Poem: A Song of Southern Writers by Henry Lawson (Part 1)

Southern men of letters, vainly seeking recognition here --
Southern men of letters, driven to the Northern Hemisphere!
It is time your wrongs were known; it is time you claimed redress --
Time that you were independent of the mighty Northern press.
Sing a song of Southern writers, sing a song of Southern fame,
Of the dawn of art and letters and your native country's shame.

Talent goes for little here. To be aided, to be known,
You must fly to Northern critics who are juster than our own.
Oh! the critics of your country will be very proud of you,
When you're recognised in London by an editor or two.
You may write above the standard, but your work is seldom seen
Till it's noticed and reprinted in an English magazine.

In the land where sport is sacred, where the lab'rer is a god,
You must pander to the people, make a hero of a clod!
What avail the sacrifices of the battle you begin
For the literary honour of the land we're living in?
Print a masterpiece in Melbourne, and it will be lost, I ween,
But your weakest stuff is clever in a London magazine.

Write a story of the South, write it true and make it clear,
Put your soul in ever sentence, have the volume published here,
And 'twill only be accepted by our critics in the mist
As a "worthy imitation" of a Northern novelist.
For the volume needs the mighty Paternister Row machine,
With a patronising notice in an English magazine.

What of literary merit, while the Southern reader glories
In "American exchanges", with their childish nigger-stories;
In the jokes that ancient Romans chuckled over after lunch;
In the dull and starchy humour of the dreary London Punch?
Here they'll laugh at Southern humour -- laugh till they are out of breath --
When it's stolen from the papers that Australia starves to death!

Do we ask why native talent -- art and music cannot stay?
Why Australian men of letters emigrate and keep away?
Do we ask why genius often vanishes beyond recall?
From the wrecks of honest journals comes the answer to it all.
Over Southern journalism let the epitaph be seen:

First published in The Bulletin, 28 May 1892
[The second part of this poem will be published next week.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 18, 2006 8:34 AM.

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