MaCleay Street And Red Rock Lane

A poem by Henry Lawson

MaCleay Street looks to Mosman,
Across the other side,
With brave asphalted pavements
And roadway clean and wide.
Macleay Street hath its mansions,
Its grounds and greenery;
Macleay Street hath its terraces
As terraces should be.

Red Rock Lane looks to nowhere,
With pockets into hell;
Red Rock Lane is a horror
Of heat and dirt and smell.
Red Rock Lane hath its brothels,
Of houses one in three;
Red Rock Lane hath its corner pubs
As fourth-rate pubs should be.

Macleay Street, cool and quiet,
Is marked off from the town,
And standing in the centre
The tall arc lamps look down.
The jealous closed cabs vanish
That stole from out the row,
Fair women stroll bareheaded,
And theatre parties go.

Red Rock Lane, hot with riot,
Hides things that none should know;
The furtive couples vanish
Through doorways dark and low.
Lust, thievery, drink and madness
In one infernal stew,
And Mrs Johnson, raving,
Walks out, bareheaded too.

Macleay Street hath its swindles,
But on a public scale;
Macleay Street hath its razzles
Until the night grows pale.
Macleay Street hath its scandals,
But, only this is plain,
That nothing is a scandal
Down there in Red Rock Lane.

Macleay Street looks to Mosman
In morning’s rosy glow,
And freshly to the city
The summer-suited go
While wild-eyed, foul and shaking,
Red Rock Lane wakes again.
This morning at the Central
They’re fining Red Rock Lane.

The Central says “the risin’”,
“Seven days”, or what you will;
Macleay Street says, “Drive slowly”
When any one is ill.
The law sends Black Maria
When Red Rock Lane is dead.
But doctors come in motor cars
When Macleay Street’s got a head.

The grey-faced, weedy parents
Sunk in Red Rock Lane holes,
They worry, pinch, and perish
To save their children’s souls.
The fairy of Macleay Street
Shall never soil her hands,
Her Pa is independent,
Or high up in “the Lands”.

And, well, there seems no moral,
And nothing more to tell,
But because of that fierce sympathy
Of souls to souls in hell;
And because of that wild kindness
To souls in sordid pain,
My soul I’d rather venture
With some in Red Rock Lane.

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