ever; But now we knew that we were near Our camp - the Paroo River.
With blighted eyes and blistered feet, With stomachs out of order, Half-mad with flies and dust and heat We'd crossed the Queensland border.
I longed to hear a stream go by And see the circles quiver; I longed to lay me down and die That night on Paroo River.
The "nose-bags" heavy on each chest (God bless one kindly squatter!), With grateful weight our hearts they pressed - We only wanted water.
The sun was setting in a spray Of colour like a liver - We'd fondly hoped to camp and stay That night by Paroo River.
A cloud was on my mate's broad brow, And once I heard him mutter: 'What price the good old Darling now? - God bless that grand old gutter!" And then he stopped and slowly said In tones that made me shiver: "It cannot well be on ahead - I think we've crossed the river.
" But soon we saw a strip of ground Beside the track we followed, No damper than the surface round, But just a little hollowed.
His brow assumed a thoughtful frown - This speech did he deliver: "I wonder if we'd best go down Or up the blessed river?" "But where," said I, " 's the blooming stream?' And he replied, 'we're at it!" I stood awhile, as in a dream, "Great Scott!" I cried, "is that it? Why, that is some old bridle-track!" He chuckled, "Well, I never! It's plain you've never been Out Back - This is the Paroo River!"


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Scots of the Riverina

 The boy cleared out to the city from his home at harvest time -- 
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned, And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife's back was turned.
A year went past and another.
There were calls from the firing-line; They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai -- They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.
The boy came home on his "final", and the township's bonfire burned.
His mother's arms were about him; but the old man's back was turned.
The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand -- A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.
The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai; But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk -- There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk.
The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned; And the old man died at the table when the old wife's back was turned.
Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair Outspread o'er the open Bible and a name re-written there.


Written by Henry Lawson | |

Dan The Wreck

 Tall, and stout, and solid-looking, 
Yet a wreck; 
None would think Death's finger's hooking 
Him from deck.
Cause of half the fun that's started -- `Hard-case' Dan -- Isn't like a broken-hearted, Ruined man.
Walking-coat from tail to throat is Frayed and greened -- Like a man whose other coat is Being cleaned; Gone for ever round the edging Past repair -- Waistcoat pockets frayed with dredging After `sprats' no longer there.
Wearing summer boots in June, or Slippers worn and old -- Like a man whose other shoon are Getting soled.
Pants? They're far from being recent -- But, perhaps, I'd better not -- Says they are the only decent Pair he's got.
And his hat, I am afraid, is Troubling him -- Past all lifting to the ladies By the brim.
But, although he'd hardly strike a Girl, would Dan, Yet he wears his wreckage like a Gentleman! Once -- no matter how the rest dressed -- Up or down -- Once, they say, he was the best-dressed Man in town.
Must have been before I knew him -- Now you'd scarcely care to meet And be noticed talking to him In the street.
Drink the cause, and dissipation, That is clear -- Maybe friend or kind relation Cause of beer.
And the talking fool, who never Reads or thinks, Says, from hearsay: `Yes, he's clever; But, you know, he drinks.
' Been an actor and a writer -- Doesn't whine -- Reckoned now the best reciter In his line.
Takes the stage at times, and fills it -- `Princess May' or `Waterloo'.
Raise a sneer! -- his first line kills it, `Brings 'em', too.
Where he lives, or how, or wherefore No one knows; Lost his real friends, and therefore Lost his foes.
Had, no doubt, his own romances -- Met his fate; Tortured, doubtless, by the chances And the luck that comes too late.
Now and then his boots are polished, Collar clean, And the worst grease stains abolished By ammonia or benzine: Hints of some attempt to shove him From the taps, Or of someone left to love him -- Sister, p'r'aps.
After all, he is a grafter, Earns his cheer -- Keeps the room in roars of laughter When he gets outside a beer.
Yarns that would fall flat from others He can tell; How he spent his `stuff', my brothers, You know well.
Manner puts a man in mind of Old club balls and evening dress, Ugly with a handsome kind of Ugliness.
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.
.
.
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One of those we say of often, While hearts swell, Standing sadly by the coffin: `He looks well.
' .
.
.
.
.
We may be -- so goes a rumour -- Bad as Dan; But we may not have the humour Of the man; Nor the sight -- well, deem it blindness, As the general public do -- And the love of human kindness, Or the GRIT to see it through!