The Old, Old Story and the New Order

Henry Lawson, 1910

      The press of Australia and its unspeakable mediocrities have ever had a tendency to belittle its own writers, both as regards their genius and character. The dead have been spared less than the living.

      They proved we could not think nor see,
             They proved we could not write,
      They proved we drank the day away
             And raved through half the night.
      They proved our stars were never up,
             They've proved our stars are set,
      They've proved we ne'er saw sorrow's cup,
             And they're not happy yet.

      They proved that in the Southern Land
             We all led vicious lives;
      They've proved we starved our children, and —
             They've proved we beat our wives.
      They've proved we never worked, and we
             Were never out of debt;
      They've proved us bad as we can be
             And they're not happy yet.

      The Daily Press, with paltry power —
             For reasons understood —
      Have aye sought to belittle our
             Unhappy brotherhood.
      Because we fought in days like these,
             Where rule the upper tens —
      Because we'd not write journalese,
             Nor prostitute our pens.

      They gave our rivals space to sneer —
             Their mediocrities;
      The drunkard's mind is pure and clear
             Compared with minds like these.
      They sought to damn with pitying praise
             Or the coward's unsigned sneer,
      For honour in the "critics'" ways
             Had never virtue here.

      They've proved our names shall not be known
             A few short years ahead;
      They hied them back through years of moan,
             And damned our happy dead.
      A newer tribe of scribes we've got,
             Exclusive and alone,
      To prove our work was childish rot,
             And none of it our own.

      The cultured cads of First Gem cells,
             Of Mansion, Lawn and Club,
      Not fit to clean the busted boots
             Of "Poets of the Pub."
      They prove the partners of the part,
             The wholeness of the whole,
      The gizzardness of gizzards, and
             The Soulness of the Soul.

      They've proved that all is nought — but there
             Are things they cannot do —
      The summer skies are just as fair
             And just as brightly blue.
      They've buried us with muddied shrouds,
             When our strong hearts they've broke.
      They can't bring down yon fleecy clouds
             And make them factory smoke.

      They've proved the simple bard a fool,
             But still, for all their pains,
      The children prattling home from school
             Go tripping down the lanes.
      They've proved that Love is lust or hate,
             True marriage is no more,
      But Jim and Mary at the gate
             Are happy as of yore.

      These insects seeking to unloose
             The Bards of Sympathy!
      Who strike with the sledge hammer force
             Of their simplicity.
      (They cannot turn the world about,
             Nor damp the father's joy,
      When some old doctor bustles out,
             And nurse says "It's a boy!")

      They want no God but many a god,
             And many gods, and none —
      The preacher by the upturned sod
             Shall pray when all is done.
      Amongst the great 'twas aye the same —
             The envious crawler's part —
      The lies that blackened Byron's name
             And banished poor Brett Harte.

      We've learnt in bitter schools to teach
             Man's glory and his shame
      Since Gordon walked along the beach
             In search of bigger game.
      Maybe, our talents we've abused
             At times, and ne'er been blind
      Since Barcroft Boake went out and used
             His stockwhip to be kind.

      But laugh, my chums, in prose and rhyme,
             And worry not at all,
      They're insects whom the wheels of time
             Shall crush exceeding small.
      Have faith, my friends, who stand by me,
             In spite of all the lies —
      I tell you that a man shall die
             On the day that Lawson dies.