Guest poem submitted by Frank O'Shea:
(Poem #1016) Faces in the Street
They lie, the men who tell us for reasons of their own 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. And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair, To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care; I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street Drifting on, drifting on, To the scrape of restless feet; I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street. In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by, Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet, Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street Flowing in, flowing in, To the beat of hurried feet Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street. The human river dwindles when 'tis past the hour of eight, Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late; But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street Grinding body, grinding soul, Yielding scarce enough to eat Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street. And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town, Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street, Tells of the city's unemployed upon his weary beat Drifting round, drifting round, To the tread of listless feet Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street. And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away, And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day, Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat, Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street Ebbing out, ebbing out, To the drag of tired feet, While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street. And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day's sad pages end, For while the short `large hours' toward the longer `small hours' trend, With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat, Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street Sinking down, sinking down, Battered wreck by tempests beat A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street. But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes, For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums, Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet, And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street Rotting out, rotting out, For the lack of air and meat In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street. I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor? Ah! Mammon's slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat, When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street, The wrong things and the bad things And the sad things that we meet In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street. I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still, And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill; But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet, They haunted me the shadows of those faces in the street, Flitting by, flitting by, Flitting by with noiseless feet, And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street. Once I cried: `Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure, Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.' And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city's street, And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet, Coming near, coming near, To a drum's dull distant beat, And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street. Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall, The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all, And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution's heat, And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street. Pouring on, pouring on, To a drum's loud threatening beat, And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street. And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course, The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse, But not until a city feels Red Revolution's feet Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street The dreadful everlasting strife For scarcely clothes and meat In that pent track of living death the city's cruel street.
Thank you for today's Robert Service poem. The metre and to a certain extent the theme, reminded me very much of this classic by Henry Lawson. The poem was written in 1888. Lawson had come to Sydney from the bush five years earlier and met his mother's friends, many of them radical in their politics It is easy to see how a young man would look for the Red flag to impose a form of equality. It would be exactly 100 years before the events in Berlin finally killed off that aspiration. It would be many years before Lawson descended into the hopeless drunk of his final years. He is still the only Australian poet to be given a state funeral. Frank.  "The March of the Dead", Minstrels Poem #980. [Biography] Henry Hertzberg Lawson was born on 17 June, 1867 on the goldfields at Grenfell, New South Wales. His father was originally a Norwegian sailor whose name was Neils Larsen. He changed his name to Peter Lawson and became a gold miner. His mother, Louisa (nee Albury) was a very independent lady and she had a great influence on Henry's life. Peter and Louisa had four other children besides Henry - Charles, Peter, Getrude and Henrietta (who died from an illness, in 1879). Henry went to school at Eurunderee and Mudgee but during the few years he was there, he was often picked on by the other children. At the age of nine, he developed an ear infection and became partially deaf. By the time he was fourteen, he was totally deaf. He had a very difficult childhood as the family were very poor. After leaving school early, Lawson helped his father on building projects. His first employment came as an apprentice railway coach painter in 1887, and he was often worried about missing work because he could not hear the alarm to go to work because of his deafness. His parents separated in 1883 and Lawson moved to Sydney with his mother. In 1887, Louisa bought a newspaper called the Republican and it was here that Lawson's first writing was published. That same year, the Bulletin published Lawson's first poem and in 1888, it published his first short story, "His Father's Mate". On New Year's Eve, 1888, Lawson's father died. In 1890, Lawson travelled to Albany, WA where he wrote for the Albany Observer but returned in September, 1890 and travelled to Brisbane where he accepted a position on the Brisbane newspaper, the Boomerang, in 1891. Between 1888 and 1892, Lawson published many of his most famous poems like "Andy's Gone with Cattle", "The Roaring Days" and 'The Drover's Wife". In 1892, Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back and it was during this time that he came to be very conscious of the hardships of bush life. Also in 1892, Lawson met up with Banjo Patterson, another famous Australian writer, to debate their views of life in the bush. Lawson also worked as a shearer and lived with the other workers. He travelled to New Zealand for seven months where he also worked as a shearer. Offered a position with the Worker, Lawson returned to Sydney. When the Worker reverted to a weekly newspaper, he became first a provincial editor and then a contributor. In 1894 his first collection was published and Lawson met Bertha Bredt who became his wife in 1896. Bertha Bredt was the step daughter of Sydney bookseller and radical, W.H. McNamara as well as the sister-in-law of the politician Jack Lang. Lawson and Bertha had two children, their son Jim, was born 10 February, 1898 and baby Bertha in 1899. They travelled again to New Zealand where both Lawson and Bertha worked as school teachers at a Maori school at Mangamaunu near Kaikoura, in the South Island. Lawson, always a heavy drinker, had struggled with alchoholism since 1888 but was not troubled by it during his stay in New Zealand despite the solitude. After his return from New Zealand in 1898 however, his alchoholism recurred. Lawson published two more prose collections but was becoming more disenchanted with Australia and in 1900, the family travelled to England, helped financially by Earl Beauchamp, the governor of NSW, David Scott Mitchell and the publisher, George Robertson. They rented a house at Harpeden, 40 km north of London. Lawson continued to write some of his best work in England but by 1902 decided to return to Australia because of financial problems and illness. After his return from England on 21 May, 1902, Lawson and his wife separated and Lawson became increasingly unstable. Bertha and the two children moved into Bertha's mother's place when he failed to pay the maintenance to her and Bertha issued a summons for him because she was afraid of Lawson's behaviour. On 31 December, the magistrate ordered Henry to pay Bertha 2 pounds weekly. His mother Louisa also suffered mental problems after her publication "Dawn", a woman's magazine with a strong suffragette bias, finally closed in 1905. She died in the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane on 12 August, 1920. Between 1905 and 1910, Lawson was regularly in prison for non-payment of maintenance and inebriation. He was also in mental and rehabilitation sanatoriums and gradually progressed into a pathetic, dissolute, alcoholic wandering the Sydney streets, begging for money for alchohol. He even tried to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff but survived despite serious injuries. His friends, J. Le Gay Brereton, E.J. Brady and George Robertson, came to his rescue and helped him financially. Mrs Isabel Byers, who was twenty years older than Lawson, befriended him and constantly provided shelter and food for him from 1904. In 1916, his friends found him a position at Leeton, providing data for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Lawson continued to produce his works during the First World War and was well received. On 14 July, 1921, Lawson had a stroke but continued to write about his travels to London. Between 1920 and 1922, the government provided a pension for Lawson. On September 2, 1922, at age 55, Lawson finally died peacefully in his sleep while still writing and was given a state funeral on 4 September, the first writer to be given one. Henry Lawson remains one of Australia's most famous writers and his portrait is on our ten dollar note. During his life, Lawson lived and wrote in widely different environments and had known life as a bush worker, house painter, telegraph linesman, journalist and rouseabout. Much of what he saw and experienced went into his short stories but his deepest feelings are revealed in his verse. Even in his earliest life, he was haunted by the impermanence of life and his poetry in his day was often criticised as being too melancholy. Lawson did not shrink from reminding people that they must face and endure their lives, although Lawson himself never lost hope. -- [broken link] http://homepage.powerup.com.au/~rdale/lawson.htm (As always, http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=henry+lawson leads to more). [Minstrels Links] Antipodean poems: Poem #566, Clancy of the Overflow -- A. B. "Banjo" Paterson Poem #569, The Great Grey Plain -- Henry Lawson Poem #573, At a Fishing Settlement -- Alistair Campbell