Henry Lawson | |
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.
Henry Lawson | |
We boast no more of our bloodless flag, that rose from a nation's slime;
Better a shred of a deep-dyed rag from the storms of the olden time.
From grander clouds in our `peaceful skies' than ever were there before
I tell you the Star of the South shall rise -- in the lurid clouds of war.
It ever must be while blood is warm and the sons of men increase;
For ever the nations rose in storm, to rot in a deadly peace.
There comes a point that we will not yield, no matter if right or wrong,
And man will fight on the battle-field
while passion and pride are strong --
So long as he will not kiss the rod, and his stubborn spirit sours,
And the scorn of Nature and curse of God are heavy on peace like ours.
There are boys out there by the western creeks, who hurry away from school
To climb the sides of the breezy peaks or dive in the shaded pool,
Who'll stick to their guns when the mountains quake
to the tread of a mighty war,
And fight for Right or a Grand Mistake as men never fought before;
When the peaks are scarred and the sea-walls crack
till the furthest hills vibrate,
And the world for a while goes rolling back in a storm of love and hate.
There are boys to-day in the city slum and the home of wealth and pride
Who'll have one home when the storm is come, and fight for it side by side,
Who'll hold the cliffs 'gainst the armoured hells
that batter a coastal town,
Or grimly die in a hail of shells when the walls come crashing down.
And many a pink-white baby girl, the queen of her home to-day,
Shall see the wings of the tempest whirl the mist of our dawn away --
Shall live to shudder and stop her ears to the thud of the distant gun,
And know the sorrow that has no tears when a battle is lost and won, --
As a mother or wife in the years to come, will kneel, wild-eyed and white,
And pray to God in her darkened home for the `men in the fort to-night'.
But, oh! if the cavalry charge again as they did when the world was wide,
'Twill be grand in the ranks of a thousand men
in that glorious race to ride
And strike for all that is true and strong,
for all that is grand and brave,
And all that ever shall be, so long as man has a soul to save.
He must lift the saddle, and close his `wings', and shut his angels out,
And steel his heart for the end of things,
who'd ride with a stockman scout,
When the race they ride on the battle track, and the waning distance hums,
And the shelled sky shrieks or the rifles crack
like stockwhip amongst the gums --
And the `straight' is reached and the field is `gapped'
and the hoof-torn sward grows red
With the blood of those who are handicapped with iron and steel and lead;
And the gaps are filled, though unseen by eyes,
with the spirit and with the shades
Of the world-wide rebel dead who'll rise and rush with the Bush Brigades.
All creeds and trades will have soldiers there --
give every class its due --
And there'll be many a clerk to spare for the pride of the jackeroo.
They'll fight for honour and fight for love, and a few will fight for gold,
For the devil below and for God above, as our fathers fought of old;
And some half-blind with exultant tears, and some stiff-lipped, stern-eyed,
For the pride of a thousand after-years and the old eternal pride;
The soul of the world they will feel and see
in the chase and the grim retreat --
They'll know the glory of victory -- and the grandeur of defeat.
The South will wake to a mighty change ere a hundred years are done
With arsenals west of the mountain range and every spur its gun.
And many a rickety son of a gun, on the tides of the future tossed,
Will tell how battles were really won that History says were lost,
Will trace the field with his pipe, and shirk
the facts that are hard to explain,
As grey old mates of the diggings work the old ground over again --
How `this was our centre, and this a redoubt,
and that was a scrub in the rear,
And this was the point where the guards held out,
and the enemy's lines were here.
They'll tell the tales of the nights before
and the tales of the ship and fort
Till the sons of Australia take to war as their fathers took to sport,
Their breath come deep and their eyes grow bright
at the tales of our chivalry,
And every boy will want to fight, no matter what cause it be --
When the children run to the doors and cry:
`Oh, mother, the troops are come!'
And every heart in the town leaps high at the first loud thud of the drum.
They'll know, apart from its mystic charm, what music is at last,
When, proud as a boy with a broken arm, the regiment marches past.
And the veriest wreck in the drink-fiend's clutch,
no matter how low or mean,
Will feel, when he hears the march, a touch
of the man that he might have been.
And fools, when the fiends of war are out and the city skies aflame,
Will have something better to talk about than an absent woman's shame,
Will have something nobler to do by far than jest at a friend's expense,
Or blacken a name in a public bar or over a backyard fence.
And this you learn from the libelled past,
though its methods were somewhat rude --
A nation's born where the shells fall fast, or its lease of life renewed.
We in part atone for the ghoulish strife,
and the crimes of the peace we boast,
And the better part of a people's life in the storm comes uppermost.
The self-same spirit that drives the man to the depths of drink and crime
Will do the deeds in the heroes' van that live till the end of time.
The living death in the lonely bush, the greed of the selfish town,
And even the creed of the outlawed push is chivalry -- upside down.
'Twill be while ever our blood is hot, while ever the world goes wrong,
The nations rise in a war, to rot in a peace that lasts too long.
And southern nation and southern state, aroused from their dream of ease,
Must sign in the Book of Eternal Fate their stormy histories.
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 | |
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!
Henry Lawson | |
One day old Trooper Campbell
Rode out to Blackman's Run,
His cap-peak and his sabre
Were glancing in the sun.
'Twas New Year's Eve, and slowly
Across the ridges low
The sad Old Year was drifting
To where the old years go.
The trooper's mind was reading
The love-page of his life --
His love for Mary Wylie
Ere she was Blackman's wife;
He sorrowed for the sorrows
Of the heart a rival won,
For he knew that there was trouble
Out there on Blackman's Run.
The sapling shades had lengthened,
The summer day was late,
When Blackman met the trooper
Beyond the homestead gate.
And if the hand of trouble
Can leave a lasting trace,
The lines of care had come to stay
On poor old Blackman's face.
`Not good day, Trooper Campbell,
It's a bad, bad day for me --
You are of all the men on earth
The one I wished to see.
The great black clouds of trouble
Above our homestead hang;
That wild and reckless boy of mine
Has joined M'Durmer's gang.
`Oh! save him, save him, Campbell!
I beg in friendship's name!
For if they take and hang him,
The wife would die of shame.
Could Mary or her sisters
Hold up their heads again,
And face a woman's malice
Or claim the love of men?
`And if he does a murder
'Twere better we were dead.
Don't take him, Trooper Campbell,
If a price be on his head;
But shoot him! shoot him, Campbell,
When you meet him face to face,
And save him from the gallows,
And us from that disgrace.
`Now, Tom,' cried Trooper Campbell,
`You know your words are wild.
Though he is wild and reckless,
Yet still he is your child;
So bear up in your trouble,
And meet it like a man,
And tell the wife and daughters
I'll save him if I can.
The sad Australian sunset
Had faded from the west;
But night brings darker shadows
To hearts that cannot rest;
And Blackman's wife sat rocking
And moaning in her chair.
`I cannot bear disgrace,' she moaned;
`Disgrace I cannot bear.
`In hardship and in trouble
I struggled year by year
To make my children better
Than other children here.
And if my son's a felon
How can I show my face?
I cannot bear disgrace; my God,
I cannot bear disgrace!
`Ah, God in Heaven pardon!
I'm selfish in my woe --
My boy is better-hearted
Than many that I know.
And I will face the world's disgrace,
And, till his mother's dead,
My foolish child shall find a place
To lay his outlawed head.
With a sad heart Trooper Campbell
Rode back from Blackman's Run,
Nor noticed aught about him
Till thirteen miles were done;
When, close beside a cutting,
He heard the click of locks,
And saw the rifle muzzles
Were on him from the rocks.
But suddenly a youth rode out,
And, close by Campbell's side:
`Don't fire! don't fire, in heaven's name!
It's Campbell, boys!' he cried.
Then one by one in silence
The levelled rifles fell,
For who'd shoot Trooper Campbell
Of those who knew him well?
Oh, bravely sat old Campbell,
No sign of fear showed he.
He slowly drew his carbine;
It rested by his knee.
The outlaws' guns were lifted,
But none the silence broke,
Till steadfastly and firmly
Old Trooper Campbell spoke.
`That boy that you would ruin
Goes home with me, my men;
Or some of us shall never
Ride through the Gap again.
You know old Trooper Campbell,
And have you ever heard
That bluff or lead could turn him,
That e'er he broke his word?
`That reckless lad is playing
A heartless villain's part;
He knows that he is breaking
His poor old mother's heart.
He'll bring a curse upon himself;
But 'tis not that alone,
He'll bring dishonour to a name
That I'D be proud to own.
`I speak to you, M'Durmer, --
If your heart's not hardened quite,
And if you'd seen the trouble
At Blackman's home this night,
You'd help me now, M'Durmer --
I speak as man to man --
I swore to save that foolish lad,
And I'll save him if I can.
`Oh, take him!' said M'Durmer,
`He's got a horse to ride.
The youngster thought a moment,
Then rode to Campbell's side --
`Good-bye!' the outlaws shouted,
As up the range they sped.
`A Merry New Year, Campbell,'
Was all M'Durmer said.
Then fast along the ridges
Two bushmen rode a race,
And the moonlight lent a glory
To Trooper Campbell's face.
And ere the new year's dawning
They reached the home at last;
And this is but a story
Of trouble that is past!
Henry Lawson | |
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.
Henry Lawson | |
So you're writing for a paper? Well, it's nothing very new
To be writing yards of drivel for a tidy little screw;
You are young and educated, and a clever chap you are,
But you'll never run a paper like the CAMBAROORA STAR.
Though in point of education I am nothing but a dunce,
I myself -- you mayn't believe it -- helped to run a paper once
With a chap on Cambaroora, by the name of Charlie Brown,
And I'll tell you all about it if you'll take the story down.
On a golden day in summer, when the sunrays were aslant,
Brown arrived in Cambaroora with a little printing plant
And his worldly goods and chattels -- rather damaged on the way --
And a weary-looking woman who was following the dray.
He had bought an empty humpy, and, instead of getting tight,
Why, the diggers heard him working like a lunatic all night:
And next day a sign of canvas, writ in characters of tar,
Claimed the humpy as the office of the CAMBAROORA STAR.
Well, I cannot read, that's honest, but I had a digger friend
Who would read the paper to me from the title to the end;
And the STAR contained a leader running thieves and spielers down,
With a slap against claim-jumping, and a poem made by Brown.
Once I showed it to a critic, and he said 'twas very fine,
Though he wasn't long in finding glaring faults in every line;
But it was a song of Freedom -- all the clever critic said
Couldn't stop that song from ringing, ringing, ringing in my head.
So I went where Brown was working in his little hut hard by:
`My old mate has been a-reading of your writings, Brown,' said I --
`I have studied on your leader, I agree with what you say,
You have struck the bed-rock certain, and there ain't no get-away;
Your paper's just the thumper for a young and growing land,
And your principles is honest, Brown; I want to shake your hand,
And if there's any lumping in connection with the STAR,
Well, I'll find the time to do it, and I'll help you -- there you are!'
Brown was every inch a digger (bronzed and bearded in the South),
But there seemed a kind of weakness round the corners of his mouth
When he took the hand I gave him; and he gripped it like a vice,
While he tried his best to thank me, and he stuttered once or twice.
But there wasn't need for talking -- we'd the same old loves and hates,
And we understood each other -- Charlie Brown and I were mates.
So we worked a little `paddock' on a place they called the `Bar',
And we sank a shaft together, and at night we worked the STAR.
Charlie thought and did his writing when his work was done at night,
And the missus used to `set' it near as quick as he could write.
Well, I didn't shirk my promise, and I helped the thing, I guess,
For at night I worked the lever of the crazy printing-press;
Brown himself would do the feeding, and the missus used to `fly' --
She is flying with the angels, if there's justice up on high,
For she died on Cambaroora when the STAR began to go,
And was buried like the diggers buried diggers long ago.
Lord, that press! It was a jumper -- we could seldom get it right,
And were lucky if we averaged a hundred in the night.
Many nights we'd sit together in the windy hut and fold,
And I helped the thing a little when I struck a patch of gold;
And we battled for the diggers as the papers seldom do,
Though when the diggers errored, why, we touched the diggers too.
Yet the paper took the fancy of that roaring mining town,
And the diggers sent a nugget with their sympathy to Brown.
Oft I sat and smoked beside him in the listening hours of night,
When the shadows from the corners seemed to gather round the light --
When his weary, aching fingers, closing stiffly round the pen,
Wrote defiant truth in language that could touch the hearts of men --
Wrote until his eyelids shuddered -- wrote until the East was grey:
Wrote the stern and awful lessons that were taught him in his day;
And they knew that he was honest, and they read his smallest par,
For I think the diggers' Bible was the CAMBAROORA STAR.
Diggers then had little mercy for the loafer and the scamp --
If there wasn't law and order, there was justice in the camp;
And the manly independence that is found where diggers are
Had a sentinel to guard it in the CAMBAROORA STAR.
There was strife about the Chinamen, who came in days of old
Like a swarm of thieves and loafers when the diggers found the gold --
Like the sneaking fortune-hunters who are always found behind,
And who only shepherd diggers till they track them to the `find'.
Charlie wrote a slinging leader, calling on his digger mates,
And he said: `We think that Chinkies are as bad as syndicates.
What's the good of holding meetings where you only talk and swear?
Get a move upon the Chinkies when you've got an hour to spare.
It was nine o'clock next morning when the Chows began to swarm,
But they weren't so long in going, for the diggers' blood was warm.
Then the diggers held a meeting, and they shouted: `Hip hoorar!
Give three ringing cheers, my hearties, for the CAMBAROORA STAR.
But the Cambaroora petered, and the diggers' sun went down,
And another sort of people came and settled in the town;
The reefing was conducted by a syndicate or two,
And they changed the name to `Queensville', for their blood was very blue.
They wanted Brown to help them put the feathers in their nests,
But his leaders went like thunder for their vested interests,
And he fought for right and justice and he raved about the dawn
Of the reign of Man and Reason till his ads.
were all withdrawn.
He was offered shares for nothing in the richest of the mines,
And he could have made a fortune had he run on other lines;
They abused him for his leaders, and they parodied his rhymes,
And they told him that his paper was a mile behind the times.
`Let the times alone,' said Charlie, `they're all right, you needn't fret;
For I started long before them, and they haven't caught me yet.
But,' says he to me, `they're coming, and they're not so very far --
Though I left the times behind me they are following the STAR.
`Let them do their worst,' said Charlie, `but I'll never drop the reins
While a single scrap of paper or an ounce of ink remains:
I've another truth to tell them, though they tread me in the dirt,
And I'll print another issue if I print it on my shirt.
So we fought the battle bravely, and we did our very best
Just to make the final issue quite as lively as the rest.
And the swells in Cambaroora talked of feathers and of tar
When they read the final issue of the CAMBAROORA STAR.
Gold is stronger than the tongue is -- gold is stronger than the pen:
They'd have squirmed in Cambaroora had I found a nugget then;
But in vain we scraped together every penny we could get,
For they fixed us with their boycott, and the plant was seized for debt.
'Twas a storekeeper who did it, and he sealed the paper's doom,
Though we gave him ads.
for nothing when the STAR began to boom:
'Twas a paltry bill for tucker, and the crawling, sneaking clown
Sold the debt for twice its value to the men who hated Brown.
I was digging up the river, and I swam the flooded bend
With a little cash and comfort for my literary friend.
Brown was sitting sad and lonely with his head bowed in despair,
While a single tallow candle threw a flicker on his hair,
And the gusty wind that whistled through the crannies of the door
Stirred the scattered files of paper that were lying on the floor.
Charlie took my hand in silence -- and by-and-by he said:
`Tom, old mate, we did our damnedest, but the brave old STAR is dead.
Then he stood up on a sudden, with a face as pale as death,
And he gripped my hand a moment, while he seemed to fight for breath:
`Tom, old friend,' he said, `I'm going, and I'm ready to -- to start,
For I know that there is something -- something crooked with my heart.
Tom, my first child died.
I loved her even better than the pen --
Tom -- and while the STAR was dying, why, I felt like I did THEN.
Listen! Like the distant thunder of the rollers on the bar --
Listen, Tom! I hear the -- diggers -- shouting: `Bully for the STAR!''
Henry Lawson | |
It was somewhere in September, and the sun was going down,
When I came, in search of `copy', to a Darling-River town;
`Come-and-have-a-drink' we'll call it -- 'tis a fitting name, I think --
And 'twas raining, for a wonder, up at Come-and-have-a-drink.
'Neath the public-house verandah I was resting on a bunk
When a stranger rose before me, and he said that he was drunk;
He apologised for speaking; there was no offence, he swore;
But he somehow seemed to fancy that he'd seen my face before.
`No erfence,' he said.
I told him that he needn't mention it,
For I might have met him somewhere; I had travelled round a bit,
And I knew a lot of fellows in the bush and in the streets --
But a fellow can't remember all the fellows that he meets.
Very old and thin and dirty were the garments that he wore,
Just a shirt and pair of trousers, and a boot, and nothing more;
He was wringing-wet, and really in a sad and sinful plight,
And his hat was in his left hand, and a bottle in his right.
His brow was broad and roomy, but its lines were somewhat harsh,
And a sensual mouth was hidden by a drooping, fair moustache;
(His hairy chest was open to what poets call the `wined',
And I would have bet a thousand that his pants were gone behind).
He agreed: `Yer can't remember all the chaps yer chance to meet,'
And he said his name was Sweeney -- people lived in Sussex-street.
He was campin' in a stable, but he swore that he was right,
`Only for the blanky horses walkin' over him all night.
He'd apparently been fighting, for his face was black-and-blue,
And he looked as though the horses had been treading on him, too;
But an honest, genial twinkle in the eye that wasn't hurt
Seemed to hint of something better, spite of drink and rags and dirt.
It appeared that he mistook me for a long-lost mate of his --
One of whom I was the image, both in figure and in phiz --
(He'd have had a letter from him if the chap were living still,
For they'd carried swags together from the Gulf to Broken Hill.
Sweeney yarned awhile and hinted that his folks were doing well,
And he told me that his father kept the Southern Cross Hotel;
And I wondered if his absence was regarded as a loss
When he left the elder Sweeney -- landlord of the Southern Cross.
He was born in Parramatta, and he said, with humour grim,
That he'd like to see the city ere the liquor finished him,
But he couldn't raise the money.
He was damned if he could think
What the Government was doing.
Here he offered me a drink.
I declined -- 'TWAS self-denial -- and I lectured him on booze,
Using all the hackneyed arguments that preachers mostly use;
Things I'd heard in temperance lectures (I was young and rather green),
And I ended by referring to the man he might have been.
Then a wise expression struggled with the bruises on his face,
Though his argument had scarcely any bearing on the case:
`What's the good o' keepin' sober? Fellers rise and fellers fall;
What I might have been and wasn't doesn't trouble me at all.
But he couldn't stay to argue, for his beer was nearly gone.
He was glad, he said, to meet me, and he'd see me later on;
He guessed he'd have to go and get his bottle filled again,
And he gave a lurch and vanished in the darkness and the rain.
And of afternoons in cities, when the rain is on the land,
Visions come to me of Sweeney with his bottle in his hand,
With the stormy night behind him, and the pub verandah-post --
And I wonder why he haunts me more than any other ghost.
Still I see the shearers drinking at the township in the scrub,
And the army praying nightly at the door of every pub,
And the girls who flirt and giggle with the bushmen from the west --
But the memory of Sweeney overshadows all the rest.
Well, perhaps, it isn't funny; there were links between us two --
He had memories of cities, he had been a jackeroo;
And, perhaps, his face forewarned me of a face that I might see
From a bitter cup reflected in the wretched days to be.
I suppose he's tramping somewhere where the bushmen carry swags,
Cadging round the wretched stations with his empty tucker-bags;
And I fancy that of evenings, when the track is growing dim,
What he `might have been and wasn't' comes along and troubles him.
Henry Lawson | |
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.
Henry Lawson | |
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.