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Best Famous Henry Lawson Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Henry Lawson poems. This is a select list of the best famous Henry Lawson poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Henry Lawson poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Henry Lawson poems.

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Written by Henry Lawson |

Ill tell you what you Wanderers

 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.

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Men We Might Have Been

 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.

Written by Henry Lawson |

To Be Amused

 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!

More great poems below...

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Cockney Soul

 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!")

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Ballad Of The Drover

 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.
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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.

Written by Henry Lawson |

In the Street

 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!

Written by Henry Lawson |

Victory

 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!

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Shame of Going Back

 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.

Written by Henry Lawson |

On the March

 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!

Written by Henry Lawson |

In the Storm that is to come

 By our place in the midst of the furthest seas we were fated to stand alone -
When the nations fly at each other's throats let Australia look to her own;
Let her spend her gold on the barren west, let her keep her men at home;
For the South must look to the South for strength in the storm that is to come.
Now who shall gallop from cape to cape, and who shall defend our shores - The crowd that stand on the kerb agape and glares at the cricket scores? And who will hold the invader back when the shells tear up the ground - The weeds that yelp by the cycling track while a nigger scorches round? There may be many to man the forts in the big towns beside the sea - But the East will call to the West for scouts in the storm that is to be: The West cries out to the East in drought, but the coastal towns are dumb; And the East must look to the West for food in the war that is to come.
The rain comes down on the Western land and the rivers run to waste, When the city folk rush for the special tram in their childless, senseless haste, And never a pile of a lock we drive - but a few mean tanks we scratch - For the fate of a nation is nought compared with the turn of a cricket match! There's a gutter of mud where there spread a flood from the land-long western creeks, There is dust and drought on the plains far out where the water lay for weeks, There's a pitiful dam where a dyke should stretch and a tank where a lake should be, And the rain goes down through the silt and sand and the floods waste into the seas.
We'll fight for Britain or for Japan, we will fling the land's wealth out; While every penny and every man should be used to fight the drought.
God helps the nation that helps itself, and the water brings the rain, And a deadlier foe than the world could send is loose on the western plain.
I saw a vision in days gone by and would dream that dream again Of the days when the Darling shall not back her billabongs up in vain.
There were reservoirs and grand canals where the Dry Country had been, And a glorious network of aqueducts, and the fields were always green.
I have seen so long in the land I love what the land I love might be, Where the Darling rises from Queensland rains and the floods run into the sea.
And it is our fate that we'll wake to late to the truth that we were blind, With a foreign foe at our harbour gate and a blazing drought behind!

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Wreck Of The `Derry Castle

 Day of ending for beginnings! 
Ocean hath another innings, 
Ocean hath another score; 
And the surges sing his winnings, 
And the surges shout his winnings, 
And the surges shriek his winnings, 
All along the sullen shore.
Sing another dirge in wailing, For another vessel sailing With the shadow-ships at sea; Shadow-ships for ever sinking -- Shadow-ships whose pumps are clinking, And whose thirsty holds are drinking Pledges to Eternity.
Pray for souls of ghastly, sodden Corpses, floating round untrodden Cliffs, where nought but sea-drift strays; Souls of dead men, in whose faces Of humanity no trace is -- Not a mark to show their races -- Floating round for days and days.
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Ocean's salty tongues are licking Round the faces of the drowned, And a cruel blade seems sticking Through my heart and turning round.
Heaven! shall HIS ghastly, sodden Corpse float round for days and days? Shall it dash 'neath cliffs untrodden, Rocks where nought but sea-drift strays? God in heaven! hide the floating, Falling, rising, face from me; God in heaven! stay the gloating, Mocking singing of the sea!

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Roaring Days

 The night too quickly passes 
And we are growing old, 
So let us fill our glasses 
And toast the Days of Gold; 
When finds of wondrous treasure 
Set all the South ablaze, 
And you and I were faithful mates 
All through the roaring days! 

Then stately ships came sailing 
From every harbour's mouth, 
And sought the land of promise 
That beaconed in the South; 
Then southward streamed their streamers 
And swelled their canvas full 
To speed the wildest dreamers 
E'er borne in vessel's hull.
Their shining Eldorado, Beneath the southern skies, Was day and night for ever Before their eager eyes.
The brooding bush, awakened, Was stirred in wild unrest, And all the year a human stream Went pouring to the West.
The rough bush roads re-echoed The bar-room's noisy din, When troops of stalwart horsemen Dismounted at the inn.
And oft the hearty greetings And hearty clasp of hands Would tell of sudden meetings Of friends from other lands; When, puzzled long, the new-chum Would recognise at last, Behind a bronzed and bearded skin, A comrade of the past.
And when the cheery camp-fire Explored the bush with gleams, The camping-grounds were crowded With caravans of teams; Then home the jests were driven, And good old songs were sung, And choruses were given The strength of heart and lung.
Oh, they were lion-hearted Who gave our country birth! Oh, they were of the stoutest sons From all the lands on earth! Oft when the camps were dreaming, And fires began to pale, Through rugged ranges gleaming Would come the Royal Mail.
Behind six foaming horses, And lit by flashing lamps, Old `Cobb and Co.
's', in royal state, Went dashing past the camps.
Oh, who would paint a goldfield, And limn the picture right, As we have often seen it In early morning's light; The yellow mounds of mullock With spots of red and white, The scattered quartz that glistened Like diamonds in light; The azure line of ridges, The bush of darkest green, The little homes of calico That dotted all the scene.
I hear the fall of timber From distant flats and fells, The pealing of the anvils As clear as little bells, The rattle of the cradle, The clack of windlass-boles, The flutter of the crimson flags Above the golden holes.
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Ah, then our hearts were bolder, And if Dame Fortune frowned Our swags we'd lightly shoulder And tramp to other ground.
But golden days are vanished, And altered is the scene; The diggings are deserted, The camping-grounds are green; The flaunting flag of progress Is in the West unfurled, The mighty bush with iron rails Is tethered to the world.

Written by Henry Lawson |

How the Land was Won

 The future was dark and the past was dead 
As they gazed on the sea once more – 
But a nation was born when the immigrants said 
"Good-bye!" as they stepped ashore! 
In their loneliness they were parted thus 
Because of the work to do, 
A wild wide land to be won for us 
By hearts and hands so few.
The darkest land 'neath a blue sky's dome, And the widest waste on earth; The strangest scenes and the least like home In the lands of our fathers' birth; The loneliest land in the wide world then, And away on the furthest seas, A land most barren of life for men – And they won it by twos and threes! With God, or a dog, to watch, they slept By the camp-fires' ghastly glow, Where the scrubs were dark as the blacks that crept With "nulla" and spear held low; Death was hidden amongst the trees, And bare on the glaring sand They fought and perished by twos and threes – And that's how they won the land! It was two that failed by the dry creek bed, While one reeled on alone – The dust of Australia's greatest dead With the dust of the desert blown! Gaunt cheek-bones cracking the parchment skin That scorched in the blazing sun, Black lips that broke in a ghastly grin – And that's how the land was won! Starvation and toil on the tracks they went, And death by the lonely way; The childbirth under the tilt or tent, The childbirth under the dray! The childbirth out in the desolate hut With a half-wild gin for nurse – That's how the first were born to bear The brunt of the first man's curse! They toiled and they fought through the shame of it – Through wilderness, flood, and drought; They worked, in the struggles of early days, Their sons' salvation out.
The white girl-wife in the hut alone, The men on the boundless run, The miseries suffered, unvoiced, unknown – And that's how the land was won.
No armchair rest for the old folk then – But, ruined by blight and drought, They blazed the tracks to the camps again In the big scrubs further out.
The worn haft, wet with a father's sweat, Gripped hard by the eldest son, The boy's back formed to the hump of toil – And that's how the land was won! And beyond Up Country, beyond Out Back, And the rainless belt, they ride, The currency lad and the ne'er-do-well And the black sheep, side by side; In wheeling horizons of endless haze That disk through the Great North-west, They ride for ever by twos and by threes – And that's how they win the rest.

Written by Henry Lawson |

From the Bush

 The Channel fog has lifted – 
And see where we have come! 
Round all the world we've drifted, 
A hundred years from "home".
The fields our parents longed for – Ah! we shall ne'er know how – The wealth that they were wronged for We'll see as strangers now! The Dover cliffs have passed on – In the morning light aglow – That our fathers looked their last on A weary time ago.
Now grin, and grin your bravest! We need be strong to fight; For you go home to picture And I go home to write.
Hold up your head in England, Tread firm on London streets; We come from where the strong heart Of all Australia beats! Hold up your head in England However poor you roam! For no men are your betters Who never sailed from home! From a hundred years of hardships – 'Tis ours to tell the cost – From a thousand miles of silence Where London would be lost; From where the glorious sunset On sweeps of mulga glows – Ah! we know more than England, And more than Europe knows! Hold up your head in London, However poor you come, For no man is your better Who never sailed from home! Our "home" and foreign fathers, Where none but men dared go, Have done more for the White Man Than England e'er shall know!

Written by Henry Lawson |

The Shearers

 No church-bell rings them from the Track,
No pulpit lights theirblindness--
'Tis hardship, drought, and homelessness
That teach those Bushmen kindness:
The mateship born, in barren lands,
Of toil and thirst and danger,
The camp-fare for the wanderer set,
The first place to the stranger.
They do the best they can to-day-- Take no thought of the morrow; Their way is not the old-world way-- They live to lend and borrow.
When shearing's done and cheques gone wrong, They call it "time to slither"-- They saddle up and say "So-long!" And ride the Lord knows whither.
And though he may be brown or black, Or wrong man there, or right man, The mate that's steadfast to his mates They call that man a "white man!" They tramp in mateship side by side-- The Protestant and Roman-- They call no biped lord or sir, And touch their hat to no man! They carry in their swags perhaps, A portrait and a letter-- And, maybe, deep down in their hearts, The hope of "something better.
" Where lonely miles are long to ride, And long, hot days recurrent, There's lots of time to think of men They might have been--but weren't.
They turn their faces to the west And leave the world behind them (Their drought-dry graves are seldom set Where even mates can find them).
They know too little of the world To rise to wealth or greatness; But in these lines I gladly pay My tribute to their greatness.