[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in Verses Popular and Humorous, 1900.]
The Writer’s Dream
A writer wrote of the hearts of men, and he followed their tracks afar;
For his was a spirit that forced his pen to write of the things that are.
His heart grew tired of the truths he told, for his life was hard and grim;
His land seemed barren, its people cold — yet the world was dear to him; —
So he sailed away from the Streets of Strife, he travelled by land and sea,
In search of a people who lived a life as life in the world should be.
And he reached a spot where the scene was fair, with forest and field and wood,
And all things came with the seasons there, and each of its kind was good;
There were mountain-rivers and peaks of snow, there were lights of green and gold,
And echoing caves in the cliffs below, where a world-wide ocean rolled.
The lives of men from the wear of Change and the strife of the world were free —
For Steam was barred by the mountain-range and the rocks of the Open Sea.
And the last that were born of a noble race — when the page of the South was fair —
The last of the conquered dwelt in peace with the last of the victors there.
He saw their hearts with the author’s eyes who had written their ancient lore,
And he saw their lives as he’d dreamed of such — ah! many a year before.
And ‘I’ll write a book of these simple folk ere I to the world return,
‘And the cold who read shall be kind for these — and the wise who read shall learn.
‘Never again in a song of mine shall a jarring note be heard:
‘Never again shall a page or line be marred by a bitter word;
‘But love and laughter and kindly hours will the book I’ll write recall,
‘With chastening tears for the loss of one, and sighs for their sorrows all.
‘Old eyes will light with a kindly smile, and the young eyes dance with glee —
‘And the heart of the cynic will rest awhile for my simple folk and me.’
The lines ran on as he dipped his pen — ran true to his heart and ear —
Like the brighter pages of memory when every line is clear.
The pictures came and the pictures passed, like days of love and light —
He saw his chapters from first to last, and he thought it grand to write.
And the writer kissed his girlish wife, and he kissed her twice for pride:
‘’Tis a book of love, though a book of life! and a book you’ll read!’ he cried.
He was blind at first to each senseless slight (for shabby and poor he came)
From local ‘Fashion’ and mortgaged pride that scarce could sign its name.
What dreamer would dream of such paltry pride in a scene so fresh and fair?
But the local spirit intensified — with its pitiful shams — was there;
There were cliques wherever two houses stood (no rest for a family ghost!)
They hated each other as women could — but they hated the stranger most.
The writer wrote by day and night and he cried in the face of Fate —
‘I’ll cleave to my dream of life in spite of the cynical ghosts that wait.
‘’Tis the shyness born of their simple lives,’ he said to the paltry pride —
(The homely tongues of the simple wives ne’er erred on the generous side) —
‘They’ll prove me true and they’ll prove me kind ere the year of grace be passed,’
But the ignorant whisper of ‘axe to grind!’ went home to his heart at last.
The writer sat by his drift-wood fire three nights of the South-east gale,
His pen lay idle on pages vain, for his book was a fairy tale.
The world-wise lines of an elder age were plain on his aching brow,
As he sadly thought of each brighter page that would never be written now.
‘I’ll write no more!’ But he bowed his head, for his heart was in Dreamland yet —
‘The pages written I’ll burn,’ he said, ‘and the pages thought forget.’
But he heard the hymn of the Open Sea, and the old fierce anger burned,
And he wrenched his heart from its dreamland free as the fire of his youth returned:—
‘The weak man’s madness, the strong man’s scorn — the rebellious hate of youth
‘From a deeper love of the world are born! And the cynical ghost is Truth!’
And the writer rose with a strength anew wherein Doubt could have no part;
‘I’ll write my book and it shall be true — the truth of a writer’s heart.
‘Ay! cover the wrong with a fairy tale — who never knew want or care —
‘A bright green scum on a stagnant pool that will reek the longer there.
‘You may starve the writer and buy the pen — you may drive it with want and fear —
‘But the lines run false in the hearts of men — and false to the writer’s ear.
‘The bard’s a rebel and strife his part, and he’ll burst from his bonds anew,
‘Till all pens write from a single heart! And so may the dream come true.
* * * * * *
‘’Tis ever the same in the paths of men where money and dress are all,
‘The crawler will bully whene’er he can, and the bully who can’t will crawl.
‘And this is the creed in the local hole, where the souls of the selfish rule;
‘Borrow and cheat while the stranger’s green, then sneer at the simple fool.
‘Spit your spite at the men whom Fate has placed in the head-race first,
‘And hate till death, with a senseless hate, the man you have injured worst!
‘There are generous hearts in the grinding street, but the Hearts of the World go west;
‘For the men who toil in the dust and heat of the barren lands are best!
‘The stranger’s hand to the stranger, yet — for a roving folk are mine —
‘The stranger’s store for the stranger set — and the camp-fire glow the sign!
‘The generous hearts of the world, we find, thrive best on the barren sod,
‘And the selfish thrive where Nature’s kind (they’d bully or crawl to God!)
‘I was born to write of the things that are! and the strength was given to me.
‘I was born to strike at the things that mar the world as the world should be!
‘By the dumb heart-hunger and dreams of youth, by the hungry tracks I’ve trod —
‘I’ll fight as a man for the sake of truth, nor pose as a martyred god.
‘By the heart of “Bill” and the heart of “Jim,” and the men that their hearts deem “white,”
‘By the handgrips fierce, and the hard eyes dim with forbidden tears! — I’ll write!
‘I’ll write untroubled by cultured fools, or the dense that fume and fret —
‘For against the wisdom of all their schools I would stake mine instinct yet!
‘For the cynical strain in the writer’s song is the world, not he, to blame,
‘And I’ll write as I think, in the knowledge strong that thousands think the same;
‘And the men who fight in the Dry Country grim battles by day, by night,
‘Will believe in me, and will stand by me, and will say to the world, “He’s right!”’
Henry Lawson. Verses Popular and Humorous, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1900, pages 113-120
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