[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]
Billy’s ‘Square Affair’
Long Bill, the captain of the push, was tired of his estate,
And wished to change his life and win the love of something ‘straight’;
’Twas rumour’d that the Gory B.’s had heard Long Bill declare
That he would turn respectable and wed a ‘square affair.’
He craved the kiss of innocence; his spirit longed to rise;
The ‘Crimson Streak,’ his faithful ‘piece,’ grew hateful in his eyes;
(And though, in her entirety, the Crimson Streak ‘was there,’
I grieve to state the Crimson Streak was not a ‘square affair.’)
He wanted clothes, a masher suit, he wanted boots and hat;
His girl had earned a quid or two — he wouldn’t part with that;
And so he went to Brickfield Hill, and from a draper there
He ‘shook’ the proper kind of togs to fetch a ‘square affair.’
Long Bill went to the barber’s shop and had a shave and singe,
And from his narrow forehead combed his darling Mabel fringe;
Long Bill put on a ‘square cut’ and he brushed his boots with care,
And roved about the Gardens till he mashed a ‘square affair.’
She was a tony servant-girl from somewhere on ‘the Shore;’
She dressed in style that suited Bill — he could not wish for more.
While in her guileless presence he had ceased to chew or swear,
He knew the kind of barrack that can fetch a square affair.
To thus desert his donah old was risky and a sin,
And ’twould have served him right if she had caved his garret in.
The Gory Bleeders thought it too, and warned him to take care
In case the Crimson Streak got scent of Billy’s square affair.
He took her to the stalls; ’twas dear, but Billy said ‘Wot odds!’
He couldn’t take his square affair amongst the crimson gods.
They wandered in the park at night, and hugged each other there —
But, ah! the Crimson Streak got wind of Billy’s square affair!
‘The blank and space and stars!’ she yelled; ‘the nameless crimson dash!
‘I’ll smash the blanky crimson and his square affair, I’ll smash’ —
In short, she drank and raved and shrieked and tore her crimson hair,
And swore to murder Billy and to pound his square affair.
And so one summer evening, as the day was growing dim,
She watched her bloke go out, and foxed his square affair and him.
That night the park was startled by the shrieks that rent the air —
The ‘Streak’ had gone for Billy and for Billy’s square affair.
The ‘gory’ push had foxed the Streak, they foxed her to the park,
And they, of course; were close at hand to see the bleedin’ lark;
A cop arrived in time to hear a ‘gory B.’ declare
‘Gor blar-me! here’s the Red Streak foul of Billy’s square affair.’
* * * * * *
Now Billy scowls about the Rocks, his manly beauty marr’d,
And Billy’s girl, upon her ’ed, is doin’ six months ’ard;
Bill’s swivel eye is in a sling, his heart is in despair,
And in the Sydney ’Orspital lies Billy’s square affair.
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 181-184
donah = a woman, especially a girlfriend or sweetheart
garret = head (from a garret, being a room located just underneath the roof of a house; an attic)
stalls = seats located in the front part of a theatre, on the ground floor, near to the stage
tony = (or “toney”) having an aristocratic or “high-toned” manner or style
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