The Ballad of Mabel Clare [poem by Henry Lawson]

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

The Ballad of Mabel Clare

Ye children of the Land of Gold,
I sing a song to you,
And if the jokes are somewhat old,
The main idea ’s new.
So be it sung, by hut and tent,
Where tall the native grows;
And understand, the song is meant
For singing through the nose.

There dwelt a hard old cockatoo
On western hills far out,
Where everything is green and blue,
Except, of course, in drought;
A crimson Anarchist was he —
Held other men in scorn —
Yet preached that ev’ry man was free,
And also ‘ekal born.’

He lived in his ancestral hut —
His missus wasn’t there —
And there was no one with him but
His daughter, Mabel Clare.
Her eyes and hair were like the sun;
Her foot was like a mat;
Her cheeks a trifle overdone;
She was a democrat.

A manly independence, born
Among the trees, she had,
She treated womankind with scorn,
And often cursed her dad.
She hated swells and shining lights,
For she had seen a few,
And she believed in ‘women’s rights’
(She mostly got ’em, too).

A stranger at the neighb’ring run
Sojourned, the squatter’s guest,
He was unknown to anyone,
But like a swell was dress’d;
He had an eyeglass to his eye,
A collar to his ears,
His feet were made to tread the sky,
His mouth was formed for sneers.

He wore the latest toggery,
The loudest thing in ties —
’Twas generally reckoned he
Was something in disguise.
But who he was, or whence he came,
Was long unknown, except
Unto the squatter, who the name
And noble secret kept.

And strolling in the noontide heat,
Beneath the blinding glare,
This noble stranger chanced to meet
The radiant Mabel Clare.
She saw at once he was a swell —
According to her lights —
But, ah! ’tis very sad to tell,
She met him oft of nights.

And, strolling through a moonlit gorge,
She chatted all the while
Of Ingersoll, and Henry George,
And Bradlaugh and Carlyle:
In short, he learned to love the girl,
And things went on like this,
Until he said he was an Earl,
And asked her to be his.

‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
‘Oh, say no more!’ she said;
‘Oh, say no more, Lord Kawlinee,
‘I wish that I was dead:
‘My head is in a hawful whirl,
‘The truth I dare not tell —
‘I am a democratic girl,
‘And cannot wed a swell!’

‘Oh love!’ he cried, ‘but you forget
‘That you are most unjust;
‘’Twas not my fault that I was set
‘Within the upper crust.
‘Heed not the yarns the poets tell —
‘Oh, darling, do not doubt
‘A simple lord can love as well
‘As any rouseabout!

‘For you I’ll give my fortune up —
‘I’d go to work for you!
‘I’ll put the money in the cup
‘And drop the title, too.
‘Oh, fly with me! Oh, fly with me
‘Across the mountains blue!
‘Hoh, fly with me! Hoh, fly with me! ——’
That very night she flew.

They took the train and journeyed down —
Across the range they sped —
Until they came to Sydney town,
Where shortly they were wed.
And still upon the western wild
Admiring teamsters tell
How Mabel’s father cursed his child
For clearing with a swell.

‘What ails my bird this bridal night,’
Exclaimed Lord Kawlinee;
‘What ails my own this bridal night —
‘O love, confide in me!’
‘Oh now,’ she said, ‘that I am yaws
‘You’ll let me weep — I must —
‘I did desert the people’s cause
‘To join the upper crust.’

O proudly smiled his lordship then —
His chimney-pot he floor’d —
‘Look up, my love, and smile again,
‘For I am not a lord!’
His eye-glass from his eye he tore,
The dickey from his breast,
And turned and stood his bride before
A rouseabout — confess’d!

‘Unknown I’ve loved you long,’ he said,
‘And I have loved you true —
‘A-shearing in your guv’ner’s shed
‘I learned to worship you.
‘I do not care for place or pelf,
‘For now, my love, I’m sure
‘That you will love me for myself
‘And not because I’m poor.

‘To prove your love I spent my cheque
‘To buy this swell rig-out;
‘So fling your arms about my neck
‘For I’m a rouseabout!’
At first she gave a startled cry,
Then, safe from care’s alarms,
She sigh’d a soul-subduing sigh
And sank into his arms.

He pawned the togs, and home he took
His bride in all her charms;
The proud old cockatoo received
The pair with open arms.
And long they lived, the faithful bride,
The noble rouseabout —
And if she wasn’t satisfied
She never let it out.



Source:
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 190-195

Editor’s notes:
ekal = equal

pelf = wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired; from the Old French term “pelfre” for booty (related to “pilfer”)

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