Saint Peter [poem by Henry Lawson]

[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]

Saint Peter

Now, I think there is a likeness
’Twixt St. Peter’s life and mine,
For he did a lot of trampin’
Long ago in Palestine.
He was ‘union’ when the workers
First began to organise,
And — I’m glad that old St. Peter
Keeps the gate of Paradise.

When the ancient agitator
And his brothers carried swags,
I’ve no doubt he very often
Tramped with empty tucker-bags;
And I’m glad he’s Heaven’s picket,
For I hate explainin’ things,
And he’ll think a union ticket
Just as good as Whitely King’s.

He denied the Saviour’s union,
Which was weak of him, no doubt;
But perhaps his feet was blistered
And his boots had given out.
And the bitter storm was rushin’
On the bark and on the slabs,
And a cheerful fire was blazin’,
And the hut was full of ‘scabs.’

* * * * * *

When I reach the great head-station —
Which is somewhere ‘off the track’ —
I won’t want to talk with angels
Who have never been out back;
They might bother me with offers
Of a banjo — meanin’ well —
And a pair of wings to fly with,
When I only want a spell.

I’ll just ask for old St. Peter,
And I think, when he appears,
I will only have to tell him
That I carried swag for years.
‘I’ve been on the track,’ I’ll tell him,
‘An’ I done the best I could,’
And he’ll understand me better
Than the other angels would.

He won’t try to get a chorus
Out of lungs that’s worn to rags,
Or to graft the wings on shoulders
That is stiff with humpin’ swags.
But I’ll rest about the station
Where the work-bell never rings,
Till they blow the final trumpet
And the Great Judge sees to things.



Source:
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, page 155-157

Editor’s notes:
station = a large rural holding for raising sheep or cattle (the term “property” is used for smaller holdings)

Whitely King = during the 1890s Whitely King was the Secretary of the Pastoralists’ Union of New South Wales, an employers’ body established in 1890 to further the interests of farmers, especially with their dealings with labor unions

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