The Secret Key and Other Verses

The Average Man

George Essex Evans

HIS hat looks worn, and his coat-sleeves shine,
As I see him step from his ’bus at nine;
His boots are pieced and his tie home-made,
And his trousers patched where the edge was frayed,
And his face is lined by the stress of life
Where a man must fight for his bairns an wife.
“Who’s that?” I ask, as his face I scan.
And the answer comes—“O, an average man.”

He has not got notes, he has not got gold,
But his homely lunch, in his handbag old;
And day by day, as the seasons go,
He follows his duty to and fro,
And shadows follow him everywhere—
Grim want, and worry, and dread are there,
For life is not on a gorgeous plan—
Far, far from it—to the average man.

The floods, the banks, and the curtailed screw,
The weekly bills, and the grasping Jew,
The servant’s wage and the doctor’s fee,
And the needful change by the breezy sea,
And the pent-up hours at the desk, which mean
A man’s brain changed to a mere machine,
And a wife’s tired eyes and the children wan,
All press like lead on the average man.

When the blood is up ’tis a simple thing
To charge where the bombs and the bullets sing.
But he is worthy a higher place
Who fronts his woes with a smiling face,
For the noblest strife in our life to-day
Is the humdrum fight in the humdrum way.
O, wealth and genius may lead the van,
But the hero is often an average man.

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