Poem: The Bards Who Lived at Manly by Henry Lawson (Part 2)

The door of some old stable --
   We'd borrowed for a drink --
A page of rhymes and sketches,
   And stained with beer and ink;
A dead hand drew the portraits --
   And, say, should I be shamed,
To seek it out in Manly
   And get the old door framed?

They left the masterpieces
   The artist dreamed of long;
They could not take the gardens
   From Victor Daley's song;
They left his summer islands
   And fairy ships at sea,
They could not take my mountains
   And western plains from me.

One bailiff was our brother,
   No better and no worse --
And, oh! the yarns he told us
   To put in prose and verse,
And sorry we to lose him,
   And sorry he to go --
(Oh! skeletons of Pott's Point,
   How many things we know)!

The very prince of laughter,
   With brains and sympathy;
And with us on the last night
   He spent his bailiff's fee.
He banished Durkin's gruffness,
   He set my soul afloat,
And drew till day on Daley's
   Bright store of anecdote.

He said he'd stick to business --
   Though he could well be free --
If but to save poor devils
   From harder "bums" than he,
Now artist, bard and bailiff
   Have left this vale of sin --
I trust, if they reach Heaven,
   They'll take that bailiff in.

The bards that lived in Manly
   Have vanished one and one;
But do not think in Manly
   Bohemian days are done.
They bled me white in Manly
   When rich and tempest-tossed --
I'll leave some bills in Manly
   To pay for what I lost.

They'd grab and grind in Manly,
   Then slander, sneer, and flout.
The shocked of moral Manly!
   They starved my brothers out.
The miserable village,
   Set in a scene so fair,
Were honester and cleaner
   If some of us were there!

But one went with December --
   These last lines seem to-night
Like some song I remember,
   And not a song I write.
With vision strangely clearer
   My old chums seem to be,
In death and absence, nearer
   Than e'er they were to me.

Alone, and still not lonely --
   When tears will not be shed --
I wish that I could only
   Believe that they were dead.
With hardly curbed emotion,
   I can't but think, somehow,
In Manly by the ocean
   They're waiting for me now.

First published in For Australia and Other Poems by Henry Lawson, 1913

(The first part of this poem was published last week.)

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 1, 2008 7:54 AM.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot: Introduction was the previous entry in this blog.

Winners of the 2008 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature is the next entry in this blog.

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