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Do you think that I do not know

They say that I never have written of love, as a writer of songs should do
They say that I never could touch the strings with a touch that is firm and true
They say I know nothing of women and men in the fields where Love's roses grow
I must write, they say, with a halting pen do you think that I do not know?

My love-burst came, like an English Spring, in days when our hair was brown
And the hem of her skirt was a sacred thing and her hair was an angel's crown
The shock when another man touched her arm, where the dancers sat in a row
The hope, the despair, and the false alarm do you think that I do not know

By the arbour lights on the western farms, you remember the question put
While you held her warm in your quivering arms and you trembled from head to foot
The electric shock from her finger-tips, and the murmuring answer low
The soft, shy yielding of warm red lips do you think that I do not know

She was buried at Brighton, where Gordon sleeps, when I was a world away
And the sad old garden its secret keeps, for nobody knows to-day
She left a message for me to read, where the wild wide oceans flow
Do you know how the heart of a man can bleed do you think that I do know

I stood by the grave where the dead girl lies, when the sunlit scenes were fair
Neath white clouds high in the autumn skies, and I answered the message there
But the haunting words of the dead to me shall go wherever I go
She lives in the Marriage that Might Have Been do you think that I do not know


From the poem by Henry Lawson written in 1910. Tune (1984) by Chris Kempster who has written tunes to a number of Lawsons poems (see 'Reedy River' in this collection). Thanks to Chris Kempster for permission to use his tune in this collection. Chris is the compiler of The Songs of Henry Lawson (Viking O'Neil 1989) which has tunes for over 100 of Lawsons poems. In this book Chris writes

"Two final verses are printed below. They are from the original version of the poem and were later omitted, but the more I read them and understand their meaning, the more I am drawn to them."

They sneer or scoff, and they pray or groan, and the false friend plays his part.
Do you think that the blackguard who drinks alone knows aught of a pure girl's heart?
Knows aught of the first pure love of a boy with his warm young blood aglow,
Knows aught of the thrill of the world-old joy do you think that I do not know?

They say that I never have written of love, they say that my heart is such
That finer feelings are far above; but a writer may know too much.
There are darkest depths in the brightest nights, when the clustering stars hang low;
There are things it would break his strong heart to write do you think that I do not know?


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory