voices from the past

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The Careys

by John O'Brien (1878-1952)

Australian writer

Their new house stood just off the road,
A fine big brick two-storey,
All gabled, tiled, and porticoed,
To flaunt its owners' glory.
We never had, to tell the truth,
At Carey's door alighted,
We had good reasons too, forsooth
We hadn't been invited.
But down to Mass we passed the gate,
And passed it, too, returning,
And hid away in mien sedate
The grievance in us burning.
But in the Old Mass Shandrydan
Well, envy little varies
We heard "herself" and her good man
Discourse about the Careys:

"Wisha, that big house of Carey's, with its power of fal-de-daries."
"Faith, he's in the bank to build it, so I hear the people say."
"It will break him now to clear it; and it's grieved I am to hear it;
Wish, I wouldn't be in Carey's boots to-day?"

They came here in the early days,
And settled down as neighbours;
With tilted carts and bullock-drays
They shared our grief's and labours.
We tramped it to the old bush school,
In fine or rainy weather;
And there upon the dunce's stool
We took our knocks together.
But now they stood for "class" among
Our little congregation;
And, as they passed us by, they flung
Mere scraps of toleration.
And sometimes down to Mass they'd bring
Fine strangers holidaying,
Who laughed and gushed at everything
Within their orbit straying.
By soft white hands and modish gowns
They sought the world to measure,
And seemed to think our reach-me-downs
Were staged to give them pleasure.
And, faith, it set the tongues a-wag
And entertained the flippants
To see the fifteen-guinea bag
That held the little "thrippence,"
While in the church they plied the fan
And practised like vagaries;
So in the Old Mass Shandrydan
We gave it to the Careys:

"Wisha, did you see the Careys? They're the highfalutin fairies."
"Tell me, who were them play-actors there that had so much to say?"
"Och, the antics and the wrigglin', and the goin'son and gigglin'
Wisha, did you see the Careys there to-day!"

They sometimes drove a spanking pair,
Which brought them speed and honour;
They sometimes drove a pacing-mare
With straps and pads upon her;
They covered us with clouds of dust,
As thick as we could wear it;
And we could plod, as needs we must,
And keep the faith and bear it.
When skies were blue and days were bright,
And leaf and bud were sprouting,
They came to Mass in splendour dight,
To make a Sunday's outing;
But when the morn was blank with storm
And winter blasts complaining,
The Careys kept devotion warm
Beside their fire remaining.
So, while the chilling torrents ran
And soaked our best figaries,
Within the Old Mass Shandrydan
We pummelled at the Careys:

"Wisha, where were all the Careys? Sure the rain might melt the fairies!"
"Faith, and if it was the races then, they wouldn't stop away."
"That'd be another story; there they'd be in all their glory
Wisha, what could keep them all from Mass to-day!"

And when we held the big bazaar
A fine and lively meeting
And people came from near and far,
In buoyant zeal competing,
'Twas rush and gush and fulsomeness
And Careys superintending;
They raced about in evening dress,
And deftly dodged the spending.
We might have been in Amsterdam,
Or somewhere out in Flanders;
We sold some tickets for "the ham,"
And stalked about like ganders.
So when we gathered up the clan,
And sought our distant eyries,
Within the Old Mass Shandrydan
We blazed it at the Careys:

"Wisha, did you see the Careys, like some wild things from the prairies?"
"Faith, I never met 'the bate' of that for many 'n many a day."
"Sure it's pounds we would have taken with them tickets for the bacon,
If them thuckeens of the Careys were not always in the way."

And when the little choir we had
In tender hope was springing,
And nervous lass and awkward lad
Were mobolized for singing,
We all went down our own to hear,
As holy triumph crowned them,
But Careys sailed in shrill and clear,
And silenced all around them;
Our Nellie's range they quite outran,
And even Laughing Mary's;
So in the Old Mass Shandrydan
We pitched into the Careys:

"Wisha, did you hear the Careys? Don't they think they're fine canaries?"
"Yerra, wouldn't you think they'd hold the tongues, and let the people pray!"
"Faith, my head is all a-reelin' from them Careys and their squealin'
Wisha, did you hear them shoutin' there to-day!"

The angels, in their peaceful skies
Through starry paddocks straying,
Must sometimes smile with kindly eyes
To see the tricks we're playing.
Now rosy-checked and smart and
Was Carey's youngest daughter;
And lo, our Morgan did his hair
With mutton-fat and water;
But days and days the lovers spent
On thorns (and roses) treading,
Till down to Carey's house we went,
Invited to the wedding.
For life's a fine comedian,
Whose programme shifts and varies,
And in the Old Mass Shandrydan
We smoodged a bit to Careys:

"Wisha, now we'll see the Careys in their weddin' fal-de-daries"
"Faith, I mind the time the Careys step' beneath their bullock-dray."
"Sure, I wouldn't hurt their feelin's, though I never liked their dealin's;
An', if just to please poor Morgan, I'll be nice to them to-day."

About the Author

See our page on John O'Brien. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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