[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]
It was “threshing” down at Daly’s, and the bearded bushmen rode
Over mountain gorge and gully, where the creeks, clear-watered, flowed:
From the slopes, and through the ranges, past the broad’ning river bends,
Round the spurs and o’er the flat-lands came the host of Daly’s friends;
Came to reap the yellow harvest, waving in the summer sun;
Came to dance with Daly’s daughter ’neath the moon when day was done.
As the long day’s labor ended, and the horses munched their feed,
Far was borne upon the breezes faint aroma of the “weed,”
Sound of song and year-old waltzes, new enough for rustic feet,
When the honest hearts above them with the joy of living beat.
On the hard earth floor together, youth and maiden, flushed and gay,
To the gasping concertina danced those charméd hours away.
’Mid the band of blushing beauty Mary Daly yet I see,
Brown, bewitching, soft, blithe-hearted, laughing roguishly.
There are girls on Northern moorlands, there are dark-browed angels where
Spain’s blue heaven spans the radiance of a radiant land and fair.
There are houris in the harems of proud sultans in the East
On whose classic forms and features long the eye of Art might feast,
But they thought that Daly’s daughter, straight, fresh-moulded, strong and tall,
’Mid the world of wond’rous women, far the fairest of them all.
You may dwell among the shadows in the valley of the pen;
You may fight the Fight of Living in the pits with other men;
You may feel the Law’s injustice, or the hatred of your kind;
You may rail at social errors or beliefs untrue and blind;
You may be a mighty genius or a man of common clay,
But for one dear, foolish woman you would sell your soul away.
So for Mary, roguish Mary, with her dazzling eyes and hair,
Was it strange to find him paying humble court among them there?
He, the son of Daly’s neighbor, Raymond Phair, the bronzed and strong,
Pride of all the fearless horsemen, and the hero of my song.
Though the Phairs and Dalys quarrelled in the very early days,
Still the Spring had brought its moisture and the sun had lent his rays,
And their crops had grown and ripened, and their herds had multiplied
Till their rural reputation spread o’er all the countryside.
But if Phair and Daly hated with a hate as sternly set
As a Montague might cherish for a haughty Capulet,
There was still no human reason, as these contradictions go,
Why our Austral Julietta should not love her Romeo.
* * * * * *
Nearly done was Daly’s threshing, as the passing trav’ller saw
Bags of grain and heaps of huskings, stacks of new, sweet-smelling straw;
Saw the tired, slow, patient horses, at the mill since early morn,
In the dusk of evening treading out the last of Daly’s corn.
Luck had smiled upon the harvest, higher grew the heaps of grain,
Till his barns were overflowing, and his store-rooms filled amain,
And the heart of William Daly filled and fluttered in his breast,
As he smiled towards the sunset that lay smiling in the west,
Then he though of pretty Mary, and a great round oath swore he,
That the child of his dead ’Liza should a rich-wed lady be.
So they “finished” down at Daly’s, and they drank with right good will
“To the health of Daly’s daughter and the wealth of bluff old Bill.”
And when o’er the frowning mountain rose the moon her silver light,
Once again the girls and fellows fell to dancing with delight.
Once again from out the shadows, Raymond Phair, the bronzed and strong,
Came to clasp the waist of Mary, and to lead her through the throng.
* * * * * *
Hard the face of William Daly, stern the voice of “bluff old Bill” —
Some sharp tongue had done the mischief, some kind friend had whispered ill. —
“Get your horse and leave my place, sir, and remember as you do,
If you pay another visit I will put the dogs on you.”
Then to trembling, tearful Mary: “Go inside and dry your eyes,
Till I’ve seen him crossing safely over there beyond the rise.”
That was all they heard from Daly in the sudden silence there,
As he stood before his daughter and the son of Amos Phair.
“Don’t be rude and cruel father.” — Raymond blessed her gentle voice,
And his heart leapt up and told him, “Yes, she loves you, now rejoice!”
To her ear he bent and whispered, “Be at Leland’s bridge by nine
If you love me, Mary Daly, if you dare, dear girl, be mine.”
Then to Daly bowed young Raymond, as some olden cavalier,
Whom those brown and bearded bushmen felt impelled, man-like, to cheer.
“Sir,” said he, “I beg your pardon, though you be my father’s foe;
I’d forget the feud between us, will you shake, or must I go?”
“Shure ’tis Christmas Eve, now, Daly, can’t you let the matther end?
Take the hand that’s held in friendship,” muttered some well-meaning friend.
But the fire of Celtic hatred glowed and flashed in Daly’s eye,
“Let a Phair have Daly’s daughter? And a Sassenach? Not I.”
One quick clasp of fervid fingers, one swift look that lit the skies,
One faint smile from Mary Daly, one glad glimpse of tear-wet eyes;
Then to mount with Centaur motion, full of strength, and life, and grace,
Pull the rein and straighten stirrup, dash away from Daly’s place,
Round the bend by Brown’s and Baker’s, out across the mountain spur;
With a wild exultant feeling, born of Love, and Hope, and her.
They were dancing still at Daly’s, making love beneath the trees —
For the course of youth and pleasure runs in spite of things like these —
But the Queen of all the revel with the rest had ceased to glide,
And the girls and fellows whispered, “she will cry it out inside;”
So they heard no woman’s footstep to the stockyard swiftly pass,
O’er the sleeping dandelions and the dewy, scented grass!
To her saddle vaulting lightly, underneath that melting sky,
Mary bade her father’s homestead just one quiet, long, good-bye.
Aye, ’twas hard to disobey him, he the parent old and gray,
Like a thief of fond affection, thus to run by night away.
Then across her soul went singing, in a music half divine,
“If you love me, Mary Daly, if you dare, dear girl, be mine.”
Down the road by Wilson’s paddock, up again by Brown’s big hill,
She has left the farm behind her, let them follow if they will;
They may saddle up at Daly’s, they may rant and they may ride,
But before her father finds her she shall be bold Raymond’s bride.
Round the bend by Brown’s and Baker’s, out across the mountain ridge,
Rides the brave Blue Mountain maiden to her tryst at Leland’s bridge.
* * * * * *
So it chanced that Daly’s threshing, as such great events will do,
Brought romance among the mountains, and a taste of bliss for two;
And the house of Phair and Daly ceased their factions long ago;
And our Austral Julietta had her own dear Romeo.
E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 43-50
Austral = of or relating to Australia or Australasia; Australian, Australasian; an abbreviation of Australia, Australian, Australasia, Australasian; in a wider context, of or relating to the southern hemisphere; southern, especially a southern wind
aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)
broad’ning = (vernacular) broadening
Capulet = a family of characters in the play “Romeo and Juliet” (by William Shakespeare), who were engaged in a feud with the Montague family
centaur = in Greek mythology, a centaur was a creature which was part-human and part-horse (having the head and upper body of a human, and the body and legs of a horse)
gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)
Julietta = Juliet, a character in the play “Romeo and Juliet” (by William Shakespeare); in general terms, “Juliet” may refer to a female lover
matther = (Irish vernacular) matter
’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.
Montague = a family of characters in the play “Romeo and Juliet” (by William Shakespeare), who were engaged in a feud with the Capulet family
morn = morning
’neath = (vernacular) beneath
o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)
Romeo = a character in the play “Romeo and Juliet” (by William Shakespeare); in general terms, “Romeo” may refer to a male lover
Sassenach = (Scottish) a Saxon; an English person or a Lowland Scot (regarded as a derogatory term) (also spelt: sasennach, sassanoch, sassenagh, sasunnach)
shure = (Irish vernacular) sure
’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”
trav’ller = (vernacular) traveller
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”
weed = tobacco (can also refer to: an unwanted plant; marijuana; a thin, weak, puny person)
wond’rous = (vernacular) wonderous
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