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The Days When We Went Swimming
by
Henry Lawson


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The breezes waved the silver grass,
Waist-high along the siding,
And to the creek we ne'er could pass
Three boys on bare-back riding;
Beneath the sheoaks in the bend
The waterhole was brimming--
Do you remember yet, old friend,
The times we 'went in swimming'?

The days we 'played the wag' from school--
Joys shared--and paid for singly--
The air was hot, the water cool--
And naked boys are kingly!
With mud for soap the sun to dry--
A well planned lie to stay us,
And dust well rubbed on neck and face
Lest cleanliness betray us.

And you'll remember farmer Kutz--
Though scarcely for his bounty--
He leased a forty-acre block,
And thought he owned the county;
A farmer of the old world school,
That grew men hard and grim in,
He drew his water from the pool
That we preferred to swim in.

And do you mind when down the creek
His angry way he wended,
A green-hide cartwhip in his hand
For our young backs intended?
Three naked boys upon the sand--
Half buried and half sunning--
Three startled boys without their clothes
Across the paddocks running.

We've had some scares, but we looked blank
When, resting there and chumming,
One glanced by chance upon the bank
And saw the farmer coming!
And home impressions linger yet
Of cups of sorrow brimming;
I hardly think that we'll forget
The last day we went swimming.

This poem is in the public domain.

 

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Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922) was born in New South Wales but moved to Sydney as a teenager. Deaf from the age of fourteen due to damage from an ear infection, he was an avid reader who began publishing poetry at the age of twenty. Henry wrote nonfiction and short stories as well as poetry, using Australia’s bush country and rural residents as a theme for much of his work; this focus earned him a reputation akin to some of America's "cowboy poets."  One of Australia’s most celebrated writers during his lifetime, Henry’s chronic financial problems and alcohol abuse kept his personal life in turmoil, but he was much beloved by his countrymen, and his death was marked with a state funeral attended by thousands of mourners.

 


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