Born in a tent on Grenfell goldfields. Father a Norse sailor turned goldfield digger and a Kentish mother of gypsy blood and tradition. He seems to have led a mostly nomadic life, crossing oceans as well as working on farms and stations. Always writing. Short stories, masses of poetry and working as a jouranalist in Sydney until succumbing finally to alcaholism and almost destitution except for the support of a boarding house keeper who was also a poet and had great admiration for Henry’s work.
A very brief outline of a man whose work I am reading now, having found a re-issue of his 1933 edition by Angus & Robertson.
Briefly, his metre and rhyme seems punctilious, his subjects quite varied but mostly of the land- workers: Shearer, swagman, the woman who watched and waited for them and the political and class struggles of the day. Throughout is the space in time as well as distance of the landscape whether on a farmstead or travelling through a township. The characters are all real, unglossed and often lost.
The intro. mentions him coming out of the realms of Wordsworth and Byron. To me Kipling and Tennyson are sometimes in step with his metre and style but the tru-ism of the introduction is that he is an Australian poet.
a sample: not the best but one of the shorter poems. Longer ones continue in similar strong patterns but a multitude of subjects decide on feelings, of sadness, harshness of reality and hope. :
Rain in the Mountains
The valley’s full of misty clouds,
Its tinted beauty drowning,
Tree-tops are veiled in fleecy shrouds,
And mountain fronts are frowning.
The mist is hanging like a pall
Above the granite ledges,
And many a silvery waterfall
Leaps o’er the valley edges.
The sky is of a leaden grey,
Save where the north looks surly,
The driven daylight speeds away,
And night comes o’er early.
Dear Love, the rain will pass full soon,
Far sooner than my sorrow,
But in a golden afternoon
The sun may set tomorrow.