The Men Who Live It Down

A poem by Henry Lawson

I have sinned, like others, blindly, without thought and without fear,
And my best friends say it kindly, ‘You should go away from here.’
Shall I fly the paltry spirit of a narrow little town,
While the battle-drums are beating for the men who live it down?

Down the street where all men know me I can walk with level eyes,
They believe the lies about me, they can sneer, but I despise.
From my black and bitter childhood, from my dull and joyless youth,
It is I who, it is I who, I and Christ who know the truth!

I have sinned, but as a man might; like a man I’ll rise again
From long nights of mental torture, from long days of care and pain.
Pass me by with eyes averted, with a shrug or with a frown,
But their heads shall bow in ashes long ere my head shall go down!

Ah! the curs, who dare not trespass, quick to sneer and quick to blame;
But the wider world is kinder, it takes long to damn a name.
There’s a heart that’s worth a million and a head that’s worth a crown,
And the flash of bright eyes sometimes for the men who live it down.

There’s a hand-grip close and silent, firm in trust and sympathy,
Sends the old thrill through my being, sends the old hopes up in me.
There is one who’ll stand beside me when the screen is round my bed,
And the godly pass their stricture on the sinner who is dead.

When the crape is round my picture and my mad, wild spirit’s free,
And you realise how little you have ever known of me
When the worst is said and printed by the coward and the clown,
Then, I trust, a friend might answer, ‘There lies one who lived it down.’

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