Thursday, 14 October 2010

Writers Island "Envisions"

“Every time it rains it rains pennies from heaven
Don’tcha know each cloud contains pennies from heaven.”
Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston wrote that when I was one year old.

Right now, we ‘down under’ are drowning in an excess of heavenly wealth after ten years of drought. But unlike most flood times there are no Hanrahans shouting ‘We’ll all be rooned!’ because we know a new cycle of drought will come soon enough!

We’ve been through some times that are lean;
Droughts, floods and fires between.
To some it is tragic
To others it’s magic.
The difference is how it is seen!


Now, since I referred to Hanrahan, it is only fair you get to read John O'Brien's best known Australian bush ballad, probably set in the depression of 1898:

Said Hanrahan

"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."

From: Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.


I can see them sitting on a log at Boree, near where my ‘Wollombi Tales' were set. If anyone is interested, click on the link and enjoy a few stories from way back.
Note also, the only comment on that first post of the set was from my wonderful supporter Gabrielle Bryden, poet and fighter for children suffering autism.

Prompt and image from Writers Island.


  1. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks :)

  2. Thanks for the link Stafford :) The floods are coming (but hopefully not) - they've released the floodgates in Brisbane and a high tide tonight means flooding in some suburbs(one where I used to live - thank God I'm outter there she cried - we were flooded there once before and it's very scary!). A true and wonderful limerick Stafford. The bush ballad is a hoot - I wonder if that's where the expression 'back of Bourke' came from?

  3. The bush ballads are an art form. I love the rhyme and just how 'ocker' they are. It reminds me of learning to recite 'Andy's Gone With Cattle Now' in Year 8.

  4. awesome envision poem.
    thanks for the thoughtfulness.

    poem on,

    Jingle from the writer's island.

  5. week 6 at Jingle poetry, we have 7 sins as theme, welcome you participation...
    Happy Friday!

  6. Stafford just love this whole post, poem and all....flood, drought,tragic,magic the difference is how it is true. Hope you have an awesome weekend! :-)

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