Jim of the Hills

The Vision

C.J. Dennis

OF THINGS that roam about the bush I ain’t got many fears,
For I knows their ways an’ habits, and I’ve chummed with them for years.
    For man or beast or gully ghost I’ve pluck enough to spare;
    But I draws the line at visions with the sunlight in their hair.

When a man has fought an’ conquered it is good in many ways:
There’s the pride in having done it, an’ the other fellows’ praise;
    There’s the glory an’ the standin’ that you get among the men—
    All their looks are more respectful since I socked it into Ben.

I was feelin’ fine this mornin’ when I started out to work;
An’ I caught myself high-steppin’ with a boastful sort of jerk;
    With my head a trifle higher an’ my eye a little stern.
    I thought the world was mine for keeps; but I’d a lot to learn.

Young Dick, the Dusty, wasn’t half as cheeky as of old;
The men were actin’ friendly-like, but I kept kind of cold
    An’ distant, as becomes a bloke who’s scored a knock-out thump—
    Till just approachin’ dinner time; an’ then I got my bump.

It’s fine to see your cobbers lookin’ at you like the know
You’re not a man to trifle with; at least, I found it so.
    Ben Murray was quite affable, an’ once he whispered me
    There’s a certain somethin’ doin’, an’ he’ll see me privately.

I was workin’ at the rip saw, cursin’ at my achin’ back,
When I saw the blessed vision comin’ down the log-year track.
    There were others in the party, but the one that got my stare
    Was her with two brown, laughin’ eyes an’ sunlight in her hair.

“More visitors!” growled old man Pike. “Another city push.
I’ll bet a quid they ask us why we ‘spoil the lovely bush.’”
    I hardly heard him saying it, for like a fool I stand,
    My eyes full of the vision an’ a batten in my hand.

“You gone to sleep?” the sawyer said. “What’s got you mesmerized?”
I start to work like fury, but my thoughts can’t be disguised.
    ”Oh, Jim’s gone dippy with the Spring”; replies old Pike an’ grins.
    I turn to answer dignified; but trip, an’ bark my shins.

Next thing I know the boss is there, an’ talkin’ fine an’ good.
Explaining’ to the visitors how trees are made of wood.
    They murmur things like “Marvellous!” an’ “What a monster tree!”
    An’ then the one with sunlit hair comes right bang up to me.

“I saw you fall,” she sort of sung: you couldn’t say she talked,
For her voice had springtime in it, like the way she looked an’ walked.
    “I saw you fall,” she sung at me. “I hope you were not hurt.”
    An’ suddenly I was aware I wore my oldest shirt.

“It never hurt me half as much as your two smilin’ eyes.”
That’s how I could have answered her—and watched old Pike’s surprise—
    “It never harmed me half as much as standin’ here like this
    With tattered shirt an’ grimy hands” . . . But I just says, “No, Miss.”

“Oh, no,” I says. “We’re pretty hard, an’ have to take them cracks.”
(But just to see her sudden smile, made me as soft as wax.)
    “You’re strong,” she smiles. I answers, “Oh, I’m pretty strong, all right.”
    An’ close behind I heard old Pike observin’, “Hear ’im skite!”

That finished me. I lost what little nerve I had, an’ grew
Dead certain that I looked a fool, an’ that she thought so, too.
    She talked some more; but I can’t tell what other things she said.
    I went all cold, except my ears, an’ thye were burnin’ red.

I only knew her eyes were soft, her voice was kind an’ low.
I never spoke another word exceptin’ “Yes” an’ “No.”
    I never felt a bigger chump in all my livin’ days,
    Well knowin’ I was gettin’ worse at every word she says.

An’ when she went off with the rest I stood there, lookin’ sick.
Until I caught a chance remark of little Dirty Dick.
    “What price the widders now?” says he. I answer fierce an’ low:
    “Were you addressin’ me?” I says; an’ Dick was prompt with “No!”

I don’t know how I finished up; my thoughts were far from clear;
For, in between me an’ the bench, that vision would appear.
    No other man chucke doff at me, but by their looks ’twas plain
    I’d lost a bit of that respect it took a fight to gain.

An’, when the knock-off whistle blew, Ben Murray he came by,
An’ says he’d like that private talk, but, “Pickle it,” says I.
    “’Twill have to keep til later on.” He answers, “As you like.”
    Soon after that I saw him talkin’ earnest with old Pike.

If I’d been right, I might have known there’s somehting in the air
By the way the blokes were actin’; but a fat lot did I care.
    Swell visions an’ the deadly pip was what was wrong with me.
    I slung a word to my old dog, an’ we trudged home to tea.

An’ after, in the same old way, we sits beside the fire,
To have a talk, my dog an’ me, on fools an’ vain desire.
    I tell him I’m a silly chump to thnk the things to do.
    An’, with a waggle of his tail, he says he thinks so too.

I tell him I suppose she’s rich, or so she seems to be;
Most likely some reel city swell—an’ he don’t disagree.
    I says to him the chances are I’ll not see her no more.
    Then he gives me a funny look, an’ curls up on the floor.

But I was slow to take the tip, an’ went on talkin’ rot
About injustice in the world, an’ boiled up good an’ hot.
    I spouts of wrongs of workin’ men an’ how our rulers fail.
    His eyes are shut, but he just seconds motions with his tail.

All beauty’s only for the rich, all times, an’ every way.
The toilers just take what is left, as I’ve heard Murray say
    When he’s been talkin’ to the boys about the workers’ rights,
    An’ spoutin’ of equality, down at the huts, of nights.

I turned the social system inside-out for my old dog.
Tho’ he don’t seem much entertained, but lies there like a log.
    I spoke of common people’s wrongs—especially of mine;
    But when I came to mention love I thought I heard him whine.

But I went on, an’ said straight out that, tho’ I seemed above
Such nonsense once, I’d changed a bit, an’ I believed in love.
    I said love was a splendid thing! . . . Then, true as I am born,
    He rose, an’ yawned, an’ shut me up with one crook glance of scorn.

It’s bad enough to be a bloke without one reel close friend;
But when your dog gives you the bird it’s pretty near the end.
    Ashamed, I sneaked away to bunk; an’ fell to dreamin’ there
    Of a little brown-eyed vision with the sunlight in her hair.

Jim of the Hills - Contents    |     Old Bob Blair

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