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Selected Poetry of Henry Lawson (1867-1922)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2004, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Image of Henry Lawson

Index to poems

Spirit girl to whom 'twas given
To revisit scenes of pain,
From the hell I thought was Heaven
You have lifted me again;
Through the world that I inherit,
Where I loved her ere she died,
I am walking with the spirit
Of a dead girl by my side.
        (To Hannah, 1-8)
  1. Andy's Gone with Cattle
  2. Black Bonnet
  3. Cameron's Heart
  4. The Captain of the Push
  5. The Drover's Sweetheart
  6. Faces in the Street
  7. The Great Grey Plain
  8. The Men We Might Have Been
  9. The Never-Never Country
  10. On the Wallaby
  11. Scots of the Riverina
  12. The Shanty on the Rise
  13. The Song of the Darling River
  14. Sweeney
  15. The Teams
  16. The Things We Dare not Tell
  17. To Hannah
  18. When Your Pants Begin to Go


Notes on Life and Works

Born at Grenfell, New South Wales, June 17, 1867, Henry Lawson was Australia's first great short-story writer and poet. Educated at New Pipeclay and at the Catholic school at Mudgee, and influenced by his mother's writing, Lawson discovered literature. His deafness became evident when he was nine years old and was total five years later. His first jobs were building and carriage making, and Lawson never found a decent trade. He spent his life more than as an unemployed tramp than in making money by his writing, occasional school-teaching, clerking, painting, prospecting, and other jobs. He began writing verse in 1885 and short stories in 1888, contributing to papers like the Sydney Bulletin and the Brisbane Boomerang. He tramped through the outback, visiting Bourke in September 1892 and January 1893, and he later visited Wellington, New Zealand. On April 15, 1896, he and Bertha Bredt married and had a son, Joseph Henry, born February 10, 1898, and then a daughter, Bertha Marie Louise, born February 11, 1900. His mother Louisa had compiled his first collection of verse and prose in 1894, but In the Days When the World Was Wide (1896), a book of poems, firmly established him as a popular and respected poet. The year after his second volume, Verses Popular and Humorous (1900), he and his family went to London, but it was not a successful trip and they returned to Sydney in 1902. His alcoholism, dating from 1898, then became a major problem for himself, his family, and friends, leading to a stay in Prince Alfred Hospital and to separation from Bertha in 1903. By 1905 he was serving time in Darlinghurst Gaol for non-support. From 1907 to 1918 Lawson was often destitute; otherwise he stayed in Darlinghurst mental hospital for alcoholism or was imprisoned for non-support. Volumes of poems and short stories came out unabated, yet they never remunerated him enough. He took an interest in the selection of works for his Selected Poems, but his editor David McKee Wright appears to have emended his texts without consulting him. Lawton finally received a weekly pension from the Commonwealth Literary Fund in 1920. He died September 2, 1922, in Sydney and was given a state funeral two days later at St. Andrew's Church. He is buried in Waverly Cemetery.

The colour portrait, from Selected Poems (1918), is from that by John Longstaff in the National Gallery, Sydney.

Biographical information

Given name: Henry
Family name: Lawson
Birth date: 1867
Death date: 1922