The Outback according to Henry LawsonJune 18, 2014
"In the first 15 years of my life, I saw the last of the Roaring Days on Gulgong goldfield. I remember the rush as a boy might his first and only pantomime."
- Henry Lawson
The town of Grenfell, New South Wales comes to life during the first days of June. It's the Henry Lawson Festival, named after its most important resident. The event recalls the jollier aspects of the colonial years, which is why old tractors and steam engines, coughing like trolls, trundle down the street. But Lawson's life was anything but peachy.
Henry Lawson, born in June 17, 1867, is considered Australia's greatest writer during the colonial years. His writings revealed the darker aspects of that period in Australian history, but it also alluded to his turbulent life. He suffered from ear infection at a young age, which resulted to total deafness when he entered his teenage years. But this helped him become perceptive. He became renowned in literary circles when he was about to reach his 20s, his style quite similar to Ernest Hemingway, while his lifestyle not so different from Malcolm Lowry. It was no secret that he was under the influence during most of his adult life, but this was a joie de vivre moment that he couldn't get enough of.
Back then, the Outback was the only thing in Down Under. It was no surprise, then, that this arid landscape ingrained itself into the (Australian) culture. Lawson loved the outdoors, always looking forward to those days of drinks and conversations. This kind of camaraderie would be called mateship, depicted countless times in books and films. Authors often try to probe the mystery behind it, which what makes the culture unique. For Lawson, it put him in a different place.
"Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I'm at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know," he once said.
Poverty and spirits hounded Lawson, costing his marriage. Some gentle souls helped him, his good reputation kept intact because the public find someone who could guide them.
"On the same line of reasoning, if Australians were to be Australians, or rather if Australians were as separate from any other nation as Australia from any other land, there would be no jealousy between them on England's account."
Lawson's life ended tragically, but his writings helped him become larger than life. In fact, a bronze of statue of the author was erected in The Domain, Sydney, in 1931. Then there's the Henry Lawson Centre in Gulgong, New South Wales, which receives many visitors. But it's the festival in his hometown, in his honour, celebrating his works. It's a testament to his contribution to Australian literature despite the dark undertone. The residents of Grenfell look back and still have something to cheer about.
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