Ruth



All is well—in a prison—to-night, and the warders are crying ‘All’s Well!’
I must speak, for the sake of my heart—if it’s but to the walls of my cell.
For what does it matter to me if to-morrow I go where I will?
I’m as free as I ever shall be—there is naught in my life to fulfil.
I am free! I am haunted no more by the question that tortured my brain:
‘Are you sane of a people gone mad? or mad in a world that is sane?’
I have had time to rest—and to pray—and my reason no longer is vext
By the spirit that hangs you one day, and would hail you as martyr the next.

Are the fields of my fancy less fair through a window that’s narrowed and barred?
Are the morning stars dimmed by the glare of the gas-light that flares in the yard?
No! And what does it matter to me if to-morrow I sail from the land?
I am free, as I never was free! I exult in my loneliness grand!

Be a saint and a saviour of men—be a Christ, and they’ll slander and rail!
Only Crime’s understood in the world, and a man is respected—in gaol.
But I find in my raving a balm—in the worst that has come to the worst—
Let me think of it all—I grow calm—let me think it all out from the first.

Beyond the horizon of Self do the walls of my prison retreat,
And I stand in a gap of the hills with the scene of my life at my feet;
The range to the west, and the Peak, and the marsh where the dark ridges end,
And the spurs running down to the Creek, and the she-oaks that sigh in the bend.
The hints of the river below; and, away on the azure and green,
The old goldfield of Specimen Flat, and the township—a blotch on the scene;
The store, the hotels, and the bank—and the gaol and the people who come
With the weatherboard box and the tank—the Australian idea of home:

The scribe—spirit-broken; the ‘wreck,’ in his might-have-been or shame;
The townsman ‘respected’ or worthy; the workman respectful and tame;
The boss of the pub with his fine sense of honour, grown moral and stout,
Like the spielers who came with the ‘line,’ on the cheques that were made farther out.

The clever young churchman, despised by the swaggering, popular man;
The doctor with hands clasped behind, and bowed head, as if under a ban;
The one man with the brains—with the power to lead, unsuspected and dumb,
Whom Fate sets apart for the Hour—the man for the hour that might come.

The old local liar whose story was ancient when Egypt was young,
And the gossip who hangs on the fence and poisons God’s world with her tongue;
The haggard bush mother who’d nag, though a husband or child be divine,
And who takes a fierce joy in a rag of the clothes on the newcomer’s line.

And a lad with a cloud on his heart who was lost in a world vague and dim—
No one dreamed as he drifted apart that ’twas genius the matter with him;
Who was doomed, in that ignorant hole, to its spiritless level to sink,
Till the iron had entered his soul, and his brain found a refuge in drink.

Perhaps I was bitter because of the tongues of disgrace in the town—
Of a boy-nature misunderstood and its nobler ambitions sneered
Of the sense of injustice that stings till it ends in the creed of the push—
I was born in that shadow that clings to the old gully homes in the bush.
And I was ambitious. Perhaps as a boy I could see things too plain—
How I wished I could write of the truths—of the visions—that haunted my brain!
Of the bush-buried toiler denied e’en the last loving comforts of all—
Of my father who slaved till he died in the scrub by his wedges and maul.

Twenty years, and from daylight till dark—twenty years it was split, fence, and grub,
And the end was a tumble-down hut and a bare, dusty patch in the scrub.
’Twas the first time he’d rested, they said, but the knit in his forehead was deep,
And to me the scarred hands of the dead seemed to work as I’d seen them in sleep.

And the mother who toiled by his side, through hardship and trouble and drought,
And who fought for the home when he died till her heart—not her spirit—wore out:
I am shamed for Australia and haunted by the face of the haggard bush wife—
She who fights her grim battle undaunted because she knows nothing of life.

By the barren track travelled by few men—poor victims of commerce, unknown—
E’en the troubles that woman tells woman she suffers, unpitied, alone;
Heart-dumbed and mind-dulled and benighted, Eve’s beauty in girlhood destroyed!
Till the wrongs never felt shall be righted—and the peace never missed be enjoyed.

There was no one to understand me. I was lonely and shy as a lad,
Or I lived in a world that was wider than ours; so of course I was ‘mad.’
Who is not understood is a ‘cr
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 30, 2023

4:26 min read
145

Quick analysis:

Scheme AAXABBCC CCCC XACC CCCCDDEX FFCC GGEE HHII JJKK XCLLBBMM NNOO CCPP QQCC CCX
Characters 4,678
Words 889
Stanzas 13
Stanza Lengths 8, 4, 4, 8, 4, 4, 4, 4, 8, 4, 4, 4, 3

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson 17 June 1867 - 2 September 1922 was an Australian writer and poet Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period more…

All Henry Lawson poems | Henry Lawson Books

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