Exceeding Small

Henry Lawson, 1908

      Swing round the motor cars to where
      The tall Australia stands —
      The female bronzes light you there
      To take the ladies' hands —
      And from your silver sovereign case
      Slip out the careless gold —
      The gay world, for a little space,
      Is yours to have and hold.


      Our home, it is a bonny place,
      The hills and bush are near,
      And picnic parties camp along
      The water frontage here.
      Our guardian is a kindly man,
      To comfort and forgive —
      For three of us are doomed to die,
      And one is doomed to live.

      There's one of us — our hope and joy —
      Who'd thirty years of strife;
      He thinks he is a "naughty boy",
      And plays the part to life.
      There's one who cannot read or write,
      Yet studied ancient bards —
      He seeks his fortune all day long
      From endless rows of cards.

      So "grind" to win your high degrees
      While runs the new world round,
      And win the Chair! You'll not be sunk
      In wisdom more profound
      Than some of us. We're from all schools —
      One's an M.D. Alas! —
      We bachelors, but not of Arts,
      And widowers — of Dried Grass.


      We've fought the merry fight where gaps
      In firing lines grow wide
      (And one of us is doomed to live
      To tell how others died).
      And one of us is doomed to grow
      In gruesome terror old —
      One, breathing, died two years ago,
      And so the tale is told.

      So prattle through your four o 'clocks
      And Thursday afternoons,
      And never read the thing that shocks,
      But toy with silver spoons,
      And show your arms, so fair and white,
      And coo and smile to please:
      But I could write of things to-night
      Would give you little ease.


      We four can jest at little things,
      We worry not at all;
      We're mortals whom the mills of God
      Have ground exceeding small.
      There's one who'd, with his latest breath,
      Keep black Depression out,
      And he is doomed to die the death
      We dare not write about.

      There's one who never lifts his eyes
      And ne'er a word has said —
      Our living dead lies still in bed
      Till he is changed and fed.
      There's one of whom the Fear is set
      The jail presentiment;
      Undrugged, he's never rested yet,
      And — he is innocent.

      So lie abed, ye gentlemen,
      And rest, ye ladies too,
      While servants trained in voice and step
      Bring breakfast in to you.
      Then seek the Stock Exchange or Course,
      The ball, or grand hotel —
      There's space for many and many a bed
      In wards where we folk dwell.


      The trained attendants glide about
      To tend the "paying guests";
      They drug the night with sleeping draughts,
      We pass the day with jests —
      Or brood or rave — or mouth and grin —
      Or think and ply the pen —
      For some of us are First, and some
      Third Generation men.


      Some pray all day who never prayed
      And rise to no command
      (Ah! this, my children, is a song
      That doctors understand).
      We are the scapegoats of the world,
      The wrongs the world shall rue;
      We're Freethinkers and Atheists
      Who found the Bible true.

      So speed your flying cars and build
      Your mansions strong and tall —
      Be sure the mills of God will find
      And grind exceeding small.
      Though Man or Nation or the World
      May dream and rave and doubt —
      Ah, God! the words are true.
      Be sure Thy sins shall find thee out.


      The Bulletin