Hannah Thomburn

A poem by Henry Lawson

They lifted her out of a story
Too sordid and selfish by far,
They left me the innocent glory
Of love that was pure as a star;
They left me all guiltless of “evil”
That would have brought years of distress
When the chance to be man, god or devil,
Was mine, on return from Success.

With a name and a courage uncommon
She had come in the soul striving days,
She had come as a child, girl and woman,
Come only to comfort and praise.
There was never a church that could marry,
For never a court could divorce,
In the season of Hannah and Harry
When the love of my life ran its course.

Her hair was red gold on head Grecian,
But fluffed from the parting away,
And her eyes were the warm grey Venetian
That comes with the dawn of the day.
No Fashion nor Fad could entrap her,
And a simple print work dress wore she,
But her long limbs were formed for the “wrapper”
And her fair arms were meant to be free.

(Oh, I knew by the thrill of pure passion
At the touch of her elbow, or hand,
By the wife’s loveless eyes that would flash on
The feeling I could not command.
Oh, I knew when revulsion came rushing,
Oh, I knew by the brush strokes that hurt
At the sight of a sculptor friend brushing
The clay from the hem of her skirt.)

She was mine on return from succeeding
In a struggle that no one shall know;
She only knew my heart was bleeding,
She only knew what dealt the blow.
I had fought back the friends that were clutching,
I had forced back the heart-scalding tears
Just to lay my hot head to her touching
And to weep for Two Terrible Years.

Oh! the hand on my hair that was greying!
Oh! the kiss on my brow that was lined!
Oh! the peace when my reason was straying
And the rest and relief for my mind.
Till, no longer world shackled or frightened,
The voice of the past would be stilled,
Hearts quickened, cheeks flushed and eyes brightened,
And the love of our lives be fulfilled!

It was Antwerp, and Plymouth, th’ Atlantic
And, so well had Love’s network been laid,
That I heard of her illness, grown frantic,
At Genoa, Naples, Port Said.
I was mad just to reach her and “tell her”,
But a sandbank at Suez tripped me,
And we limped, with a crippled propeller,
Through all Hades adown the Red Sea.

Through the monsoon we rolled like a Jumbo
With a second blade shaken away,
There was never a dock in Colombo
So the captain drank hard to Bombay.
Then a “point” in the south like an anthill
Or seawastes, then hove into sight,
I called for no news at Fremantle
For I wanted to hope through the Bight.

There’s a gentleman, reading, shall know it,
There’s an earl who will now understand
Why I “slighted” the son of their poet
(And a vice regal lord of the land),
Semaphore, and a burst through the wicket
On platform left guards in distress,
A run without luggage or ticket,
A cab, and the Melbourne Express.

’Twas a brother-in-grief of mine told me
With harsh eyes unwontedly dim,
With a hand on my shoulder to hold me
And a grip on my own, to hold him.
A dry choke, and words cracked and hurried,
A stare, as of something afraid,
And he told me that Hannah was buried
On the day I reached Port Adelaide.

They could greet me, let Heaven or Hell come,
They could weep, for the grave by the sea
Oh! the mother and father could welcome
And the kinsfolk without fear of me.
For they watched her safe out of a story
Where she slaved and suffered alone,
They could weep to the tune of the hoary
Old lie “If we only had known”.

But I have the letter that followed
That she wrote to England and me,
That crossed us perchance as we wallowed
That birthday of mine on the sea,
That she wrote on the eve of her going,
Hopeful and loving and brave,
To keep me there, prosperous, knowing,
No care save the far away grave.

They have lifted her out of a story
Too sordid and selfish by far,
And left me the innocent glory
Of love that was pure as a star:
That was human and strong though she hid it
To write before death in last lines,
And I kneel to the angels who did it
And I bow to the fate that refines.

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