The Cockney Soul

The Cockney Soul

by Henry Lawson

The Cockney Soul


From Woolwich and Brentford and Stamford Hill, from Richmond into the Strand,

Oh, the Cockney soul is a silent soul, as it is in every land!

But out on the sand with a broken band it’s sarcasm spurs them through;

And, with never a laugh, in a gale and a half, ’tis the Cockney cheers the crew.


Oh, send them a tune from the music-halls with a chorus to shake the sky!

Oh, give them a deep-sea chanty now, and a star to steer them by!


Now this is a song of the great untrained, a song of the Unprepared,

Who had never the brains to plead unfit, or think of the things they dared;

Of the grocer-souled and the draper-souled, and the clerks of the four o’clock,

Who stood for London and died for home in the nineteen-fourteen shock.


Oh, this is a pork-shop warrior’s chant, come back from it, maimed and blind,

To a little old counter in Grey’s Inn-road and a tiny parlour behind;

And the bedroom above, where the wife and he go silently mourning yet

For a son-in-law who shall never come back and a dead son’s room “To Let”.


(But they have a boy “in the fried-fish line” in a shop across the “wye”,

Who will take them “aht” and “abaht” to-night and cheer their old eyes dry.)


And this is a song of the draper’s clerk (what have you all to say?),

He’d a tall top-hat and a walking-coat in the city every day,

He wears no flesh on his broken bones that lie in the shell-churned loam;

For he went over the top and struck with his cheating yard-wand, home.


(Oh, touch your hat to the tailor-made before you are aware,

And lilt us a lay of Bank-holiday and the lights of Leicester-square!)


Hats off to the dowager lady at home in her house in Russell-square!

Like the pork-shop back and the Brixton flat, they are silently mourning there;

For one lay out ahead of the rest in the slush ‘neath a darkening sky,

With the blood of a hundred earls congealed and his eye-glass to his eye.


(He gave me a cheque in an envelope on a distant gloomy day;

He gave me his hand at the mansion door and he said: “Good-luck! Good-bai!”)


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