Henry Lawson

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

Foreign Lands - Poem by Henry Lawson

You may roam the wide seas over, follow, meet, and cross the sun,
Sail as far as ships can sail, and travel far as trains can run;
You may ride and tramp wherever range or plain or sea expands,
But the crowd has been before you, and you’ll not find ‘Foreign Lands;’
For the Early Days are over,
And no more the white-winged rover
Sinks the gale-worn coast of England bound for bays in Foreign Lands.
Foreign Lands are in the distance dim and dreamlike, faint and far,
Long ago, and over yonder, where our boyhood fancies are,
For the land is by the railway cramped as though with iron bands,
And the steamship and the cable did away with Foreign Lands.
Ah! the days of blue and gold!
When the news was six months old—
But the news was worth the telling in the days of Foreign Lands.

Here we slave the dull years hopeless for the sake of Wool and Wheat
Here the homes of ugly Commerce—niggard farm and haggard street;
Yet our mothers and our fathers won the life the heart demands—
Less than fifty years gone over, we were born in Foreign Lands.

When the gipsies stole the children still, in village tale and song,
And the world was wide to travel, and the roving spirit strong;
When they dreamed of South Sea Islands, summer seas and coral strands—
Then the bravest hearts of England sailed away to Foreign Lands,
‘Fitting foreign’—flood and field—
Half the world and orders sealed—
And the first and best of Europe went to fight in Foreign Lands.

Canvas towers on the ocean—homeward bound and outward bound—
Glint of topsails over islands—splash of anchors in the sound;
Then they landed in the forests, took their strong lives in their hands,
And they fought and toiled and conquered—making homes in Foreign Lands,
Through the cold and through the drought—
Further on and further out—
Winning half the world for England in the wilds of Foreign Lands.

Love and pride of life inspired them when the simple village hearts
Followed Master Will and Harry—gone abroad to ‘furrin parts’
By our townships and our cities, and across the desert sands
Are the graves of those who fought and died for us in Foreign Lands—
Gave their young lives for our sake
(Was it all a grand mistake?)
Sons of Master Will and Harry born abroad in Foreign Lands!

Ah, my girl, our lives are narrow, and in sordid days like these,
I can hate the things that banished ‘Foreign Lands across the seas,’
But with all the world before us, God above us—hearts and hands,
I can sail the seas in fancy far away to Foreign Lands.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, March 26, 2010

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