[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
Australian Bards and Bush Reviewers
While you use your best endeavour to immortalise in verse
The gambling and the drink which are your country’s greatest curse,
While you glorify the bully and take the spieler’s part —
You’re a clever southern writer, scarce inferior to Bret Harte.
If you sing of waving grasses when the plains are dry as bricks,
And discover shining rivers where there’s only mud and sticks;
If you picture ‘mighty forests’ where the mulga spoils the view —
You’re superior to Kendall, and ahead of Gordon too.
If you swear there’s not a country like the land that gave you birth,
And its sons are just the noblest and most glorious chaps on earth;
If in every girl a Venus your poetic eye discerns,
You are gracefully referred to as the ‘young Australian Burns.’
But if you should find that bushmen — spite of all the poets say —
Are just common brother-sinners, and you’re quite as good as they —
You’re a drunkard, and a liar, and a cynic, and a sneak,
Your grammar’s simply awful and your intellect is weak.
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 228-229
Bret Harte = an American author and poet
Gordon = Adam Lindsay Gordon, a poet born in the Azores (to British parents), who spent most of his working and literary life in Australia
Kendall = Henry Kendall, Australian poet