Clinging Back

A poem by Henry Lawson

When you see a man come walking down through George Street loose and free,
Suit of saddle tweed and soft shirt, and a belt and cabbagetree,
With the careless swing and carriage, and the confidence you lack,
There is freedom in Australia! he’s a man that’s clinging back.
Clingin’ back,
Holdin’ back,
To the old things and the bold things clinging back.

When you see a woman riding as I saw one ride to-day
Down the street to Milson’s Ferry on a big, upstanding bay,
With her body gently swaying to the horse-shoes’ click-a-clack,
You might lift your hat (with caution), she’s a girl who’s clinging back.
Clinging back,
Swinging back.
To the old things and the bold things clinging back.

When you see a rich man pulling on the harbour in a boat,
With the motor launches racing till they scarcely seem to float,
And the little skiff is lifting to his muscles tense and slack,
You say “Go it” to a sane man. He’s a man that’s clinging back.
Clinging back,
Swinging back,
To the old things and the bold things clinging back.

When you see two lovers strolling, arm-in-arm, or round the waist,
And they never seem to loiter, and they never seem to haste,
But indifferent to others take the rock or bush-hid track
You be sure about their future, they’re a pair that’s clinging back.
Clinging back,
Holding back,
To the old things and the bold things clinging back.

I, a weary picture writer in a time that’s cruel plain,
Have been clinging all too sadly to what shall not come again,
To what shall not come and should not! for the silver’s mostly black,
And the gold a dull red copper by the springs where I held back.
Clinging back,
Holding back,
To the old things and the cold things clinging back.

But if you should read a writer sending truths home every time,
While his every “point” goes ringing like the grandest prose in rhyme,
Though he writes the people’s grammar, and he spreads the people’s “clack,”
He is stronger than the Public! and he’ll jerk the mad world back.
Yank it back,
Hold it back,
For the love of little children hold it back.

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