Around The Boree Log and Other Verses

When Old Man Carey Died

John O'Brien

A night of wind and driving rain,
    No light on land or sky—
The sharp squalls shook the window-pane
    And scurried loudly by,

When sped abroad the message stern
    On cantering hoofbeats borne
That old man Carey “took a turn,”
    And might not see the morn.

What though debarred from Carey’s set,
    What though ’twas plainly seen
The new house and its etiquette
    Had made a gulf between,

What matter if they passed us by
    And scorned us heretofore—
We could not spurn a neighbour’s cry
    When trouble found his door.

So through the dark, a swinging light
    Beneath the axle tied,
The neighbours braved the stormy night
    When old man Carey died.

All blank was Carey’s new brick place
    As, entering through the gloom,
With noiseless step, we just might trace
    Within a darkened room

The purple stole that purifies,
    The old wife’s stricken head,
The Carey girls, with swollen eyes,
    All kneeling round the bed—

We’d move the world to help them, then:
    Our feuds were laid aside,
For all were neighbours once again
    When old man Carey died.

And, when he’d paid the debt perforce
    That every man must pay,
We came again with hearse and horse
    To bear him on his way.

We left behind the new brick place
    So strangely silent now,
The death-mask on its staring face,
    The ashes on its brow;

Slow straggling down the winding road,
    Past ripening crops a-sweep
Which old man Carey’s hands had sowed
    But other hands would reap,

With slap and tap of unshod heels
    We followed one by one,
And fifty sets of idling wheels
    Were twinkling in the sun.

With many a tale of deeds unguessed,
    Deeds of the early years,
We brought him to his long, long rest
    Among the pioneers.

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