Green Gravel [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]

Green Gravel.

Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so green
The fairest young lady that ever I’ve seen
— Children’s Rhyme.

Oh Molly, when the grass was green,
When I was King and you were Queen;
When underneath the gumtree’s shade,
As children of the Bush we played —
“Green gravel, oh, the grass is green,”
And I was King and you were Queen!

* * * * * *

Oft, through the smoke of my cigar,
I see the schoolhouse stand afar;
And, through the mists of long-ago,
The hats and bonnets in a row,
While sits beside me on our stool
My sweetheart of the old bush-school.

The years, with all their burdens, seem
But mourning echoes of a dream;
The cares of life, its loss and pain,
Are yet unlearnt; again, again
On buoyant feet I tread the cool
Bush track that turns towards the school.

Though climbs the sun above the hill,
The grass is hung with jewels still;
And fresh as youth the morning glows
With clover and with briar rose;
While sweet as music falls the chime
Of all the birds of summertime.

High overhead, where branches meet,
Loud screams the busy parrakeet;
The bright rosellas onward pass,
With diving flight across the grass;
The scarlet lories, two by two,
Their rubies flash along the blue;

And Molly with her schoolbag stands
Awaiting at the fallow lands,
Where, seated on a log we’ll share,
In “bite for bite,” the plundered pear;
And dare, as comrades should, again
For “coming late” the stinging cane.

“She loved me true!” “I loved her best.”
But one goes East and one goes West;
And nevermore, amid thy brown
And glossy hair, the bluebell crown
In azure stars I’ll weave and twine
Beneath the sun, O sweetheart mine.

In after years, to manhood sprung,
With step still light and heart yet young
I came, unrecognised, alone,
To read her name upon a stone
That stood among the grasses green,
For . . . Molly died at seventeen!

And though the air was sweet in chime
Of all the bells of summertime;
And though the briar roses red
Their well-remembered fragrance shed,
I only saw, I only knew,
That at her feet the bluebells grew;

Like angels’ eyes to me they shone,
With some kind knowledge of their own,
Of other lives, in other spheres,
That haply lie beyond the tears
And all the tragic grief and mirth
Of this fantasia of earth.

Their slender stems, as innocent
As childhood’s love, above her bent;
And as the murmur of the school
Still drifted o’er the paddocks cool,
They swayed and shook from out their blue
Pathetic eyes the tears of dew.

All on a sudden rose the chime
Of all the bells of summertime;
And once again, upon my ear,
I heard a chorus rising clear:
“Green gravel, oh, the grass is green,
The fairest lady that I’ve seen.”

Had I but dreamed? The years between
Seemed then as they had never been.
I, half-expectant, turned to see
If by the hills she waited me.
Alas, ’twas but, at morning play,
The children of another day.

Long, long ago her lampless Flame
Re-found the realm from whence it came;
And still my feeble light is whirled
And eddied with the living world.
Green gravel, oh, the grass is green.
But . . . Molly died at seventeen!

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 13-16

Editor’s notes:
azure = the blue of a clear unclouded sky

fallow = farmland which has been ploughed and harrowed, but not sown with seed for a period (often a year) so that the soil can regain or improve its fertility or increase its quality; farmland which is usually tilled being left idle; farmland left unplanted so as to avoid surplus production (can also refer to: something which is dormant, inactive, idle; a period of time in which nothing or very little happens; a female pig which is not pregnant; something which is light yellowish-brown, pale brown, or reddish yellow in color)

haply = by accident, by chance, or by luck

o’er = (archaic) over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

thy = (archaic) your

’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”

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