To the Genius of Henry
© David Campbell
Winner, 2015 National Henry Lawson Society Poetry Competition, Melbourne Victoria.
When we talk about the poets from the days of long ago,
all those versifying masters of the words that we still know,
then the name of Henry Lawson always stands so proud and tall,
as a pioneering legend who can still enchant us all.
From A Song of the Republic to The Row at Ryan’s Pub,
we are paid-up, loyal members of the Henry Lawson Club,
as we pay a rousing tribute to his talent to inspire
with the likes of Trooper Campbell and Jack Dunn of Nevertire.
We read Andy’s Gone With Cattle and we hope for his return,
and The Ballad of the Drover gives a lesson that we learn
of the perils of the outback in the poignant, haunting tale
of the girl left lonely, waiting for the drover Harry Dale.
There’s our history unfolding in The Lights of Cobb and Co,
and the message well worth noting When Your Pants Begin to Go,
while The Song of Old Joe Swallow tells us more about The Teams,
and in Mary Called Him ‘Mister’ we can mourn the loss of dreams.
We will cheer The Squatter’s Daughter as she finds her one true love,
and enjoy the soaring beauty of The Western Stars above,
then be spellbound by the drama of The Fire at Ross’s Farm
as young Robert Black comes riding to keep Jenny Ross from harm.
On the Summit of Mount Clarence we await the Russian fleet
with a lunatic companion who will save us from defeat,
while The Never Never Country takes us way out on a track
with the saints and sinners riding on the road to hell and back.
We can mock The City Bushman and his fondness for the West,
where the drovers and the shearers never have much time to rest,
and then journey to Eureka where the miners took their stand,
or say “thank you” To Doc Wylie when he came to lend a hand.
With The Good Old Concertina we might play a merry tune,
and then grieve for two young sisters in The Babies of Walloon,
but our joy returns unbounded when we’re way out on the plain
where we join The Drover’s Sweetheart as her man comes home again.
If we’d like to read a paper, there’s The Cambaroora Star,
and then maybe we’ll go drinking with poor Sweeney at the bar,
or carousing with the teamsters at The Shanty on the Rise,
before Billy Boy is sleeping in the graveyard where he lies.
On the banks of Reedy River we see Mary Campbell ride
where the Rocky Creek emerges, with her lover by her side,
while The Way I Treated Father has a lesson we should heed…
pay attention to your parents when they seem in times of need.
If you have some skill at riding, try A Word to Texas Jack,
and then pity the dejection in the woes of Beaten Back,
where the harsh, forbidding climate drives selectors from their land
in a story modern farmers can completely understand.
You might see familiar sorrows in those Faces in the Street,
or go Somewhere Up in Queensland where you’ll get a chance to meet
all the black sheep who have wandered far away from kith and kin
to a place like Golden Gully where so many dreams begin.
In the tragedy of Lily and The Women of the Town
you will feel a mounting anger at the men who bring them down,
and that fury will continue with The Army of the Rear,
but the Waratah and Wattle will recall what we hold dear.
Though it’s often said of Henry that he sermonised on gloom,
you will find a sense of humour in The Poets of the Tomb,
and the funny bone is tickled, I am sure you will conclude,
if you take a little gander at A Study in the ‘Nood’.
Some might curse his love of liquor and regret the poems lost,
but I’d rather pay a tribute than debate about the cost,
for his genius is thriving and the poems Henry penned
will, I hope, live on forever…he’s My Literary Friend.