The Cockney Soul
Henry Lawson, 1918
From Woolwich and Brentford and Stamford Hill, from Richmond into the Strand,
Oh, the Cockney soul is a silent soul as it is in every land!
But out on the sand with a broken band it's sarcasm spurs them through;
And, with never a laugh, in a gale and a half, 'tis the Cockney cheers the crew.
Oh, send them a tune from the music-halls with a chorus to shake the sky!
Oh, give them a deep-sea chanty now and a star to steer them by!
Now this is a song of the great untrained, a song of the Unprepared,
Who had never the brains to plead unfit, or think of the things they dared;
Of the grocer-souled and the draper-souled, and the clerks of the four o'clock,
Who stood for London and died for home in the nineteen-fourteen shock.
Oh, this is a pork-shop warrior's chant come back from it, maimed and blind,
To a little old counter in Grey's Inn-road and a tiny parlour behind;
And the bedroom above, where the wife and he go silently mourning yet
For a son-in-law who shall never come back and a dead son's room "To Let".
(But they have a boy "in the fried-fish line" in a shop across the "wye",
Who will take them "aht" and "abaht" to-night and cheer their old eyes dry.)
And this is a song of the draper's clerk (what have you all to say?)
He'd a tall top-hat and a walking-coat in the city every day
He wears no flesh on his broken bones that lie in the shell-churned loam;
For he went over the top and struck with his cheating yard-wand home.
(Oh, touch your hat to the tailor-made before you are aware,
And lilt us a lay of Bank-holiday and the lights of Leicester-square!)
Hats off to the dowager lady at home in her house in Russell-square!
Like the pork-shop back and the Brixton flat, they are silently mourning there;
For one lay out ahead of the rest in the slush 'neath a darkening sky,
With the blood of a hundred earls congealed and his eye-glass to his eye.
(He gave me a cheque in an envelope on a distant gloomy day;
He gave me his hand at the mansion door and he said: "Good-luck! Good-bai!")