A Banquet of Stinking Fish

Henry Lawson, 1906

      "Stinking fish" in the distance whence the odour cannot come,
      Stinking fish that you rave of — but what of the fish at home?
      Fish in the courts and "houses", press, senate and Sunday parks.
      "Justice!" I set before thee a banquet of stinking sharks!

      Here is one, green with envy — careful of tongue and pen
      With the rich — or the fallen drunkard, lest he should rise agen!
      Brave with the safely buried — brave with the weak in want,
      Stabbing dead rivals' dummies behind a curtain of cant!

      Here is one gorged to madness, vomiting truth and lies,
      Who'd unwife a dead man's widow, and his children bastardise,
      In a last wild clutch at the skirts of notoriety slipping past
      Vengeance! you well might leave him, lo! he is rotting fast!

      Here is one, known to police courts, blackguard where e'er he goes,
      Taunting an innocent witness with every vice he knows.
      Muck for defendant or plaintiff — which ever side he may be
      He has 'on'rable friends in the gutter but little older than he.

      'On'rable friends in the "chambers", leading their blameless lives,
      Bleeding innocent husbands through poor hysterical wives.
      Squeezing for costs of injustice, gaoling the weak for the strong
      Gaoling for guilty lies and freed for the foulest wrong.

      Here is a shark called a "Killer", bowing in faultless dress
      Ghoul of "imagination" vampire of laziness.
      And this is the "quack" his brother, with a "herbalist" hand-in-hand —
      "Without the husband's knowledge" spreading their filth on the land.

      This is the very land-shark the people raised from the dust,
      Who sold without need from the people a sacred and national trust.
      Confident, blustering, flippant, right to the door of the cell —
      He shall have separate treatment, the people shall guard him well.

      Here is a shark called a brewer, here is a shark with a gall
      Owner of many tied houses — furniture, publicans — all.
      Making his slaves make more drunkards, driving them out if they shrink —
      Widows with children don't matter. He drives his own slaves to drink.

      This is a she-politician, scraggy but sometimes fat,
      The purr and the velvet hiding the spit and the claw of the cat.
      She comes as an angel of mercy with sighs for the human race —
      She would ruin a hundred households that her name might take first place.

      This one is dirty for pleasure, this is a socialist shark,
      Selfish and mean as a miser, pest of the bar-room and park,
      Dragging fools down to the gutter — devil if he had his wish —
      Giving the name he degraded unto Democracy's fish.

      This claims to "come from Christ Jesus" — mowing or raving abroad —
      White as the skin of a leper, laying out hands "for the Loard".
      Seal it up well in the furnace, or brick it down.deep in the dark —
      Driving reform to the madhouse, this is a dangerous shark!

      Stinking sharks that seem female, in public and private life,
      Ruining, gaoling husbands — parting husband and wife.
      Lying and bleeding and damning for an hour's notoriety.
      Bilking the country that freed them of name and posterity.

      Dead fish in the halls of justice a-reek from the legal sludge,
      Sickening prisoners, clients, plaintiffs, defendants and judge.
      Stench in the homes and churches, press, senate and Sunday parks!
      Australia! I set before thee, a banquet of stinking sharks.