Johnson’s Wonder

A poem by Henry Lawson

I’d been right round by overlands to see the world and life,
And on the boat at Plymouth I met Johnson and his wife;
He was a man who knew the world and wore the know-all smile,
His wife a silly pussy cat, the soft, obedient style.
His constant source of comfort was his life was all serene,
His ceaseless source of wonder was that “men could be so green”.

There were two women of the world whom Johnson knew by sight,
The one as fair as Southern dawn; the other dark as night,
They played each other off you see, as many sisters do,
They travelled with their “uncle dear” (their “manager”, a Jew);
To us the make-up and the game was plainly to be seen,
And Johnson wondered how on earth most men could be so green.

At Naples, as at Genoa, too, they left no room for doubt;
They took down the chief officer and cleared the captain out.
We saw it as outsiders do, those seamen looked so mad,
’Twas managed so that neither knew the other had been had.
Such games are known to all who sail for gain or change of scene,
And Johnson wondered how in air such men could be so green.

You know Port Said, by Suez Lane, and no doubt you’re aware
What sort of carnivals are held ashore on Sunday there.
And “Uncle”, being far from well, and voting ports a bore,
The doctor and a Johnnie took the lovely pair ashore.
They had a glorious donkey ride (you know which pair I mean),
And Johnson wondered how the deuce an ass could be so green.

There was a third-class passenger who acted like an earl,
Spent something over thirty pounds upon a Southern girl.
They’d met aboard, and soon the news went round from mouth to mouth,
They were engaged to marry when they reached the Sunny South.
She chucked him at Fremantle, and she didn’t think it mean,
And Johnson wondered how in life a boy could be so green.

There was another married pair whom Johnson did despise;
She carried on most scand’lously before her husband’s eyes.
He fetched and carried all day long as to the manner born,
And plain to all on board but him, was her conceited “scorn”.
And Johnson bossed his wife to show the difference between
Some husbands, wondering ’owinel a man could be so green.

Now, Mrs Johnson, through it all, was anything but slack;
I’d seen her sleepy-meaning smile behind her husband’s back,
I’d heard the whispered covered sneer, the stress on “him” and “he”.
She spread her charms for all men, from the captain down to me.
She used her drooping eyes on all while Johnson smoked serene,
And chuckled secretly because the world was very green.

He got a wire from Adelaide, on business, understand,
And left his wife to follow round, and journeyed overland.
That very night, while musing in a quiet spot on deck,
I caught her with her arms about a first-class Johnnie’s neck.

The Johnsons live at Manly now, their lives are all serene,
And Johnson still is wondering how the world can be so green.

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