Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

In love. Working on a book.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A Rope for Harry Fat

Oh some have killed in angry love
And some have killed in hate,
And some have killed in foreign lands
To serve the business state.
The hangman's hands are abstract hands
Though sudden death they bring --
"The hangman keeps our country pure,"
Says Harry Fat the king.

Young love will kick the chairs about
And like a rush fire burn,
Desiring what it cannot have,
A true love in return.
Who knows what rage and darkness fall
When lovers' thoughts grow cold?
"Whoever kills must pay the price,"
Says Harry Fat the old.

With violent hands a young man tried
To mend the shape of life.
This one used a shotgun
And that one used a knife.
And who can see our issues plain
That vex our groaning dust?
"The law is greater than the man,"
Says Harry Fat the just.

Te Whiu was too young to vote,
The prison records show.
Some thought he was too young to hang;
Legality said No.
Who knows what fear the raupo hides
Or where the wild duck flies?
"A trapdoor and a rope is best,"
Says Harry Fat the wise.

Though many a time he rolled his coat
And on the bare boards lay,
He lies in heavy concrete now
Until the Reckoning Day.
In linen sheet or granite aisle
Sleep Ministers of State.
"We cannot help the idle poor,"
Says Harry Fat the great.

Mercy stirred like a summer wind
The wigs an polished boots
And the long Jehovah faces
Above their Sunday suits.
The jury was uncertain;
The judge debated long.
"Let justice take her natural course,"
Said Harry Fat the strong.

The butcher boy and the baker boy
Were whistling in the street
When the hangman bound Te Whiu's eyes
And strapped his hands and feet,
Who stole to buy a bicycle
And killed in panic blood.
"The parson won his soul at length,"
Said Harry Fat the good.

Oh some will kill in rage and fear
And some will kill in hate.
And some will kill in foreign lands
To serve the master State.
Justice walks heavy in the land,
She bears a rope and shroud.
"We will not change our policy,"
Says Harry Fat the proud.

- James Keir Baxter, from Howrah Bridge and other Poems,1961


Blogger Dubs said...


Love the poem. Being of non-antipodean extraction and therefore having been taught an idea of Australian/New Zealand literature that begins and ends with Peter Carey and "A Town Like Alice", I've never heard it before.

Like yourself I'm currently working on a book, although I am at the "horrible experiences later to transcribe into semi-autobiographical potboiler" stage. When I will actually get round to writing anything down I don't know.

Anyway, like the blog and keep it up.

3:12 AM  

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