We’ll All Be Rooned

Country TownRecently I’ve re-discovered the joys of some poetry that delighted me as a child. I thought I’d share one of these as an apt and light-hearted follow up to our blog posts Scratch A Cynic and The Sky is Falling.

Said Hanrahan” was written by John O’Brien, a pen name of Father Patrick Joseph Hartigan, and published in 1906 in his collection of poems called Around the Boree Log.

It’s a wryly humourous look at the habitual doom-sayers among us. :)

Said Hanhrahan

by John O’Brien (1878-1952)

“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.”

Notes on some of the language used in the poem:

  • Rooned – an Australian-Irish pronunciation of ‘ruined’
  • Never since the banks went broke – this refers to the 1890s, bad drought years which saw the collapse of a property boom, and a time when nearly all the banks and building societies went broke
  • Back-o’-Bourke – an Australian colloquialism for ‘the bush’ or almost anywhere in the vast, unpoplulated reaches of rural Australia
  • Every creek a banker ran – is another idiom meaning that the rivers overflowed

 

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