Too Old to Rat
Or, The Old Unionist

Henry Lawson, 1912

      I don't care if the cause be wrong.
      Or if the cause be right —
      I've had my day and sung my song,
      And fought the bitter fight.
      In truth, at times I can't tell what
      The men are driving at,
      But I've been Union thirty years,
      And I'm too old to rat.

      Maybe, at times in those old days
      Remembered now by few,
      We did bite OR in various ways
      Much more than we could chew —
      We paid, in sodden strikers' camps
      Upon the black-soil flat;
      We paid, in long and hungry tramps —
      And I'm too old to rat.

      The Queensland strike in Eighty-nine,
      And Ninety's gloomy days —
      The day the opera comp'ny sang
      For us the "Marseillaise",
      The sea of faces stern and set,
      The waiting "bitter cup",
      The hopeless hearts, unbeaten yet,
      The storm cloud rushing up.

      The fighting, dying Boomerang
      Against the daily Press;
      The infant Worker holding out;
      The families in distress;
      The sudden tears of beaten men —
      Oh! you remember that! —
      Are memories that make my pen
      Not worth its while to rat.

      I've wept with them in strikers' camps
      Where shivered man and beast;
      I've worn since then the badge of men,
      Of Hell! and London East!
      White faces by the flaring torch!
      Wraith wives! — the slaves of Fat!
      And ragged children in the rain —
      Yes! — I'm too old to rat!