Henry Lawson

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

The Drunkard's Vision

A public parlour in the slums,
The haunt of vice and villainy,
Where things are said unfit to hear,
And things are done unfit to see;
’Mid ribald jest and reckless song,
That mock at all that’s pure and right,
The drunkard drinks the whole day long,
And raves through half the dreadful night.

And in the morning now he sits,
With staring eyes and trembling limb;
The harbour in the sunlight laughs,
But morning is as night to him.
And, staring blankly at the wall,
He sees the tragedy complete—
He sees the man he used to be
Go striding proudly up the street.

He turns the corner with a swing,
And, at the vine-framed cottage gate,
The father sees, with laughing eyes,
His little son and daughter wait:
They race to meet him as he comes—
And—Oh! this memory is worst—
Her dimpled arms go round his neck,
She pants, ‘I dot my daddy first!’

He sees his bright-eyed little wife;
He sees the cottage neat and clean—
He sees the wrecking of his life
And all the things that might have been!
And, sunk in hopeless, black despair,
That drink no more has power to drown,
Upon the beer-stained table there
The drunkard’s ruined head goes down.

But even I, a fearful wreck,
Have drifted long before the storm:
I know, when all seems lost on earth,
How hard it can be to reform.
I, too, have sinned, and we have both
Drunk to the dregs the bitter cup—
Give me your hand, Oh brother mine,
And even I might help you up.
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