Henry Lawson

poems:

21

the men who sleep with danger

The men who camp with Danger are mostly quiet men: And one may use a rifle, and one may use a pen, and one may strap a camera in deserts to his bike; But men who sleep with Danger are pretty much alike. To men in places pleasant or in the barren West there’s Danger ever present – a half unheeded guest. But , thoughtful for the stranger, the timid or the weak – the men who camp with Danger keep watch but do not speak. The men who go with Danger are mostly dreamy-eyed upon the swooping fo’c’sle. or by the camp-fire side, and when they sit in darkness, to show us where they are: The glowing of a pipe-bowl and often a cigar. The men who camp with Danger have quiet humour too, and songs that you’ve forgotten, and real good yarns for you. There’s little you can tell them of yourself or your own that men who’ve lived with Danger have never felt or known. The men who sleep with Danger sleep soundly while they may, but always wake at midnight or just before the day. A something in the darkness that shudders at the dawn – a side-mate softly wakened, a rifle swiftly drawn. The men who sail with Danger as actors are ideal: They lightly laugh to fool you when Danger’s very real. The men who sail with Danger a wondrous insight have: They know if you are timid, they know if you are brave. The stewards set the tables with careless, practised care, and take accustomed comforts to sea-sick cabins there. They knock at doors of state-rooms with broth and tea and toast, while well they know, it’s touch and go, and death sits on the coast. The man who lives with Danger has knowledge all his own; The instinct of a woman, of men who fight alone. He learns from peace and comfort, he learns from care and strife; Unwittingly from all things and from his native wife. The men who live with Danger see sermons in a log; They have the nerves of horses, the instincts of a dog, when illness comes to loved ones they know where’er they roam – have you seen, without for reason, a farther start for home? They know and feel our "warnings" as only Gipsies do; They know the Norse Vardoger – they hear and see it, too. They know when death has passed them, and the death watch is at end. They know when he is coming – the Unexpected Friend. The men who live with Danger, they take things as they go – in seeming unpreparedness, to those who do not know. They sleep when they have toiled and laughed and fought for someone’s sake; But Danger whispers in their ear, and they are wide awake!

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