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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Saturday Rave: Out Back by Henry Lawson.

The poet Henry Lawson had a romantic life, if romantic is taken, as it so often is, to mean the same as doomed.

Henry Lawson was born during the Australian Gold Rush in 1867, the product of a very unhappy marriage. By the age of fourteen he was completely deaf. He worked in the building trade, for various unsuccessful newspapers, and with various grasping publishers, and he was always poor. His own marriage deteriorated to the extent that his wife had him imprisoned for not paying maintenance for his children. He became alcoholic and depressed, and died in the single room that was his home in 1922.

He was then given a state funeral, his portrait was put on a bank note, and a statue was erected to him.

All in all, reality wasn't something Lawson could ignore, and he's best known for his unflinching look at life in the outback of Australia.

Here's the beginning of his poem about just that.

The old year went, and the new returned, in the withering weeks of drought,
The cheque was spent that the shearer earned,
and the sheds were all cut out;
The publican's words were short and few,
and the publican's looks were black - 
And the time had come, as the shearer knew, to carry his swag Out Back

Henry Lawson is famous for being a realist. But all the same, I should imagine that there were times when the poor man wouldn't have minded being a romantic at all.

Word To Use Today: cheque. (They're called checks in America.) This word means a money-order in Britain and America, and wages in Australia and New Zealand. It's the same word as check, meaning to make sure, and comes from the Middle English chek.

You'll find the whole of Henry Lawson's poem HERE.


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