Modern Parasites

Henry Lawson, 1892

      I hate the wretched toady what is always bowing down,
      An' crawls to them as glitters in the shadow of a crown;
      Who'd almost grovel on the ground an' lick the very muck
      From boots of titled loafers what are only great by luck.
      I hates 'em one, I hates 'em all — I do abhor 'em quite;
      But, most of all, I hate that sneak, the Labour Parasite!

      I hate the man because he gits his joy from labour's woes,
      And makes us laughing-stocks, and gives a handle to our foes.
      When nothing's on he yells the most, an' looks the reddest look:
      But he's got "private business" when there's action to be took.
      I rather think a bitter foe on whom you can depend
      Is better than an enemy what dodges as a friend.

      We'll fight the foes of Labour's rights, and lick 'em by-an'-by,
      We'll lift oppression from the land, or have a liftin' try;
      We've got a mighty host to fight, but we must first commence
      With men whose pockets bring 'em down on our side of the fence.
      So be they damn'd in speech an' prose, and be they damn'd in song:
      The crawlin', sneakin' loafers what grow fat upon a wrong.

      The Labour Parasite when young is mostly at his club,
      Or, if he's poor, he earns his bread a-loafin' round a pub,
      At first he'll sing "God Save the Queen", an' cheer the English flag,
      An' rush to meet a lord, and hump the creature's carpet bag;
      But, when the working-man's ahead, a different man is he:
      He stows away his shiny tile an' yells for "Liberty".

      He raves of equal rights, and damns the "tyrant" with a vim,
      An' none of freedom's gory sons kin yell so loud as him;
      He hates the starve he never starved; he hates oppression's weight;
      He hates the gory tyrant with a blarstin'-powder hate;
      And he is spoilin' all the while to take a sword in hand,
      An' lead the toilers on, an' drive oppression from the land.

      To hear him rave for "bread and work", an' gasp, an' catch his breath,
      You'd think he'd seen his missis an' the children starve to death!
      You'd think his father was a man of toil, an' want, an' woe,
      You'd think his aged granny starved in London long ago;
      You'd think the social system had come on him pretty rough;
      But, like as not, his family is doin' right enough.

      So long's it fills his pockets he won't let the movement lag,
      An' often gets a billet on a blood an' thunder rag;
      He'll steep his brains in rum, and writte of wrongs he never felt,
      Until the paper scorches an' the type begins to melt;
      But when a public meeting's called, where something's to be done,
      He's "workin' for the people" at a place across the run.

      Oh yes! when time is ripe to storm the robber in his lair,
      And there is danger in the camp — the twicer isn't there:
      The Chairman gets a letter from the crawlin' lyin' skunk;
      To-day his aged grandmother is recently defunk,
      Or else the kids have measles, or there's private things at home —
      And he is dreadful sorry just because he couldn't come.

      He's mostly got the gift of gab, an' so of course he draws —
      You'd think, to hear him speak, his heart an' soul was in the cause.
      He lifts the crowd with parrot cries, an' — that's all very well —
      A man kin yell for Freedom when he gets a bob a yell.
      (Give me a pound a column, and a drop to clear my throat,
      An' I will write the reddest song as ever poet wrote.)

      While grieving for the Toilers he gets fatter all the while,
      (His kindly smile, I notice, is a greasy kind of smile;)
      There's little that for Labour's cause he wouldn't sacrifice,
      (But, all the same, his residence is furnished very nice;)
      He's proud to shake a horny hand; he never gets the hump;
      (And yet, I notice, he prefers the platform to the stump).

      The Labour Parasite's the curse of this explodin' age;
      You'll find him now in fiction, an' you'll find him on the stage;
      You pay him for a novel like a fish that's got a bite,
      And help to fill his pockets at the theatre to-night.
      To get the stuff he'll stage a play on Democratic lines,
      And give the girls a pound a week — an' get half back in fines.

      And here, of course, I now admit, the people are to blame —
      "The people" and "the audience" are pretty much the same —
      They're sorry for the hero when he gets into a fix,
      And rents a garret for a while, an' has to carry bricks;
      And they are glad, an' cheer him, when he gets his fortune back,
      And loafs in his ancestral hall dressed up in shiny black.

      The people's too impatient yet: they will not think an' wait,
      But rush behind a leader if his talk is only straight;
      And here I give a little rule, as should be taught in school:
      Tho' made up of the wisest men, a crowd's an awful fool.
      A crowd will trust a speaker, whom a single man would fail
      To trust as far as one could fling a bullock by the tail.

      But, after all, the true and straight reformers needn't fret;
      No fear but what the Sons of Toil will find the best men yet,
      An' foller them, an' stick to them, an' strike beside 'em too:
      A man can mostly reach the van, when he is straight an' true.
      But in the fight, I rather think, our rifles will not fail
      To sight the Labour Parasite, a-sittin' on the rail.


      The Truth