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"British" by W.T. Goodge

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At the quarterly meeting of the council of the Victorian Scottish Union in Melbourne it was stated that Mr. G.H. Reid, having been remonstrated with by the secretary for using in his speeches the words "England" and "English" instead of "Britain" and "British," had replied, " I must plead guilty in some cases, although in many others I used the terms 'Britain' and 'British.'"

The adjective "British" both right and precise is!
   (Its origin may be inscrutable!)
For Davises, Joneses and Pritchards and Prices
   The term is remarkably suitable!
It also may serve for the English and Scottish,
   The Browns and Greens and MacAlisters;
      Since Jamie's inducture
      It fits the whole structure,
   The cornices, friezes and balusters!

For Thompson and Wilson and Johnson and Jackson
   And Robson and Hobson and Harrison,
Or anyone else of an original Saxon
   'Twill suit beyond any comparison!
But what of McCarthy, O'Donnell and party?
   Bejabers they'd never get cool again!
      A good name to lavish
      On Smith or McTavish
   But devil a bit for O'Hooligan!

First published in The Bulletin, 15 August 1907

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Faces in the Street by Henry Lawson

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They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown;
For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street --
   Drifting past, drifting past,
   To the beat of weary feet --
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street --
   Drifting on, drifting on,
   To the scrape of restless feet;
I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street --
   Flowing in, flowing in,
   To the beat of hurried feet --
Ah!  I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

The human river dwindles when 'tis past the hour of eight,
Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street --
   Grinding body, grinding soul,
   Yielding scarce enough to eat --
Oh!  I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street,
Tells of the city's unemployed upon his weary beat --
   Drifting round, drifting round,
   To the tread of listless feet --
Ah!  My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.

And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street --
   Ebbing out, ebbing out,
   To the drag of tired feet,
While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.

And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day's sad pages end,
For while the short `large hours' toward the longer `small hours' trend,
With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street --
   Sinking down, sinking down,
   Battered wreck by tempests beat --
A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.

But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street --
   Rotting out, rotting out,
   For the lack of air and meat --
In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.

I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon's slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
   The wrong things and the bad things
   And the sad things that we meet
In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.

I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me -- the shadows of those faces in the street,
   Flitting by, flitting by,
   Flitting by with noiseless feet,
And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.

Once I cried:  `Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.'
And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city's street,
And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
   Coming near, coming near,
   To a drum's dull distant beat,
And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution's heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
   Pouring on, pouring on,
   To a drum's loud threatening beat,
And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.

And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
But not until a city feels Red Revolution's feet
Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street --
   The dreadful everlasting strife
   For scarcely clothes and meat
In that pent track of living death -- the city's cruel street.

First published in The Bulletin, 28 July 1888 and again in the same magazine on 29 January 1980;
and later in
In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses by Henry Lawson, 1900;
Freedom on the Wallaby: Poems of the Australian People edited by Marjorie Pizer, 1953;
Songs from Lawson by Henry Lawson, 1957;
Favourite Australian Poems edited by Ian Mudie, 1963;
Poems of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1973;
The World of Henry Lawson edited by Walter Stone, 1974;
The Collins Book of Australian Poetry compiled by Rodney Hall, 1981;
The Essential Henry Lawson edited by Brian Kiernan, 1982;
A Camp-Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson Complete Works 1885-1900 edited by Leonard Cronin, 1984;
The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse edited by Beatrice Davis, 1984;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads edited by Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterss,  1993;
200 Years of Australian Writing: An Anthology edited by James F. H. Moore, 1997; and
Harbour City Poems: Sydney in Verse, 1788-2008 edited by Martin Langford, 2009.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library, The Poetry of Henry Lawson website

See also.

The Misplaced Men by Edward Dyson

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He sagged upon the tender grass
   Where twinkling butterflies
Coquetted with the scented mass
   Of gum bloom. In his eyes
A dreamy speculation lay;
   His hat was knocked about;
His clothes were old, and fell away,
And from his broken boots in play
   His curling toes peeked out.

"I ort 'ave bin a dook," said he,
   "Or else a noble earl.
'Ard work ain't possible to me;
   I wasn't born to whirl
A nax, or swing a navvy's pick,
   Or even shake a sword.
For all that, I'm amazin' quick
With hard old drink, or soft young chick.
   I ort 'ave bin a lord.

"I 'ate coarse clo'es 'n' bread 'n' cheese;
   I'd love a royal bed,
With linen sheets 'n' tapestries
   Hung close above me 'ead.
I 'ave no gifts; I'm positive
   I cannot do a thing,
'N' through the changin' year to live
I have to take what others give.
   I ort 'ave bin a king.

"'N' there are dooks, 'n' lords, 'n' earls
   Who do not want to lie
'N' watch the lily where it curls
   Agin the driftin' sky.
They're up 'n' doin', so I'm told,
   As long as they can see.
What good to them uncounted gold?
The gift of ease they do not 'old --
   They orter have bin me.

"This world is all a sorry mess.
   It has its idle poor
Who can't enjoy their idleness,
   But suffer and endure.
It has its wealthy class that feels
   For work a fearful itch.
Yet to the worthless poor it deals
Out endless stoush, but never weals
   The undeservin' rich!"

First published in The Bulletin, 9 May 1918

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

See also.

Schoolgirls Hastening by John Shaw Neilson

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Fear it has faded and the night:
  The bells all peal the hour of nine:
The schoolgirls hastening through the light
  Touch the unknowable Divine.

What leavening in my heart would bide!
   Full dreams a thousand deep are there:
All luminants succumb beside
   The unbound melody of hair.

Joy the long timorous takes the flute:
   Valiant with colour songs are born:
Love the impatient absolute
   Lives as a Saviour in the mom.

Get thou behind me Shadow-Death!
   Oh ye Eternities delay!
Morning is with me and the breath
   Of schoolgirls hastening down the way.

First published in The Bookfellow, 30 April 1922;
and then later in
Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson edited by R. H. Croll, 1934;
A Book of Australian Verse edited by Judith Wright, 1956;
Poems by John Shaw Neilson, 1964;
Australian Letters, 4 September 1964;
Australian Kaleidoscope edited by Barbara Ker Wilson, 1968;
The Vital Decade: Ten Years of Australian Art and Letters edited by Geoffrey Dutton, 1968;
My Country: Australian Poetry and Short Stories, Two Hundred Years edited by Leonie Kramer, 1985;
The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Anthology of Australian Religious Poetry edited by Les Murray, 1986;
Australian Poetry in the Twentieth Century edited by Robert Gray and Geoffrey Lehmann, 1991;
John Shaw Neilson: Poetry, Autobiography and Correspondence edited by Cliff Hanna, 1991;
Selected Poems edited by Robert Gray, 1993;
Australian Verse: An Oxford Anthology edited by John Leonard, 1998;
Hell and After: Four Early English-Language Poets of Australia edited by Les Murray, 2005; and
The Puncher & Wattman Anthology of Australian Poetry edited by John Leonard, 2009.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography

See also.

The Young Peddlars by P. L. Travers

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Stolen songs in knapsacks, songs of joy and pain,
We've been over all the world, there and back again,\
   Piping down the windy ways,
   Dancing, singing through the days,
We, the ragged rhymers, gypsies out of Spain.

Feathers red within our caps, shod with purple shoon,
Jingling silver in our hands stolen from the moon.
   Gold have we a-plenty -- see
   Splashes of the sun! Ah, we --
We are rich in wonder, ask of us a boon!

Ask of Pam for laughter, pay her with a kiss,
Buy of love from Rose-at-ear, she's the wench for bliss,
   Give us all your saddened years,
   We'll make beauty from your tears
So you've love and laughter nothing is amiss.

Hector knows a story to charm you should you weep,
And Jock can twang a ballad upon his fiddle deep.
   Or  Pirouette, to still your sights
   Will brush her lips across your eyes
And set your feet to music, till, wearied you will sleep.

Would you know our secret? Youth with Hope empearled
Is woven into garments and round our bodies curled;
   Sorrow, Laughter, Love and Tears,
   Skipping with us down the years,
We, the ragged rhymers, singing to the world!

First published in The Bulletin, 12 April 1923

Author: Pamela Lyndon Travers (1899-1996) was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland.  Best known for her series of children's novels featuring the English nanny, Mary Poppins, Travers began her working life as a cashier before the stage beckoned.  She then moved to journalism while living in New Zealand.  She traveled to Ireland and then to England, where she settled, in 1924.  The first of her Mary Poppins story collections was published in 1934, which made her a literary success in both the US and UK.  She died in London in 1996.

Author reference sites: Austlit

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