Dan, the Wreck

Henry Lawson, 1895

      Tall, and stout, and solid-looking,
             Yet a wreck;
      None would think Death's finger's hooking
             Him from deck.
      Cause of half the fun that's started —
             'Hard-case' Dan —
      Isn't like a broken-hearted,
             Ruined man.

      Walking-coat from tail to throat is
             Frayed and greened —
      Like a man whose other coat is
             Being cleaned;
      Gone for ever round the edging
             Past repair —
      Waistcoat pockets frayed with dredging
             After 'sprats' no longer there.

      Wearing summer boots in June, or
             Slippers worn and old —
      Like a man whose other shoon are
             Getting soled.
      Pants? They're far from being recent —
             But, perhaps, I'd better not —
      Says they are the only decent
             Pair he's got.

      And his hat, I am afraid, is
             Troubling him —
      Past all lifting to the ladies
             By the brim.
      But, although he'd hardly strike a
             Girl, would Dan,
      Yet he wears his wreckage like a

      Once — no matter how the rest dressed —
             Up or down —
      Once, they say, he was the best-dressed
             Man in town.
      Must have been before I knew him —
             Now you'd scarcely care to meet
      And be noticed talking to him
             In the street.

      Drink the cause, and dissipation,
             That is clear —
      Maybe friend or kind relation
             Cause of beer.
      And the talking fool, who never
             Reads or thinks,
      Says, from hearsay: 'Yes, he's clever;
             But, you know, he drinks.'

      Been an actor and a writer —
             Doesn't whine —
      Reckoned now the best reciter
             In his line.
      Takes the stage at times, and fills it —
             'Princess May' or 'Waterloo'.
      Raise a sneer! — his first line kills it,
             'Brings 'em', too.

      Where he lives, or how, or wherefore
             No one knows;
      Lost his real friends, and therefore
             Lost his foes.
      Had, no doubt, his own romances —
             Met his fate;
      Tortured, doubtless, by the chances
             And the luck that comes too late.

      Now and then his boots are polished,
             Collar clean,
      And the worst grease stains abolished
             By ammonia or benzine:
      Hints of some attempt to shove him
             From the taps,
      Or of someone left to love him —
             Sister, p'r'aps.

      After all, he is a grafter,
             Earns his cheer —
      Keeps the room in roars of laughter
             When he gets outside a beer.
      Yarns that would fall flat from others
             He can tell;
      How he spent his 'stuff', my brothers,
             You know well.

      Manner puts a man in mind of
             Old club balls and evening dress,
      Ugly with a handsome kind of

      One of those we say of often,
             While hearts swell,
      Standing sadly by the coffin:
             'He looks well.'

      We may be — so goes a rumour —
             Bad as Dan;
      But we may not have the humour
             Of the man;
      Nor the sight — well, deem it blindness,
             As the general public do —
      And the love of human kindness,
             Or the grit to see it through!