Monday, January 16, 2023



I posted the below poem, The Roaring Days by Henry Lawson, in Bytes on May 25, 2010. It came to mind again yesterday when the first 3 lines were recalled:
The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses . . .

Some quick notes:
  • The poem was first published in the Bulletin in 1889.
  • It is written from Lawson's boyhood memories of Gulgong and Pipeclay.
  • Roaring days” Is a phrase referring nostalgically to the Australian gold rushes, is best-known literary use being in Lawson's poem by that name.
  • The Australian gold rush was a large number of gold discoveries in Australia. Thousands of people came to Australia from worldwide in the hope of finding gold and becoming rich. The rush started in 1851 when gold was found near Bathurst, New South Wales, more gold being discovered the following year in Victoria. Hundreds of thousands of "diggers" from other parts of Australia, Great Britain, Poland, Germany, and even California sought their fortunes and redefined Australia's national identity. It ended with the last rush in 1893 to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
  • According to one commentator:
Lawson spent time on the goldfields and this is clearly a nostalgic piece. He wants to go back as all writers do from time to time. Go back to the roaring days when he was young and had good faithful mates. The word faithful is interesting. I suspect in his day it just meant loyal and true. Clearly the author is feeling the pangs of old age and wants to recall the days when he was young. There is the inevitable sadness associated with this endeavour. We cannot really go back. The old bush is "tethered to the world." It isn't free anymore.
Henry Lawson

Prospectors at Bendigo, by Robert Todonai

The Roaring Days

The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days!

Then stately ships came sailing
From every harbour’s mouth,
And sought the land of promise
That beaconed in the South;
Then southward streamed their streamers
And swelled their canvas full
To speed the wildest dreamers
E’er borne in vessel’s hull.

Their shining Eldorado,
Beneath the southern skies,
Was day and night for ever
Before their eager eyes.
The brooding bush, awakened,
Was stirred in wild unrest,
And all the year a human stream
Went pouring to the West.

The rough bush roads re-echoed
The bar-room’s noisy din,
When troops of stalwart horsemen
Dismounted at the inn.
And oft the hearty greetings
And hearty clasp of hands
Would tell of sudden meetings
Of friends from other lands;
When, puzzled long, the new-chum
Would recognise at last,
Behind a bronzed and bearded skin,
A comrade of the past.

And when the cheery camp-fire
Explored the bush with gleams,
The camping-grounds were crowded
With caravans of teams;
Then home the jests were driven,
And good old songs were sung,
And choruses were given
The strength of heart and lung.
Oh, they were lion-hearted
Who gave our country birth!
Oh, they were of the stoutest sons
From all the lands on earth!

Oft when the camps were dreaming,
And fires began to pale,
Through rugged ranges gleaming
Would come the Royal Mail.
Behind six foaming horses,
And lit by flashing lamps,
Old `Cobb and Co.’s’, in royal state,
Went dashing past the camps.

Oh, who would paint a goldfield,
And limn the picture right,
As we have often seen it
In early morning’s light;
The yellow mounds of mullock
With spots of red and white,
The scattered quartz that glistened
Like diamonds in light;
The azure line of ridges,
The bush of darkest green,
The little homes of calico
That dotted all the scene.

I hear the fall of timber
From distant flats and fells,
The pealing of the anvils
As clear as little bells,
The rattle of the cradle,
The clack of windlass-boles,
The flutter of the crimson flags
Above the golden holes.

. . . . .

Ah, then our hearts were bolder,
And if Dame Fortune frowned
Our swags we’d lightly shoulder
And tramp to other ground.
But golden days are vanished,
And altered is the scene;
The diggings are deserted,
The camping-grounds are green;
The flaunting flag of progress
Is in the West unfurled,
The mighty bush with iron rails
Is tethered to the world.

- Henry Lawson

Painting by Edwin Stockqueler

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