With Dickens

Henry Lawson 1867 (Grenfell) – 1922 (Sydney)

In Windsor Terrace, number four,
I’ve taken my abode—
A little crescent from the street,
A bight from City Road;
And, hard up and in exile, I
To many fancies yield;
For it was here Micawber lived
And David Copperfield.

A bed, a table, and a chair,
A bottle and a cup.
The landlord’s waiting even now
For something to turn up.
The landlady is spiritless—
They both seem tired of life;
They cannot fight the battle like
Micawber and his wife.

But in the little open space
That lies back from the street,
The same old ancient, shabby clerk
Is sitting on a seat.
The same sad characters go by,
The ragged children play—
And things have very little changed
Since Dickens passed away.

Some seek religion in their grief,
And some for friendship yearn;
Some fly to liquor for relief,
But I to Dickens turn.
I find him ever fresh and new,
His lesson ever plain;
And every line that Dickens wrote
I’ve read and read again.

The tavern’s just across the ‘wye,’
And frowsy women there
Are gossiping and drinking gin,
And twisting up their hair.
And grubby girls go past at times,
And furtive gentry lurk—
I don’t think anyone has died
Since Dickens did his work.

There’s Jingle, Tigg, and Chevy Slyme,
And Weevle—whom you will;
And hard-up virtue proudly slinks
Into the pawnshop still.
Go east a bit from City Road,
And all the rest are there—
A friendly whistle might produce
A Chicken anywhere.

My favourite author’s heroes I
Should love, but somehow can’t.
I don’t like David Copperfield
As much as David’s Aunt,
And it may be because my mind
Has been in many fogs—
I don’t like Nicholas Nickleby
So well as Newman Noggs.

I don’t like Richard Carstone, Pip,
Or Martin Chuzzlewit,
And for the rich and fatherly
I scarcely care a bit.
The honest, sober clods are bores
Who cannot suffer much,
And with the Esther Summersons
I never was in touch.

The ‘Charleys’ and the haggard wives,
Kind hearts in poverty—
And yes! the Lizzie Hexams, too—
Are very near to me;
But men like Brothers Cheeryble,
And Madeline Bray divine,
And Nell, and Little Dorrit live
In a better world than mine.

The Nicklebys and Copperfields,
They do not stand the test;
And in my heart I don’t believe
That Dickens loved them best.
I can’t admire their ways and talk,
I do not like their looks—
Those selfish, injured sticks that stalk
Through all the Master’s books.

They’re mostly selfish in their love,
And selfish in their hate,
They marry Dora Spenlows, too,
While Agnes Wickfields wait;
And back they come to poor Tom Pinch
When hard-up for a friend;
They come to wrecks like Newman Nogga
To help them in the end.

And—well, maybe I am unjust,
And maybe I forget;
Some of us marry dolls and jilt
Our Agnes Wickfields yet.
We seek our friends when fortune frowns—
It has been ever thus—
And we neglect Joe Gargery
When fortune smiles on us.

They get some rich old grandfather
Or aunt to see them through,
And you can trace self-interest
In nearly all they do.
And scoundrels like Ralph Nickleby,
In spite of all their crimes,
And crawlers like Uriah Heep
Told bitter truths at times.

But—yes, I love the vagabonds
And failures from the ranks,
And hard old files with hidden hearts
Like Wemmick and like Pancks.
And Jaggers had his ‘poor dreams, too,’
And fond hopes like the rest—
But, somehow, somehow, all my life
I’ve loved Dick Swiveller best!

But, let us peep at Snagsby first
As softly he lays down
Beside the bed of dying Joe
Another half-a-crown.
And Nemo’s wretched pauper grave—
But we can let them be,
For Joe has said to Heaven: ‘They
Wos werry good to me.’

And Wemmick with his aged P——
No doubt has his reward;
And Jaggers, hardest nut of all,
Will be judged by the Lord.
And Pancks, the rent-collecting screw,
With laurels on his brow,
Is loved by all the bleeding hearts
In Bleeding Heart Yard now.

Tom Pinch is very happy now,
And Magwitch is at rest,
And Newman Noggs again might hold
His head up with the best;
Micawber, too, when all is said,
Drank bravely Sorrow’s cup—
Micawber worked to right them all,
And something did turn up.

How do ‘John Edward Nandy, Sir!’
And Plornish get along?
Why! if the old man is in voice
We’ll hear him pipe a song.
We’ll have a look at Baptiste, too,
Whil
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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…

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