Some things don’t change

          SAID HANRAHAN – John O’Brien (1919)

“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,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.
“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“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 a 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.”

My thanks to Tony for sending this along.

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14 Responses to Some things don’t change

  1. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    My late father always said that Hanrahan was the patron saint of wheat farmers in the marginal country.

  2. Turtle says:

    Takes me back to life on the farm as a boy, and the talk outside mass.

  3. stackja says:

    Drought and flooding rains!

  4. Mother Lode says:

    It is funny.

    I still have a certain fondness for Hanrahan, whereas the Greens fill me with disgust.

    I suppose because Hanrahan never lobbied the government with hare-brained schemes that only made things worse.

  5. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    Mother Lode ,I always loved that poem , it described farmers perfectly , reluctant to admit things were going well . However unlike the gangrenes Hanrahan had no malice or arrogance in him and people lke him worked hard just to survive , they didnt have tiny university “degrees” , Live in the inner suburbs and demand all the amenities from the government ,most of them never did a hard days work in their lives .

  6. nb says:

    A frequent visitor, said Hanrahan:
    #2554329, posted on November 15, 2017 at 6:14 pm
    #3045527, posted on June 18, 2019 at 8:43 am
    #3317987, posted on February 9, 2020 at 4:39 pm

  7. cuckoo says:

    Or as Kipling put it:

    “In August was the Jackal born;
    The Rains fell in September;
    ‘Now such a fearful flood as this,’
    Says he, ‘I can’t remember!’ ”

  8. Rokdoktor says:

    I don’t know what point Mr O’Brien was originally trying to make in 1919, although the poem appears at face value to poke gentle fun at those who could find a cloud behind every silver lining (farmers of the time, perhaps??). Now the poem is more used to make the point that drought and flood and fire is a natural part of Australia’s climate/ecology and nothing is happening now that has not happened before. It is a companion to Dorothea McKellar’s “My Country” with its reference to “droughts and flooding rains”. We should accept that, as Australians, we are born to drought and fire and flood in a rich but harsh continent, and that this is not going to change not matter how many wind turbines we build.

  9. I pretty sure much of Australia was still enduring the end of the Federation Drought that went on spasmodically for many years when that poem was written. I have been sharing with people for nearly a year now something my grandmother showed me and have since observed myself. After a big dry we get a big wet! Not usually as fast as this one but in my lifetime I have seen this 3 or 4 times. Hanrahan described exactly that plus the negativity and character of the farmers 0f yesteryear. Ferociously hard farmers and graziers working to get a good crop or good herd in good years in those days of that prolonged drought which would have moulded their character into something akin to iron bark. Now we have city slickers in air conditioned everything, cars, homes, workplaces, malls etc. telling us everyday events are climate change, Wish they would study our history and get real for a change.

  10. Paul says:

    Inigo Jones and the The Bruckner Cycle strike again …. look’s like someone , who’s been dead 65 years is still smarter than his living . Twitter driven counterparts … WTF !

  11. Colonel Bunty Golightly says:

    Greens/labor are the future. The future is bleak. The lesson that must be learned!

  12. Squirrel says:

    We could do with a lot more dry humour, of the older Australian variety – it would be a powerful antidote to the precious, “look at me, I’m special”, histrionic emoting and posturing which now infests this nation.

  13. Rasputin says:

    The first verse here is the first two combined with a couple of lines missing.
    The congregation stood about
    Coat collar to the ears

    It’s looking crook said Daniel Croke,
    Bedad it’s crook m’lad
    And it was published under the name PJ Hartigan

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