Henry Lawson

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

William Street

’Tis William Street, the link street,
That seems to stand alone;
’Tis William Street, the vague street,
With terraces of stone:
That starts with clean, cool pockets,
And ancient stable ways,
And built by solid landlords
And in more solid days.
Beginning where the shadow streets
Of vacant wealth begin,
Street William runs down sadly
Across the vale of sin.
’Tis William Street, the haggard,
Where all the streets are mean
That’s trying to be honest,
That’s trying to keep clean.

’Tis William Street with method,
And nought of show or pride,
That tries to keep its business
Upon the right-hand side.
No pavement exhibition
Of carcases and slops;
But old-established principles
In old-established shops.

’Tis William Street the highway—
Whichever way it be—
To business and the theatres,
Or empty luxury.
’Tis William Street (the East-end)—
The world-wise and exempt—
That sells Potts Point its purgatives
With something of contempt.

With fronts that hint of England,
As England used to be,
Old houses once in gardens,
And signs of Italy.
With hints of the forgotten,
Strange Sydney of the past,
When bricks were burnt for all time,
And walls were built to last.

’Tis William Street that rises
From stagnant dust and heat,
(Old trees by the Museum
Hold back with hands and feet)—
And where the blind are plying
Deft fingers, supple wrists—
’Tis William Street, exclusive,
Where pray the Methodists.

The blind courts see the clearer,
Side lanes grow trim and neat,
The wretched streets are cleaner
That run from William Street.
The sick streets’ lonely matron
Seems stern, as matrons do—
’Tis William Street, redeeming,
Regenerating “Loo.”
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