To Be Amused
Henry Lawson, 1906
You ask me to be gay and glad
While lurid clouds of danger loom,
And vain and bad and gambling mad,
Australia races to her doom.
You bid me sing the light and fair,
The dance, the glance on pleasure's wings
While you have wives who will not bear,
And beer to drown the fear of things.
A war with reason you would wage
To be amused for your short span,
Until your children's heritage
Is claimed for China by Japan.
The football match, the cricket score,
The "scraps", the tote, the mad'ning Cup
You drunken fools that evermore
"To-morrow morning" sober up!
I see again with haggard eyes,
The thirsty land, the wasted flood;
Unpeopled plains beyond the skies,
And precious streams that run to mud;
The ruined health, the wasted wealth,
In our mad cities by the seas,
The black race suicide by stealth,
The starved and murdered industries!
You bid me make a farce of day,
And make a mockery of death;
While not five thousand miles away
The yellow millions pant for breath!
But heed me now, nor ask me this
Lest you too late should wake to find
That hopeless patriotism is
The strongest passion in mankind!
You'd think the seer sees, perhaps,
While staring on from days like these,
Politeness in the conquering Japs,
Or mercy in the banned Chinese!
I mind the days when parents stood,
And spake no word, while children ran
From Christian lanes and deemed it good
To stone a helpless Chinaman.
I see the stricken city fall,
The fathers murdered at their doors,
The sack, the massacre of all
Save healthy slaves and paramours
The wounded hero at the stake,
The pure girl to the leper's* kiss
God, give us faith, for Christ's own sake
To kill our womankind ere this.
I see the Bushman from Out Back,
From mountain range and rolling downs,
And carts race on each rough bush track
With food and rifles from the towns;
I see my Bushmen fight and die
Amongst the torn blood-spattered trees,
And hear all night the wounded cry
For men! More men and batteries!
I see the brown and yellow rule
The southern lands and southern waves,
White children in the heathen school,
And black and white together slaves;
I see the colour-line so drawn
(I see it plain and speak I must),
That our brown masters of the dawn
Might, aye, have fair girls for their lusts!
With land and life and race at stake
No matter which race wronged, or how
Let all and one Australia make
A superhuman effort now.
Clear out the blasting parasites,
The paid-for-one-thing manifold,
And curb the goggled "social-lights"
That "scorch" to nowhere with our gold.
Store guns and ammunition first,
Build forts and warlike factories,
Sink bores and tanks where drought is worst,
Give over time to industries.
The outpost of the white man's race,
Where next his flag shall be unfurled,
Make clean the place! Make strong the place!
Call white men in from all the world!
* Editor's note: Regarding Lawson's use of the word "leper" Chinese were often referred to as "lepers" due to the widely held belief that they carried leprosy. It is also of interest to note that with leprosy being a disease which can render the skin as scabby, the term "scabs" arose to describe non-unionists and strike-breakers, as Chinese were often used as non-Union workers.