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Henry Lawson

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

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Knocked Up



I'm lyin' on the barren ground that's baked and cracked with drought,
And dunno if my legs or back or heart is most wore out;
I've got no spirits left to rise and smooth me achin' brow --
I'm too knocked up to light a fire and bile the billy now.

Oh it's trampin', trampin', tra-a-mpin', in flies an' dust an' heat,
Or it's trampin' trampin' tra-a-a-mpin'
through mud and slush 'n sleet;
It's tramp an' tramp for tucker -- one everlastin' strife,
An' wearin' out yer boots an' heart in the wastin' of yer life.

They whine o' lost an' wasted lives in idleness and crime --
I've wasted mine for twenty years, and grafted all the time
And never drunk the stuff I earned, nor gambled when I shore --
But somehow when yer on the track yer life seems wasted more.

A long dry stretch of thirty miles I've tramped this broilin' day,
All for the off-chance of a job a hundred miles away;
There's twenty hungry beggars wild for any job this year,
An' fifty might be at the shed while I am lyin' here.

The sinews in my legs seem drawn, red-hot -- 'n that's the truth;
I seem to weigh a ton, and ache like one tremendous tooth;
I'm stung between my shoulder-blades -- my blessed back seems broke;
I'm too knocked out to eat a bite -- I'm too knocked up to smoke.

The blessed rain is comin' too -- there's oceans in the sky,
An' I suppose I must get up and rig the blessed fly;
The heat is bad, the water's bad, the flies a crimson curse,
The grub is bad, mosquitoes damned -- but rheumatism's worse.

I wonder why poor blokes like me will stick so fast ter breath,
Though Shakespeare says it is the fear of somethin' after death;
But though Eternity be cursed with God's almighty curse --
What ever that same somethin' is I swear it can't be worse.

For it's trampin', trampin', tra-a-mpin' thro' hell across the plain,
And it's trampin' trampin' tra-a-mpin' thro' slush 'n mud 'n rain --
A livin' worse than any dog -- without a home 'n wife,
A-wearin' out yer heart 'n soul in the wastin' of yer life.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Bronze Star - 6,756 Points * Sunprincess * (4/27/2014 2:55:00 AM)

    ........a wonderful poem....the poet took us down a rough road full of obstacles...but still he kept on going...enjoyed.. (Report) Reply

  • Veteran Poet - 3,030 Points Is It Poetry (4/27/2013 9:58:00 PM)

    This poem has been on my mind all day.
    A complicated fellow,
    who in the end had a woman
    to care for him.
    More tha half of the great poets met such an end.
    Life was hard-hard was life.
    Humor he had as well.
    Emily, Poe, Teasedale and more......
    They confessed to the world about life being hell....iip (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 2,214 Points Pranab K Chakraborty (4/27/2012 2:03:00 AM)

    A long dry stretch of thirty miles I've tramped this broilin' day,
    All for the off-chance of a job a hundred miles away;
    There's twenty hungry beggars wild for any job this year,
    An' fifty might be at the shed while I am lyin' here.

    The same imagery could be created here daily on the surface. None could bother, only time takes out a big chopper to cut the pieces of our individual peace and that is almost daily happening by course. May not be a classical one, but the voice of time howls much yet. Nice put by PH. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 356 Points Juan Olivarez (4/27/2011 9:39:00 AM)

    I must say in all honesty I was never familiar with Lawson, but his poem is excellent. Living in and working in the great outback must have been the ultimate test of survival. Now we must wait for Pruchnicki to come and foul the water. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Mohammad Akmal Nazir (4/27/2011 6:21:00 AM)

    I must say that Lawson was a great poem. This is one the best poems written by him.
    The poem has a strong structure. The sentiments are really awesome.
    Very poignant write. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 5 Points Paolo Giuseppe Mazzarello (4/27/2010 6:16:00 PM)

    Soldiers identify with their country, more or less, what's more Aussie people had British Empire. Mr Lawson seemed to have only himself, more or less. It's true that drought is the same everywhere. He is a tremendous poet and a great discovery for an Italian, of course. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terence George Craddock (4/27/2010 3:55:00 AM)

    Henry Lawson remains one of the greatest reads in early Aussie Lit. A unique insight from a unique land and a time when an immigrant nation had already declared their metal at Lone Pine and ANZAC Cove, events that helped shape our two nations at Gallipoli.
    This spirit Lawson so well describes in 'Knockered Up' was embodied in the wild colonial boys who fought in the Dardanelles Campaign. The Aussie blood and bravery at Lone Pine, the large number of Victoria Crosses they won there, allowed the Auckland and Wellington rifles to finally take the high ground at Chunuk Bair, and hold it for several days, before the British Navy in error shelled and killed most of the last kiwi survivors, a military blunder kept secret until the 1980s and rarely discussed.
    This poems uses so many words that accurately fit the heat and suffering of those diggers on that exposed sun baked ground. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 294 Points Ramesh T A (4/27/2010 1:55:00 AM)

    Monotonous living and harsh-ship in life with no hope of change on dry land leading to pain of body, heart and soul certainly nobody likes to live long! It makes one think death better than pulling on life so! It is all expressed in a free style poem without losing touch with rhythm and rhyme makes the poem impressive one! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jesse Milligan (4/27/2009 11:13:00 PM)

    Loved it. You are one of the many talented poets that make me want to make my poems be famous some day.

    Love to see more of your brilliant and inspiring work. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie nothing over (4/27/2009 5:33:00 PM)

    I very much enjoyed this poem. It reminds me of my family growing up on a small farm in the country (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (4/27/2009 6:43:00 AM)

    A brillliant dialect poem. There's more impact in a poem like this than a hundred socliologocal surveys. (Report) Reply

Read all 25 comments »

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