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By Margaret McPhee

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His mother’s arms were about him; but the old man’s back was turned. The daughters begged for pardon till the old man raised his hand — A Scot of the Riverina who was hard to understand. The boy was killed in Flanders, where the bravest heroes die. There were tears at the Grahame homestead and grief in Gundagai; But the old man ploughed at daybreak and the old man ploughed till the mirk — There were furrows of pain in the orchard while his housefolk went to the kirk. The hurricane lamp in the rafters dimly and dimly burned; And the old man died at the table when the old woman’s back was turned.

29 The Drover’s Wife Country I Come From and Joe Wilson and His Mates. British-based novelist and fellow short story writer Joseph Conrad called Lawson’s short stories ‘beyond praise’. Later critics have compared the simple style of his stories with great modern writers such as the Russian Anton Chekhov and the American Ernest Hemingway. Although Lawson’s stories are totally Australian in setting, the message they carry can be understood anywhere in the world. In ‘The Drover’s Wife’, for example, the mother is not just a typical Australian bushwoman; she could be a mother anywhere protecting her children.

Another theme in his writing is sadness about the end of the old ways of life in the bush. Lawson was also very interested in politics, and used his poems to support the growing sense of nationalism in Australia. He was opposed to Chinese immigration, but in this he was probably simply reflecting the general public opinion of the time in T Little of the prosperity of 1920s Sydney had rubbed off on Henry Lawson by the time he died there on 2 September 1922 buried like a lord Henry Lawson spent his life in poverty.

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