Henry Lawson Among Maoris
7 — Lawson's Aesthetic Crisis
Lawson's Aesthetic Crisis
It is time to return to the exception made, in the racist attitudes of Australian trade unionism in the 1890s, of Maoris. There was an older European benignity towards Polynesians in general. It has often been remarked that Samuel Marsden felt no compulsion to save the souls of Aborigines, but on meeting Ruatara in Sydney, he determined to start a mission among Maoris. On the whole Europeans took more readily to Polynesians than to Melanesians or Micronesians. The navigators' journals o£ the late eighteenth century comment on their likeness in colour and physique to Europeans. Bougainville and Cook, whatever misinterpretations they made, were able to engage in a dialogue between European and Tahitian culture. From Bougainville's urbane account of the Tahitians, from Banks's journal, from Cook's sympathetic descriptions of Polynesians and Hawkesworth's tendentiously edited selections from them, from the eulogies of Forster père et fils for Tahitian society, there had derived a literary cliché of the noble, happy, and innocent Polynesian. It was not a cliché likely to recommend itself to Lawson, but he indulged it once in 'Cruise of the Crow', a poem on a blackbirding raid in which his sympathy is with the islanders who take revenge on the captain when he comes to the island again. The romantic cliché is in these lines:
… the islanders' girls
(Who had eyes that were brighter than stars, who had teeth that were purer than pearls),
page 138 Of the graces in bronze, finely fashioned by nature, untrained and free,
Who swam out through the rollers to gambol and dive in the luminous sea—1
In New Zealand writing this literary cliché showed itself in a few novels and stories that assumed that Maoris were a dying race who had a heroic and admirable past, pathetic but nobly acquiescent victims to the inevitable imperialism of Progress.
In Robert H. Scott's Ngamihi; or the Maori Chief's Daughter (1895), set in the Taranaki land war, those Maoris who aid the settlers' cause are brave, generous, and honourable; the 'rebels' are fierce, treacherous, and given to atrocities. The heroine, a 'princess' christened by a missionary with the exotic and unbiblical name Zada, dies spectacularly sheltering her Pakeha lover from a bullet. In Jessie Weston's Ko Méri (1890) the heroine, daughter of a British general and granddaughter of a Maori chief, repudiates genteel London society and returns to her mother's village to share the doom of her race. In H. B. Vogel's A Maori Maid (1898) Ngaia, daughter of a European surveyor and granddaughter of a Maori chief, wins through a series of misfortunes to become the bride of a future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In Vogel's The Tragedy of a Flirtation (1909), Raita, daughter of a chief, is mistress to a European farmer and mother to his child, but willingly dies to make way for a more suitable match with an English doctor's daughter. Jessie Weston's Meri and Vogel's Ngaia were at home in two cultures; and in Arthur H. Adams's 'The Real Maori Maid', in the Lone Hand in 1908, the heroine, daughter of a chieftainess, wife of a senior government official, spends one day paddling a canoe and the next day at an elegant function discussing the Henley regatta.2 In these novels and stories the heroine either dies pathetically, freeing her European lover from a noble but perhaps ill-calculated attachment, or she moves easily from high rank in one society to high rank in the other. The underlying assumption is either that Maoris are doomed to die out or that they, or at least their ranking class, will be gracefully assimilated into European society.
How these Maori or half-Maori heroines were conceived in page 139terms of the conventions of contemporary popular romances can be illustrated by two parallel passages:
She paced up and down the room with a sweeping, panther-like grace, her eyes brilliant with that dangerous light never seen except in the eye of native races, whose souls know no law but their own instincts and passions— a magnificent figure in her long, trailing gown and splendid, voluptuous beauty, the veneer of civilization fallen off, and the Maori blood surging wildly through her veins.3
At this juncture Captain Wilson rose from his chair and walked across the room to where she was standing. Leading her gently to a seat beside Miss Munroe, he reverently raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. The effect on Zada was instantaneous. With a swift glance of her large dark eyes, which had suddenly become strangely tender in expression, she almost compelled Captain Wilson to meet her gaze, and for an instant the two stood as if transfixed. Hastily letting her eyes fall she caught his hand, and after passionately kissing it fled from the room with an articulate sob.4
If in the first there is the pretence that Méri has thrown off the bonds of her acquired European culture, there is in fact little difference between the two passages: both display passionate women acting with less restraint than is conventional. There is something of this late-romantic tradition in the Bulletin in 1897. F. Rollett's sketch 'Pomare's Death' sees the Maori as a noble warrior.5 In 'Ripene Manga' a half-caste youth is reduced to wage-slavery by a Pakeha land-shark and his grandfather, driven from his land, dies of humiliation and grief.6 Here the forces of evil are identified with a Pakeha, and the Maori with dying nobility. In 1903 David McKee Wright's poem 'Hawaiki' has 'the strong brown race of warriors' and 'deep-bosomed women, with far-dreaming eyes'.7 In 1894 Lawson too had indulged the literary convention of the noble dying warrior in 'Ake! Ake! Ake! The Last Stand of the Maoris', a poem on Rewi Maniapoto, and in another 'Rewi to Grey' in which Rewi Maniapoto's last words to Sir George Grey are that they should be buried together:
Scott's Ngamihi is illustrated with photographic 'portraits'. One of them shows Zada and her maidservant Hema in poetic pose: by a broken column of photographer's plaster, against a lowering sky, Zada looks resolute in a loose sleeveless gown with a sash and a piece of material hanging from her shoulder, a feather in her long hair: at her feet is Hema her face hidden in her hair. The Bulletin ran a series of like 'studies' by a Hobart photographer, Arthur lies. One of them 'A Maori Belle' is captioned: 'One of the most charming of many Maorilanders… so skilfully photographed to the glory of a perishing race.'9 There is a second of an adolescent girl, and a third of two girls posing head against head, one with her arms round the other.10 By its title and date (17 July 1897) it is clear that Henry Lawson in his story of Mangamaunu was reacting against the sentimentality of the tradition: the photograph is captioned 'Two Daughters of Maoriland'. It is ironic that the issue of the Antipodean which first published 'A Daughter of Maoriland' should have accompanied it with five of Iles's photographs, including 'A Maori Beauty', 'Type of Maori Girl', and one untitled in the fashionable photographic pose of leaning pensively with one arm raised-not against a column but against a tree-fern.11 This appears on the same page as the account of Sarah's gluttony.
Alfred A, Grace in his stories of Maoris as yet in only slight contact with Pakeha culture, falls into conventional heroics of ill-fated love, but he is best remembered for his tales of Maoris more or less acculturated. He finds sardonic humour in the implied contrast between the Maori as he had been and the Maori trying to cope with European culture. There are several of his stories in the Bulletin in 1897: and two of them preceded the probable date of writing 'A Daughter of Maoriland'. 'Pirimona' is a wry tale of a half-caste who overcomes the handicap of a barren wife by taking two concubines.12 'Told in the Puia' is of a European who lives with Maoris and marries a Maori girl when his European fiancée throws him over because of his acquaintance with the Maori girl: the point is that a Maori woman makes a more pleasant partner than a page 141European woman.13 It is probable that in them Lawson found a preferable 'realism'-that is a disinclination to depart from the working values of the practical-minded European settler, even if an unusually genial one. In any case there was sympathy in outlook between Grace and Lawson: after reading While the Billy Boils and 'The Story of the Oracle' and 'Pursuing Literature in Australia' Grace wrote to Lawson suggesting (as in fact Lawson had decided more than two years earlier) that he should try London as a market.14
Lawson did find a literary precedent for his 'realism'. The second version of 'A Daughter of Maoriland' substitutes one paragraph at the end of the story for three. The two paragraphs later scrapped from the first version in the Antipodean of 1897 read:
And if this sketch, and others that will be written, do something towards knocking the sentimental rot out of current literature that teacher will not have lived, learnt and been 'had' in vain. We rush off in imagination to coral isles and other places, and make heroes out of greasy, brown, loafing brutes, for no other reason, apparently, than that their fathers were even greasier and more brutal than their children, while thousands of brave, self-sacrificing white heroes, weeds for the most part, but heroic weeds, live, fight and die unnoticed in our own cities and bush, all the year round.
For further information on the subject of this sketch, and for many profitable hours, the reader is confidently referred to Old New Zealand, by "a Pakeha Maori" (Maning), one of the brightest and healthiest books ever written. The author, or the hero, lived this book, and was equal to the life.15
There is of course some likeness between Maning's genial irony, his mixture of admiration and scepticism, and Lawson's in his comic stories of swagmen. But Maning's tone has little in common with the bitterness of 'A Daughter of Maoriland'. It is notable that in the first paragraph quoted Lawson sees the choice in writing about Polynesians as between sentimentality and defamation.
It is not initially easy for a writer to interpret another culture without some participation in it, but if he does not set himself so comprehensive an aim and is content to write of page 142members of the alien culture simply as people he has known and observed, his difficulties are fewer. He needs only to shed such preconceptions as may interfere with sensitive and sympathetic observation or with his intuitive perception of their common humanity. Since the late nineteenth century a number of European novelists have written reliably of Africans and Asians, West Indians and the peoples of the Pacific. In New Zealand, Alfred A. Grace, Roderick Finlayson, and Noel Hilliard have written with understanding of Maori communities. The success with which a writer can interpret the behaviour of people outside his own culture depends partly on his own gifts and partly on the capacity of his own philosophy to tolerate a wide range of human behaviour, on its freedom from intolerance and parochialism.
These observations are relevant to Lawson's experience of Maoris. The society in which he was at home as a writer was a scattered society of shearers and rouseabouts, of drovers and bullockies and swagmen, shanty-keepers, struggling selectors and diggers, spielers and hatters and tough, long-suffering women. It was a society rich in variety of social and economic experience, of interest in and understanding of how people struggled for their living; but governed as it was by a limited set of conventions for the relations between men and women and between men and their fellow-men, rather narrow in its range of emotional or inter-personal experience, and prone to condemn those who departed from these conventions. Confronted with a community quite different from the society he knew, whose culture was in many ways alien to the bushman's code, Lawson's comic or sardonic realism, his habitual method of representing life, was inadequate. The style had evolved in a different setting and was not readily adaptable to the new one. The sensitive interplay of narrator and experience lost confidence and in 'A Daughter of Maoriland' Lawson made up for it by assertion. The mental habits by which he had ordered his experience into art were no longer sufficient to control that part of his personality which he had not hitherto allowed to take charge of interpretation.
The disillusion of Mangamaunu caused in him a crisis of aesthetic conscience, and it affected his confidence in publishing his sketches written in Mangamaunu before the crisis. He expresses this crisis in his poem 'The Writer's Dream', a poem page 143that he said 'will be quoted when others are forgotten'.16 It is necessary to print the poem in full, taking the text from Lawson's manuscript and to analyse it.17
Lawson suffered from editors and subeditors who thought that because his copy had a few spelling mistakes they could revise his poems without asking him. Denton Prout cites George Black, employed by the Bulletin, who boasted of condensing and remodelling Lawson's verse, and C. H. Bertie thought Lawson should have been grateful.18 Prout gives an example of a text before and after amendment by J. B. Dalley, and the editorial arrogance is startling.19 There is evidence of Lawson's anger at such treatment, and he complained to the editor of the Lone Hand at 'the condencing or altering, and … the mutilation of my copy'.20
Bertha complained that David McKee Wright altered without Lawson's permission, but Rebecca Wiley of Angus and Robertson claimed that Lawson had written to her that Wright was the only person he would allow to alter his words.21 T. D. Mutch wrote: 'Miss Wylie [sic] is quite correct. The alterations referred to were either made by Lawson himself, or made with his concurrence, I have seen them.'22 Certainly George Robertson, in preparing Selected Poems for publication in 1918, was most scrupulous in keeping a record of corrections by Bertram Stevens, A. W. Jose, and Wright in ink of several colours in a volume he called The Polychrome, and in his protracted and detailed letters to Lawson which show that Lawson fully considered and approved or vetoed Robertson's suggestions and Wright's amendments.23 But there were further amendments after Lawson's death, for the Poetical Works of 1925, by Wright, Robertson, and Jose; and it is in these that Wright has seemed more cavalier.
The editors of journals were less scrupulous than Robertson. Lawson laid himself open to their treatment by leaving the choice of this word or that to the editor's discretion; frequently a word is overwritten by an alternative which Lawson has neither settled for nor rejected, and sometimes underwritten by a second. In the manuscript of 'The Writer's Dream' the editor has once rejected both of Lawson's alternatives and page 144provided a word of his own, and seven other times has taken it on himself to revise a word or a phrase, though in fact four of his revisions are not used in any of the printed versions. To get back to what Lawson meant and not what the editor thought he should mean I have used the text as Lawson wrote it. Where there are alternatives—except in two cases, lines 34 and 52, where the question is one of grammar—I have used the word first written, that is on the same level as the rest of the line in which it appears (a); first alternatives, written above the line, are footnoted b; second alternatives, written below the line, are footnoted c; if either of these alternatives was used in the Bulletin, the b or c is followed by B; editorial alterations are footnoted Ed. With some variations, the Bulletin version was used in Verses Popular and Humorous (1900), the only reprinting the poem has had.* David McKee Wright and another hand, either Robertson or Jose, made some revisions, presumably for the Poetical Works, but the poem was not included in the collection: these sixteen variations from the VPH text are footnoted DMW, though five of them are in a hand different from Wright's.24 Variations in punctuation have not been noted.
The Writer's Dream
[A] writer wrote of the hearts of men, and he followed their tracks afar;
For his was a spirit that forced his pen to write of the things that are.
His heart grew tired of the truths he told, for his life was hard and grim;
His land seemed barren, it's people cold;—yet the world was dear to him;—
So he sailed away from the Streets of Strife, he travelled by land and sea,
In search of a people who lived a life as life in the world should be
The Writer's Nightmare DMW
1 [A] MS. torn
3 for his life written twice and once cancelled
And he reached a spot where the scene was fair with field and forest and wood,
And all things came with the seasons there, and each in its turn was good;
There were mountain-rivers and peaks of snow, there were lights of green and gold,
And echoing caves in the cliffs below, where a world-wide ocean rolled.
The lives of men from the wear of Change, and the strife of the world were free—
For Steam was barred by the mountain range and the rocks of the open sea.
7 field and forest] forest and field Ed., B., VPH
8 in its turn] of its kind b, B., VPH
12 and the strife] from the strife b
And the last that were born of a noble race—when the page of the South was fair—
The sons of the conquered dwelt in peace with the sons of the victors there.
And he saw their hearts with the author's eyes who had written their ancient lore,
And he saw their lives as he'd dreamed of such—Ah! many a year before.
And "I'll write a book of these simple folk, ere I to the world return,
"And the cold who read shall be kind for these and the wise who read shall learn."
14 sons (twice)] last b, B., VPH
15 And he] He b, B., VPH who had written] who'd recorded DMW
"Never again in a song of mine shall a jarring note be heard,
"Never again shall a page or line be marred by a bitter word—
"But love and laughter and kindly fun will the book I'll write recall,
"With chast'ning tears for the loss of one, and sighs for their sorrows all.
"Old eyes will light with a kindly smile and the young eyes dance with glee—
page 146 "And the heart of the cynic will rest awhile for my simple folk and me."
21 fun] hours Ed., B., VPH; in MS. hours written after [kindl]iness also in editor's hand and cancelled will the book] shall the book DMW I'll write] I write DMW
23 the young] young DMW
24 will] shall DMW for my] with my DMW
The lines ran on as he dipped his pen—ran true to his heart and ear—
Like the brighter pages of memory when every line is clear.
The pictures came and the pictures passed, like days of love and light—
He saw his chapters from first to last and he felt it grand to write!
And the writer kissed his girlish wife, and he kissed her twice for pride:
"Tis a book of love, though a book of life!—and a book you'll read!" he cried
25 his heart and ear] the writer's ear b
28 felt] thought B., VPH felt it grand to write] thrilled at the goodly sight Ed.
29 the writer kissed] he kissed for joy Ed.
30 You'll] you will Ed., B.
He was blind at first to each senseless slight—for shabby and poor he came—
From Local "Fashion" and mortgaged pride that scarce could sign it's name
What dreamer would dream of such paltry pride in a scene so fresh and fair?
But the Local spirit, intensified, with its pitiful shams was there
There were cliques where-ever two houses stood. (no rest for a family ghost!)—
They hated each other as women could—but they hated strangers most.
33 fresh and fair?] young fair? cancelled by author
34 with its] and its b was b, B., VPH] were a
35 no] No B.
36 could] would b strangers] the stranger Ed., B., VPH
He wrote by day and he wrote by night and he wrote, in the face of Fate:—
"I'll cleave to my dream of life in spite of the cynical ghosts that wait.
"'Tis the shyness born of their simple lives." he said of the paltry pride—
(The homely tongues of the simple wives never erred on the generous side)
"They'll prove me true and they'll prove me kind, ere the year of grace be past—"
But the ignorant whisper of "axe to grind!" went home to his heart at last.
37 He wrote by day and he wrote by night] The writer wrote by day and night b, B., VPH and he wrote] and he cried b, B., VPH
39 of the paltry pride] to the paltry pride VPH
40 never erred] erred not b ne'er erred c, B., VPH
The writer sat by his drift-wood fire three nights of the South-east gale—
His pen lay idle on pages vain, for his book was fairy tale.
The world-wise lines of an older age were plain on his youthful brow,
And he sadly thought of each brighter page that would never be written now.
"I'll write no morel" But he bowed his head, for his heart was in Dream-land yet;—
"The pages written I'll burn," he said "and the chapters thought forget."
43 the South-east gale] a South-east gale DMW
44 was fairy tale] was a fairy tale Ed., B., VPH
45 older] elder b, B., VPH youthful] aching b, B., VPH
48 pages] chapters b chapters] pages b, B., VPH
But he heard the hymn of the Open Sea, and the old fierce anger burned,
And he wrenched his heart from its dreamland free as the fire of his youth returned:—
"The anarchist's madness, the strong man's scorn—the rebellious hate of youth—
From a deeper love of the world are born!—And the cynical ghost is Truth!"
page 148 And the writer rose with a strength anew where Doubt could have no part,
"I'll write my book and it shall be true—the truth of a writer's heart."
51 anarchist's] weak man's b, B., VPH
52 are born b, B., VPH] is born a
53 rose with a strength] turned to his work b anew] fire-new DMW where] wherein Ed., B., VPH could have no part] would never have part b [would never] take [part] c had no part DMW
54 shall] shall Ed., B., VPH
"Aye! Cover the truth with a fairy tale, who never knew Want nor Care
"A bright green scum on a filthy pool that will reek the longer there.
"You may starve the writer and buy the pen—you m[a]y drive with want and fear—
"But the lines run false to the hearts of men and false to the writer's ear.
"The bard's a rebel and strife his part, and he'll burst from his bonds anew.
"Till all pens write from a single heart! And so may the dream come true.
55 Aye] Ay Ed., B., VPH truth] false b wrong c, B., VPH who] you who DMW Want, Care] want, care B., VPH
56 filthy pool] pool of filth 6 stagnant pool Ed., B., VPH will reek] [will] rot b festers c that will reek the longer there] [that] poisons earth and air d
57 writer] pen cancelled by author you m[a]y drive] [you my drive] it b
58 false to the hearts] [false] in [the hearts] b writer's] writers MS.
"Tis ever the same in the ways of men where money and dress are all—
"The crawler will bully whenever he can and the bully who can't will crawl.
"And this is the creed in the local hole, where ignorant "cheek" can rule:
"Borrow and cheat while the stranger's "green"—and sneer at the poor soft fool.
"Spit your spite at the man whom fate has placed in the head-race first
page 149 "And hate till death, with a senseless hate, the man you have injured worst!
61 ways] tracks b paths c, B., VPH
62 whenever] [when] e'er b cancelled by author [when] e'er c with a query against the two alternatives whene'er B., VPH
63 And this] This b ignorant "cheek" can rule] the souls of the selfish [rule] Ed., B. VPH
64 and sneer] then sneer b, VPH and then sneer B. poor, soft] simple Ed., B., VPH
65 Spit] Spit out DMW man] men b, B., VPH the head-race] [the] glorious [head-race] Ed.
"There are generous hearts in the grinding street, but the Hearts of the World go west.
"For the men who toil in the dust and heat of the barren lands are best!
"The stranger's hand to the stranger set—for a roving folk are mine—
"The stranger's store for the stranger set—and the camp fire-glow the sign!
"The generous hearts of the world, we find, thrive best on the barren sod—
"And the selfish thrive where Nature's kind—(they'd bully or crawl to God!)
67 but the Hearts of the World] but ever the best b
68 set] yet cancelled MS.
69–70 MS. directs but queries the transference of these lines to follow line 72.
71 generous] open b hearts] hearts cancelled and open overwritten, open cancelled and hearts underwritten MS. we find added above caret MS.
"I was born to write of the things that are! and the strength was given to me
"I was born to strike at the things that mar the world as the world should be!
"By the dumb heart hunger, and dreams of youth—by the hungry tracks I've trod—
"I'll fight as a man for the sake of truth—nor pose as a martyred god:—
"By the heart of "Bill" and the heart of "Jim" and the men that their hearts deem "white"
page 150 "By the hand-grips fierce, and the hard eyes dim with forbidden tears!—I'll write!"
73 strength] power cancelled MS.
75 and] the b
77 that their hearts deem] whom the Bush deems b [that their hearts] call c their hearts deem DMW their] their Ed, B., VPH
I'll write untroubled by cultured fools, or the few that fume and fret—
For against the wisdom of all their schools I would stake mine instinct yet!
And I'll write as I think in the knowledge strong that thousands think the same.—
For the cynical strain in the writer's song is the world, not he to blame.
And the men who fight in the Dry Country grim battles by day, by night
Will stand by me and be true to me, and say to the world:— "He's right!"
Henry LawsonM.L. Sept 97
79 fools] fops Ed few] dense b, B. VPH dull c fools Ed. that] who DMW
81 knowledge] knowledleg MS.
82 MS. directs but queries the transference of this line to follow line 80
83 Dry Country] dry Outback DMW
84 Will stand by me and be true to me] Will believe in me, and will stand by me b, B., VPH They'll trust in me and they'll [stand by me] c They will [trust in me and they'll, etc.] d and say] and will say Ed., B., VPH
It is sometimes difficult in Lawson's verse to know exactly what he means. The attractions of posture and cliché, the compulsion of regular prominent beat in his rhythms, the need to find a rhyme and so to provide a phrase to fill the line out obscure the initial poetic impulse. In 'The Writer's Dream' Lawson is drawn into many irrelevancies, but the initial impulse is a rejection of a hope that proved false and a reassertion of a habitual view of experience.
Charles Oscar Palmer said that the poem 'tells [Lawson's] tale' in Mangamaunu,25 and one may note that in the manuscript the quotation marks enclosing the poet's thoughts are page 151dropped in the last stanza, where it is Lawson himself speaking. But even without this evidence, certain internal references clearly locate the poem in Mangamaunu. There is the inaccurate version in stanza III of the history of the Kaikoura Maoris and the reference to 'the author' who had written the 'ancient lore' of Maoris.26 In stanza II the greenness and the comparative distinctness of the seasons suggest New Zealand, and the mountains, the ocean, and the sea-caves are appropriate to the Kaikoura Coast, and the inaccessibility by rail or steamship appropriate to Mangamaunu. There is in stanza I an echo of his dissatisfaction with Australia and his hope of finding a more congenial life in New Zealand.
One can accept Lawson's connection of his writer's realism ('the truths he told') with the austerity of his past life ('for his life was hard and grim'), but it was naive to imagine that a more contented life should result in a change in literary method. There is an implied equation of realism with harshness. The choice the writer sees is a false one, between bitterness or cynicism and sentimentality, between on the one hand 'jarring note', 'bitter word', 'the heart of the cynic' and on the other, 'love and laughter and kindly fun', 'chast'ning tears' for bereavement, 'sighs' for sorrows, 'kindly smile' and 'glee'. It reflects something of Lawson's oscillation, in his attitudes to bushmen, between sentimentality and hostility. The writer's newly adopted aim, as Lawson describes it, is that of a sentimental popular entertainer. There would be little wonder that he lost faith in it if one could trust Lawson's description of it. For it must be recognised that this description is written in the light of disillusion. The 'Native School' sketches as Lawson described them in letters to Hugh MacCallum and Angus and Robertson do not seem nearly as objectionable as Lawson in 'The Writer's Dream' makes them out to be. One may suspect from these letters and the stray digressions on Mangamaunu in his later writing, that there were elements of condescension or patronage in his benevolence, but this is not a weakness apparent to the disillusioned Lawson or his writer. The weakness as he sees it is that he had been telling well-meant lies.
When he itemises the factors that destroyed the writer's benevolence Lawson obscures the issue, since he avoids mention of the troubles that actually confronted him in Mangamaunu or interprets them, very generally, in terms of his page 152experience of Australian rural communities. It would be true that some of the Mangamaunu Maoris could scarcely sign their names-but many of them could, and did, write. There might be sardonic irony intended in applying 'Fashion' to Maoris, but 'mortgaged pride' is certainly not applicable since, possessing no saleable land as security, Maoris were unable to obtain credit. The cliquishness and bickering, the 'Local spirit' and the hatred for the stranger, the ungenerous tongues, the 'ignorant whisper of "axe to grind!"' are the features of New Pipeclay in the 'Fragment of an Autobiography' and of 'The Little World Left Behind'. They are the ills that faced the Advanced Idealist and the girl teacher called Pigeon Toes. The spite of the crowd for 'the man whom fate has placed in the head-race first' is the lot of 'The Man Ahead'; the situation of the good man reviled and persecuted is that of 'The Crucifixion'. Again, in stanza II, while it would be applicable to Lawson's experience in Mangamaunu as Bertha remembered it, to speak of borrowing and cheating 'while the stranger's "green" ', it would be a strange comment on the kainga to say that money and dress were all that counted. The bullying crawler and the crawling bully and the self-assertion of the 'ignorant', are features of competitive small-town politics rather than of Mangamaunu where the right to authority was commonly recognised as hereditary and according to seniority and education. It appears that Lawson was predisposed to see in Mangamaunu the 'localism' and the 'ignorance' to which he had been so hurtfully exposed as a boy in New Pipeclay. One recalls his remark in 1910 that after a while in Mangamaunu he noticed 'all the different charactiristics to be found in a white bush School'.27 In generalising his writer's predicament as the situation of any, good or enlightened individual persecuted by a small vindictive community he has side-stepped the writer's real literary predicament.
The writer might have been wise after brooding for three nights during a south-east gale to reconsider his initial attitudes in his 'chapters', but it was an evasion to dismiss them as 'Dream-land' and 'fairy tale'. One imagines that, even in the light of his unpleasant experiences, the material was salvageable, that the genial tolerance Lawson was prepared to exercise towards Mitchell and Steelman would have been sufficient to produce rewritten sketches deepened by comedy or irony or page 153even pathos. His bitterness is blind to the partial truth that the sketches must have contained; and his equation of 'the truths he told' in his earlier writing with cynicism betrays either a misunderstanding of the word or a very morose view of truth. His reaction to his disenchantment is to assert a view no less sentimental than the one he has rejected, to take up a posture more dramatic but no less false than the Arthur Iles 'study' of the Two Daughters of Maoriland. Stanzas IX and X make a series of declamations irrelevant not only to Lawson's experience in Mangamaunu but to his total experience as a writer in Australia and New Zealand at this time. It is little more than histrionics to link the poet with the anarchist, the 'strong man' and the young rebel, an incompatible trio, who, however, have it in common they all at one time or anotherin 'The Dying Anarchist', 'Cromwell', 'The Man Ahead', and the Advanced Idealist-had served as personae for the artistically intractable element in Lawson's personality. It is posture to suggest that sentimentality in writing is the unenvied prerogative of those who have not known 'Want' or 'Care'-as if Mere Jacob had not known them-or that 'Want' and 'Care' are prerequisites to truthful writing.
In his catalogue of the forces hostile to truth Lawson pays off a few old scores, irrelevant to the situation of his writer. The 'cultured fools' of the last stanza-John Le Gay Brereton, for example, who had criticised his verse-he had answered in 'The Uncultured Rhymer to his Cultured Critics'. The writer addresses an unidentified 'You' who starves the writer and buys his pen. Lawson, it is true, resented the low rates of payment of the Bulletin for work he sometimes sat up all night writing and rewriting,28 but the Bulletin had published much of his work written in 'cynical' strain from 'the truth of the writer's heart'. There is no evidence that any editor tried to 'buy his pen' by commissioning sentimental sketches of Mangamaunu, or, low rates of payment apart, that any editor had tried to 'drive him with want and fear'. What the writer-or Lawson-is doing is setting up a suitably hostile environment in which he can put up his fists-a conspiracy of editors, 'cultured fools', carping critics ('the few that fume and fret') and pampered sentimental writers. He has extended the malevolence from Mangamaunu to 'the world' which he can blame for his bitterness. It was a strategy by which the writer in page 154Lawson rescued himself from the false position of despair that his writer had reached in stanza VIII, when he vowed to write no more: that Lawson recognised the falsity of the position is in the words, 'for his heart was in Dream-land yet'. He rescued himself too from the position that the writer disowns in stanza XIII, the pose of a 'martyred god'. To the writer it is a restorative of artistic confidence to cut a figure as the fighter for truth who strikes at 'the things that mar the world'; but, in the movement of the poem it is, for Lawson, only a step in the strategy, which is to remind himself of the sources of his strength as a writer. That he has misapplied the word 'cynical' is clear from his profession of faith in the last three stanzas. He has recognised that his inspiration is dependent on the culture he knows-the code of Bill and Jim and the 'white' men of the 'barren lands'. But the 'Truth' that he wrote from this recognition was 'A Daughter of Maoriland'. 'The truth of the writer's heart' was limited by the compass of the bushman's code and the sore spots of Lawson's personality.
The artistic crisis that came out of Lawson's experience of Mangamaunu was a withdrawal. He had taken up the challenge of interpreting a different culture, but he retreated into bitterness when the values of his own culture were offended. But the crisis was also a reassertion of the values from which he had hitherto drawn artistic strength; a recognition of the limitations in time and place in which his talents could operate. It preceded a deeper exploration of the area of experience he knew. Within four years three volumes containing some of his most memorable prose had been published, mostly set in Australia: On the Track, Over the Sliprails, and Joe Wilson and his Mates. One must agree with T. Inglis Moore that the first two volumes are not consistently of high quality,29 but among those stories published later than mid-September 1897, they contain 'No Place for a Woman', 'They Wait on the Wharf in Black' and four Mitchell and Steelman stories. It is impossible to be certain what proportion of these three volumes was written after the crisis but it is probable that it included the Joe Wilson stories and some at least of On the Track and Over the Sliprails.
The retreat from the difficulties of the new material of Mangamaunu foreshadowed Lawson's failure to complete the page 155Joe Wilson stories, or to be ultimately satisfying in those that he did finish. It was for Lawson, as he felt his 'Native School' sketches to have been, a new departure to write so closely to his inner experience, but the theme of marital strain required a more objective view of himself and his own contribution to the tension than Lawson had the gift for. The tension is not so much brought out and resolved as by-passed (however convincingly) by the happy ending that follows Joe's gift of the double buggy, and the happy ending is thrown into doubt by the author's reference in his post-script to Joe's subsequent 'deep trouble'. Lawson's retreat after the crisis at Mangamaunu foreshadowed too the imaginative fixation (in his personal disorientation after his separation in 1903 and when his bush material had pretty well run out) that retarded him in adapting his vision (as he did after 1912 in a number of stories set in Sydney) to the industrial, urban Australia whose life could not be interpreted in terms of the cult of the bush.