When I was King and Other Verses

A Voice from the City

Henry Lawson

ON western plain and eastern hill
    Where once my fancy ranged,
The station hands are riding still
    And they are little changed.
But I have lost in London gloom
    The glory of the day,
The grand perfume of wattle bloom
    Is faint and far away.

Brown faces under broad-brimmed hats
    The grip of wiry hands,
The gallops on the frosty flats,
    Seem dreams of other lands;
The camp fire and the stars that blaze
    Above the mystic plain
Are but the thoughts of vanished days
    That never come again.

The evening star I seldom view—
    That led me on to roam—
I never see the morning star
    That used to draw me home.
But I have often longed for day
    To hide the few I see,
Because they only point and say
    Most bitter things to me.

I wear my life on pavement stones
    That drag me ever down,
A paltry slave to little things,
    By custom chained to town.
I’ve lost the strength to strike alone,
    The heart to do and dare—
I mind the day I’d roll my swag
    And tramp to—God-knows-where.

When I should wait I wander out,
    When I should go I bide—
I scarcely dare to think about
    The days when I could ride.
I would not mount before his eyes,
    ‘Straight’ Bushman tall and tan—
I mind the day when I stood up
    And fought him like a man.

I mind the time when I was shy
    To meet the brown Bush girls—
I’ve lunched with lords since then and I
    Have been at home with earls:
I learned to smile and learned to bow
    And lie to ladies gay—
But to a gaunt Bushwoman now
    I’d not know what to say.

And if I sought her hard bare home
    From scenes of show and sham,
I’d sit all ill at ease and fell
    The poor weak thing I am.
I could not meet her hopeless eyes
    That look one through and through,
The haggard woman of the past
    Who once thought I was true.

But nought on earth can last for aye,
    And wild with care and pain,
Some day by chance I’ll break away
    And seek the Bush again.
And find awhile from bitter years
    The rest the Bush can bring,
And hear, perhaps, with truer ears
    The songs it has to sing.

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