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Best Famous Henry Lawson Poems

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Written by Henry Lawson | Create an image from this poem

A Song of Brave Men

 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.

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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 | Create an image from this poem

The Iron Wedding Rings

 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.
prayed, 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.
Written by Henry Lawson | Create an image from this poem

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!
Written by Henry Lawson | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

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!")
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When Your Pants Begin to Go

 When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn't white, 
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you'll reach to-morrow night, 
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care, 
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair; 
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind 
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.
I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play, That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way; And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around, And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound; But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care, If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.
You are none the less a hero if you elevate your chin When you feel the pavement wearing through the leather, sock, and skin; You are rather more heroic than are ordinary folk If you scorn to fish for pity under cover of a joke; You will face the doubtful glances of the people that you know; But -- of course, you're bound to face them when your pants begin to go.
If, when flush, you took your pleasures -- failed to make a god of Pelf, Some will say that for your troubles you can only thank yourself -- Some will swear you'll die a beggar, but you only laugh at that, While your garments hand together and you wear a decent hat; You may laugh at their predictions while your soles are wearing low, But -- a man's an awful coward when his pants begin to go.
Though the present and the future may be anything but bright, It is best to tell the fellows that you're getting on all right, And a man prefers to say it -- 'tis a manly lie to tell, For the folks may be persuaded that you're doing very well; But it's hard to be a hero, and it's hard to wear a grin, When your most important garment is in places very thin.
Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best, That your sorrows won't run over in the presence of the rest; There's a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine, He'll declare your coat is tidy, and he'll say: `Just look at mine!' Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesn't show, And he'll swear it can't be noticed when your pants begin to go.
Brother mine, and of misfortune! times are hard, but do not fret, Keep your courage up and struggle, and we'll laugh at these things yet, Though there is no corn in Egypt, surely Africa has some -- Keep your smile in working order for the better days to come! We shall often laugh together at the hard times that we know, And get measured by the tailor when our pants begin to go.
Now the lady of refinement, in the lap of comfort rocked, Chancing on these rugged verses, will pretend that she is shocked.
Leave her to her smelling-bottle; 'tis the wealthy who decide That the world should hide its patches 'neath the cruel look of pride; And I think there's something noble, and I swear there's nothing low, In the pride of Human Nature when its pants begin to go.

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The Man Who Raised Charlestown

 They were hanging men in Buckland who would not cheer King George – 
The parson from his pulpit and the blacksmith from his forge; 
They were hanging men and brothers, and the stoutest heart was down, 
When a quiet man from Buckland rode at dusk to raise Charlestown.
Not a young man in his glory filled with patriotic fire, Not an orator or soldier, or a known man in his shire; He was just the Unexpected – one of Danger's Volunteers, At a time for which he'd waited, all unheard of, many years.
And Charlestown met in council, the quiet man to hear – The town was large and wealthy, but the folks were filled with fear, The fear of death and plunder; and none to lead had they, And Self fought Patriotism as will always be the way.
The man turned to the people, and he spoke in anger then.
And crooked his finger here and there to those he marked as men.
And many gathered round him to see what they could do – For men know men in danger, as they know the cowards too.
He chose his men and captains, and sent them here and there, The arms and ammunition were gathered in the square; While peaceful folk were praying or croaking, every one, He was working with his blacksmiths at the carriage of a gun.
While the Council sat on Sunday, and the church bells rang their peal, The quiet man was mending a broken waggon wheel; While they passed their resolutions on his doings (and the likes), From a pile his men brought to him he was choosing poles for pikes.
(They were hanging men in Buckland who would not cheer King George – They were making pikes in Charlestown at every blacksmith's forge: While the Council sat in session and the same old song they sang, They heard the horsemen gallop out, and the blacksmiths' hammers clang.
) And a thrill went through the city ere the drums began to roll, And the coward found his courage, and the drunkard found his soul.
So a thrill went through the city that would go through all the land, For the quiet man from Buckland held men's hearts in his right hand.
And he caught a Charlestown poet (there are many tell the tale), And he took him by the collar when he'd filled him up with ale; "Now, then, write a song for Charlestown that shall lift her on her way, For she's marching out to Buckland and to Death at break o' day.
" And he set the silenced women tearing sheet and shift and shirt To make bandages and roll them for the men that would get hurt.
And he called out his musicians and he told them what to play: "For I want my men excited when they march at break o' day.
" And he set the women cooking – with a wood-and-water crew – "For I want no empty stomachs for the work we have to do.
" Then he said to his new soldiers: "Eat your fill while yet you may; 'Tis a heavy road to Buckland that we'll march at break o' day.
" And a shout went through the city when the drums began to roll (And the coward was a brave man and the beggar had a soul), And the drunken Charlestown poet cared no more if he should hang, For his song of "Charlestown's Coming" was the song the soldiers sang.
And they cursed the King of England, and they shouted in their glee, And they swore to drive the British and their friends into the sea; But when they'd quite finished swearing, said their leader "Let us pray, For we march to Death and Freedom, and it's nearly dawn of day.
" There were marching feet at daybreak, and close upon their heels Came the scuffling tread of horses and the heavy crunch of wheels; So they took the road to Buckland, with their scout out to take heed, And a quiet man of fifty on a grey horse in the lead.
There was silence in the city, there was silence as of night – Women in the ghostly daylight, kneeling, praying, deathly white, As their mothers knelt before them, as their daughters knelt since then, And as ours shall, in the future, kneel and pray for fighting men.
For their men had gone to battle, as our sons and grandsons too Must go out, for Life and Freedom, as all nations have to do.
And the Charlestown women waited for the sounds that came too soon – Though they listened, almost breathless, till the early afternoon.
Then they heard the tones of danger for their husbands, sweethearts, sons, And they stopped their ears in terror, crying, "Oh, my God! The guns!" Then they strained their ears to listen through the church-bells' startled chime – Far along the road to Buckland, Charlestown's guns were marking time.
"They advance!" "They halt!" "Retreating!" "They come back!" The guns are done!" But the calmer spirits, listening, said: "Our guns are going on.
" And the friend and foe in Buckland felt two different kinds of thrills When they heard the Charlestown cannon talking on the Buckland hills.
And the quiet man of Buckland sent a message in that day, And he gave the British soldiers just two hours to march away.
And they hang men there no longer, there is peace on land and wave; On the sunny hills of Buckland there is many a quiet grave.
There is peace upon the land, and there is friendship on the waves – On the sunny hills of Buckland there are rows of quiet graves.
And an ancient man in Buckland may be seen in sunny hours, Pottering round about his garden, and his kitchen stuff and flowers.
Written by Henry Lawson | Create an image from this poem

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.
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.
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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.