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Henry Lawson

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

The Pavement Stones :A Song of the Unemployed


WHEN first I came to town, resolved
To fight my way alone,
No prouder foot than mine e’er trod
Upon the pavement stone;
But I am one in thousands,
And why should I repine?
The pavement stones have broken springs
In stronger feet than mine.

I brought to aid me all the hope
And energy of youth;
And in my heart I felt the strength
Of plain bucolic truth:
The independence nourished
Amid the hills and trees—
But, ah! the city hath a cure
For qualities like these.

I wonder oft how e’er I made
The efforts that I made,
For after three long weary years
I taught myself a trade.
And two more years and I was free
With strength and hope elate,
For “he that hath a trade,” they say,
“Hath also an estate.”

I tramped the streets and looked for work
And begged for work in vain,
Until I recked not, though I ne’er
Might touch my tools again.
I tramped the streets despairing;
My cheeks grew white and thin;
I felt the pavement wearing through
The leather, sock, and skin.

The bitter war goes on between
The idlers and the drones,
Until the hearts of men grow cold
And hard as pavement stones;
But I am one amid the crowd,
Then why should I repine?
The pavement stones have broken springs
In stronger feet than mine.

Submitted: Saturday, March 27, 2010

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