Thanks to Penny Richards for noting his birthday recently, and pointing me to this incredible archive of Lawson's work.
My students probably feel this way about me sometimes (I'm not a grammar nut, mind you, but I do believe in the value of clarity and evidence) but that doesn't mean that I can't feel this way about other figures in my life.
The Uncultured Rhymer To His Cultured Critics
By Henry Lawson (1910)
Fight through ignorance, want, and care —
Through the griefs that crush the spirit;
Push your way to a fortune fair,
And the smiles of the world you’ll merit.
Long, as a boy, for the chance to learn —
For the chance that Fate denies you;
Win degrees where the Life-lights burn,
And scores will teach and advise you.
My cultured friends! you have come too late
With your bypath nicely graded;
I’ve fought thus far on my track of Fate,
And I’ll follow the rest unaided.
Must I be stopped by a college gate
On the track of Life encroaching?
Be dumb to Love, and be dumb to Hate,
For the lack of a college coaching?
You grope for Truth in a language dead —
In the dust ’neath tower and steeple!
What know you of the tracks we tread?
And what know you of our people?
‘I must read this, and that, and the rest,’
And write as the cult expects me? —
I’ll read the book that may please me best,
And write as my heart directs me!
You were quick to pick on a faulty line
That I strove to put my soul in:
Your eyes were keen for a ‘dash’ of mine
In the place of a semi-colon —
And blind to the rest. And is it for such
As you I must brook restriction?
‘I was taught too little?’ I learnt too much
To care for a pedant’s diction!
Must I turn aside from my destined way
For a task your Joss would find me?
I come with strength of the living day,
And with half the world behind me;
I leave you alone in your cultured halls
To drivel and croak and cavil:
Till your voice goes further than college walls,
Keep out of the tracks we travel!
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