Since The Cities Are The Cities

A poem by Henry Lawson

Fools can parrot-cry the prophet when the proof is close at hand,
And the blind can see the danger when the foe is in the land!
Truth was never cynicism, death or ruin’s not a joke,
“Told-you-so” is not a warning, Patriotism not a croak.

Blame will aid no man nor country when the dark days come at last,
As with men so with a nation, and the warning time is past.
Our great sins were of omission, and the dogs of war are loosed,
And we all must stand together when those sins come home to roost.

Since the cities are the cities and shall stand for evermore,
Let us justify our being, be it peace or be it war.
For because we are the townsfolk, and have never ridden far
Shall we call the bush to aid us that has made us what we are?

Westward went our brothers, fighting distance, drought, and loneliness
While we lived in light and comfort knowing nothing of distress,
We who never shared the hardships when the sunset led them on,
Now’s our time, O street-bred people, with our faces to the dawn!

They have conquered with the cross-cut and the wedges and the maul,
With the spade and axe and mattock and the saddle-packs and all,
They have mighty work before them for the sake of you and me,
Let us stand up to our duty! We’re the Rearguard by the Sea.

Days of gibes at “street-bred people” by the street-bred bards are done,
Shall the man who lays the yard-stick never learn to lay the gun?
Shall the crouched type-writer toiling for his home in days like these
Touch the button the less firmly when we play on other keys?

We have seen in many countries what the street-bred men can do,
In the desert, scrub and jungle they were men who battled through!
Human weeds of grand endurance winning where the strong men quailed,
Pigeon-chested leaders leading on where beef-born courage failed.

Street-bred people down the ages, beggars, mobs and democrats,
Fought through many desperate sieges (fought on horseflesh, dogs and rats)
When their own cowed country failed them, then the city soul was proved,
“Street-bred people” died in thousands for the cities that they loved.

In the days when strength was needed, days of pike and axe and sword,
Daylight found the peaceful burghers ready, keeping watch and ward.
Clerks and tailors fought like heroes at the gates and in the trench,
(Even Falstaff brought his herrings with some slaughter through the French).

Every man should have a cottage and a garden to defend,
But the “should-be” is for ever, cities stand until the end,
Every farmer has a country that he loves when war-drums roll,
Every clerk may have a city that he loves with heart and soul.

Fat or lean, we all are sinners, lean or fat we all would be;
High or low or lean or fatted, ’tis for Nationality.
It will be till all is ended, as it was since all began,
’Tis the head and not the feathers! ’tis the heart and not the “man”!

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