For more than one hundred years ,Henry Lawson has been regarded as one of our best-loved poets and writers. His stories illustrated the hardships endured by men and women at the turn of the twentieth century.
There was no romanticising in his words. He wrote of real places and the character of real people that epitomised Australians. Lawson's words expressed what he saw and the sentiment of those around him. Capturing the atmosphere of an evolving nation he gained the peoples' utmost trust.
This was evident on the afternoon of September 4th 1922, when at his funeral, thousands of people lined the streets from Paddington to Waverley Cemetery. The eulogy was given by Prime Minister Billy Hughes, State and Federal Ministers as well as Vice-Regal representatives occupied the front pews while the public spilled onto the street.
Born in Grenfell in western New South Wales on 17th June 1867, the family moved to Pipeclay, near Mudgee three years later. It was here that Lawson spent most of his childhood formulating his love of the land and people. Memories of passing bullock drivers, drovers and the landscape all feature in his writing.
While many characters were composites of people he met in the years tramping the bush, in prison for maintenance arrears and in hospital for alcoholism, others such as Dave Regan, the practical joker and Mitchell, the philosopher can be attributed to Lawson himself. Henry Lawson was hospitalised in 1921 with a cerebral hemorrhage and died at Abbotsford, Sydney on the 2nd of September 1922.
Through reading his works, you can trace his steps through Sydney streets or while traveling through the Blue Mountains to the Central West, you can still see the people and landscape he fondly wrote about.
Excerpts of Henry's poems
Faces in the Street They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
That want is here a stranger, and that misery's unknown; For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet My window-sill is level with the faces in the street
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet -
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.
Rain in the Mountains
The valley's full of misty cloud,
Its tinted beauty drowning,
The mist is hanging like a pall
From many granite ledges,
And many a little waterfall
Starts o'er the valley's edges.
The Old Mile-Tree
Old coach-road West by Nor'-ward
Old mile-tree by the track:
A dead branch pointing forward,
And a dead branch pointing back.
And still in clear-cut letters
On his hard heart he tells
The miles from Bowenfels.
Old chief of Western timber!
A famous gum you've been.
Old mile-tree, I remember
When all your boughs were green.
On the night train
Have you seen the bush by moonlight, from the train, go running by?
Blackened log and stump and sapling, ghostly trees all dead and dry;
Here a patch of glassy water; there a glimpse of mystic sky?
Have you heard the still voice calling — yet so warm, and yet so cold:
"I'm the Mother-Bush that bore you! Come to me when you are old"?
The Shanty on the Rise
When the caravans of wool-teams climbed the ranges from the West,
On a spur among the mountains stood 'The Bullock-drivers' Rest';
It was built of bark and saplings, and was rather rough inside,
But 'twas good enough for bushmen in the careless days that died —
Just a quiet little shanty kept by 'Something-in-Disguise',
As the bushmen called the landlord of the Shanty on the Rise.
The rafters are open to sun, moon, and star,
Thistles and nettles grow high in the bar —
The chimneys are crumbling, the log fires are dead,
And green mosses spring from the hearthstone instead.
The voices are silent, the bustle and din,
For the railroad hath ruined the Cherry-tree Inn
There are scenes in the distance where beauty is not,
On the desolate flats where gaunt apple rot.
Where the brooding old ridge rises up to the breeze
From his dark lonely gullies of stringy bark trees.
There are voice-haunted gaps, ever sullen and strange,
But Eurunderee lies like a gem in the range.