The Shearers

Henry Lawson


No church-bell rings them from the Track,
No pulpit lights their blindness
'Tis hardship, drought and homelessness
That teach those Bushmen kindness:
The mateship born of barren lands,
Of toil and thirst and danger
The camp-fare for the stranger set,
The first place to the stranger.

They do the best they can to-day
Take no thought of the morrow;
Their way is not the old-world way
They live to lend and borrow.
When shearing's done and cheque's gone wrong,
They call it "time to slither"
They saddle up and say "So-long!"
And ride the Lord knows whither.

And though he may be brown or black,
Or wrong man there or right man,
The mate that's honest to his mates
they call that man a "white man!"
They tramp in mateship side by side
The Protestant and "Roman"
They call no biped lord or "sir",
And touch their hat to no man!

They carry in their swags, perhaps,
A portrait and a letter
And, maybe, deep down in their hearts,
The hope of "something better".
Where lonely miles are long to ride,
And all days seem recurrent,
There's lots of time to think of men
They might have been but weren't,

They turn their faces to the west
And leave the world behind them
(The drought-dried graves are seldom green
Where even mates can find them).
They know too little of the world
To rise to wealth or greatness:
But in this book of mine I pay
My tribute to their straightness.

Note regarding the calling of an honest man a "White man": Of course, this is not "politically correct" nowadays, but in those days, it was a great compliment. This is similar to the American expression "Why, that's mighty White of you, mister" (as seen in the old western movies - and even in a Clint Eastwood police movie); same origin, same sentiments.

The Poetry of Henry Lawson
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