Tuesday, 11 January 2011

"Said Hanrahan" by John O'Brien, 1921.

"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."

As a child I was made to learn Said Hanrahan and other poems that talked about the bush life as part of my cultural development. Everyone had to have a speaking party piece - Hanrahan was mine from about age 5 to 8 years. The flooding in Queensland has matched this poem in oh so many ways than I can count. There has been a drought for the last 10 years or so in some parts of the state like Toowoomba. This garden city of the hinterland area is not expected to experience flooding and severe drought as the climate is cooler than down on Brisbane plains.

Many may not know that Toowoomba is built on extinct volcanic caldera which forms part of the Darling Downs. The Downs area is the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range. Toowoomba should not flood so easily due to it height above sea level. The current flooding is due to the land being so dry that the heavy downpours experienced yesterday and the last week had no where to go but to run off the hard parched ground.  Thus causing the flash flooding which has been observed on tv and youtube screens around the world. There is more to come in the next days, weeks and months. The rain is not expected to stop until March. 

If you get a chance make a donation to the QLD's Premiers appeal or the other international appeals. If you are on Ravelry drop by the various groups who are developing assistance parcels for those who have been affected by the flooding. As a knitter or crafter you may want to make a washcloth or two or three and send it in with a bar of soap which will help individuals overcome the smell of the mud when they are cleaning up after the floods.