When Your Pants Begin to Go
Henry Lawson, 1892
When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn't white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you'll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.
I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.
You are none the less a hero if you elevate your chin
When you feel the pavement wearing through the leather, sock, and skin;
You are rather more heroic than are ordinary folk
If you scorn to fish for pity under cover of a joke;
You will face the doubtful glances of the people that you know;
But of course, you're bound to face them when your pants begin to go.
If, when flush, you took your pleasures failed to make a god of Pelf,
Some will say that for your troubles you can only thank yourself
Some will swear you'll die a beggar, but you only laugh at that,
While your garments hand together and you wear a decent hat;
You may laugh at their predictions while your soles are wearing low,
But a man's an awful coward when his pants begin to go.
Though the present and the future may be anything but bright,
It is best to tell the fellows that you're getting on all right,
And a man prefers to say it 'Tis a manly lie to tell,
For the folks may be persuaded that you're doing very well;
But it's hard to be a hero, and it's hard to wear a grin,
When your most important garment is in places very thin.
Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best,
That your sorrows won't run over in the presence of the rest;
There's a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine,
He'll declare your coat is tidy, and he'll say: 'Just look at mine!'
Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesn't show,
And he'll swear it can't be noticed when your pants begin to go.
Brother mine, and of misfortune! times are hard, but do not fret,
Keep your courage up and struggle, and we'll laugh at these things yet,
Though there is no corn in Egypt, surely Africa has some
Keep your smile in working order for the better days to come!
We shall often laugh together at the hard times that we know,
And get measured by the tailor when our pants begin to go.
Now the lady of refinement, in the lap of comfort rocked,
Chancing on these rugged verses, will pretend that she is shocked.
Leave her to her smelling-bottle; 'tis the wealthy who decide
That the world should hide its patches 'neath the cruel look of pride;
And I think there's something noble, and I swear there's nothing low,
In the pride of Human Nature when its pants begin to go.