Henry Lawson

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

Out on the Roofs of Hell


SING us a song in this cynical age,
Sing us a song, my friend,
While the Flesh and the Devil are all the rage
And Death seems the only end.
Give it the clatter of hoof-clipped bones
And a note like a dingo’s yell,
And the long, low sigh when the big mob moans
Out on the roofs of hell.

For Wool, Tallow, and Hides and Co.,
For Wool, Tallow, and Hides—
Over the roofs of hell we go
For Wool, Tallow, and Hides.

We take the route or we take the track,
Hell-doomed by the greed of man,
And we leave our wives in the scrubs out back
To struggle as best they can.
For the credit is short and the flour is low—
And this is the tale we tell—
A check must be made and the stock must go
Over the roofs of hell.

Wake ere the burst of the great white sun
Into the blazing skies,
Our limbs are stiff and the lids are gummed
Over our blighted eyes.
But our souls have perished in dust and heat,
And this is the tale we tell—
Our lives are ever a grim retreat
With Death on the roofs of hell.

They drivel and say how the bushman drinks,
But what do the townsfolk know?
The life is a hell to the man who thinks—
He must drink or his reason go.
Drink and drink, as the bushman knows,
Till he strip to the skin and yell;
Down for a change! for a rest! he goes
Down through the roofs of hell.

For Wool, Tallow, and Hides and Co.,
For Wool, Tallow, and Hides,
Down through the roofs of hell they go
For Wool, Tallow, and Hides.

Submitted: Friday, March 26, 2010

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