For Teachers

The Poems of Henry Lawson

To download a printable PDF file of the Henry Lawson poems from the CD ‘Jack Thompson: The Poems of Henry Lawson’. Just click the name of the poem from the list below to go straight to that poem.

The Lights of Cobb and Co
The Fire At Ross’s Farm  1890
Scots of the Riverina  1918
The Wander-Light 1902
Out Back   1893
The Shame of Going Back    1891
Faces In The Street  1888
The Things We Dare Not Tell   1901
The Shearer’s Dream 1902
The Free Selector’s Daughter  1891
Taking His Chance  1892
The Night Train
After All  1896

Questions and Activities for The Classroom:

Here is a list of words and phrases that you will find in this collection of Henry Lawson poems.   Find five words from this list and research their meanings.  Look in dictionaries, ask your grandparents, then use them in a sentence of your own.

Teachers: You will find the definitions at the end of the list


1.    Bluff
2.    Bushranging
3.    Comrades
4.    Damps (cobb)
5.    Dree (…dree things)
6.    E’er (ever)
7.    Ere (here)
8.    Free-selector
9.    Gallant
10.    Hobbled
11.    Home-world message
12.    Idlers
13.    Kirk
14.    Mammon’s
15.    Mouldering (swag)
16.    Mulga
17.    Musketry (fire)
18.    O’er (over)
19.    ‘Oughter’ (ought to)
20.    Out back
21.    Scrubs
22.    Shanties
23.    Selector
24.    Squatter
25.    Steerage
26.    Stinted stomachs
27.    Swag
28.    Tank
29.    Ten-Mile Inns (Half-way Houses)
30.    The run
31.    Till the mirk
32.    ‘Tis (it is)
33.    Toilers
34.    Twain
35.    ‘Twas (it was)
36.    ‘Twill (it will)
37.    Twist
38.    Weal
39.    Wits abroad


1.    Buff – cunning make believe v. To deceive to mislead
2.    Bushranger – One who engages in armed robbery, living in the bush in the manner of an outlaw
3.    Comrades - A mate, companion, or associate
4.    Damps - wet areas
5.    Dree - an abbreviation for dream
6.    E’er (ever)
7.    Ere (here)
8.    Free-selector – small farmer who acquires a tract of land under a free selection scheme; A free-selector is one who has selected an agricultural allotment for purchase in fee simple (payment in cattle).
9.    Gallant – brave, marking a spirit which defies danger
10.    Hobbled – to put a horse out to rest, fettered so as to prevent straying
11.    Home-world message - news of what goes on at home for those that are away or travelling
12.    Idlers - unemployed, unoccupied, lazy
13.    Kirk – a church or the church
14.    Mammon – riches, wealth, the god of riches
15.    Mouldering – to crumble into small particles, to turn to dust by natural decay
16.    Mulga - Any of several plants of the genus  Acacia (fam. Mimosaceae) of dry inland Aust., esp. the widespread shrub or tree
17.    Musketry (fire) – muskets, the technique of using small arms (especially in battle)
18.    O’er (over)
19.    Oughter (ought to)
20.    Out back - Now usu. as one word, but formerly often as two or hyphened. [Ellipt.  out in(to) the  back country.] Where the swaggies used to go; adv. Out in or to country which is remote from a major centre of population.
21.    Scrubs – a wide range of generally low and apparently stunted forms of vegetation, often thick and impenetrable
22.    Selector – One who selects a tract of Crown land, nearly always a grazier
23.    Shanties - A small, mean dwelling; a rough, slight building for temporary use; a hut
24.    Squatter – one settling on land in order to graze his livestock with no legal title; esp. an ex-convict
25.    Steerage – the cheapest accommodation on a passenger ship
26.    Stinted stomachs – to restrict to a scant allowance, restrained to certain limits
27.    Swag – rolled up bedding, outdoor sleeping bag, carried by a swagman
28.    Tank - An artificial reservoir; Dam, esp. as excavated to provide water for livestock
29.    Ten-Mile Inns (Half-way Houses) - an inn or place of call midway on a journey.  A residence for former convicts, persons recovering from mental illness, or from drug or alcohol addiction.
30.    The run – a tract of land used as pasture; spec. a tract of Crown land situated adjacent to a holding and leased or occupied as pasture; such a tract situated at some distance from the user's dwelling or holding
31.    Till the mirk – dusk, darkness, gloom, murk
32.    ‘Tis (it is)
33.    Toilers – to labour, with some continuance or duration
34.    Twain (wander) – in halves; into two parts; asunder
35.    ‘Twas (it was)
36.    ‘Twill (it will)
37.    Twist - a little twisted roll of tobacco
38.    Weal - a sound, healthy, or prosperous state of a person or thing; prosperity; happiness; welfare
39.    Wits abroad – affected by alcohol, drunk, mind elsewhere; (wit: the basic human power of intelligent thought and perception)

Questions and Activities for The Classroom:


Mini-project 1:  (upper Primary)

Select one of Henry Lawson’s poems from this collection.  Describe in your own words what the poem is about.  List different adjectives that provide the descriptions in the story.  Illustrate the poem.  Memorise one of the stanzas in the poem and recite it to the class.  You may even want to dress up for your performance.

Mini-project 2: (upper Primary)

Go through one of the poems and list out all the words or phrases that we no longer use in everyday language.  Write down what words we would use now to convey the same meaning. Then list out the items that have been superseded by industrialisation and technology and write down what has replaced them (poem suggestion for this exercise: ‘The Lights of Cobb & Co’).

Mini-project 3:  (Primary)

Find out about Henry Lawson’s life and writings using books and the Internet.

You might like to consider these questions when doing your project:

•    Who were Henry Lawson’s parents and what did each of them do? Were their names ever changed?  Did Henry have any siblings?

•    Did Henry Lawson ever have a family of his own? Who did he marry?

•    What were the main themes that Henry Lawson wrote about (the Australian outback,
the Depression,
farming)?  How would you describe his poems and do you find them easy to understand?

•    Has Henry Lawson ever been on an Australian banknote?  Which denomination and when was he replaced by another poet, who was this?

•    As a child, what did other children tease Henry Lawson about?  In which one of his senses did he have a mild disability?

•    Lawson was born in 1867, and died in 1922. During his lifetime, he spent time in jail and institutions.  Find out what substance he battled with that was the main cause of him being institutionalised?

•    Where are the ‘parched Paroo’ and the ‘Warrego tracks’? Which state are these found in and can you find a map where they appear? Identify which poem these are found in?

Mini-Project 4:  (lower Secondary)

•   Choose a poem and research the context in which the poem is written and also its purpose. Consider carefully the emotions generated by specific words, images, and the storyline.  What techniques did the writer use to influence the way you feel?

Lesson plans prepared by Juliette van Heyst

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