The House of Fossils

Henry Lawson, 1892

      Behold! above the people all an old museum stands,
      The ancient House of Fossils which is mighty in the lands,
      And there, as in the days gone by, when ancient rulers lied,
      Invulnerable ignorance and cheek are petrified;
      And, though the God of property might grit his teeth and frown,
      I think it's time the people pulled the old museum down.
      I think that we've been fooled enough by venerable lies —
      I think it's time that Workmen wiped the verdure from their eyes.

      Why send our men to Parliament? There's nothing to be won,
      For all the good they do is by the FOSSILIZED undone;
      We start the car of progress, and we see it coming back,
      For lo! the old museum stands for ever in the track.
      We cannot pass the measures that the people talk about,
      And there'll be no reform until we clear the Fossils out.
      We battled for One-Man-One-Vote; the PEOPLE passed the Bill;
      But listen how the Fossilized can thwart the People's will.

      Now P(h)ilcher, first, denied in terms, sarcastically choice.
      That Labour Members represent the working People's voice;
      He went a little further, and he spiked their guns — to wit,
      He did deny their right to say they represented it.
      He drew his sword of argument from out its rusty sheath,
      And dared the champions who "threw the Assembly in his teeth".
      And he denied — well, he denied the TRUTH to all intents
      And purposes — I want to know what P(h)ilcher represents.

      Then Combes must add his drivel to the everlasting flood;
      He hoped that they would stop the bill and "nip it in the bud",
      (But aye the plant shall bud again and Time, the Grand old Thief
      Shall nip the House of Fossils in the sear and yellow leaf);
      A Fossil he, and so, of course he thinks that it is best
      That any man should vote whate'er "he has an interest".
      He gave a case in point; he said, in other days (lang syne)
      He "went into the wilderness" and opened up a mine;

      The place is populated now by thousands — "mostly fools" —
      (He even gave the number of the children in the schools,)
      And if the bill was passed — well then — what then? well — anyhow
      He couldn't represent — or help to boss — the district now!
      I really think the man who craves so much for place and pelf*
      Should go and dig another hole, and undertake himself.

      Then Ironmonger Macintosh addressed the Fossilized!
      He claimed the rights of property — they should be recognized.
      He lives, like other rocks. as though the past has never been;
      He really cannot say he has, since last election, seen
      A single public meeting called on purpose to discuss
      The question of One-Man-One-Vote. But it was ever thus;
      For if the whole creation let the reign of wrong behind,
      The Fossils wouldn't see, for the Petrified are blind.

      And in his inconsistency he thinks it is too much
      That he be asked to give a vote to parasites and such.
      Alas, for human arguments, when these enlightened men
      Deny the starving thief a vote, while wealthy thieves have ten.
      If honest Labour can't outvote the spieler and the tout,
      'Tis time the Lord got up in wrath and wiped the nations out.
      Then Joseph rose to "caution the community at large"
      (I really think the God of Greed was left in Israel's charge).

      He did not hesitate to say that if the Bill was passed
      We'd turn and put a cruel tax on property at last.
      He looked into the future, just as far as he could see,
      And drew a painful picture of poor "helpless Property".
      He mouthed about "Frugality" and says, as bold as brass.
      That that which injures capital will damn the working-class.
      He drivelled, and he cautioned, and — we do not say he lied —
      He cautioned mankind just as much as P(h)ilcher had denied.

      Then purblind Lawyer Piggott rose with something in his throat,
      He said the Bill was never meant to give One-Man-One-Vote.
      The gist of Piggort's argument was that the Bill was meant
      To make a pauper equal to an "honourable" gent.
      And then upon the Bill there tell another of the rocks
      With thirty thousand acres of the People's land — 'twas Coin
      He said, etcetera. But why repeat the senseless bosh agen:
      (As Antony remarked; "They all are 'honourable' men.")

      And still above the people all the House of Fossils stands,
      The greatest of phenomena in these enlightened lands;
      And there as in the grand old days, when Roman Fossils lied,
      Invulnerable ignorance and cheek are petrified.
      And though it shelters property, and helps to prop the Crown,
      I think it's time the toilers pulled the old museum down.
      I think that we've been fooled enough by venerable lies,
      I think it's time the people cleansed the verdure from their eyes.



      * "Pelf" refers to money or wealth, usually in a contemptuous manner, especially regarding wealth having been acquired by dishonest means; from the Old French pelfre (booty or stolen goods), it is related to "pilfer".