When I was King and Other Verses

To Jim

Henry Lawson

I GAZE upon my son once more,
    With eyes and heart that tire,
As solemnly he stands before
    The screen drawn round the fire;
With hands behind clasped hand in hand,
    Now loosely and now fast—
Just as his fathers used to stand
    For generations past.

A fair and slight and childish form,
    And big brown thoughtful eyes—
God help him! for a life of storm
    And stress before him lies:
A wanderer and a gipsy wild,
    I’ve learnt the world and know,
For I was such another child—
    Ah, many years ago!

But in those dreamy eyes of him
    There is no hint of doubt—
I wish that you could tell me, Jim,
    The things you dream about.
Dream on, my son, that all is true
    And things not what they seem—
’Twill be a bitter day for you
    When wakened from your dream.

You are a child of field and flood,
    But with the gipsy strains
A strong Norwegian sailor’s blood
    Is running through your veins.
Be true, and slander never stings,
    Be straight, and all may frown—
You’ll have the strength to grapple things
    That dragged your father down.

These lines I write with bitter tears
    And failing heart and hand,
But you will read in after years,
    And you will understand:
You’ll hear the slander of the crowd,
    They’ll whisper tales of shame,
But days will come when you’ll be proud
    To bear your father’s name.

But oh! beware of bitterness
    When you are wronged, my lad—
I wish I had the faith in men
    And women that I had!
’Tis better far (for I have felt
    The sadness in my song)
To trust all men and still be wronged
    Than to trust none and wrong.

Be generous and still do good
    And banish while you live
The spectre of ingratitude
    That haunts the ones who give.
But if the crisis comes at length
    That your future might be marred,
Strike hard, my son, with all your strength!
    For your own self’s sake, strike hard!

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