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
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
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.