The Last Review
Henry Lawson, 1904
Turn the light down, nurse, and leave me, while I hold my last review,
For the Bush is slipping from me, and the town is going too:
Draw the blinds, the streets are lighted, and I hear the tramp of feet
And I'm weary, very weary, of the Faces in the Street.
In the dens of Grind and Heartbreak, in the streets of Never-Rest,
I have lost the scent and colour and the music of the West:
And I would recall old faces with the memories they bring
Where are Bill and Jim and Mary and the Songs They used to Sing?
They are coming! They are coming! they are passing through the room
With the smell of gum leaves burning, and the scent of Wattle bloom!
And behind them in the timber, after dust and heat and toil,
Others sit beside the camp fire yarning while the billies boil.
In the Gap above the ridges there's a flash and there's a glow
Swiftly down the scrub-clad siding come the Lights of Cobb and Co.:
Red face from the box-seat beaming Oh, how plain those faces come!
From his 'Golden-Hole' 'tis Peter M'Intosh who's going home.
Dusty patch in desolation, bare slab walls and earthen floor,
And a blinding drought is blazing from horizons to the door:
Milkless tea and ration sugar, damper junk and pumpkin mash
And a Day on our Selection passes by me in a flash.
Rush of big wild-eyed store bullocks while the sheep crawl hoplessly,
And the loaded wool teams rolling, lurching on like ships at sea:
With his whip across his shoulder (and the wind just now abeam),
There goes Jimmy Nowlett ploughing through the dust beside his team!
Sunrise on the diggings! (Oh! what life and hearts and hopes are here)
From a hundred pointing forges comes a tinkle, tinkle clear
Strings of drays with wash to puddle, clack of countless windlass boles,
Here and there the red flag flying, flying over golden holes.
Picturesque, unreal, romantic, chivalrous, and brave and free;
Clean in living, true in mateship reckless generosity.
Mates are buried here as comrades who on fields of battle fall
And the dreams, the aching, hoping lover hearts beneath it all!
Rough-built theatres and stages where the world's best actors trod
Singers bringing reckless rovers nearer boyhood, home and God;
Paid in laughter, tears and nuggets in the play that fortune plays
'Tis the palmy days of Gulgong Gulgong in the Roaring Days.
Pass the same old scenes before me and again my heart can ache
There the Drover's Wife sits watching (not as Eve did) for a snake.
And I see the drear deserted goldfields when the night is late,
And the stony face of Mason watching by his Father's Mate.
And I see my Haggard Women plainly as they were in life,
'Tis the form of Mrs. Spicer and her friend, Joe Wilson's wife,
Sitting hand in hand 'Past Carin',' not a sigh and not a moan,
Staring steadily before her and the tears just trickle down.
It was No Place for a Woman where the women worked like men
From the Bush and Jones' Alley come their haunting forms again.
And, let this thing be remembered when I've answered to the roll,
That I pitied haggard women wrote for them with all my soul.
Narrow bed-room in the City in the hard days that are dead
An alarm clock on the table, and a pale boy on the bed:
Arvie Aspinalls Alarm Clock with its harsh and startling call
Never more shall break his slumbers I was Arvie Aspinall.
Maoriland and Steelman, cynic, spieler, stiff-lipped, battler-through
(Kept a wife and child in comfort, but of course they never knew
Thought he was an honest bagman) Well, old man, you needn't hug
Sentimental; you of all men! Steelman, Oh! I was a mug!
Ghostly lines of scrub at daybreak dusty daybreak in the drought
And a lonely swagman tramping on the track to Further Out:
Like a shade the form of Mitchell, nose-bag full and bluey up
And between the swag and shoulders lolls his foolish cattle-pup.
Kindly cynic, sad comedian! Mitchell! when you've left the Track,
And have shed your load of sorrow as we slipped our swags out back,
We shall have a yarn together in the land of Rest Awhile
And across his ragged shoulder Mitchell smiles his quiet smile.
Shearing sheds and tracks and shanties girls that wait at homestead gates
Camps and stern-eyed Union leaders, and Joe Wilson and his Mates
True and straight, and to my fancy, each one as he passes through
Deftly down upon the table slips a dusty 'note' or two.
So at last the end has found me (end of all the human push)
And again in silence round me come my Children of the Bush!
Listen, who are young, and let them if I in late and bitter days
Wrote some reckless lines forget them there is little there to praise.
I was human, very human, and if in the days misspent
I have injured man or woman, it was done without intent.
If at times I blundered blindly bitter heart and aching brow
If I wrote a line unkindly I am sorry for it now.
Days in London like a nightmare dreams of foreign lands and sea
And Australia is the only land that seemeth real to me.
Tell the Bushmen to Australia and each other to be true
'Tell the boys to stick together!' I have held my Last Review.