The Women of the Town
Henry Lawson, 1904
It is up from out the alleys, from the alleys dark and vile
It is up from out the alleys I have struggled for a while
Just to breathe the breath of Heaven ere my devil drags me down,
And to sing a song of pity for the women of the town.
Johnnies in the private bar room, weak and silly, vain and blind
Even they would shrink and shudder if they knew the hell behind,
And the meanest wouldn't grumble when he's bilked of half-a-crown
If he knew as much as I do of the women of the town.
For I see the end too plainly of the golden-headed star
Who is smiling like an angel in the gilded private bar
Drifting to the third-rate houses, drifting, sinking lower down
Till she raves in some foul parlour with the women of the town.
To the dingy beer-stained parlour all day long the outcasts come
Draggled, dirty, bleared, repulsive, shameless, aye, and rotten some
They have sold their bodies and would sell their souls for drink to drown
Memories of wrong that haunt them haunt the women of the town.
I have seen the haunting terror of the 'horrors' in their eyes,
Heard them cry to Christ to help them as the mansoul never cries,
While the smirking landlord listened with a grin or with a frown.
Oh, they suffer hell in drinking, do the women of the town.
I have known too well, God help me! to what depths a man can sink,
Sacrificing wife and children, fame and honour, all for drink.
Deeper, deeper sink the women, for the veriest drunken clown
Has his feet upon the shoulders of the women of the town.
There's a heavy cloud that's lying on my spirit like a pall
'Tis the horror and injustice and the hopelessness of all
There's the love of one for ever that no sea of sin can drown,
And she loves a brute, God help her! does the woman of the town.
O my sisters, O my sisters, I am powerless to aid;
'Tis a world of prostitution, it is business, it is trade,
And they profit from the brewer and the smirking landlord down
To the bully and the bludger, on the women of the town.
Oh, the heart of one great poet called to heaven in a line
Crying, 'Mary, pity women!' You have whiter souls than mine.
And if in the grand Hereafter there is one shall wear a crown
For the hell that men made for her 'tis the Woman of the Town.