The Fate of the Fat Man's Son
Henry Lawson, 1895
The Fat Man's sire was a leaner man from the Northern hemisphere;
He lived in a day ere the fat began to smother us all out here;
He worked for years in the building trade, when the trades were good estates,
And grafted still when his "pile" was made, but he and his men were mates.
He paid them well when the times were good he never put on the screw;
His words were short, and his manners rude; but his heart was right, they knew.
And they knew the price of each job he took, in the days when a job meant "graft",
For the book he kept was an open book, as fitted that grand old craft.
His foremen's rule was firm, but fair, the rules of his shop were just;
His eldest son was a workman there 'twas much to the son's disgust.
"The boss" had houses and land in town a fact he wouldn't deny;
But when times were flinty the rents came down they never were extra high.
He kept his houses in good repair; what he promised was always done;
He always knew how his tenants were, for he knew them every one.
He steadily, honestly, ran his race, and finished and went to rest
Some tears were shed for the hard old case with a heart in his hairy chest.
He lay for weeks, so the foremen tell, but his men's respect he had;
And the work had never been done so well as it was "when the boss was bad".
The workman came in their Sunday best, they were men from many lands,
The boss's coffin was borne to rest by four of his oldest hands.
The hopeful son, in the sight of men, some crocodile tears let drop;
He never put on the clothes again that he wore in his father's shop.
His father's friends and his father's ways were a lot too slow for him;
He joined in booms and he spent his days with men who were in the swim.
He lowered the wages and raised the rents, and he voted straight for greed,
For law and order and cent per cent were parts of the Fat Man's creed.
He turned the widows and orphans out for the shillings they failed to find,
The tenants went to the right about if the rent was a week behind.
The girls that slaved in his sweating mills, the rents of the pubs he owned,
And many a brothel paid the bills when the Fat Man's table "groaned".
The Fat Man's son to a high school went as his father's weight increased,
And several years of his life he spent in the study of tongues deceased.
He shone as "stroke" in the sculling race, the match of his day he won;
He sowed his oats and he went the pace he lived like a Fat Man's son.
The Fat Man died one day in his chair, as many a Fat Man dies;
His bloated body was packed with care in a coffin of extra size.
The ghouls of death in their human shape, with looks severely grave,
And damp, limp women in yards of crape prevailed at the Fat Man's grave.
The will was read by a lawyer mild. The property all was gone!
The son was left with a wife and child, and nothing to keep them on.
He cursed his fate and he blamed the dead that he had never learnt a trade;
He worked in his father's father's shed for the wage that his father paid.
He led a strike, and he got the sack when the paltry point was won;
They offered bribes, but he turned his back, though he was a Fat Man's son.
To tell it all were a lengthy task his poverty's black despair
Go out in the world yourself and ask poor devils who have been there.
His life embittered and health destroyed ere half of his years had run,
The saddest case with the unemployed was that of the Fat Man's son.
His daughter worked in a sweating den, where the pure and the vile were mixed,
A shilling a day was the wages then by her fat grandfather fixed.
His senses swam in a lurid mist as desperate things he thought
The Fat Man's son was an Anarchist, a couple of shingles short.
His poor wife died, and his son was gaoled; his daughter she didn't go right.
And he blew up a ship that his sire had sailed with a cartridge of dynamite.
The papers never exactly knew how the fiendish deed was done,
When the good ship Greed and its blackleg crew went down with the Fat Man's son.