With Dickens

A poem by Henry Lawson

In Windsor Terrace, number four,
I’ve taken my abode,
A little crescent from the street,
A bight from City Road;
And, hard up and in exile, I
To many fancies yield;
For it was here Micawber lived
And David Copperfield.

A bed, a table, and a chair,
A bottle and a cup.
The landlord’s waiting even now
For something to turn up.
The landlady is spiritless,
They both seem tired of life;
They cannot fight the battle like
Micawber and his wife.

But in the little open space
That lies back from the street,
The same old ancient, shabby clerk
Is sitting on a seat.
The same sad characters go by,
The ragged children play,
And things have very little changed
Since Dickens passed away.

Some seek religion in their grief,
And some for friendship yearn;
Some fly to liquor for relief,
But I to Dickens turn.
I find him ever fresh and new,
His lesson ever plain;
And every line that Dickens wrote
I’ve read and read again.

The tavern’s just across the ‘wye,’
And frowsy women there
Are gossiping and drinking gin,
And twisting up their hair.
And grubby girls go past at times,
And furtive gentry lurk,
I don’t think anyone has died
Since Dickens did his work.

There’s Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
And Weevle, whom you will;
And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
Into the pawnshop still.
Go east a bit from City Road,
And all the rest are there,
A friendly whistle might produce
A Chicken anywhere.

My favourite author’s heroes I
Should love, but somehow can’t.
I don’t like David Copperfield
As much as David’s Aunt,
And it may be because my mind
Has been in many fogs,
I don’t like Nicholas Nickleby
So well as Newman Noggs.

I don’t like Richard Carstone, Pip,
Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
And for the rich and fatherly
I scarcely care a bit.
The honest, sober clods are bores
Who cannot suffer much,
And with the Esther Summersons
I never was in touch.

The ‘Charleys’ and the haggard wives,
Kind hearts in poverty,
And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too,
Are very near to me;
But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
And Madeline Bray divine,
And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
In a better world than mine.

The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
They do not stand the test;
And in my heart I don’t believe
That Dickens loved them best.
I can’t admire their ways and talk,
I do not like their looks,
Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
Through all the Master’s books.

They’re mostly selfish in their love,
And selfish in their hate,
They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
While Agnes Wickfields wait;
And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
When hard-up for a friend;
They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
To help them in the end.

And, well, maybe I am unjust,
And maybe I forget;
Some of us marry dolls and jilt
Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
We seek our friends when fortune frowns,
It has been ever thus,
And we neglect Joe Gargery
When fortune smiles on us.

They get some rich old grandfather
Or aunt to see them through,
And you can trace self-interest
In nearly all they do.
And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
In spite of all their crimes,
And crawlers like Uriah Heep
Told bitter truths at times.

But, yes, I love the vagabonds
And failures from the ranks,
And hard old files with hidden hearts
Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
And Jaggers had his ‘poor dreams, too,’
And fond hopes like the rest,
But, somehow, somehow, all my life
I’ve loved Dick Swiveller best!

But, let us peep at Snagsby first
As softly he lays down
Beside the bed of dying Joe
Another half-a-crown.
And Nemo’s wretched pauper grave,
But we can let them be,
For Joe has said to Heaven: ‘They
Wos werry good to me.’

And Wemmick with his aged P, ,
No doubt has his reward;
And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
Will be judged by the Lord.
And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
With laurels on his brow,
Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
In Bleeding Heart Yard now.

Tom Pinch is very happy now,
And Magwitch is at rest,
And Newman Noggs again might hold
His head up with the best;
Micawber, too, when all is said,
Drank bravely Sorrow’s cup,
Micawber worked to right them all,
And something did turn up.

How do ‘John Edward Nandy, Sir!’
And Plornish get along?
Why! if the old man is in voice
We’ll hear him pipe a song.
We’ll have a look at Baptiste, too,
While still the night is young,
With Mrs. Plornish to explain
In the Italian tongue.

Before we go we’ll ask about
Poor young John Chivery:
‘There never was a gentleman
In all his family.’
His hopeless love, his broken heart,
But to his rival true;
He came of Nature’s gentlemen,
But young John never knew.

We’ll pass the little midshipman
With heart that swells and fills,
Where Captain Ed’ard Cuttle waits
For Wal’r and Sol Gills.
Jack Bunsby stands by what he says
(Which isn’t very clear),
And Toots with his own hopeless love,
As true as any here.

And who that read has never felt
The sorrow that it cost
When Captain Cuttle read the news
The ‘Son and Heir’ was lost?
And who that read has not rejoiced
With him and ‘Heart’s Delight,’
And felt as Captain Cuttle felt
When Wal’r came that night?

And yonder, with a broken heart,
That people thought was stone,
Deserted in his ruined home,
Poor Dombey sits alone.
Who has not gulped a something down,
Whose eye has not grown dim
While feeling glad for Dombey’s sake
When Florence came to him?

(A stately house in Lincolnshire,
The scene is bleak and cold,
The footsteps on the terrace sound
To-night at Chesney Wold.
One who loved honour, wife, and truth,
If nothing else besides,
Along the dreary Avenue
Sir Leicester Dedlock rides.)

We’ll go round by Poll Sweedlepipe’s,
The bird and barber shop;
If Sairey Gamp is so dispoged
We’ll send her up a drop.
We’ll cross High Holborn to the Bull,
And, if he cares to come,
By streets that are not closed to him
We’ll see Dick Swiveller home.

He’s looking rather glum to-night,
The why I will not ask,
No matter how we act the goat,
We mostly wear a mask.
Some wear a mask to hide the false
(And some the good and true),
I wouldn’t be surprised to know
Mark Tapley wore one too.

We wear a mask called cheerfulness
While feeling sad inside;
And men like Dombey, who was shy,
Oft wear a mask called pride.
A front of pure benevolence
The grinding ‘Patriarch’ bore;
And kind men often wear a mask
Like that which Jaggers wore.


But, never mind, Dick Swiveller!
We’ll see it out together
Beneath the wing of friendship, Dick,
That never moults a feather.
We’ll look upon the rosy yet
Full many a night, old friend,
And tread the mazy ere we woo
The balmy in the end.

Our palace walls are rather bare,
The floor is somewhat damp,
But, while there’s liquor, anywhere
Is good enough to camp.
What ho! mine host! bring forth thine ale
And let the board be spread!,
It is the hour when churchyards yawn
And wine goes to the head.

’Twas you who saved poor Kit, old chap,
When he was in a mess,
But, what ho! Varlet! bring us wine!
Here’s to the Marchioness!
‘We’ll make a scholar of her yet,’
She’ll be a lady fair,
‘And she shall go in silk attire
And siller have to spare.’

From sport to sport they hurry her
To banish her regrets,
And when we win a smile from her
We cannot pay our debts!
Left orphans at a tender age,
We’re happiest in the land,
We’re Glorious Apollos, Dick,
And you’re Perpetual Grand!

You’re king of all philosophers,
And let the Godly rust;
Here’s to the obscure citizen
Who sent the beer on trust?
It sure would be a cheerful world
If never man got tight;
You spent your money on your friends,
Dick Swiveller! Good night!

‘A dissolute and careless man,
An idle, drunken path;’
But see where Sidney Carton spills
His last drink on the hearth!
A ruined life! He lived for drink
And but one thing beside,
And Oh! it was a glorious death
That Sidney Carton died.



And ‘Which I meantersay is Pip’,
The voices hurry past,
‘Not to deceive you, sir’, ‘Stand by!’
‘Awast, my lass, awast!’
‘Beware of widders, Samivel,’
And shun strong drink, my friend;
And, ‘not to put too fine a point
Upon it,’ I must end.

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