[Editor: This poem by Henry Lawson was published in In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, 1896.]
When the ‘Army’ Prays for Watty
When the kindly hours of darkness, save for light of moon and star,
Hide the picture on the signboard over Doughty’s Horse Bazaar;
When the last rose-tint is fading on the distant mulga scrub,
Then the Army prays for Watty at the entrance of his pub.
Now, I often sit at Watty’s when the night is very near,
With a head that’s full of jingles and the fumes of bottled beer,
For I always have a fancy that, if I am over there
When the Army prays for Watty, I’m included in the prayer.
Watty lounges in his arm-chair, in its old accustomed place,
With a fatherly expression on his round and passive face;
And his arms are clasped before him in a calm, contented way,
And he nods his head and dozes when he hears the Army pray.
And I wonder does he ponder on the distant years and dim,
Or his chances over yonder, when the Army prays for him?
Has he not a fear connected with the warm place down below,
Where, according to good Christians, all the publicans should go?
But his features give no token of a feeling in his breast,
Save of peace that is unbroken and a conscience well at rest;
And we guzzle as we guzzled long before the Army came,
And the loafers wait for ‘shouters’ and — they get there just the same.
It would take a lot of praying — lots of thumping on the drum —
To prepare our sinful, straying, erring souls for Kingdom Come;
But I love my fellow-sinners, and I hope, upon the whole,
That the Army gets a hearing when it prays for Watty’s soul.
Henry Lawson. In the Days When the World Was Wide and Other Verses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1903 [first published 1896], pages 106-108
Army = the Salvation Army, who campaigned for the temperance cause
shouters = to shout is to buy others drinks; a shouter is someone doing the buying
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