The Poet's Kiss

Henry Lawson, 1909

      A comedy — a tragedy —
      A broken head, or egg —
      And some of us would laugh to see
      A blind man's wooden leg.
      So much that seemeth sad is gay —
      That seemeth weal is woe —
      That, till it's sung, I cannot say
      If this song's sad or no.

      Her freckled face was small and sweet,
      Her large grey eyes were sad;
      Through cold and slush, and dust and heat,
      She slaved to help her dad.
      By ridges brooding ever now,
      And gullies deep and dark,
      She milked the everlasting cow
      Out there at Stringybark.

      It was a fearsome life indeed,
      That few might understand;
      Her only pleasure was to read
      The poets of the land —
      The songs of drovers far away,
      Of love, and city strife;
      And Men that Might Have Been — 'twas they
      Who brightened her young life.

      And when the evening milk was set,
      And poddy calves were fed,
      And when she'd cooked what she could get
      For Dad and Tom and Ted,
      And when she'd penned the calves and bought
      The morning's firewood in,
      She had a rest (as so she ought)
      And read The Bulletin.

      There was a bard who sang the Bush,
      The ocean wide and wild,
      The bushmen and the city push —
      She'd read him when a child:
      He sang of Hope and grim despair,
      Of backs bent to the rod,
      Of fights for freedom everywhere,
      And — oh! he was her god.

      He sang of gaunt bushwomen slaves,
      Of bush girls sad and lone;
      Of broken hearts and lonely graves
      (Of others' and his own);
      He sang of many a noble deed,
      And many an act of grace:
      And, all her life, since she could read,
      She'd longed to see his face.

      She pictured him with burning eyes,
      And heavy hair thrown back
      From gloomy brows so worldly wise
      And sadly on the rack.
      A wasted form — transparent hands
      That angels might caress;
      A heart that ached for many lands,
      And clean but careless dress.

      She longed to take those hands of his,
      And, with her spirit, bow,
      And kiss them, if she dared not kiss
      His lips, or gloomy brow.
      She longed to look into his eyes,
      And ask him, with a sigh,
      If they might meet in Paradise —
      And then go home and die.

      They'd three green seasons after brown
      (So runs the world away);
      They sent her down to Sydney town
      To have a holiday.
      In fear and trembling — yet with joy —
      In fluttering hope and doubt,
      And, eager-hearted as a boy,
      She sought her poet out.

      She found him too, no matter how,
      Nor does it matter where;
      The gloom upon his grimy brow
      Was hidden by his hair.
      The poet's words were thick and slow,
      The poet's chin was slack;
      His bloodshot eyes were burning, though,
      And one of them was black.

      His clothes were careless, right enough,
      But they were far from clean,
      And he was, briefly — in the rough —
      The Man He Might Have Been.
      He heard her worship with a laugh,
      Her sorrow with a frown —
      He scrawled a drunken autograph,
      And borrowed half-a-crown.

      The sky is lead — storm-waters whirl
      Down gullies deep and dark,
      And there's a disillusioned girl
      Far out at Stringybark.
      And, after all, there is a chance,
      This is a song of woe —
      'Twas sung to buy a pair of pants,
      And that is all I know.

      The Bulletin, 13 May 1909