Henry Lawson

The Bards Who Lived At Manly

The camp of high-class spielers, Who sneered in summer dress, And doo-dah dilettante, And scornful venuses House agents, and storekeepers, All eager they to bleed The bards who tackled Manly, Were plucky bards indeed! With shops that feared to trust them, And pubs that looked askance; And prigs who read their verses, But gave them not a glance; When all were vain and selfish, And editors were hard The bard that stuck to Manly Was sure a mighty bard. What mattered floors were barren, And windows curtainless, And our life seemed to others But blackguard recklessness? We wore our clothes for comfort, We earned our bread alway, And beer and good tobacco Came somehow every day. Came kindred souls to Manly Outsiders that we knew, And with them scribes and artists, And low comedians too; And sometimes bright girl writers Called Tommy, Jack, or Pat (Though each one had a sweetheart The rest knew nought of that). ’Twas not the paltry village We honoured unaware, Or welcome warm, or friendship, Or tone that took us there; We longed to sing for mankind, Where heaven’s breath was free We only sought the grandeur Of sea-cliff, sands and sea. And we were glad at Manly, All unaware of swells, Of doctors and of nurses, And private hospitals; With little fear of bailiffs, And great contempt for greed The bards who lived at Manly, They were a healthy breed. Oh! moonlit nights at Manly, When all the world was fair! In shirts and turned-up trousers We larked like big boys there. Oh! glorious autumn mornings The gold and green and blue We stripped as well as any, And swam as strongly too. The artist had a missus, Who rather loved the wretch, And so for days together He’d stay at home and sketch. And then I fear ’twas only When things were getting tight The bards would shun each other, And hump themselves and write. When bailiffs came to Manly They’d find no sticks to take, We’d welcome them as brothers Their grimy hands we’d shake; We’d send for beer in billies And straightway send for more And bailiff nights in Manly Were merry nights of yore. There are some things that landlords And law can’t do at all: They could not take the pictures We painted on the wall; They could not take the table The table was a door; They could not take the bedsteads The beds were on the floor. The door of some old stable We’d borrowed for a drink A page of rhymes and sketches, And stained with beer and ink; A dead hand drew the portraits And, say, should I be shamed, To seek it out in Manly And get the old door framed? They left the masterpieces The artist dreamed of long; They could not take the gardens From Victor Daley’s song; They left his summer islands And fairy ships at sea, They could not take my mountains And western plains from me. One bailiff was our brother, No better and no worse And, oh! the yarns he told us To put in prose and verse, And sorry we to lose him, And sorry he to go (Oh! skeletons of Pott’s Point, How many things we know)! The very prince of laughter, With brains and sympathy; And with us on the last night He spent his bailiff’s fee. He banished Durkin’s gruffness, He set my soul afloat, And drew till day on Daley’s Bright store of anecdote. He said he’d stick to business Though he could well be free If but to save poor devils From harder bums than he, Now artist, bard and bailiff Have left this vale of sin I trust, if they reach Heaven, They’ll take that bailiff in. The bards that lived in Manly Have vanished one and one; But do not think in Manly Bohemian days are done. They bled me white in Manly When rich and tempest-tossed I’ll leave some bills in Manly To pay for what I lost. They’d grab and grind in Manly, Then slander, sneer, and flout. The shocked of moral Manly! They starved my brothers out. The miserable village, Set in a scene so fair, Were honester and cleaner If some of us were there! But one went with December These last lines seem to-night Like some song I remember, And not a song I write. With vision strangely clearer My old chums seem to be, In death and absence, nearer Than e’er they were to me. Alone, and still not lonely When tears will not be shed I wish that I could only Believe that they were dead. With hardly curbed emotion, I can’t but think, somehow, In Manly by the ocean They’re waiting for me now.

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