Henry Lawson

As I decided to introduce you to AB ‘Banjo’ Patterson a couple of days ago, I thought it only right to balance this with a poem from Henry Lawson. The other great Australian poet. For me, I cannot separate one from the other. It is not possible to read Patterson without reading Lawson. They balanced each other. Between them, they captured a time and a spirit and preserved it forever for future generations.

THE THINGS WE DARE NOT TELL

Henry Lawson

The fields are fair in autumn yet, and the sun’s still shining there,
But we bow our heads and we brood and fret, because of the masks we wear;
Or we nod and smile the social while, and we say we’re doing well,
But we break our hearts, oh, we break our hearts! for the things we must not tell.

There’s the old love wronged ere the new was won, there’s the light of long ago;
There’s the cruel lie that we suffer for, and the public must not know.
So we go through life with a ghastly mask, and we’re doing fairly well,
While they break our hearts, oh, they kill our hearts! do the things we must not tell.

We see but pride in a selfish breast, while a heart is breaking there;
Oh, the world would be such a kindly world if all men’s hearts lay bare!
We live and share the living lie, we are doing very well,
While they eat our hearts as the years go by, do the things we dare not tell.

We bow us down to a dusty shrine, or a temple in the East,
Or we stand and drink to the world-old creed, with the coffins at the feast;
We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,
But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.

Original text: Henry Lawson, When I was King and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1906): 56-57. x.908/578 British Library

The Other Half
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