‘As it is in the Days of Now’, The Bulletin, 12 March 1908
Absent lover, anti-nostalgia, chivalry, critique, cuckoldry, Courtly Love, false friendship, gold, Henry Lawson (1867-1922), Holy Land, honour, knight, knighthood, Lady Clare, Noblesse oblige, reputation, romance, Sir Antony Mark, Sir William, the Crusades.
This poem, which is best described as “an anti-nostalgic demystification of chivalric heroism” (Louise D’Arcens, Old Songs in the Timeless Land: Medievalism in Australian Literature 1840-1910, Turnhout, Brepols, 2011, p.143), draws a link to the medieval past to suggest that little has changed with regards human behaviour. ‘As it is in the Days of Now,’ is a tale of cover-up, falsity, and cuckoldry. Here, everyone but Sir William is aware of an affair that took place between his Lady and his best friend while he was fighting in the Holy Land. The poor man even unwittingly drinks wine in the company of his rival and false friend. Lawson’s ubiquitous narrator states, “And the true friend pledges the false friend thrice.” Lawson refuses to romanticise love in accordance with medieval notions of chivalry. Lust and cupidity are here disguised and subsumed into ‘noblesse oblige,’ and Lawson’s poem rather denigrates selfish ‘knightly’ behaviour, with its false friendships, cuckoldry, and risible notions of Courtly Love. The poem in fact, is an angry riposte to nineteenth-century nostalgia and naiveté as it relates to the individual’s lack of nous and foresight.
12 March 1908, p.39