Henry Lawson ( )

When Your Pants Begin to Go

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isnt white, 
And you cannot sleep for thinking how youll reach to-morrow night, 
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care, 
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair; 
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind 
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind. 

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play, 
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way; 
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around, 
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound; 
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care, 
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair. 

You are none the less a hero if you elevate your chin 
When you feel the pavement wearing through the leather, sock, and skin; 
You are rather more heroic than are ordinary folk 
If you scorn to fish for pity under cover of a joke; 
You will face the doubtful glances of the people that you know; 
But -- of course, youre bound to face them when your pants begin to go. 

If, when flush, you took your pleasures -- failed to make a god of Pelf, 
Some will say that for your troubles you can only thank yourself -- 
Some will swear youll die a beggar, but you only laugh at that, 
While your garments hand together and you wear a decent hat; 
You may laugh at their predictions while your soles are wearing low, 
But -- a mans an awful coward when his pants begin to go. 

Though the present and the future may be anything but bright, 
It is best to tell the fellows that youre getting on all right, 
And a man prefers to say it -- tis a manly lie to tell, 
For the folks may be persuaded that youre doing very well; 
But its hard to be a hero, and its hard to wear a grin, 
When your most important garment is in places very thin. 

Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best, 
That your sorrows wont run over in the presence of the rest; 
Theres a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine, 
Hell declare your coat is tidy, and hell say: `Just look at mine! 
Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesnt show, 
And hell swear it cant be noticed when your pants begin to go. 

Brother mine, and of misfortune! times are hard, but do not fret, 
Keep your courage up and struggle, and well laugh at these things yet, 
Though there is no corn in Egypt, surely Africa has some -- 
Keep your smile in working order for the better days to come! 
We shall often laugh together at the hard times that we know, 
And get measured by the tailor when our pants begin to go. 


Now the lady of refinement, in the lap of comfort rocked, 
Chancing on these rugged verses, will pretend that she is shocked. 
Leave her to her smelling-bottle; tis the wealthy who decide 
That the world should hide its patches neath the cruel look of pride; 
And I think theres something noble, and I swear theres nothing low, 
In the pride of Human Nature when its pants begin to go.

Henry Lawson's other poems:
  1. Wide Lies Australia
  2. To an Old Mate
  3. The League of Nations
  4. Camerons Heart
  5. The Song of the Darling River

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