[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
A Prouder Man than You
If you fancy that your people came of better stock than mine,
If you hint of higher breeding by a word or by a sign,
If you’re proud because of fortune or the clever things you do —
Then I’ll play no second fiddle: I’m a prouder man than you!
If you think that your profession has the more gentility,
And that you are condescending to be seen along with me;
If you notice that I’m shabby while your clothes are spruce and new —
You have only got to hint it: I’m a prouder man than you!
If you have a swell companion when you see me on the street,
And you think that I’m too common for your toney friend to meet,
So that I, in passing closely, fail to come within your view —
Then be blind to me for ever: I’m a prouder man than you!
If your character be blameless, if your outward past be clean,
While ’tis known my antecedents are not what they should have been,
Do not risk contamination, save your name whate’er you do —
‘Birds o’ feather fly together’: I’m a prouder bird than you!
Keep your patronage for others! Gold and station cannot hide
Friendship that can laugh at fortune, friendship that can conquer pride!
Offer this as to an equal — let me see that you are true,
And my wall of pride is shattered: I am not so proud as you!
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 202-203
swell = in a social context, fashionably elegant or stylish
toney = having an aristocratic or “high-toned” manner or style
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