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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Said Hanrahan

Painting by Hilda Rix Nicholas

Said Hanrahan is a poem about  . . . well, see for yourself:

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.


The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.


"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."


"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.


And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."


"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
They're singin' out for rain.


"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.


"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."


"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."


A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.


"We want an inch of rain, we do,"
O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
To put the danger past.


"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."


In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.


And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.


It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.


And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."


And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.


And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o'er the fence.


And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
Went riding down to Mass.


While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.


"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."
Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921


A friend introduced me to this poem and this Ozzie poet, in reference to the horrendous droughts of two years ago, when hundreds were killed in dreadful fires across Victoria and to the floods in Queensland and Victoria these past two weeks.  

But it's also about people, isn't it?   The poet knew men's hearts.  He was a Roman Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan (a good Irish name, begorrah) who wrote under the pseudonym of John O'Brien.  

We'll all be rooned (ruined) is a phrase which has entered Ozzie speech and is used in irony whenever someone predicts disaster.

I share these little snippets with you to give you a feel of the country I've grown to love.

[Text of poem comes from this site, and I discuss the painting itself in this post]


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