The Prime Of Life

A poem by Henry Lawson

Oh, the strength of the toil of those twenty years, with father, and master, and men!
And the clearer brain of the business man, who has held his own for ten:
Oh, the glorious freedom from business fears, and the rest from domestic strife!
The past is dead, and the future assured, and I’m in the prime of life!

She bore me old, and they kept me old, and they worked me early and late;
I carried the loads of my selfish tribe, from seven to thirty eight:
I slaved with dad, in the dust and heat, that my brothers might enjoy,
But I rest to-day in the prime of life, and I’ll live and die a boy!

When the last crop failed, and the stock were gone, did the old man’s head go down?
No! he started business, on what was left, in the produce line in town.
They sent my brothers to boarding schools, when our way to the front we’d won,
They’d borrow, and borrow, but never had aught but contempt for the eldest son.

My brothers they went to the world away, and they left the home in strife.
They sowed wild oats in the pride of youth, and they pawned the prime of life.
They sowed too fast, and they sowed too far; and they came back one by one,
You couldn’t tell which is the eldest son and which is the youngest son.

Oh, I longed for a love that I could not claim, and a breath of the youth denied,
But I stuck to the store when the old man went, and the mater until she died:
With Job’s own sister and Satan’s aunt, good Lord! and the fiend’s own wife,
But I’m free of them now, it is no matter how, and I’m in the prime of life.

My brothers have turned respectable, and are steady as men can be:
The youngest and worst is a leading light, and he aims at reforming me!
But I lend and help, and I’ll fix them up, for I can’t but see with a sigh,
That the youngest, who left us a handsome boy, is an older man than I.

But it’s “Lord make us thankful” three times a day, before they eat their fill,
They can thank the Lord if they like, I say, but I reckon I pay the bill.
They feel independent, I’m glad to know, for if all I hear is true,
My brothers agree that I do no more than I have a right to do.

They’ll work in the store while I see the world, and I’ll let them share the till,
But I sail to-day, for a year away, to go wherever I will:
I sail with the woman who waited for me, old sweetheart; and brand new wife,
She is handsome and true, and she’s thirty-two, and I’m in the prime of life.

For Capetown, and London, and Norraway, for Germany, Holland, and France,
For Switzerland, Italy, anywhere, for Greece, and for Egypt a glance,
For India, China, and “strange Japan”, for the East with mystery rife,
I have made enough, and I have my love, and I’m in the prime of life!

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