Around The Boree Log and Other Verses

The Careys

John O'Brien

        THEIR new house stood just off the road.
            A fine big brick two-storey,
        All gabled, tiled, and porticoed,
            To flaunt its owners’ glory.
        We never had, to tell the truth,
            At Carey’s door alighted,
        We had good reasons too, forsooth—
            We hadn’t been invited.
        But down to Mass we passed the gate,
            And passed it, too, returning,
        And hid away in mien sedate
            The grievance in us burning.
        But in the Old Mass Shandrydan—.
            Well, envy little varies—
        We heard “herself” and her good man
            Discourse about the Careys:

“Wisha, that big house of Carey’s with its power of fal-de-daries.”
    “Faith, he’s in the bank to build it, so I hear the people say.”
“It will break him now to clear it; and it’s grieved I am to hear it;
    Wisha, I wouldn’t be in Carey’s boots to-day!”

        They came here in the early days,
            And settled down as neighbours;
        With tilted carts and bullock-drays
            They shared our griefs and labours.
        We tramped it to the old bush school,
            In fine or rainy weather;
        And there upon the dunce’s stool
            We tools our knocks together.
        But now they stood for “class” among
            Our little congregation;
        And, as they passed us by, they flung
            Mere scraps of toleration.
        And sometimes down to Mass they’d bring
            Fine strangers holidaying,
        Who laughed and gushed at everything
            Within their orbit straying.
        By soft white hands and modish gowns
            They sought the world to measure,
        And seemed to think our reach-me-downs
            Were staged to give them pleasure.
        And, faith, it set the tongues a-wag
            And entertained the flippants
        To see the fifteen-guinea bag
            That held the little “thrippence,”
        While in the church they plied the fan
            And practised like vagaries;
        So in the Old Mass Shandrydan
            We gave it to the Careys:

“Wisha, did you see the Careys? They’re the highfalutin fairies.”
    “Tell me, who were them play-actors there that had so much to say?”
“Och, the antics and the wrigglin’, and the goin’s-on and gigglin’—
    Wisha, did you see the Careys there to-day!”

        They sometimes drove a spanking pair,
            Which brought them speed and honour;
        They sometimes drove a pacing-mare
            With straps and pads upon her;
        They covered us with clouds of dust,
            As thick as we could wear it;
        And we could plod, as needs we must,
            And keep the faith and bear it.
        When skies were blue and days wore bright,
            And leaf and bud were sprouting,
        They came to Mass in splendour dight,
            To make a Sunday’s outing;
        But when the mom was blank with storm
            And winter blasts complaining,
        The Careys kept devotion warm
            Beside their fire remaining.
        So, while the chilling torrents ran
            And soaked our best figaries,
        Within the Old Mass Shandrydan
            We pummelled at the Careys,

“Wisha, where were all the Careys? Sure the rain might melt the fairies!”
    “Faith, and if it was the races then, they wouldn’t stop away.”
“That’d be another story; there they’d be in all their glory—
    Wisha, what could keep them all from Mass to-day!

        And when we held the big bazaar—
            A fine and lively meeting—
        And people came from near and far,
            In buoyant zeal competing,
        ’Twas rush and gush and fulsomeness
            And Careys superintending;
        They raced about in evening dress,
            And deftly dodged the spending.
        We might have been in Amsterdam,
            Or somewhere out in Flanders;
        We sold some tickets for “the ham”
            And stalked about like ganders.
        So when we gathered up the clan,
            And sought our distant eyries,
        Within the Old Mass Shandrydan
            We blazed it at the Careys:

“Wisha, did you see the Careys, like some wild things from the prairies?”
    “Faith, I never met ‘the bate’ of that for many ’n many a day.”
“Sure it’s pounds we would have taken with them tickets for the bacon,
    If them thuckeens1 of the Careys were not always in the way.”

        And when the little choir we had
            In tender hope was springing,
        And nervous lass and awkward lad
            Were mobilized for singing,
        We all went down our own to hear,
            As holy triumph crowned them,
        But Careys sailed in shrill and clear,
            And silenced all around them;
        Our Nellie’s range they quite outran,
            And even Laughing Mary’s;
        So in the Old Mass Shandrydan
            We pitched into the Careys:

“Wisha, did you hear the Careys? Don’t they think they’re fine canaries?”
    “Yerra, wouldn’t you think they’d hold the tongues, and let the people pray!”
“Faith, my head is all a-reelin’ from them Careys and their squealin’—
    Wisha, did you hear them shoutin’ there to-day!”

        The angels, in their peaceful skies
            Through starry paddocks straying,
        Must sometimes smile with kindly eyes
            To see the tricks we’re playing.
        Now rosy-cheeked and smart and fair
            Was Carey’s youngest daughter;
        And lo, our Morgan did his hair
            With mutton-fat and water;
        But days and days the lovers spent
            On thorns (and roses) treading,
        Till down to Carey’s house we went,
            Invited to the wedding.
        For life’s a fine comedian,
            Whose programme shifts and varies,
        And in the Old Mass Shandrydan
            We smoodged a bit to Careys:

“Wisha, now we’ll see the Careys in their weddin’ fal-de-daries!”
    “Faith, I mind the time the Careys slep’ beneath their bullock-dray.”
“Sure, I wouldn’t hurt their feelin’s, though I never liked their dealin’s;
    “An’ if just to please poor Morgan, I’ll be nice to them to-day.”

1.    Celtic for “flapper.”    [back]

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