The "Problems"

Henry Lawson, 1908

      My rivals grow "tired" of my wearisome songs,
      Yet once more I take up my pen
      (In the language of youth) with a theme that belongs
      To the General Tiredness of men.
      For I'm growing more tired, as the seasons revolve,
      Of the wrestlings of Ibsen and Shaw
      With the PROBLEMS that only a Billyum could solve
      With a Bash on the missus's jaw —
      On his moll's, or his missus's jaw.

      (I am writing in jingle where plain prose would serve,
      But I'm pushed by the House Agent's Man,
      And the Jingle's the soonest. I wish you'd observe
      That I make it as smooth as I can:
      These are notes, understand, that I jot down in rhyme,
      just in case I forget them, or die —
      With a little more money, a little more time,
      I'll extend them in prose by-and-bye —
      Yes, I'll wake you with prose by-and-bye.)

      There's the Shady One's daughter, the Clergyman's son;
      The old dogs still having their day,
      With the matrons extremely mixed up in the fun
      And the rest of 'em more or less gay.
      There's the cynic who cants and the servant that grins,
      And the rakish old mother-in-law —
      'Tis the sordid old story of evening-dress sins
      Re-discovered by Ibsen and Shaw —
      Re-gilded by Ibsen and Shaw.

      'Tis the Fad of the Finished who never begin,
      Of the Worthless with nothing to do;
      'Tis the craze of the Done, who are trying to sin,
      For the classical Filthy and "New".
      There are such things today in the alley and slum,
      But they don't glare from "Library" shelves,
      And the writers have pictured the Apes of the Skum
      Till they're driven to sneer at their Selves —
      To sneer and to jeer at their Selves.

      They affect to be "worldly" and heartless and all,
      Yet they love, hate and weep, scream and yell:
      They have no work to do that might save them at all:
      They are hard — and they suffer like hell.
      They have writers and actors of brains and renown,
      They have all that their "World" has to give.
      (They don't write to pay rent.) But I'd rather be down
      In the land where my Low People live —
      Where my poor people struggle and live.

      There's Lizzie, the servant, she's "washing up" now
      With the tears dropping into the plates —
      There is nothing outside save the night and the sough
      Of the wind and the rain on the slates.
      For her "boy's" "thrown her up" for a friend of her own,
      And they've gone to the gay Pantomime!
      And she'll sob through the night in her back-room alone —
      But she'll serve up the breakfast in time,
      Yes, she'll call me to breakfast in time.

      She will "talk to that milkman" and "show him his place",
      She will lecture the butcher on meat;
      She will tackle the tradesmen that I wouldn't face,
      And she'll "go for" each plausible cheat.
      But her own broken heart is a thing for her room,
      After ten, when the "missus" withdraws —
      And she'll fight it all down in the candlelit gloom
      For she's not one of Ibsen and Shaw's —
      Doesn't work up at Ibsen and Shaw's.

      There is Jack Dale, the drover, who's playing his part
      In the work of the lonely North-West,
      And he bites on the bullet, or eats out his heart,
      Until weariness sends him to rest.
      But he hates not the woman who ruined his life
      And he helps her from each cheque he draws —
      She is low enough now. But she once was his wife;
      And — his bible's not Ibsen's, nor Shaw's;
      No, his bible's not Ibsen's, nor Shaw's.

      There's old Jones plodding past in the death of the day,
      From his carting for Grinder & Hyde:
      His back has grown rounder, his head grown more grey
      Every week since his old woman died.
      There's a grip on his heart from a daughter gone wrong:
      He has bailed out a wild son-in-law,
      just to give him a chance that might lift him along —
      But he's not known to Ibsen or Shaw —
      He knows nothing of Ibsen or Shaw.

      They would make her a Character dressed for the part,
      They would give her a Man to Pursue
      They would "ism" her father, and paint his old heart —
      And they'd fix up the son-in-law too.
      They would take up the humpy and make it a flat;
      They would call it a Play, and 'twould DRAW;
      For the world would go wild over "Thisness of That" —
      The New Play by Ibsen and Pshaw.
      The latest by Ibsen and Shaw.