Sunday Poetry – Henry Lawson

On Australia Day, it’s appropriate that I choose a poem by Henry Lawson. Along with Banjo Paterson, Lawson is probably Australia’s best-known poet. I’m drawn to Lawson’s melancholy & this poem, A Bush Girl, tells one of his most poignant stories. A girl with dreams & ambitions but not much prospect of being able to fulfill them. Lawson’s life wasn’t very happy, blighted by deafness & alcoholism. He died in poverty but maybe it’s his sorrows & inadequacies that make him so good at describing ordinary people’s lives.

She’s milking in the rain and dark,
As did her mother in the past.
The wretched shed of poles and bark,
Rent by the wind, is leaking fast.
She sees the “home-roof” black and low,
Where, balefully, the hut-fire gleams—
And, like her mother, long ago,
She has her dreams; she has her dreams.
The daybreak haunts the dreary scene,
The brooding ridge, the blue-grey bush,
The “yard” where all her years have been,
Is ankle-deep in dung and slush;
She shivers as the hour drags on,
Her threadbare dress of sackcloth seems—
But, like her mother, years agone,
She has her dreams; she has her dreams.

The sullen “breakfast” where they cut
The blackened “junk.” The lowering face,
As though a crime were in the hut,
As though a curse was on the place;
The muttered question and reply,
The tread that shakes the rotting beams,
The nagging mother, thin and dry—
God help the girl! She has her dreams.

Then for “th’ separator” start,
Most wretched hour in all her life,
With “horse” and harness, dress and cart,
No Chinaman would give his “wife”;
Her heart is sick for light and love,
Her face is often fair and sweet,
And her intelligence above
The minds of all she’s like to meet.

She reads, by slush-lamp light, may be,
When she has dragged her dreary round,
And dreams of cities by the sea
(Where butter’s up, so much the pound),
Of different men from those she knows,
Of shining tides and broad, bright streams;
Of theatres and city shows,
And her release! She has her dreams.

Could I gain her a little rest,
A little light, if but for one,
I think that it would be the best
Of any good I may have done.
But, after all, the paths we go
Are not so glorious as they seem,
And—if t’will help her heart to know—
I’ve had my dream. ’Twas but a dream.

3 thoughts on “Sunday Poetry – Henry Lawson

  1. Have you ever read Barbara Baynton's stories? Now there's a realistic view of the bush & through a woman's eyes too. I hope you've enjoyed your Australia Day, Vicki.

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