The Port O'Call

A poem by Henry Lawson

Our hull is seldom painted,
Our decks are seldom stoned;
Our sails are patched and cobbled
And chains by rust marooned.
Our rigging is untidy,
And all things in accord:,
We always sail on Friday
With thirteen souls on board.

For all the days save Friday
Were days of dark despair,
The fourteenth died of fever
Whenever he was there.
Our good ship is the Chancit,
Her oldest name of all;
But, in the ports we’re blown to,
She’s called the ‘Port o’ Call.’

Our captain old Wot Matters,
Our first mate young Hoo Kares,
Our cook is Wen Yew Wan Tit,
And so the Chancit fares.
The sweethearts, wives, and others,
And all we left behind,
Have many names to go by;
But mine is Never Mind.

We fear no hell hereafter,
We hope for no reward,
We always sail on Friday
With thirteen men on board.
And every wind’s a fair wind,
That suits us, one and all,
And every port we’re blown to
We call our port-of-call.

I’ve seen the poor boy striving
For just one chance to rise:
The light of truth and honour
And genius in his eyes.
His school-mates jeered and mocked him,
They mocked him through the town:
And his relatives scarce pitied,
While his parents crushed him down.

I’ve seen the young man fighting
The present and the past,
Till he triumphed in the city,
And fame was his at last!
And generous, but steadfast,
All for his Country then,
Unspoiled and all unconscious
He stood, a prince of men.

I’ve seen the husband ruined,
And drunken in the street,
When the World was all before him,
And the ball was at his feet,
Thrust down by fate most bitter,
Most cruel and unjust;
His children taught to loathe him,
And his name dragged in the dust.

. . . . .

Our hull is never painted,
Our decks are never stoned,
The cabin air is tainted,
The good ship is disowned;
Our rigging is untidy,
And all things in accord,
We always sail on Friday,
With thirteen hands on board.

I’ve seen strong bushmen slaving,
As men ne’er slaved before,
To win homes from the scrublands
And win their country more.
And I’ve seen their children scattered
As work-slaves on the soil;
And the old-age-pension begged for
After fifty years of toil!

And the Bush Muse is discarded,
There’s a wanton on the track,
And her panderers are sneering
At old soldiers of Out Back
The motor cars go racing
Past the Heroes of Long Years,
And the dust is in their faces
And the laughter in their ears.

We care not where we’re bound for,
Nor how the storm might howl;
For every wind’s a fair wind,
And every wind a foul.
There’s nothing left to sail for
Save that we keep our decks,
And watch for other castaways
On rafts from other wrecks.

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