Henry Lawson

17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922 / Grenfell, New South Wales

Our Mistress And Our Queen

We set no right above hers,
No earthly light nor star,
She hath had many lovers,
But not as lovers are:
They all were gallant fellows
And died all deaths for her,
And never one was jealous
But comrades true they were.

Oh! each one is a brother,
Though all the lands they claim—
For her or for each other
They’ve died all deaths the same
Young, handsome, old and ugly,
Free, married or divorced,
Where springtime bard or Thug lie
Her lover’s feet have crossed.

’Mid buttercups and daisies
With fair girls by their side,
Young poets sang her praises
While day in starlight died.
In smoke and fire and dust, and
With red eyes maniac like,
Those same young poets thrust and—
Wrenched out the reeking pike!

She is as old as ages,
But she is ever young.
Upon her birthday pages
They’ve writ in every tongue;
Her charms have never vanished
Nor beauty been defiled,
Her lovers ne’er were banished—
Can never be exiled.

Ah! thousands died who kissed her,
But millions died who scorned
Our Sweetheart, Queen and Sister,
Whom slaves and Cæsars spurned!
And thousands lost her for her
Own sweet sake, and the world,
Her first most dread adorer,
From Heaven’s high state was hurled.

No sign of power she beareth,
In silence doth she tread,
But evermore she weareth
A cap of red rose red.
Her hair is like the raven,
Her soul is like the sea,
Her blue eyes are a haven
That watch Eternity.

She claimed her right from Heaven,
She claims her right from earth,
She claimed it hell-ward driven,
Before her second birth.
No real man lives without her,
No real man-child thrives,
Sweet sin may cling about her,
But purity survives.

She claims the careless girl, and
She claims the master mind;
She whispers to the Earl, and
She whispers to the hind!
No ruler knoweth which man
His sword for her might draw;
Her whisper wakes the rich man—
The peasant on his straw.

She calls us from the prison,
She calls us from the plain,
To towns where men have risen
Again, again, again!
She calls us from our pleasures,
She calls us from our cares,
She calls us from our treasures,
She calls us from our prayers.

From seas and oceans over
Our long-lost sons she draws,
She calls the careless rover,
She calls us from our wars.
The hermit she discovers
To lead her bravest brave——
The spirit of dead lovers,
She calls them from the grave!

We leave the squalid alley,
Our women and our vice,
We leave the pleasant valley,
Life-lust or sacrifice.
The gold hunt in the mountains,
The power-lust on the sea,
The land-lust by earth’s fountains,
Defeat or victory.

No means of peace discover
Her strength on “Nights Before”,
She has her secret lover
That guards the Grand Duke’s door.
No power can resist hers,
No massacre deter—
Small brothers and wee sisters
Of lovers, watch for her!

Old dotards undetected,
School boys that never tire,
And lone hags unsuspected
That drone beside the fire.
The youth in love’s first passion,
The girl in day-dream mood,
And, in the height of fashion,
The “butterfly” and “dude”.

The millionaire heart-broken,
The beggar with his whine,
And each one hath a token,
And each one hath a sign.
And when the time is ripe and
The hells of earth in power,
The dotard drops his pipe, and—
The maiden drops a flower!

Oh, bloody our revivals!
And swift our vengeance hurled,
We’ve laid our dear-loved rivals
In trenches round the world!
We’ve flung off fair arms clinging,
Health, wealth, and life’s grand whole,
And marched out to her singing,
A passion of our soul.

Her lovers fought on ice fields
With stone clubs long ago,
Her lovers slave in rice fields
And in the “’lectric’s” glow.
Her lovers pine wherever
The lust for Nothing is,
They starve where light is never,
And starve in palaces.

They’ve gathered, crowded and scattered,
With heads and scythe-blades low,
Through fir and pine clump spattered,
Like ink blots on the snow.
With broken limbs and shattered
They’ve crushed like hunted brute,
And died in hellish torture
In holes beneath the roof.

They’ve coursed through streets of cities
The fleeing Parliaments,
And songs that were not ditties
They’ve sung by smouldering tents.
And trained in caps and sashes
They’ve heard the head drums roll,
They’ve danced on kings-blood splashes
The dreadful carmagnole.

By mountains, and by stations,
Out where wide levels are,
They’ve baulked the march of nations
And ridden lone and far.
The whip stroke of the bullet,
The short grunt of distress—
The saddled pony grazing
Alone and riderless.

The plain in sunlight blazing—
No signal of distress,
Unseen by far scouts gazing,
And still, with wide eyes glazing:
Dead lover of our mistress,
Dead comrade of his rivals,
Dead champion of his country,
Dead soldier of his widow
And of his fatherless.

She pauses by her writers,
And whispers, through the years,
The poems that delight us
And bring the glorious tears.
The song goes on unbroken
Through worlds of senseless drones,
Until the words are spoken
By Emperors on their thrones.
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