Henry Lawson ( )


It is stuffy in the steerage where the second-classers sleep, 
For theres near a hundred forard, and theyre stowed away like sheep, -- 
They are travlers for the most part in a straight n honest path; 
But their linens rather scanty, an there isnt any bath -- 
Stowed away like ewes and wethers that is shore n marked n draft. 
But the shearers of the shearers always seem to travel aft; 
In the cushioned cabins, aft, 
With saloons n smoke-rooms, aft -- 
There is sheets n best of tucker for the first-salooners, aft. 

Our beef is just like scrapins from the inside of a hide, 
And the spuds were pulled too early, for theyre mostly green inside; 
But from somewhere back amidships theres a smell o cookin waft, 
An Id give my earthly prospects for a real good tuck-out aft -- 
Ham an eggs n coffee, aft, 
Say, cold fowl for luncheon, aft, 
Juicy grills an toast n cutlets -- tucker a-lor-frongsy, aft. 

They feed our women seprate, an they make a blessed fuss, 
Just as if they couldnt trust em for to eat along with us! 
Just because our hands are horny an our hearts are rough with graft -- 
But the gentlemen and ladies always DINE together, aft -- 
With their ferns an mirrors, aft, 
With their flowrs an napkins, aft -- 
`Ill assist you to an orange -- `Kindly pass the sugar, aft. 

We are shabby, rough, n dirty, an our feelins out of tune, 
An its hard on fellers forard that was used to go saloon; 
Theres a broken swell among us -- he is barracked, he is chaffed, 
An I wish at times, poor devil, for his own sake he was aft; 
For theyd understand him, aft, 
(He will miss the bath-rooms aft), 
Spite of all theres no denyin that theres finer feelins aft. 

Last night we watched the moonlight as it spread across the sea -- 
`It is hard to make a livin, said the broken swell to me. 
`There is ups an downs, I answered, an a bitter laugh he laughed -- 
There were brighter days an better when he always travelled aft -- 
With his rug an gladstone, aft, 
With his cap an spyglass, aft -- 
A careless, rovin, gay young spark as always travelled aft. 

Theres a notice by the gangway, an it seems to come amiss, 
For it says that second-classers `aint allowed abaft o this; 
An there ought to be a notice for the fellows from abaft -- 
But the smell an dirts a warnin to the first-salooners, aft; 
With their tooth and nail-brush, aft, 
With their cuffs n collars, aft -- 
Their cigars an books an papers, an their cap-peaks fore-n-aft. 

I want to breathe the mornin breeze that blows against the boat, 
For theres a swellin in my heart -- a tightness in my throat -- 
We are forard when theres trouble! We are forard when theres graft! 
But the men who never battle always seem to travel aft; 
With their dressin-cases, aft, 
With their swell pyjamas, aft -- 
Yes! the idle and the careless, they have ease an comfort, aft. 

I feel so low an wretched, as I mooch about the deck, 
That Im ripe for jumpin over -- an I wish there was a wreck! 
We are driven to New Zealand to be shot out over there -- 
Scarce a shillin in our pockets, nor a decent rag to wear, 
With the everlastin worry lest we dont get into graft -- 
There is little left to land for if you cannot travel aft; 
No anxiety abaft, 
They have stuff to land with, aft -- 
Oh, theres little left to land for if you cannot travel aft; 

But its grand at sea this mornin, an Creation almost speaks, 
Sailin past the Bay of Islands with its pinnacles an peaks, 
With the sunny haze all round us an the white-caps on the blue, 
An the orphan rocks an breakers -- Oh, its glorious sailin through! 
To the south a distant steamer, to the west a coastin craft, 
An we see the beauty forard, better than if we were aft; 
Spite of opra-glasses, aft; 
But, ah well, theyre brothers aft -- 
Nature seems to draw us closer -- bring us nearer fore-n-aft. 

Whats the use of bein bitter? Whats the use of gettin mad? 
Whats the use of bein narrer just because yer luck is bad? 
Whats the blessed use of frettin like a child that wants the moon? 
There is broken hearts an trouble in the gilded first saloon! 
We are used to bein shabby -- we have got no overdraft -- 
We can laugh at troubles forard that they couldnt laugh at aft; 
Spite o pride an tone abaft 
(Keepin up appearance, aft) 
Theres anxiety an worry in the breezy cabins aft. 

But the curse o class distinctions from our shoulders shall be hurled, 
An the influence of woman revolutionize the world; 
Therell be higher education for the toilin starvin clown, 
An the rich an educated shall be educated down; 
An we all will meet amidships on this stout old earthly craft, 
An there wont be any friction twixt the classes fore-n-aft. 
Well be brothers, fore-n-aft! 
Yes, an sisters, fore-n-aft! 
When the people work together, and there aint no fore-n-aft.

Henry Lawson's other poems:
  1. To an Old Mate
  2. Jack Dunn of Nevertire
  3. The Heart of Australia
  4. The Bush Girl
  5. Past Carin

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