Sunday, 30 January 2011

Monochrome Weekend

Henry Lawson's hand

Henry Lawson (1867-1922) was one of Australia's best known short story writers and poets. His first published work, "A Song of the Republic" appeared in The Bulletin in 1887 and, during a career spanning over 30 years, he also tried his hand at journalism writing pieces for the Republican, Boomerang and Worker.

The Mitchell Library holds a rich collection of Lawson's manuscripts and memorabilia, including this gilded plaster cast of Lawson's right hand. The cast, which had once been in the possession of journalist and poet Muir Holburn, is attributed to Sydney sculptor Nelson Illingworth. It is believed to have been made from a mould, taken from Lawson after his death, for the bust of Lawson which is now in the National Gallery of Victoria's collection.

Here's some Lawson for you:

On the Wallaby
Now the tent poles are rotting, the camp fires are dead,
And the possums may gambol in trees overhead;
I am humping my bluey far out on the land,
And the prints of my bluchers sink deep in the sand:
I am out on the wallaby humping my drum,
And I came by the tracks where the sundowners come.

It is nor'-west and west o'er the ranges and far
To the plains where the cattle and sheep stations are,
With the sky for my roof and the grass for my bunk,
And a calico bag for my damper and junk;
And scarcely a comrade my memory reveals,
Save the spiritless dingo in tow of my heels.

But I think of the honest old light of my home
When the stars hang in clusters like lamps from the dome,
And I think of the hearth where the dark shadows fall,
When my camp fire is built on the widest of all;
But I'm following Fate, for I know she knows best,
I follow, she leads, and it's nor'-west by west.

When my tent is all torn and my blankets are damp,
And the rising flood waters flow fast by the camp,
When the cold water rises in jets from the floor,
I lie in my bunk and I list to the roar,
And I think how to-morrow my footsteps will lag
When I tramp 'neath the weight of a rain-sodden swag.

Though the way of the swagman is mostly up-hill,
There are joys to be found on the wallaby still.
When the day has gone by with its tramp or its toil,
And your camp-fire you light, and your billy you boil,
There is comfort and peace in the bowl of your clay
Or the yarn of a mate who is tramping that way.

But beware of the town -- there is poison for years
In the pleasure you find in the depths of long beers;
For the bushman gets bushed in the streets of a town,
Where he loses his friends when his cheque is knocked down;
He is right till his pockets are empty, and then --
He can hump his old bluey up country again.

For more monochrome madness, visit Dragonstar's Weekend in Black and White. 


Jouir la vie said...

Nice words, I like it...

Servus from Germany

Julie said...

That final verse is a corker!!

I am considering humping my bluey up to Grenfell for the June long-weekend.

J Bar said...

Great tribute.

Dragonstar said...

The sculpture is excellent, and you've captured so much detail.
As for the poem, I get a general impression of the joys of what we'd probably call "the open road" - think I need translation to get the best of it though ;)