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Henry Lawson (1867-1922)

When Your Pants Begin to Go


              1When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn't white,
              2And you cannot sleep for thinking how you'll reach to-morrow night,
              3You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
              4And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
              5For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
              6Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

              7I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
              8That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
              9And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
            10And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
            11But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
            12If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

            13You are none the less a hero if you elevate your chin
            14When you feel the pavement wearing through the leather, sock, and skin;
            15You are rather more heroic than are ordinary folk
            16If you scorn to fish for pity under cover of a joke;
            17You will face the doubtful glances of the people that you know;
            18But -- of course, you're bound to face them when your pants begin to go.

            19If, when flush, you took your pleasures -- failed to make a god of Pelf,
            20Some will say that for your troubles you can only thank yourself --
            21Some will swear you'll die a beggar, but you only laugh at that,
            22While your garments hand together and you wear a decent hat;
            23You may laugh at their predictions while your soles are wearing low,
            24But -- a man's an awful coward when his pants begin to go.

            25Though the present and the future may be anything but bright,
            26It is best to tell the fellows that you're getting on all right,
            27And a man prefers to say it -- 'tis a manly lie to tell,
            28For the folks may be persuaded that you're doing very well;
            29But it's hard to be a hero, and it's hard to wear a grin,
            30When your most important garment is in places very thin.

            31Get some sympathy and comfort from the chum who knows you best,
            32That your sorrows won't run over in the presence of the rest;
            33There's a chum that you can go to when you feel inclined to whine,
            34He'll declare your coat is tidy, and he'll say: `Just look at mine!'
            35Though you may be patched all over he will say it doesn't show,
            36And he'll swear it can't be noticed when your pants begin to go.

            37Brother mine, and of misfortune! times are hard, but do not fret,
            38Keep your courage up and struggle, and we'll laugh at these things yet,
            39Though there is no corn in Egypt, surely Africa has some --
            40Keep your smile in working order for the better days to come!
            41We shall often laugh together at the hard times that we know,
            42And get measured by the tailor when our pants begin to go.

......

            43Now the lady of refinement, in the lap of comfort rocked,
            44Chancing on these rugged verses, will pretend that she is shocked.
            45Leave her to her smelling-bottle; 'tis the wealthy who decide
            46That the world should hide its patches 'neath the cruel look of pride;
            47And I think there's something noble, and I swear there's nothing low,
            48In the pride of Human Nature when its pants begin to go.

Notes

19] flush: in the money, well-off.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Henry Lawson, In the Days when the World was Wide and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1896): 72-76. x.908/13059 British Library. shel 0660 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: 17 December 1892
Publication date note: Bulletin; See Stone, 7
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/23

Rhyme: aabbcc


Other poems by Henry Lawson