With Dickens

Henry Lawson, 1904

      I Windsor Terrace, number four,
             I've taken my abode —
      A little crescent from the street,
             A bight from City Road;
      And, hard up and in exile, I
             To many fancies yield;
      For it was here Micawber lived
             And David Copperfield.

      A bed, a table, and a chair,
             A bottle and a cup.
      The landlord's waiting even now
             For something to turn up.
      The landlady is spiritless —
             They both seem tired of life;
      They cannot fight the battle like
             Micawber and his wife.

      But in the little open space
             That lies back from the street,
      The same old ancient, shabby clerk
             Is sitting on a seat.
      The same sad characters go by,
             The ragged children play —
      And things have very little changed
             Since Dickens passed away.

      Some seek religion in their grief,
             And some for friendship yearn;
      Some fly to liquor for relief,
             But I to Dickens turn.
      I find him ever fresh and new,
             His lesson ever plain;
      And every line that Dickens wrote
             I've read and read again.

      The tavern's just across the 'wye,'
             And frowsy women there
      Are gossiping and drinking gin,
             And twisting up their hair.
      And grubby girls go past at times,
             And furtive gentry lurk —
      I don't think anyone has died
             Since Dickens did his work.

      There's Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
             And Weevle — whom you will;
      And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
             Into the pawnshop still.
      Go east a bit from City Road,
             And all the rest are there —
      A friendly whistle might produce
             A Chicken anywhere.

      My favourite author's heroes I
             Should love, but somehow can't.
      I don't like David Copperfield
             As much as David's Aunt,
      And it may be because my mind
             Has been in many fogs —
      I don't like Nicholas Nickleby
             So well as Newman Noggs.

      I don't like Richard Carstone, Pip,
             Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
      And for the rich and fatherly
             I scarcely care a bit.
      The honest, sober clods are bores
             Who cannot suffer much,
      And with the Esther Summersons
             I never was in touch.

      The 'Charleys' and the haggard wives,
             Kind hearts in poverty —
      And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too —
             Are very near to me;
      But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
             And Madeline Bray divine,
      And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
             In a better world than mine.

      The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
             They do not stand the test;
      And in my heart I don't believe
             That Dickens loved them best.
      I can't admire their ways and talk,
             I do not like their looks —
      Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
             Through all the Master's books.

      They're mostly selfish in their love,
             And selfish in their hate,
      They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
             While Agnes Wickfields wait;
      And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
             When hard-up for a friend;
      They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
             To help them in the end.

      And — well, maybe I am unjust,
             And maybe I forget;
      Some of us marry dolls and jilt
             Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
      We seek our friends when fortune frowns —
             It has been ever thus —
      And we neglect Joe Gargery
             When fortune smiles on us.

      They get some rich old grandfather
             Or aunt to see them through,
      And you can trace self-interest
             In nearly all they do.
      And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
             In spite of all their crimes,
      And crawlers like Uriah Heep
             Told bitter truths at times.

      But — yes, I love the vagabonds
             And failures from the ranks,
      And hard old files with hidden hearts
             Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
      And Jaggers had his 'poor dreams, too,'
             And fond hopes like the rest —
      But, somehow, somehow, all my life
             I've loved Dick Swiveller best!

      But, let us peep at Snagsby first
             As softly he lays down
      Beside the bed of dying Joe
             Another half-a-crown.
      And Nemo's wretched pauper grave —
             But we can let them be,
      For Joe has said to Heaven: 'They
             Wos werry good to me.'

      And Wemmick with his aged P — —
             No doubt has his reward;
      And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
             Will be judged by the Lord.
      And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
             With laurels on his brow,
      Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
             In Bleeding Heart Yard now.

      Tom Pinch is very happy now,
             And Magwitch is at rest,
      And Newman Noggs again might hold
             His head up with the best;
      Micawber, too, when all is said,
             Drank bravely Sorrow's cup —
      Micawber worked to right them all,
             And something did turn up.

      How do 'John Edward Nandy, Sir!'
             And Plornish get along?
      Why! if the old man is in voice
             We'll hear him pipe a song.
      We'll have a look at Baptiste, too,
             While still the night is young —
      With Mrs. Plornish to explain
             In the Italian tongue.

      Before we go we'll ask about
             Poor young John Chivery:
      'There never was a gentleman
             In all his family.'
      His hopeless love, his broken heart,
             But to his rival true;
      He came of Nature's gentlemen,
             But young John never knew.

      We'll pass the little midshipman
             With heart that swells and fills,
      Where Captain Ed'ard Cuttle waits
             For Wal'r and Sol Gills.
      Jack Bunsby stands by what he says
             (Which isn't very clear),
      And Toots with his own hopeless love —
             As true as any here.

      And who that read has never felt
             The sorrow that it cost
      When Captain Cuttle read the news
             The 'Son and Heir' was lost?
      And who that read has not rejoiced
             With him and 'Heart's Delight,'
      And felt as Captain Cuttle felt
             When Wal'r came that night?

      And yonder, with a broken heart,
             That people thought was stone,
      Deserted in his ruined home,
             Poor Dombey sits alone.
      Who has not gulped a something down,
             Whose eye has not grown dim
      While feeling glad for Dombey's sake
             When Florence came to him?

      (A stately house in Lincolnshire —
             The scene is bleak and cold —
      The footsteps on the terrace sound
             To-night at Chesney Wold.
      One who loved honour, wife, and truth,
             If nothing else besides,
      Along the dreary Avenue
             Sir Leicester Dedlock rides.)

      We'll go round by Poll Sweedlepipe's,
             The bird and barber shop;
      If Sairey Gamp is so dispoged
             We'll send her up a drop.
      We'll cross High Holborn to the Bull,
             And, if he cares to come,
      By streets that are not closed to him
             We'll see Dick Swiveller home.

      He's looking rather glum to-night,
             The why I will not ask —
      No matter how we act the goat,
             We mostly wear a mask.
      Some wear a mask to hide the false
             (And some the good and true) —
      I wouldn't be surprised to know
             Mark Tapley wore one too.

      We wear a mask called cheerfulness
             While feeling sad inside;
      And men like Dombey, who was shy,
             Oft wear a mask called pride.
      A front of pure benevolence
             The grinding 'Patriarch' bore;
      And kind men often wear a mask
             Like that which Jaggers wore.

      But, never mind, Dick Swiveller!
             We'll see it out together
      Beneath the wing of friendship, Dick,
             That never moults a feather.
      We'll look upon the rosy yet
             Full many a night, old friend,
      And tread the mazy ere we woo
             The balmy in the end.

      Our palace walls are rather bare,
             The floor is somewhat damp,
      But, while there's liquor, anywhere
             Is good enough to camp.
      What ho! mine host! bring forth thine ale
             And let the board be spread! —
      It is the hour when churchyards yawn
             And wine goes to the head.

      'Twas you who saved poor Kit, old chap,
             When he was in a mess —
      But, what ho! Varlet! bring us wine!
             Here's to the Marchioness!
      'We'll make a scholar of her yet,'
             She'll be a lady fair,
      'And she shall go in silk attire
             And siller have to spare.'

      From sport to sport they hurry her
             To banish her regrets,
      And when we win a smile from her
             We cannot pay our debts!
      Left orphans at a tender age,
             We're happiest in the land —
      We're Glorious Apollos, Dick,
             And you're Perpetual Grand!

      You're king of all philosophers,
             And let the Godly rust;
      Here's to the obscure citizen
             Who sent the beer on trust?
      It sure would be a cheerful world
             If never man got tight;
      You spent your money on your friends,
             Dick Swiveller! Good night!

      'A dissolute and careless man —
             An idle, drunken path;'
      But see where Sidney Carton spills
             His last drink on the hearth!
      A ruined life! He lived for drink
             And but one thing beside —
      And Oh! it was a glorious death
             That Sidney Carton died.

      And 'Which I meantersay is Pip' —
             The voices hurry past —
      'Not to deceive you, sir' — 'Stand by!'
             'Awast, my lass, awast!'
      'Beware of widders, Samivel,'
             And shun strong drink, my friend;
      And, 'not to put too fine a point
             Upon it,' I must end.