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Title: The Elder Son Author: Henry Lawson * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 2000811h.html Language: English Date first posted: August 2020 Most recent update: August 2020 This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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The Ballad of the Elder Son
The Pride That Comes After
A Voice from the City
The Light on the Wreck
The Secret Whisky Cure
Break o’ Day
The Women of the Town
New Life, New Love
The King and Queen and I
The Water Lily
The Drunkard’s Vision
In the Storm That is to Come
Those Foreign Engineers
Riding Round the Lines
When the Bear Comes Back Again
The Little Czar
And the Bairns Will Come
The Heart of Australia
The Good Samaritan
Will Yer Write It Down for Me?
On the Wallaby
The Brass Well
The Last Review
As Good as New
A son of elder sons I am,
Whose boyhood days were cramped and scant,
Through ages of domestic sham
And family lies and family cant.
Come, elder brothers mine, and bring
Dull loads of care that you have won,
And gather round me while I sing
The ballad of the elder son.
’Twas Christ who spake in parables—
To picture man was his intent;
A simple tale He simply tells,
And He Himself makes no comment.
A morbid sympathy is felt
For prodigals—the selfish ones—
The crooked world has ever dealt
Unjustly by the elder sons.
The elder son on barren soil,
Where life is crude and lands are new,
Must share the father’s hardest toil,
And share the father’s troubles too.
With no child-thoughts to meet his own
His childhood is a lonely one:
The youth his father might have known
Is seldom for the eldest son.
It seems so strange, but fate is grim,
And Heaven’s ways are hard to track,
Though ten young scamps come after him
The rod falls heaviest on his back.
And, well I’ll say it might be caused
By a half-sense of injustice done—
That vague resentment parents feel
So oft towards the eldest son.
He, too, must bear the father’s name,
He loves his younger brother, too,
And feels the younger brother’s shame
As keenly as his parents do.
The mother’s prayers, the father’s curse,
The sister’s tears have all been done—
We seldom see in prose or verse
The prayers of the elder son.
But let me to the parable
With eyes on facts but fancy free;
And don’t belie me if I tell
The story as it seems to me—
For, mind, I do not mean to sneer
(I was religious when a child),
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
That Christ himself had sometimes smiled.
A certain squatter had two sons
Up Canaan way some years ago.
The graft was hard on those old runs,
And it was hot and life was slow.
The younger brother coolly claimed
The portion that he hadn’t earned,
And sought the ‘life’ for which untamed
And high young spirits always yearned.
A year or so he knocked about,
And spent his cheques on girls and wine,
And, getting stony in the drought,
He took a job at herding swine,
And though he is a hog that swigs
And fools with girls till all is blue—
’Twas rather rough to shepherd pigs
And have to eat their tucker too.
“When he came to himself,” he said
(I take my Bible from the shelf:
There’s nothing like a feed of husks
To bring a young man to himself.
And when you’re done with wine and girls—
Right here a moral seems to shine—
And are hard up, you’ll find no pearls
Are cast by friends before your swine)—
When he came to himself, he said—
He reckoned pretty shrewdly, too—
‘The rousers in my father’s shed
‘Have got more grub than they can chew;
‘I’ve been a fool, but such is fate—
‘I guess I’ll talk the guv’nor round:
‘“I’ve acted cronk,” I’ll tell him straight;
‘(He’s had his time too, I’ll be bound).
‘I’ll tell him straight I’ve had my fling,
‘I’ll tell him “I’ve been on the beer,
‘“But put me on at anything,
‘“I’ll graft with any bounder here.”’
He rolled his swag and struck for home—
He was by this time pretty slim
And, when the old man saw him come—
Well, you know how he welcomed him.
They’ve brought the best robe in the house,
The ring, and killed the fatted calf,
And now they hold a grand carouse,
And eat and drink and dance and laugh:
And from the field the elder son—
Whose character is not admired—
Comes plodding home when work is done,
And very hot and very tired.
He asked the meaning of the sound
Of such unwonted revelry,
They said his brother had been ‘found’
(He’d found himself it seemed to me);
’Twas natural in the elder son
To take the thing a little hard
And brood on what was past and done
While standing outside in the yard.
Now he was hungry and knocked out
And would, if they had let him be,
Have rested and cooled down, no doubt,
And hugged his brother after tea,
And welcomed him and hugged his dad
And filled the wine cup to the brim—
But, just when he was feeling bad
The old man came and tackled him.
He well might say with bitter tears
While music swelled and flowed the wine—
‘Lo, I have served thee many years
‘Nor caused thee one grey hair of thine.
‘Whate’er thou bad’st me do I did
‘And for my brother made amends;
‘Thou never gavest me a kid
‘That I might make merry with my friends.’
(He was no honest clod and glum
Who could not trespass, sing nor dance—
He could be merry with a chum,
It seemed, if he had half a chance;
Perhaps, if further light we seek,
He knew—and herein lay the sting—
His brother would clear out next week
And promptly pop the robe and ring).
The father said, ‘The wandering one,
‘The lost is found, this son of mine,
‘But thou art always with me, son—
‘Thou knowest all I have is thine.’
(It seemed the best robe and the ring,
The love and fatted calf were not;
But this was just a little thing
The old man in his joy forgot.)
The father’s blindness in the house,
The mother’s fond and foolish way
Have caused no end of ancient rows
Right back to Cain and Abel’s day.
The world will blame the eldest born—
But—well, when all is said and done,
No coat has ever yet been worn
That had no colour more than one.
Oh! if I had the power to teach—
The strength for which my spirit craves—
The cant of parents I would preach
Who slave and make their children slaves.
For greed of gain, and that alone
Their youth they steal, their hearts they break
And then, the wretched misers moan—
‘We did it for our children’s sake.’
‘And all I have’—the paltry bribe
That he might slave contented yet
While envied by his selfish tribe
The birthright he might never get:
The worked-out farm and endless graft,
The mortgaged home, the barren run—
The heavy, hopeless overdraft—
The portion of the elder son.
He keeps his parents when they’re old,
He keeps a sister in distress,
His wife must work and care for them
And bear with all their pettishness.
The mother’s moan is ever heard,
And, whining for the worthless one,
She seldom has a kindly word
To say about her eldest son.
’Tis he, in spite of sneer and jibe,
Who stands the friend when others fail:
He bears the burdens of his tribe
And keeps his brother out of jail.
He lends the quid and pays the fine,
And for the family pride he smarts—
For reasons I cannot divine
They hate him in their heart of hearts.
A satire on this world of sin—
Where parents seldom understand—
That night the angels gathered in
The firstborn of that ancient land.
Perhaps they thought, in those old camps,
While suffering for the blow that fell,
They might have better spared the scamps
And Josephs that they loved so well.
Sometimes the Eldest takes the track
When things at home have got too bad—
He comes not crawling, canting back
To seek the blind side of his dad.
He always finds a knife and fork
And meat between on which to dine,
And, though he sometimes deals in pork,
You’ll never catch him herding swine.
The happy home, the overdraft,
His birthright and his prospects gay,
And likewise his share of the graft,
He leaves the rest to grab. And they—
Who’d always do the thing by halves,
If anything for him was done—
Would kill a score of fatted calves
To welcome home the eldest son.
It knows it all, it knows it all,
The world of groans and laughter,
It sneers of pride before a fall,
But the bitter pride comes after:
So leave me and I’ll seek you not,
So seek me and you’ll find me—
But till I know your hand-grip’s true
I’ll stand with hands behind me.
It knows it all, it knows it all,
The world of lies and sorrow—
It prates of pride before a fall,
And of the humble morrow;
But shame and blame are but a name,
Oh, heart that’s hurt past curing!
We’ll drink to-night the sinner’s pride,
The pride that’s most enduring.
They know it all, they know it all,
The curs that pass the sentence.
They preach of pride before a fall
And bitter black repentance:
So leave me when my star is set,
I’ll glory that you leave me,
While one has pride to love me yet
There’s nought on earth shall grieve me.
On western plain and eastern hill
Where once my fancy ranged,
The station hands are riding still
And they are little changed.
But I have lost in London gloom
The glory of the day,
The grand perfume of wattle bloom
Is faint and far away.
Brown faces under broad-brimmed hats
The grip of wiry hands,
The gallops on the frosty flats,
Seem dreams of other lands;
The camp fire and the stars that blaze
Above the mystic plain
Are but the thoughts of vanished days
That never come again.
The evening star I seldom view—
That led me on to roam—
I never see the morning star
That used to draw me home.
But I have often longed for day
To hide the few I see,
Because they only point and say
Most bitter things to me.
I wear my life on pavement stones
That drag me ever down,
A paltry slave to little things,
By custom chained to town.
I’ve lost the strength to strike alone,
The heart to do and dare—
I mind the day I’d roll my swag
And tramp to—God-knows-where.
When I should wait I wander out,
When I should go I bide—
I scarcely dare to think about
The days when I could ride.
I would not mount before his eyes,
‘Straight’ Bushman tall and tan—
I mind the day when I stood up
And fought him like a man.
I mind the time when I was shy
To meet the brown Bush girls—
I’ve lunched with lords since then and I
Have been at home with earls:
I learned to smile and learned to bow
And lie to ladies gay—
But to a gaunt Bushwoman now
I’d not know what to say.
And if I sought her hard bare home
From scenes of show and sham,
I’d sit all ill at ease and feel
The poor weak thing I am.
I could not meet her hopeless eyes
That look one through and through,
The haggard woman of the past
Who once thought I was true.
But nought on earth can last for aye,
And wild with care and pain,
Some day by chance I’ll break away
And seek the Bush again.
And find awhile from bitter years
The rest the Bush can bring,
And hear, perhaps, with truer ears
The songs it has to sing.
When you’re suffering hard for your sins, old man,
When you wake to trouble and sleep ill—
Oh, this is the clack of the middle class,
‘Win back the respect of the people!’
You are weak, you’re a fool, or a drunken brute
When you’re deep in trouble and sorrow;
But walk down the street in a decent suit,
And their hats will be off to-morrow! Old Chap—
And their hats will be off to-morrow!
They cant and they cackle—‘Redeem the Past!’
Who never had past worth redeeming:
Your soul seems dead, but you’ll find at last
That somewhere your soul lay dreaming.
You may stagger down-hill in a beer-stained coat,
You may loaf, you may cadge and borrow—
But walk down the street with a ten-pound note
And their hats will be off to-morrow! Old Man—
Yes, their hats will be off to-morrow!
But stick to it, man! for your old self’s sake,
Though to brood on the past is human;
Hold up for the sake of the mate who was true,
And the sake of the Other Woman.
And as for the rest, you may take off your hat
And banish all signs of sorrow;
You may take their hands, but in spite of that,
Can they win your respect to-morrow? Old Man—
Can they win your respect to-morrow?
Out there by the rocks, at the end of the bank,
In the mouth of the river, the Wanderer sank.
She is resting where meet the blue water and green,
And only her masts and her funnel are seen;
And you see, when is fading the sunset’s last fleck,
On her foremast a lantern—a light on a wreck.
’Tis a light on a wreck, warning ships to beware
Of the drowned iron hull of the Wanderer there;
And the ships that come in and go out in the night
Keep a careful lookout for the Wanderer’s light.
There are rules for the harbour and rules for the wave;
But all captains steer clear of the Wanderer’s grave.
And the stories of strong lives that ended in wrecks
Might be likened to lights over derelict decks;
Like the light where, in sight of the streets of the town,
In the mouth of the channel the Wanderer went down.
Keep a watch from the desk, as they watch from the deck;
Keep a watch from your home for the light on the wreck.
But the lights on the wrecks since creation began
Have been shining in vain for the vagabond clan.
They will never take warning, they will not beware,
For they hold for their mottoes ‘What matter?’ ‘What care?’
And they sail without compass, they sail without check,
Till they steer to their grave ’neath a light on a wreck.
’Tis no tale of heroism, ’tis no tale of storm and strife,
But of ordinary boozing, and of dull domestic life—
Of the everlasting friction that most husbands must endure—
Tale of nagging and of drinking—and a secret whisky cure.
Name of Jones—perhaps you know him—small house-agent here in
(Friend of Smith, you know him also—likewise Robinson and Brown),
Just a hopeless little husband, whose deep sorrows were obscure,
And a bitter nagging Missis—and death seemed the only cure.
’Twas a common sordid marriage, and there’s little new to tell—
Save the pub to him was Heaven and his own home was a hell:
With the office in between them—purgatory to be sure—
And, as far as Jones could make out—well, there wasn’t any cure.
’Twas drink and nag—or nag and drink—whichever you prefer—
Till at last she couldn’t stand him any more than he could her.
Friends and relatives assisted, telling her (with motives pure)
That a legal separation was the only earthly cure.
So she went and saw a lawyer, who, in accents soft and low,
Asked her firstly if her husband had a bank account or no;
But he hadn’t and she hadn’t, they in fact were very poor,
So he bowed her out suggesting she should try some liquor cure.
She saw a drink cure advertised in the Sydney Bulletin—
Cure for brandy, cure for whisky, cure for rum and beer and gin,
And it could be given secret, it was tasteless, swift and sure—
So she purchased half a gallon of that Secret Whisky Cure.
And she put some in his coffee, smiling sweetly all the while,
And he started for the office rather puzzled by the smile—
Smile or frown he’d have a whisky, and you’ll say he was a boor—
But perhaps his wife had given him an overdose of Cure.
And he met a friend he hadn’t seen for seven years or more—
It was just upon the threshold of a private bar-room door—
And they coalised and entered straight away, you may be sure—
But of course they hadn’t reckoned with a Secret Whisky Cure.
Jones, he drank, turned pale, and, gasping, hurried out the back way quick,
Where, to his old chum’s amazement, he was violently sick;
Then they interviewed the landlord, but he swore the drink was pure—
It was only the beginning of the Secret Whisky Cure.
For Jones couldn’t stand the smell of even special whisky blends,
And shunned bar-rooms to the sorrow of his trusty drinking friends:
And they wondered, too, what evil genius had chanced to lure
Him from paths of booze and friendship—never dreaming of a Cure.
He had noticed, too, with terror that a something turned his feet,
When a pub was near, and swung him to the other side the street,
Till he thought the devils had him, and his person they’d immure
In a lunatic asylum where there wasn’t any Cure.
He consulted several doctors who were puzzled by the case—
As they mostly are, but never tell the patient to his face—
Some advised him ‘Try the Mountains for this malady obscure:’
But there wasn’t one could diagnose a Secret Whisky Cure.
And his wife, when he was sober?—Well, she nagged him all the more!
And he couldn’t drown his sorrow in the pewter as of yore:
So he shot himself at Manly and was sat upon by Woore,
And found rest amongst the spirits from the Secret Whisky Cure.
. . . . .
And the moral?—well, ’tis funny—or ’tis woman’s
way with men—
She’s remarried to a publican who whacks her now and then,
And they get on fairly happy, he’s a brute and he’s a boor,
But she’s never tried her second with a Secret Whisky Cure.
I was welcome in a palace when the ball was at my feet,
I was petted in a garden and my triumph was complete.
But for me above the alleys there forever shone a star,
Where the third-rate public houses and the dens of Venus are.
Where the third-rate public houses
And the fourth-rate lodging houses,
And the rag-shops and the pawn-shops and the dens of Venus are.
I was born among the alleys, bred in darkness and in doubt,
And I wrote the truth in blindness and I struggled up and out;
And the world was fair before me and the way was wide and plain,
But the spirit of the alleys ever dragged me back again.
’Tis a madness I inherit
And a blind and reckless spirit.
Oh! the spirit of the alleys ever drags me down again!
There were fair girls in the garden where the spring came in a day,
But the barmaids in the alleys know a wider world than they.
There were wise men in the palace who were born to rule the earth,
But the wrecks amongst the alleys know the world for what it’s worth.
To the pewter from the chalice,
To the slum from the palace,
Aye! the wrecks sunk in the alleys know the world for what it’s worth!
Poets who have done with puzzling—men who talk but dare not think—
Men who might have moulded nations had it not been for the drink!
Wicked stories full of humour—shafts of wit that seldom miss,
Shot from blighted lips of women that the bravest dare not kiss?
Let the worst girl lead the revels
Of the reckless alley devils!—
Pure and virtuous women often, often drive men down to this.
In the days of mental torture when my life was all a hell,
It was down amongst the alleys that I learnt the tales I tell,
From the black-sheep out from England, from the boozer in from Bourke,
From the tired haggard women bending over needle-work:
Tales of wrongs, that fire the spirit,
Tales of more than human merit,
Told in quiet tones and measured, bending over needle-work.
Oh! the pathos and the humour of the shifts of poverty,
Oh! the sympathy of drunkards, wit and truth and charity,
Oh! the worn-out working women and the lives that they endure,
And the hard and callous kindness of the poor unto the poor!
(Where they blame not—those who labour—
And the prostitute’s a neighbour)
Ah! the humour and the courage and the kindness of the poor!
There is fire down in the alleys that has smouldered very long;
There is hatred in the alleys born of centuries of wrong;
And no prayer wins to heaven like a prayer from the slums,
And the thrones of empire totter when the alleys beat their drums.
(Ah! the world is very rotten!
But my sins shall be forgotten
And my work shall be remembered when the alleys beat their drums.)
It is down amongst the alleys, in the alleys dull and damp,
They find kindness in a scoundrel, they find good points in a scamp.
It is down amongst the alleys, now my star has ceased to shine,
I find sympathy with sinners and can hide what shame is mine,
For we trust and shield each other
And a sinner is a brother—
There are souls amongst the alleys who were lost the same as mine.
And if you should some day miss me, and should care to wonder why,
Ask for me amongst the alleys by the name they knew me by:
Mind your head and pick your footsteps for you’ll grope in alley gloom,
And the stairs are steep and narrow where they’ll lead you to a room.
What if floors are foul and dusty
And the air is close and musty?
In the days when I was noble then I wrote in such a room.
You will see a chair and table dimly shown by candle light,
And the pen I dropped for ever from the last line I shall write;
And some poor attempts at comfort, and a bottle—and maybe
You will find a bad girl crying over what is left of me:
Call no friends—I shall not need them;
Call no priests—I shall not heed them—
Let the bad girl do the praying over what is left of me.
Of home, name and wealth and ambition bereft—
We are children of fortune and luck:
They deny there’s a shred of our characters left,
But they cannot deny us the pluck!
We are vagabond scamps, we are kings over all—
There is little on earth we desire—
We are devils who stand with our backs to the wall,
And who call on the cowards to fire!
There are some of us here who were noble and good,
And who learnt in ingratitude’s schools—
They were born of the selfish and misunderstood,
They were soft, they were ‘smoodgers’ or fools.
With their hands in their pockets to help every friend
In a fix—and they never asked how:
Beware of them you who have money to lend,
For it’s little you’d get from them now.
There are some of us here who were lovers of old—
In the days that were nearer to God;
The girl was more precious than honour or gold,
And they worshipped the ground where she trod;
But she trampled their hearts and they suffered and knew
How the soul of a woman to read—
They will never again to a woman be true;
Let the girls who may meet them take heed!
There are some of us here who were devils from birth,
Who would steal the eye out of a friend—
But we judge not or blame not the worst on the earth,
For it comes to the same in the end.
There are some of us here who were ruined by wrong—
To whom justice and love came too late—
And they threw them aside and go singing a song,
And they know that their mistress is fate.
We were some of us failures at suicide, too—
We are most of us back from the dead—
But we’ve all found the courage to battle it through,
Till the strength of our bodies is sped:
With a flag that is dyed with our hearts’-blood unfurled,
We are marching and marching afar—
We are comrades of all who are fighting the world,
For the world made us all what we are.
You love me, you say, and I think you do,
But I know so many who don’t,
And how can I say I’ll be true to you
When I know very well that I won’t?
I have journeyed long and my goal is far,
I love, but I cannot bide,
For as sure as rises the morning star,
With the break of day I’ll ride.
I was doomed to ruin or
doomed to mar
The home wherever I stay,
But I’ll think of you as the morning star
And they call me Break o’ Day.
They well might have named me the Fall o’ Night,
For drear is the track I mark,
But I love fair girls and I love the light,
For I and my tribe were dark.
You may love me dear, for a day and night,
You may cast your life aside;
But as sure as the morning star shines bright
With the break of day I’ll ride.
There was never a lover so proud and kind,
There was never a friend so true;
But the song of my life I have left behind
In the heart of a girl like you.
There was never so deep or cruel a wrong
In the land that is far away,
There was never so bitter a broken heart
That rode at the break of day.
God bless you, dear, with your red-gold hair
And your pitying eyes of grey—
Oh! my heart forbids that a star so fair
Should be marred by the Break o’ Day.
Live on, my girl, as the girl you are,
Be a good and a true man’s bride,
For as sure as beckons the evening star
With the fall o’ night I’ll ride.
I was born to ruin or born
The home wherever I light.
Oh! I wish that you were the Evening Star
And that I were the Fall o’ Night.
It is up from out the alleys, from the alleys dark and vile—
It is up from out the alleys I have struggled for a while—
Just to breathe the breath of Heaven ere my devil drags me down,
And to sing a song of pity for the women of the town.
Johnnies in the private bar room, weak and silly, vain and blind—
Even they would shrink and shudder if they knew the hell behind,
And the meanest wouldn’t grumble when he’s bilked of half-a-crown
If he knew as much as I do of the women of the town.
For I see the end too plainly of the golden-headed star
Who is smiling like an angel in the gilded private bar—
Drifting to the third-rate houses, drifting, sinking lower down
Till she raves in some foul parlour with the women of the town.
To the dingy beer-stained parlour all day long the outcasts come—
Draggled, dirty, bleared, repulsive, shameless, aye, and rotten some—
They have sold their bodies and would sell their souls for drink to drown
Memories of wrong that haunt them—haunt the women of the town.
I have seen the haunting terror of the ‘horrors’ in their eyes,
Heard them cry to Christ to help them as the mansoul never cries,
While the smirking landlord listened with a grin or with a frown.
Oh, they suffer hell in drinking, do the women of the town.
I have known too well, God help me! to what depths a man can sink,
Sacrificing wife and children, fame and honour, all for drink.
Deeper, deeper sink the women, for the veriest drunken clown
Has his feet upon the shoulders of the women of the town.
There’s a heavy cloud that’s lying on my spirit like a pall—
’Tis the horror and injustice and the hopelessness of all—
There’s the love of one for ever that no sea of sin can drown,
And she loves a brute, God help her! does the woman of the town.
O my sisters, O my sisters, I am powerless to aid;
’Tis a world of prostitution, it is business, it is trade,
And they profit from the brewer and the smirking landlord down
To the bully and the bludger, on the women of the town.
Oh, the heart of one great poet called to heaven in a line—
Crying, ‘Mary, pity women!’—You have whiter souls than mine.
And if in the grand Hereafter there is one shall wear a crown—
For the hell that men made for her—’tis the Woman of the Town.
Oh, for the fire that used to glow
In those my days of old!
I never thought a man could grow
So callous and so cold.
Ah, for the heart that used to ache
For those in sorrow’s ways;
I often wish my heart could break
As it did in those dead days.
Along my track of storm and stress,
And it is plain to trace,
I look back from the loneliness
And the depth of my disgrace.
’Twas fate and only fate I know,
But all mistakes are plain,
’Tis sadder than the afterglow,
More dreary than the rain.
But still there lies a patch of sun
That ne’er will come again,
Those golden days when I was one
Of Nature’s gentlemen.
And if there is a memory
Could break me down at last,
It sure would be the thought of this,
The sunshine in the past.
But ’spite of sunshine on the track—
And well the sun might shine—
My heart grows hard when I look back
From these dark days of mine.
A nobler child was never born
In all the Southern land—
The slave of selfish ignorance
That could not understand.
Oh, I had lived for many years
In a world of my ideal,
With no false laughter, no false tears,
And it seemed very real.
But I was wakened from my dreams,
And learnt with hardening eyes
A world of selfish treachery,
Of paltry shame and lies.
I left the truest friends on earth
Who did not need my aid,
And worked for those who were not worth
The sacrifice I made.
And while I blindly strove to raise
The coward and the clown,
They sneaked behind by shady ways
And tore my palace down.
But let those faithless friends of mine
Who’d think of me with scorn,
Remember that for many years
A heavy load I’ve borne.
And my true friends when all is done,
And my sad soul is gone,
Will think of battles I have won
When I lead rivals on.
And though from spite and worldly things
I well should be exempt,
For little men and paltry men
I scarce can feel contempt.
They followed me with flattery
In the days when I was brave—
But for those who have been true to me
I’ll strike back from the grave!
Sing the song of the reckless, who care not what they do;
Sing the song of a sinner and the song of a writer, too—
Down in a pub in the alleys, in a dark and dirty hole,
With every soul a drunkard and the boss with never a soul.
Uncollared, unkempt, unshaven, sat the writer whose fame was fair,
And the girls of the streets were round him, and the bullies and bludgers there;
He was one of themselves and they told him the things that they had to tell—
He was studying human nature with his brothers and sisters in hell.
He was neither poor nor lonely, for a place in the world he’d won,
And up in the heights of the city he’d a thousand friends or none;
But he knew that his chums could wait awhile, that he’d reckon with foes at last,
For he lived far into a future that he knew because of the past.
They remembered the man he had been, they remembered the songs he wrote,
And some of them came to pity and some of them came to gloat:
Some of them shouted exulting—some whispered with bated breath
That down in a den in the alleys he was drinking himself to death.
Thus said the voice of the hypocrites—and the true hearts sighed with
‘Oh! he never will write as he used to write! He never will write again;’
A poet had written his epitaph in numbers of sad regret,
And the passing-notice was pigeon-holed, and the last review was set.
But the strength was in him to rise again to a greater height, he knew,
For the sake of the friends who were true to him and the work that he had to do;
He was sounding the depths that he had to know, he was gathering truths for his craft,
And he heard the chatter of little men—and he turned to his beer and laughed.
The breezes blow on the river below,
And the fleecy clouds float high,
And I mark how the dark green gum trees match
The bright blue dome of the sky.
The rain has been, and the grass is green
Where the slopes were bare and brown,
And I see the things that I used to see
In the days ere my head went down.
I have found a light in my long dark night,
Brighter than stars or moon;
I have lost the fear of the sunset drear,
And the sadness of afternoon.
Here let us stand while I hold your hand,
Where the light’s on your golden head—
Oh! I feel the thrill that I used to feel
In the days ere my heart was dead.
The storm’s gone by, but my lips are dry
And the old wrong rankles yet—
Sweetheart or wife, I must take new life
From your red lips warm and wet!
So let it be, you may cling to me,
There is nothing on earth to dread,
For I’ll be the man that I used to be
In the days ere my heart was dead!
Oh, Scotty, have you visited the Picture Gallery,
And did you see the portraits of the King and Queen and me?
The portraits made by Longstaff, and the pictures done by Jack,
Of the King and Queen and Lawson and the lady all in black?
The King is robed in royal state, with medals on his breast,
And, like the mother Queen she is, Her Majesty is dressed.
The lady’s dressed in simple black and sports no precious stones,
And I a suit of reach-me-downs I bought from Davy Jones.
We’re strangers two to two, and each unto the other three—
I do not know the lady and I don’t think she knows me.
We’re strangers to each other here, and to the other two,
And they themselves are strangers yet, if all we hear is true.
I s’pose we’re just as satisfied as folks have ever been:
The lady would much rather be her own self than the Queen;
And though I’m down and precious stiff and I admire King Ned,
I’d sooner just be Harry, with his follies on his head.
We four may meet together—stranger folk have met, I ween,
Than a rhymer and a monarch and a lady and a queen.
Ned and I might talk it over on the terrace, frank and free,
With cigars, while Alexandra and the lady’s having tea.
Anyway, we’ll never quarrel while we’re hanging on the wall—
Friends! we all have had our troubles—we are human, one and all!
If by chance we hang together—hang together on the line,
And the thing should shock the Godly—then it’s Longstaff’s fault, not mine.
Spirit Girl to whom ’twas given
To revisit scenes of pain,
From the hell I thought was Heaven
You have lifted me again;
Through the world that I inherit,
Where I loved her ere she died,
I am walking with the spirit
Of a dead girl by my side.
Through my old possessions only
For a very little while,
And they say that I am lonely,
And they pity, but I smile:
For the brighter side has won me
By the calmness that it brings,
And the peace that is upon me
Does not come of earthly things.
Spirit girl, the good is in me,
But the flesh you know is weak,
And with no pure soul to win me
I might miss the path I seek;
Lead me by the love you bore me
When you trod the earth with me,
Till the light is clear before me
And my spirit too is free.
A lonely young
In her dreaming discerns
A lily-decked pool
With a border of ferns,
And a beautiful child,
With butterfly wings,
Trips down to the edge of the water and sings:
‘Come, mamma! come!
‘Quick! follow me—
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’
And the lonely young wife,
Her heart beating wild,
Cries, ‘Wait till I come,
‘Till I reach you, my child!’
But the beautiful child
With butterfly wings
Steps out on the leaves of the lily and sings:
‘Come, mamma! come!
‘Quick! follow me!
‘And step on the leaves of the water-lily!
And the wife in her dreaming
Steps out on the stream,
But the lily leaves sink
And she wakes from her dream.
Ah, the waking is sad,
For the tears that it brings,
And she knows ’tis her dead baby’s spirit that sings:
‘Come, mamma! come!
‘Quick! follow me!
‘Step out on the leaves of the water-lily!’
Wide solemn eyes that question me,
Wee hand that pats my head—
Where only two have stroked before,
And both of them are dead.
‘Ah, poo-ah Daddy mine,’ she says,
With wondrous sympathy—
Oh, baby girl, you don’t know how
You break the heart in me!
Let friends and kinsfolk work their worst,
And the world say what it will,
Your baby arms go round my neck—
I’m your own Daddy still!
And you kiss me and I kiss you,
Fresh kisses frank and free—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
You break the heart in me!
I dreamed when I was good that when
The snow showed in my hair,
A household angel in her teens
Would flit about my chair,
To comfort me as I grew old;
But that shall never be—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
You break the heart in me!
But one shall love me while I live
And soothe my troubled head,
And never hear an unkind word
Of me when I am dead.
Her eyes shall light to hear my name
Howe’er disgraced it be—
Ah, baby girl, you don’t know how
You help the heart in me!
I gaze upon my son once more,
With eyes and heart that tire,
As solemnly he stands before
The screen drawn round the fire;
With hands behind clasped hand in hand,
Now loosely and now fast—
Just as his fathers used to stand
For generations past.
A fair and slight and childish form,
And big brown thoughtful eyes—
God help him! for a life of storm
And stress before him lies:
A wanderer and a gipsy wild,
I’ve learnt the world and know,
For I was such another child—
Ah, many years ago!
But in those dreamy eyes of him
There is no hint of doubt—
I wish that you could tell me, Jim,
The things you dream about.
Dream on, my son, that all is true
And things not what they seem—
’Twill be a bitter day for you
When wakened from your dream.
You are a child of field and flood,
But with the gipsy strains
A strong Norwegian sailor’s blood
Is running through your veins.
Be true, and slander never stings,
Be straight, and all may frown—
You’ll have the strength to grapple things
That dragged your father down.
These lines I write with bitter tears
And failing heart and hand,
But you will read in after years,
And you will understand:
You’ll hear the slander of the crowd,
They’ll whisper tales of shame,
But days will come when you’ll be proud
To bear your father’s name.
But oh! beware of bitterness
When you are wronged, my lad—
I wish I had the faith in men
And women that I had!
’Tis better far (for I have felt
The sadness in my song)
To trust all men and still be wronged
Than to trust none and wrong.
Be generous and still do good
And banish while you live
The spectre of ingratitude
That haunts the ones who give.
But if the crisis comes at length
That your future might be marred,
Strike hard, my son, with all your strength!
For your own self’s sake, strike hard!
A public parlour in the slums,
The haunt of vice and villainy,
Where things are said unfit to hear,
And things are done unfit to see;
’Mid ribald jest and reckless song,
That mock at all that’s pure and right,
The drunkard drinks the whole day long,
And raves through half the dreadful night.
And in the morning now he sits,
With staring eyes and trembling limb;
The harbour in the sunlight laughs,
But morning is as night to him.
And, staring blankly at the wall,
He sees the tragedy complete—
He sees the man he used to be
Go striding proudly up the street.
He turns the corner with a swing,
And, at the vine-framed cottage gate,
The father sees, with laughing eyes,
His little son and daughter wait:
They race to meet him as he comes—
And—Oh! this memory is worst—
Her dimpled arms go round his neck,
She pants, ‘I dot my daddy first!’
He sees his bright-eyed little wife;
He sees the cottage neat and clean—
He sees the wrecking of his life
And all the things that might have been!
And, sunk in hopeless, black despair,
That drink no more has power to drown,
Upon the beer-stained table there
The drunkard’s ruined head goes down.
. . . . .
But even I, a fearful wreck,
Have drifted long before the storm:
I know, when all seems lost on earth,
How hard it can be to reform.
I, too, have sinned, and we have both
Drunk to the dregs the bitter cup—
Give me your hand, Oh brother mine,
And even I might help you up.
If the Bourke people, with a dyke of sandbags across the Darling River, could keep the steamers running above that town for months in the drought, what could not the Government do? The Darling rises mostly from the Queensland rains, and feeds her billabongs, and the floods waste into the sea.
By our place in the midst of the furthest seas we were fated to stand
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 stands 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 by 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,
While 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
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
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 is it our fate that we’ll wake too late to the truth that we were blind,
With a foreign foe at our harbour gate and a blazing drought behind!
Ah, well! but the case seems hopeless, and the pen might write in vain;
The people gabble of old things over and over again.
For the sake of the sleek importer we slave with the pick and the shears,
While hundreds of boys in Australia long to be engineers.
A new generation has risen under Australian skies,
Boys with the light of genius deep in their dreamy eyes—
Not as of artists or poets with their vain imaginings,
But born to be thinkers and doers, and makers of wonderful things.
Born to be builders of vessels in the Harbours of Waste and Loss,
That shall carry our goods to the nations, flying the Southern Cross;
And fleets that shall guard our seaboard—while the East is backed by the Jews—
Under Australian captains, and manned by Australian crews.
Boys who are slight and quiet, but boys who are strong and true,
Dreaming of great inventions—always of something new;
With brains untrammelled by training, but quick where reason directs—
Boys with imagination and unclouded intellects.
They long for the crank and the belting, the gear and the whirring wheel,
The stamp of the giant hammer, the glint of the polished steel.
For the mould and the vice and the lathe—they are boys who long for the keys
To the doors of the world’s Mechanics and Science’s mysteries.
They would be makers of fabrics, of cloth for the continents—
Makers of mighty engines and delicate instruments;
It is they who would set fair cities on the western plains far out,
They who would garden the deserts—it is they who would conquer the drought!
They see the dykes to the skyline, where a dust-waste blazes to-day,
And they hear the lap of the waters on the miles of sand and clay;
They see the rainfall increasing, and the boundless sweeps of grass,
And all the year on the rivers the strings of barges pass.
. . . . .
But still the steamers sail out with our timber and wool and gold,
And back with the costly shoddy stacked high in the foreign hold;
With the cardboard boots for our leather; and the Brummagem goods and the slops
For stunted and white-faced Australians to sell in our sordid shops.
Shrivelled leather, rusty buckles, and the rot is in our knuckles,
Scorched for months upon the pommel while the brittle rein hung free;
Shrunken eyes that once were lighted with fresh boyhood, dull and blighted—
And the sores upon our eyelids are unpleasant sights to see.
And our hair is thin and dying from the ends, with too long lying
In the night dews on the ashes of the Dry Countree.
Yes, we’ve seen ’em ‘bleaching whitely’ where the
salt-bush sparkles brightly,
But their grins were over-friendly, so we passed and let them be.
And we’ve seen them ‘rather recent,’ and we’ve stopped to hide ’em decent
When they weren’t nice to handle and they weren’t too nice to see;
We have heard the dry bones rattle under fifteen hundred cattle—
Seen the rags go up in dust-clouds and the brittle joints kicked free;
But there’s little time to tarry, if you wish to live and marry,
When the cattle shy at something in the Dry Countree.
No, you needn’t fear the blacks on the Never Never tracks—
For the Myall in his freedom’s an uncommon sight to see;
Oh! we do not stick at trifles—and the trackers sneak their rifles,
And go strolling in the gloaming while the sergeant’s yarning free:
Round the Myalls creep the trackers—there’s a sound like firing crackers
And—the blacks are getting scarcer in the Dry Countree.
(Goes an unprotected maiden—’cross the clearing carrion-laden—
Oh they ride ’em down on horseback in the Dry Countree.)
But you don’t know what might happen when a tank is but a trap on
Roofs of hell, and there is nothing but the blaze of hell to see;
And the phantom water’s lapping—and no limb for saddle-strapping—
Better carry your revolver through the Dry Countree.
But I’m feeling gay and frisky, come with me and have a whisky!
Change of hells is all we live for (that’s my mate that’s got D.T.);
We have fought through hell’s own weather, he and I and death together—
Oh, the devil grins to greet us from the Dry Countree!
Old Ivan McIvanovitch, with knitted brow of care,
Has climbed up from the engine-room to get a breath of air;
He slowly wipes the grease and sweat from hairy face and neck.
And from beneath his bushy brows he glowers around the deck.
The weirdest Russian in the fleet, whose words are strange to hear,
He seems to run the battleship, though but an engineer.
He is not great, he has no rank, and he is far from rich—
’Tis strange the admiral salutes old McIvanovitch.
He gives the order ‘Whusky!’ ere he goes below once more—
And ‘Whusky’ is a Russian word I never heard before;
Perhaps some Tartar dialect, because, you know, you’ll meet
Some very various Muscovites aboard the Baltic fleet.
And on another battleship that sailed out from Japan
The boss of all the engineers, you’ll find another man
With flaming hair and eyes like steel, and he is six-foot three—
His name is Jock McNogo, and a fearsome Jap is he.
He wears a beard upon his chest, his face you won’t forget,
His like was never found amongst the heathen idols yet;
His words are awesome words to hear, his lightest smile is grim,
And daily in the engine-room the heathen bow to him.
Now, if the fleets meet in the North and settle matters there,
Say, how will McIvanovitch and Jock McNogo fare?
But if you ken that Russian and that Jap, you needn’t fret,
They’ll hae a drap, or maybe twa, some nicht in Glesca yet.
Those foreigners will ship again aboard some foreign boat,
And do their best to drive her through and keep the tub afloat.
They’ll stir the foreign greasers up and prove from whence they came—
And all to win the bawbees for the wife and bairns at hame.
“I haf peen all through der Russland, Meester Larsen, and I nefer see der wrongs you says aboudt. Der people dey have der lands and dey are happy.”—Finnish friend of mine.
While they struggle on exhausted,
While they plough through bog and flood,
While they drag their sick and wounded
Where the tracks are drenched with blood;
While the Fates seemed joined to crush her
And her bravest hearts lie low,
I might sing one song for Russia,
Even though she be our foe.
Still be generous to foemen,
And have charity for all—
Right or wrong, fill up the wine cup;
‘Skaal!’ unto all brave men—‘Skaal!’
While they suffer, cold and hungry,
All the heart-break of defeat,
And the twice heroic rearguard
Grimly holds the grim retreat;
While they fight the last alive on
Fields where countless corpses are,
We might drop one tear for Ivan,
Dead for Russia and the Czar!
Sullen grief of boorish brother,
Sister’s scalding tears that flow,
Choking grief of grey-haired mother,
Father’s stony face bent low:
Hopeless stare of wife or daughter,
And the sweetheart dumb and white,
And the far-off fields of slaughter
Where their Ivan lies to-night.
Even England feared disaster,
With all Europe in despair,
In the days when Europe’s master
Baited Bruin in his lair.
Greater nations made submission,
And a tyrant’s yoke they earned;
But The Man with curbed ambition
Staggered back while Moscow burned,—
Burned to save the world from ruin
That dark winter long ago;
Ah! the gaunt and hunted Bruin
Hugged the tyrant in the snow!
We can cry the crimes of Russia,
Who know naught of Russia’s work—
We who died to conquer freemen,
We who fought to save the Turk.
Ah! we well may cant and cackle,
In the streets and in the clubs,
While the Russia that we know not
Licks her wounds and feeds her cubs.
But the Fates for ever beckon—
Every nation has its debt,
And her foes may have to reckon,
Reckon with ‘der Russland’ yet.
Through long ages slept the Dragon,
We have roused the ugly beast—
Russia still may stand the vanguard
Of the West against the East.
And though Ivan sees no farther
Than to-night through lurid gloom
Every hour he holds Port Arthur
May postpone the White Man’s doom.
Right or wrong—whate’er
May this blundering world befall,
Human kindness will survive it—
Brothers! ‘Skaal!’ to brave men, ‘Skaal!’
“Many of the soldiers were so exhausted that they fell asleep in the firing-line.”
They are creeping on through the cornfields yet, and they clamber amongst
Ere they rush to stab with the bayonet and smash with the rifle-stocks.
And many are wounded, many are dead—some reel as if drunk with wine,
And fling them down on a blood-stained bed, and sleep in the firing-line.
And they dream, perhaps, of the days shut back, while the shrapnel shrieks
And field-guns hammer and rifles crack, and the blood of a comrade splashes.
In horrible shambles they rest a while from murder by right divine;
They curse or jest, and they frown or smile—and they dream in the firing-line.
In the dreadful din of a ghastly fight they are shooting, murdering, men;
In the smothering silence of ghastly peace we murder with tongue and pen.
Where is heard the tap of the typewriter—where the track of reform they mine—
Where they stand to the frame or the linotype—we are all in the firing-line.
Weary and parched in the world-old war we are fighting with quivering nerves;
The dead are our fathers who charged before, and the children are our reserves.
In the world-old war, with the world-old wrongs that shall last while the stars still shine,
My comrades and I, who would sing their songs, are all in the firing-line.
There are some of us cowards who hug the ground, and some of us reckless
And some of us careless who slumber sound, and some of us weary who rest.
There are some of us dreamers, whose beds seem soft, and O heart! O friend of mine!
The brightest and bravest of earth too oft lie drunk in the firing-line.
But the sleeper may wake ere the fort we storm, and the coward be first
And the weak grow strong, and the drunkard reform, and the dreamer strike hardest there.
God give me strength in my country’s need, though shame and disgrace be mine,
And death be certain, to rise and lead when we charge from the firing-line.
Dust and smoke against the sunrise out where grim disaster lurks
And a broken sky-line looming like unfinished railway works,
And a trot, trot, trot and canter down inside the belt of mines:
It is General Greybeard Shrapnel who is riding round his lines.
And the scarecrows from the trenches, haggard eyes and hollow cheeks,
War-stained uniforms and ragged that have not been off for weeks;
They salute him and they cheer him and they watch his face for signs;
Ah! they try to read old Greybeard while he’s riding round the lines.
There’s a crack, crack, crack and rattle; there’s a thud and
there’s a crash;
In the battery over yonder there is something gone to smash,
Then a hush and sudden movement, and its meaning he divines,
And he patches up a blunder while he’s riding round his lines.
Pushing this position forward, bringing that position back,
While his officers, with orders, ride like hell down hell’s own track;
Making hay—and to what purpose?—while his sun of winter shines,
But his work is just beginning when he’s ridden round his lines.
There are fifty thousand rifles and a hundred batteries
All a-playing battle music, with his fingers on the keys,
And if for an hour, exhausted, on his camp bed he reclines,
In his mind he still is riding—he is riding round his lines.
He’s the brains of fifty thousand, blundering at their country’s
He’s the one hope of his nation, and the loneliest man of all;
He is flesh and blood and human, though he never shews the signs:
He is General Greybeard Shrapnel who is fixing up his lines.
It is thankless work and weary, and, for all his neighbour knows,
He may sometimes feel as if he doesn’t half care how it goes;
But for all that can be gathered from his eyes of steely blue
He might be a great contractor who has some big job to do.
There’s the son who died in action—it may be a week ago;
There’s the wife and other troubles that most men have got to know—
(And we’ll say the grey-haired mother underneath the porch of vines):
Does he ever think of these things while he’s riding round his lines?
He is bossed by bitter boobies who can never understand;
He is hampered by the asses and the robbers of the land,
And I feel inclined to wonder what his own opinions are
Of the Government, the country, of the war and of the Czar.
He’s the same when he’s advancing, he’s the same in grim
For he wears one mask in triumph and the same mask in defeat;
Of the brave he is the bravest, he is strongest of the strong:
General Greybeard Shrapnel never shows that anything is wrong.
But we each and all are lonely, and we have our work to do;
We must fight for wife and children or our country and our screw
In the everlasting struggle to the end that fate destines;
In the war that men call living we are riding round our lines.
I ride round my last defences, where the bitter jibes are flung,
I am patching up the blunders that I made when I was young,
And I may be digging pitfalls and I may be laying mines;
For I sometimes feel like Shrapnel while I’m riding round my lines.
(Written during the Russian Retreat.)
Oh, the scene is wide an’ dreary an’ the sun is settin’ red,
An’ the grey-black sky of winter’s comin’ closer overhead.
Oh, the sun is settin’ bloody with a blood-line on the snow,
An’ across it to the westward you can see old Bruin go;
You can see old Shaggy go,
You can see the brown Bear go,
An’ he’s draggin’ one leg arter, an’ he’s travellin’ pretty slow.
We can send a long shot arter, but he doesn’t seem to know—
There’s a thin red line behind him where it’s dripped across the snow;
He is weary an’ he’s wounded, with his own blood he’s half-blind,
He is licked an’ he’s defeated, an’ he’s left some cubs behind;
Yes, he’s left some cubs behind;
Oh, he’s left some cubs behind;
To the tune of sixty thousand he has left some cubs behind.
Oh, they’ve pulled him by the nose-ring and they’ve baited him
An’ they bluffed him, an’ they bruised him, an’ they mostly gave him fits;
But he hugged ’em badly one time when they tried him in his den—
An’ he’ll make it warm for someone when he comes back East again;
When the Bear comes back again,
When he’s lopin’ round again,
There’ll be lively times for Jacko when the Bear comes back again.
Oh, we chased him out of Turkey—I don’t know for what idea,
It took two dogs an’ a lion for to beat him in Crimea;
He’s goin’ home to lick his wounds, he’s goin’ to his den,
But he’ll make it warm for someone when he comes South-East again,
When the Bear comes back again,
When old Bruin comes again,
He will make some dead to die on when he comes back from his den.
Keep a sharp look-out behind you, every way you turn, my lad,
It don’t matter who you might be, for you bet the Bear is mad;
Keep a sharp look-out to Nor’ard, to the South an’ West an’ East,
For he mostly always finds you where you most expect him least;
Where you most expect him leastest,
Where you most expect him least,
Oh, you’ll catch him grabbin’ for yer where you most expect him least.
Oh, Great White Czar of Russia, who hid your face and ran,
You’ve flung afar the grandest chance that ever came to man!
You might have been, and could have been—ah, think it to your shame!—
The Czar of all the Russias, in fact as well as name.
‘The Father of your People,’ your children called to you
To do the things to save them which only you could do.
Your soldiers whipped their faces—the trodden snow is red
With the blood of men and women; and the blood is on your head!
I saw in dreams a monarch, of his power all unaware,
Step down amongst his people from off his palace stair:
The Grand Dukes shrank and trembled, the traitors fled afar—
Through all the mighty Russias rang the order of the Czar!
You might have journeyed freely, wherever path is made,
Through all your vast dominions, alone and unafraid;
And, in the eyes of subjects, the cultured and the rude,
Have seen, instead of hatred, the tears of gratitude.
Oh, little Czar of Russia, a weak man and a fool,
At the mercy of your nobles—their prisoner and their tool—
Your freedom and your people’s and their love was to be won:
Ah, me! it would have been a deed a coward might have done.
Yet we who know so little might say one word for you:
How many in our weakness have lost our kingdoms, too!
And facing death and exile, when all the world seemed black,
How many in our after-strength have won our kingdoms back!
While the crippled cruisers stagger where the blind horizon dips,
And the ocean ooze is rising round the sunken battle-ships,
While the battered wrecks, unnoticed, with their mangled crews drift past—
Let me fire one gun for Russia, though that gun should be the last.
’Tis a struggle of the Ages, and the White Man’s star is dim,
There is little jubilation, for the game has got too grim;
But though Russia’s hope seems shattered, and the Russian star seems set,
It may mean the Dawn for Russia—and my hope’s in IVAN yet!
Let the Jingo in his blindness cant and cackle as he will;
But across the path from Asia run the Russian trenches still!
And the sahib in his rickshaw may loll back and smoke at ease,
While the haggard, ragged heroes man the battered batteries.
’Tis the first round of the struggle of the East against the West,
Of the fearful war of races—for the White Man could not rest.
Hold them, IVAN! staggering bravely underneath your gloomy sky;
Hold them, IVAN! we shall want you pretty badly by-and-bye!
Fighting for the Indian empire, when the British pay their debt;
Never Britain watched for BLUCHER as he’ll watch for IVAN yet!
It means all to young Australia—it means life or death to us,
For the vanguard of the White Man is the vanguard of the Russ!
So you’ve seen at last what we have seen so long through scalding
You have found what we—the People—we have known for twenty years:
And Australia’s hymn is swelling till the furthest fence-wires hum—
Save your country, Legislators—and the bairns will come.
You would put the blame upon us—we are women, we are men;
And our fathers and our mothers gave the country nine and ten.
They had honest work and wages, and the ways to win a home—
Give us half the chances they had—and the bairns will come.
Try the ranks of wealth and fashion, ask the rich and well-to-do,
With their nurseries and their nurses and their children one and two,
Will they help us bear the burden?—but their purse-proud lips are dumb.
Let us earn a decent living—and the bairns will come.
Young men, helpless in the city’s wheel of greed that never stops,
Tramp the streets for work while sweethearts slave in factories and shops.
Shall they marry and bear children to their parents’ martyrdom?
Make the city what it should be—and the bairns will come.
Shall we give you sons and daughters to a life of never-rest,
Sacrificing all for nothing in the desert of the West,
To be driven to the city’s squalid suburb and the slum?
Make the city what it should be—and the bairns will come.
Don’t you hear Australia calling for her children unconceived?
Don’t you hear them calling to her while her heart is very grieved?
Give the best land to the farmers, make the barren West a home,
Save the rainfall, lock the rivers—and the bairns will come.
When the wars of the world seemed ended, and silent the distant drum,
Ten years ago in Australia, I wrote of a war to come:
And I pictured Australians fighting as their fathers fought of old
For the old things, pride or country, for God or the Devil or gold.
And they lounged on the rim of Australia in the peace that had come to last,
And they laughed at my ‘cavalry charges’ for such things belonged to the past;
Then our wise men smiled with indulgence—ere the swift years proved me right—
Saying: ‘What shall Australia fight for? And whom shall Australia fight?’
I wrote of the unlocked rivers in the days when my heart was full,
And I pleaded for irrigation where they sacrifice all for wool.
I pictured Australia fighting when the coast had been lost and won—
With arsenals west of the mountains and every spur its gun.
And what shall Australia fight for? The reason may yet be found,
When strange shells scatter the wickets and burst on the football ground.
And ‘Who shall invade Australia?’ let the wisdom of ages say
‘The friend of a further future—or the ally of yesterday!’
Aye! What must Australia fight for? In the strife that never shall cease,
She must fight for her work unfinished: she must fight for her life and peace,
For the sins of the older nations. She must fight for her own reward.
She has taken the sword in her blindness and shall live or die by the sword.
But the statesman, the churchman, the scholar still peer through their glasses
And they see no cloud on the future as they roost on Australia’s rim:
Where the farmer works with the lumpers and the drover drives a dray,
And the shearer on Garden Island is shifting a hill to-day.
Had we used the wealth we have squandered and the land that we kept from
A prosperous Federal City would be over the mountains now,
With farms that sweep to horizons and gardens where plains lay bare,
And the bulk of the population and the Heart of Australia there.
Had we used the time we have wasted and the gold we have thrown away,
The pick of the world’s mechanics would be over the range to-day—
In the Valley of Coal and Iron where the breeze from the bush comes down,
And where thousands of makers of all things should be happy in Factory Town.
They droned on the rim of Australia, the wise men who never could learn;
Our substance we sent to the nations, and their shoddy we bought in return.
In the end, shall our soldiers fight naked, no help for them under the sun—
And never a cartridge to stick in the breech of a Brummagem gun?
With the Wars of the World coming near us the wise men are waking today.
Hurry out ammunition from England! Mount guns on the cliffs while you may!
And God pardon our sins as a people if Invasion’s unmerciful hand
Should strike at the heart of Australia drought-cramped on the verge of the land.
He comes from out the ages dim—
The good Samaritan;
I somehow never pictured him
A fat and jolly man;
But one who’d little joy to glean,
And little coin to give—
A sad-faced man, and lank and lean,
Who found it hard to live.
His eyes were haggard in the drought,
His hair was iron-grey—
His dusty gown was patched, no doubt,
Where we patch pants to-day.
His faded turban, too, was torn—
But darned and folded neat,
And leagues of desert sand had worn
The sandals on his feet.
He’s been a fool, perhaps, and would
Have prospered had he tried,
But he was one who never could
Pass by the other side.
An honest man whom men called soft,
While laughing in their sleeves—
No doubt in business ways he oft
Had fallen amongst thieves.
And, I suppose, by track and tent,
And other ancient ways,
He drank, and fought, and loved, and went
The pace in his young days.
And he had known the bitter year
When love and friendship fail—
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear
That he had been in jail.
A silent man, whose passions slept,
Who had no friends or foes—
A quiet man, who always kept
His hopes and sorrows close.
A man who very seldom smiled,
And one who could not weep
Be it for death of wife or child
Or sorrow still more deep.
But sometimes when a man would rave
Of wrong, as sinners do,
He’d say to cheer and make him brave
‘I’ve had my troubles too.’
(They might be twittered by the birds,
And breathed high Heaven through,
There’s beauty in those world-old words:
‘I’ve had my sorrows too.’)
And if he was a married man,
As many are that roam,
I guess that good Samaritan
Was rather glum at home,
Impatient when a child would fret,
And strict at times and grim—
A man whose kinsmen never yet
Howbeit—in a study brown—
He had for all we know,
His own thoughts as he journeyed down
The road to Jericho,
And pondered, as we puzzle yet,
On tragedies of life—
And maybe he was deep in debt
And parted from his wife.
(And so ‘by chance there came that way,’
It reads not like romance—
The truest friends on earth to-day,
They mostly come by chance.)
He saw a stranger left by thieves
Sore hurt and like to die—
He also saw (my heart believes)
The others pass him by.
(Perhaps that good Samaritan
Knew Levite well, and priest)
He lifted up the wounded man
And sat him on his beast,
And took him on towards the inn—
All Christ-like unawares—
Still pondering, perhaps, on sin
And virtue—and his cares.
He bore him in and fixed him right
(Helped by the local drunk),
And wined and oiled him well all night,
And thought beside his bunk.
And on the morrow ere he went
He left a quid and spoke
Unto the host in terms which meant—
‘Look after that poor bloke.’
He must have known them at the inn,
They must have known him too—
Perhaps on that same track he’d seen
Some other sick mate through;
For ‘Whatsoe’er thou spendest more’
(The parable is plain)
‘I will repay,’ he told the host,
‘When I return again.’
He seemed to be a good sort, too,
The boss of that old pub—
(As even now there are a few
At shanties in the scrub).
The good Samaritan jogged on
Through Canaan’s dust and heat,
And pondered over various schemes
And ways to make ends meet.
. . . . .
He was no Christian, understand,
For Christ had not been born—
He journeyed later through the land
To hold the priests to scorn;
And tell the world of ‘certain men’
Like that Samaritan,
And preach the simple creed again—
Man’s duty! Man to man!
. . . . .
‘Once on a time there lived a man,’
But he has lived alway,
And that gaunt, good Samaritan
Is with us here to-day;
He passes through the city streets
Unnoticed and unknown,
He helps the sinner that he meets—
His sorrows are his own.
He shares his tucker on the track
When things are at their worst
(And often shouts in bars outback
For souls that are athirst).
To-day I see him staggering down
The blazing water-course,
And making for the distant town
With a sick man on his horse.
He’ll live while nations find their graves
And mortals suffer pain—
When colour rules and whites are slaves
And savages again.
And, after all is past and done,
He’ll rise up, the Last Man,
From tending to the last but one—
The good Samaritan.
In the parlour of the shanty where the lives have all gone wrong,
When a singer or reciter gives a story or a song,
Where the poet’s heart is speaking to their hearts in every line,
Till the hardest curse and blubber at the thoughts of Auld Lang Syne;
Then a boozer lurches forward with an oath for all disguise—
Prayers and curses in his soul, and tears and liquor in his eyes—
Grasps the singer or reciter with a death-grip by the hand:
‘That’s the truth, bloke! Sling it at ’em! Oh! Gorbli’me, that was grand!
‘Don’t mind me; I’ve got ’em. You know! What’s yer name, bloke! Don’t yer see?
‘Who’s the bloke what wrote the po’try? Will yer write it down fer me?’
And the backblocks’ bard goes through it, ever seeking as he goes
For the line of least resistance to the hearts of men he knows;
And he tracks their hearts in mateship, and he tracks them out alone—
Seeking for the power to sway them, till he finds it in his own,
Feels what they feel, loves what they love, learns to hate what they condemn,
Takes his pen in tears and triumph, and he writes it down for them.
With pannikins all rusty,
And billy burnt and black,
And clothes all torn and dusty,
That scarcely hide his back;
With sun-cracked saddle-leather,
And knotted greenhide rein,
And face burnt brown with weather,
Our Andy’s home again!
His unkempt hair is faded
With sleeping in the wet,
He’s looking old and jaded;
But he is hearty yet.
With eyes sunk in their sockets—
But merry as of yore;
With big cheques in his pockets,
Our Andy’s home once more!
Old Uncle’s bright and cheerful;
He wears a smiling face;
And Aunty’s never tearful
Now Andy’s round the place.
Old Blucher barks for gladness;
He broke his rusty chain,
And leapt in joyous madness
When Andy came again.
With tales of flood and famine,
On distant northern tracks,
And shady yarns—‘baal gammon!’
Of dealings with the blacks,
From where the skies hang lazy
On many a northern plain,
From regions dim and hazy
Our Andy’s home again!
His toil is nearly over;
He’ll soon enjoy his gains.
Not long he’ll be a drover,
And cross the lonely plains.
We’ll happy be for ever
When he’ll no longer roam,
But by some deep, cool river
Will make us all a home.
A dusty clearing in the scrubs
Of barren, western lands—
Where, out of sight, or sign of hope
The wretched school-house stands;
A roof that glares at glaring days,
A bare, unshaded wall,
A fence that guards no blade of green—
A dust-storm over all.
The books and slates are packed away,
The maps are rolled and tied,
And for an hour I breathe, and lay
My ghastly mask aside;
I linger here to save my head
From voices shrill and thin,
That rasp for ever in the shed,
The ‘home’ I’m boarding in.
The heat and dirt and wretchedness
With which their lives began—
Bush mother nagging day and night,
And sullen, brooding man;
The minds that harp on single strings,
And never bright by chance,
The rasping voice of paltry things,
The hopeless ignorance.
I had ideals when I came here,
A noble purpose had,
But all that they can understand
Is ‘axe to grind’ or ‘mad.’
I brood at times till comes a fear
That sets my brain awhirl—
I fight a strong man’s battle here,
And I am but a girl.
I hated paltriness and deemed
A breach of faith a crime;
I listen now to scandal’s voice
In sewing-lesson time.
There is a thought that haunts me so,
And gathers strength each day—
Shall I as narrow-minded grow,
As mean of soul as they?
The feuds that rise from paltry spite,
Or from no cause at all;
The brooding, dark, suspicious minds—
I suffer for it all.
They do not dream the ‘Teacher’ knows,
What brutal thoughts are said;
The children call me ‘Pigeon Toes,’
‘Green Eyes’ and ‘Carrot Head.’
On phantom seas of endless change
My thoughts to madness roam—
The only thing that keeps me here,
The thoughts of those at home—
The hearts that love and cling to me,
That I love best on earth,
My mother left in poverty,
My brother blind from birth.
On burning West Australian fields
In that great dreadful land,
Where all day long the heat waves flow
O’er the seas of glowing sand.
My elder brother toils and breaks
That great true heart of his
To rescue us from poverty—
To rescue me from this.
And one is with him where he goes,
My brother’s mate and mine;
He never called me Pigeon Toes—
He said my eyes were ‘fine’;
And his face comes before me now,
And hope and courage rise,
The lines of life—the troubled brow,
Firm mouth and kind grey eyes.
I preach content and gentleness,
And mock example give;
They little think the Teacher hates
And loathes the life they live.
I told the infants fairy tales
But half an hour since—
They little dream how Pigeon Toes
Prays for a fairy Prince.
I have one prayer (and God forgive
A selfish prayer and wild);
I kneel down by the infants’ stool
(For I am but a child),
And pray as I’ve prayed times untold
That Heaven will set a sign,
To guide my brother to the gold,
For mother’s sake and mine.
A dust cloud on the lonely road,
And I am here alone;
I lock the door till it be past,
For I have nervous grown.
. . . . .
God spare me disappointment’s blow.
He stops beside the gate;
A voice, thrill-feeling that I know.
My brother! No! His mate!
. . . . .
His eyes—a proud, triumphant smile,
His arms outstretched, and ‘Come,
‘For Jack and I have made our pile,
‘And I’m here to take you home’!
Now the tent poles are rotting, the camp fires are dead,
And the possums may gambol in trees overhead;
I am humping my bluey far out on the land,
And the prints of my bluchers sink deep in the sand:
I am out on the wallaby humping my drum,
And I came by the tracks where the sundowners come.
It is nor’-west and west o’er the ranges and far
To the plains where the cattle and sheep stations are,
With the sky for my roof and the grass for my bunk,
And a calico bag for my damper and junk;
And scarcely a comrade my memory reveals,
Save the spiritless dingo in tow of my heels.
But I think of the honest old light of my home
When the stars hang in clusters like lamps from the dome,
And I think of the hearth where the dark shadows fall,
When my camp fire is built on the widest of all;
But I’m following Fate, for I know she knows best,
I follow, she leads, and it’s nor’-west by west.
When my tent is all torn and my blankets are damp,
And the rising flood waters flow fast by the camp,
When the cold water rises in jets from the floor,
I lie in my bunk and I list to the roar,
And I think how to-morrow my footsteps will lag
When I tramp ’neath the weight of a rain-sodden swag.
Though the way of the swagman is mostly up-hill,
There are joys to be found on the wallaby still.
When the day has gone by with its tramp or its toil,
And your camp-fire you light, and your billy you boil,
There is comfort and peace in the bowl of your clay
Or the yarn of a mate who is tramping that way.
But beware of the town—there is poison for years
In the pleasure you find in the depths of long beers;
For the bushman gets bushed in the streets of a town,
Where he loses his friends when his cheque is knocked down;
He is right till his pockets are empty, and then—
He can hump his old bluey up country again.
’Tis a legend of the bushmen from the days of Cunningham,
When he opened up the country and the early squatters came.
’Tis the old tale of a fortune missed by men who did seek,
And, perhaps, you haven’t heard it—The Brass Well on Myall Creek.
They were north of running rivers, they were south of Queensland rains,
And a blazing drought was scorching every grass-blade from the plains;
So the stockmen drove the cattle to the range where there was grass,
And a couple sunk a well and found what they believed was brass.
‘Here’s some bloomin’ brass!’ they muttered when
they found it in the clay,
And they thought no more about it and in time they went away;
But they heard of gold, and saw it, somewhere down by Inverell,
And they felt and weighed it, crying: ‘Why! we found it in the well!’
And they worked about the station and at times they took the track,
Always meaning to save money, always meaning to go back—
‘Always meanin’,’ like the bushmen, who go drifting round like wrecks,
And they’d get half way to Myall, strike a pub and blew their cheques.
Then they told two more about it and those other two grew old,
And they never found the brass well and they never found the gold.
For the scrub grows dense and quickly and, though many went to seek,
No one ever struck the lost track to the Well on Myall Creek.
And the story is forgotten and I’m sitting here, alas!
With a woeful load of trouble and a woeful lack of brass;
But I dream at times that I might find what many went to seek,
And my luck might lead my footsteps to the Well at Myall Creek.
Roll up, Eureka’s heroes, on that grand Old Rush afar,
For Lalor’s gone to join you in the big camp where you are;
Roll up and give him welcome such as only diggers can,
For well he battled for the rights of miner and of man.
And there, in that bright, golden land that lies beyond our sight,
The record of his honest life shall be his Miner’s Right.
Here many a bearded mouth shall twitch, and many a tear be shed,
And many a grey old digger sigh to hear that Lalor’s dead.
But wipe your eyes, old fossickers, o’er worked-out fields that roam,
You need not weep at parting from a digger going home.
. . . . .
Now from the strange wild seasons past, the days of golden strife,
Now from the Roaring Fifties comes a scene from Lalor’s life:
All gleaming white amid the shafts o’er gully, hill, and flat
Again I see the tents that form the camp at Ballarat.
I hear the shovels and the picks, and all the air is rife
With the rattle of the cradles and the sounds of digger-life;
The clatter of the windlass-boles, as spinning round they go,
And then the signal to his mate, the digger’s cry, ‘Below!’
From many a busy pointing forge the sound of labour swells,
The tinkling at the anvils is as clear as silver bells.
I hear the broken English from the mouth at least of one
From every state and nation that is known beneath the sun;
The homely tongue of Scotland and the brogue of Ireland blend
With the dialects of England, from Berwick to Land’s End;
And to the busy concourse here the West has sent a part,
The land of gulches that has been immortalised by Harte;
The land where long from mining-camps the blue smoke upward curled;
The land that gave that ‘Partner’ true and ‘Mliss’ unto the world;
The men from all the nations in the New World and the Old,
All side by side, like brethren here, are delving after gold;
But suddenly the warning cries are heard on every side
As, closing in around the field, a ring of troopers ride;
Unlicensed diggers are the game, their class and want are sins,
And so, with all its shameful scenes, the digger-hunt begins;
The men are seized who are too poor the heavy tax to pay,
And they are chained, as convicts were, and dragged in gangs away;
While in the eye of many a mate is menace scarcely hid—
The digger’s blood was slow to boil, but scalded when it did.
. . . . .
But now another match is held that sure must light the charge,
A digger murdered in the camp! his murderer at large!
Roll up! Roll up! the pregnant cry awakes the evening air,
And angry faces surge like waves around the speakers there.
‘What are our sins that we should be an outlawed class?’ they say,
‘Shall we stand by while mates are seized and dragged like “lags,” away?
‘Shall insult be on insult heaped? Shall we let these things go?
And on a roar of voices comes the diggers’ answer—‘No!’
The day has vanished from the scene, but not the air of night
Can cool the blood that, ebbing back, leaves brows in anger white.
Lo! from the roof of Bentley’s inn the flames are leaping high;
They write ‘Revenge!’ in letters red across the smoke-dimmed sky.
Now the oppressed will drink no more humiliation’s cup;
Call out the troops! Read martial law!—the diggers’ blood is up!
. . . . .
‘To arms! To arms!’ the cry is out; ‘To arms if man thou
‘For every pike upon a pole will find a tyrant’s heart!’
Now Lalor comes to take the lead, the spirit does not lag,
And down the rough, wild diggers kneel beneath the Diggers’ Flag,
And, rising to their feet, they swear, while rugged hearts beat high,
To stand beside their leader and to conquer or to die!
Around Eureka’s stockade now the shades of night close fast,
Three hundred sleep beside their arms, and thirty sleep their last.
. . . . .
Around about fair Melbourne town the sounds of bells are borne
That call the citizens to prayer this fateful Sabbath morn;
But there, upon Eureka’s hill, a hundred miles away,
The diggers’ forms lie white and still above the blood-stained clay.
The bells that ring the diggers’ death might also ring a knell
For those few gallant soldiers, dead, who did their duty well.
There’s many a ‘someone’s’ heart shall ache, and many a someone care,
For many a ‘someone’s darling’ lies all cold and pallid there.
And now in smoking ruins lie the huts and tents around,
The diggers’ gallant flag is down and trampled in the ground.
. . . . .
The sight of murdered heroes is to hero hearts a goad,
A thousand men are up in arms upon the Creswick road,
And wildest rumours in the air are flying up and down,
’Tis said the men of Ballarat will march upon the town.
But not in vain those diggers died. Their comrades may rejoice,
For o’er the voice of tyranny is heard the people’s voice;
It says: ‘Reform your rotten law, the diggers’ wrongs make right,
‘Or else with them, our brothers now, we’ll gather in the fight.’
And now before my vision flash the scenes that followed fast—
The trials, and the triumph of the diggers’ cause at last.
Twas of such stuff the men were made who saw our nation born,
And such as Lalor were the men who led their foot-steps on;
And of such men there’ll many be, and of such leaders some,
In the roll-up of Australians on some dark day yet to come.
Turn the light down, nurse, and leave me, while I hold my last review,
For the Bush is slipping from me, and the town is going too:
Draw the blinds, the streets are lighted, and I hear the tramp of feet—
And I’m weary, very weary, of the Faces in the Street.
In the dens of Grind and Heartbreak, in the streets of Never-Rest,
I have lost the scent and colour and the music of the West:
And I would recall old faces with the memories they bring—
Where are Bill and Jim and Mary and the Songs They used to Sing?
They are coming! They are coming! they are passing through the room
With the smell of gum leaves burning, and the scent of Wattle bloom!
And behind them in the timber, after dust and heat and toil,
Others sit beside the camp fire yarning while the billies boil.
In the Gap above the ridges there’s a flash and there’s a glow—
Swiftly down the scrub-clad siding come the Lights of Cobb and Co.:
Red face from the box-seat beaming—Oh, how plain those faces come!
From his ‘Golden-Hole’ ’tis Peter M’Intosh who’s going home.
Dusty patch in desolation, bare slab walls and earthen floor,
And a blinding drought is blazing from horizons to the door:
Milkless tea and ration sugar, damper junk and pumpkin mash—
And a Day on our Selection passes by me in a flash.
Rush of big wild-eyed store bullocks while the sheep crawl hoplessly,
And the loaded wool teams rolling, lurching on like ships at sea:
With his whip across his shoulder (and the wind just now abeam),
There goes Jimmy Nowlett ploughing through the dust beside his team!
Sunrise on the diggings! (Oh! what life and hearts and hopes are here)
From a hundred pointing forges comes a tinkle, tinkle clear—
Strings of drays with wash to puddle, clack of countless windlass boles,
Here and there the red flag flying, flying over golden holes.
Picturesque, unreal, romantic, chivalrous, and brave and free;
Clean in living, true in mateship—reckless generosity.
Mates are buried here as comrades who on fields of battle fall—
And—the dreams, the aching, hoping lover hearts beneath it all!
Rough-built theatres and stages where the world’s best actors trod—
Singers bringing reckless rovers nearer boyhood, home and God;
Paid in laughter, tears and nuggets in the play that fortune plays—
’Tis the palmy days of Gulgong—Gulgong in the Roaring Days.
Pass the same old scenes before me—and again my heart can ache—
There the Drover’s Wife sits watching (not as Eve did) for a snake.
And I see the drear deserted goldfields when the night is late,
And the stony face of Mason watching by his Father’s Mate.
And I see my Haggard Women plainly as they were in life,
’Tis the form of Mrs. Spicer and her friend, Joe Wilson’s wife,
Sitting hand in hand ‘Past Carin’.’ not a sigh and not a moan,
Staring steadily before her and the tears just trickle down.
It was No Place for a Woman—where the women worked like men—
From the Bush and Jones’ Alley come their haunting forms again.
And, let this thing be remembered when I’ve answered to the roll,
That I pitied haggard women—wrote for them with all my soul.
Narrow bed-room in the City in the hard days that are dead—
An alarm clock on the table, and a pale boy on the bed:
Arvie Aspinalls Alarm Clock with its harsh and startling call
Never more shall break his slumbers—I was Arvie Aspinall.
Maoriland and Steelman, cynic, spieler, stiff-lipped, battler-through
(Kept a wife and child in comfort, but of course they never knew—
Thought he was an honest bagman)—Well, old man, you needn’t hug—
Sentimental; you of all men!—Steelman, Oh! I was a mug!
Ghostly lines of scrub at daybreak—dusty daybreak in the drought—
And a lonely swagman tramping on the track to Further Out:
Like a shade the form of Mitchell, nose-bag full and bluey up
And between the swag and shoulders lolls his foolish cattle-pup.
Kindly cynic, sad comedian! Mitchell! when you’ve left the Track,
And have shed your load of sorrow as we slipped our swags out back,
We shall have a yarn together in the land of Rest Awhile—
And across his ragged shoulder Mitchell smiles his quiet smile.
Shearing sheds and tracks and shanties—girls that wait at homestead
Camps and stern-eyed Union leaders, and Joe Wilson and his Mates
True and straight, and to my fancy, each one as he passes through
Deftly down upon the table slips a dusty ‘note’ or two.
. . . . .
So at last the end has found me—(end of all the human push)
And again in silence round me come my Children of the Bush!—
Listen, who are young, and let them—if I in late and bitter days
Wrote some reckless lines—forget them—there is little there to praise.
I was human, very human, and if in the days misspent
I have injured man or woman, it was done without intent.
If at times I blundered blindly—bitter heart and aching brow—
If I wrote a line unkindly—I am sorry for it now.
Days in London like a nightmare—dreams of foreign lands and sea—
And Australia is the only land that seemeth real to me.
Tell the Bushmen to Australia and each other to be true—
‘Tell the boys to stick together!’ I have held my Last Review.
Oh, this is a song of the old lights, that came to my heart like a hymn;
And this is a song for the old lights—the lights that we thought grew dim,
That came to my heart to comfort me, and I pass it along to you;
And here is a hand to the good old friend who turns up as good as new.
And this is a song for the camp-fire out west where the stars shine bright—
Oh, this is a song for the camp-fire where the old mates yarn to-night;
Where the old mates yarn of the old days, and their numbers are all too few,
And this is a song for the good old times that will turn up as good as new.
Oh, this is a song for the old foe—we have both grown wiser now,
And this is a song for the old foe, and we’re sorry we had that row;
And this is a song for the old love—the love that we thought untrue—
Oh, this is a song of the dear old love that comes back as good as new.
Oh, this is a song for the black sheep, for the black sheep that fled from
And this is a song for the brave heart, for the brave heart that lived it down;
And this is a song for the battler, for the battler who sees it through—
And this is a song for the broken heart that turns up as good as new.
Ah, this is a song for the brave mate, be he Bushman, Scot, or Russ,
A song for the mates we will stick to—for the mates who have stuck to us;
And this is a song for the old creed, to do as a man should do,
Till the Lord takes us all to a wider world—where we’ll turn up as good as new.
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