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Personal Choice 74

Said Hanrahan

‘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.’

‘John O'Brien’

Monsignor Patrick Joseph Hartigan ‘John O’Brien’ (1878 - 1952) was an Australian Roman Catholic priest, educator, author and poet. Born at Yass, New South Wales Patrick Joseph Hartigan studied at St Patrick's Seminary, Manly and St Patrick's College, Goulburn. His poetry was very popular in Australia and was well received in Ireland and the United States. Hartigan died in Lewisham, an inner suburb of Sydney in 1952. Hartigan wrote under the pseudonym ‘John O'Brien.’ His verse celebrated the lives and mores of the outback pastoral folk he ministered to as a peripatetic curate in the southern New South Wales and Riverina towns of Thurgoona, Berrigan and Narrandera, in the first two decades of the 20th century. The refrain We'll all be rooned from his poem Said Hanrahan has entered colloquial Australian English as a jocular response to any prediction of dire consequences arising, particularly, from events outside the interlocutor's control.

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