strange ways and
new ways and old
ways. And deep
ways and steep
ways and high
ways and low. I'm
at home and at ease
on a track that I
know not. And
restless and lost
on a road that I
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting
O’ those that they would throttle;
They needn’t say the fault is ours,
If blood should stain the wattle.
Henry Lawson (Freedom on the Wallaby)
"That he managed to dredge out of disadvantage, adversity and often appalling hardship so many magnificent stories is testimony to a toughness and determination that he is perhaps not often enough given credit for."
Brian Matthews on Henry Lawson
Scots of the Riverina
The boy cleared out to the city from his home at harvest time --
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letters, the first and last he burned,
And he scratched his name from the Bible when the old wife's back was turned.
A year went past and another. There were calls from the firing-line;
They heard the boy had enlisted, but the old man made no sign.
His name must never be mentioned on the farm by Gundagai --
They were Scots of the Riverina with ever the kirk hard by.
The boy came home on his "final", and the township's bonfire burned.
His mother's arms were about him; but the old man's back was turned.
The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand --
A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand.The boy was killed in Flanders, where the best and bravest die.
There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai;
But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk --
There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk.
The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned;
And the old man died at the table when the old wife's back was turned.
Face down on his bare arms folded he sank with his wild grey hair
Outspread o'er the open Bible and a name re-written there.
Lawson was just 21 when his poem "Faces in the Street", was published in 1888. The poem was a bitter denunciation of the injustices and poverty imposed on the poor and those made marginal. The poem exposed the lie that Australia is the land of plenty and a classless society. It became a revolutionary anthem and almost overnight Lawson became famous.
Lawson's radicalism and his struggle with alcohol were factors that limited his employment opportunities. His career as a freelance writer was highly precarious and he eked out a marginal existence for much of his life. In 1890 he traveled to Albany in Western Australia (my home town) to pursue a career as a journalist, where he wrote for the Albany Observer and worked as laborer. He visited Albany again in 1896 on his honeymoon.
Of Albany Lawson wrote;
"It will never change much - it is a pretty town but vague. I like it all the better for that."