[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, 1954.]
Himself and Myself
We’re yoke mates: I cannot say whether
’Twas chance or design or decree
That has thrown us thus closely together,
My curate and me.
We differ on all things outside of the Book:
He’s youthful and I’m on the shelf,
He thinks me old-fashioned, out-moded; and look,
There’s nought we agree on by hook or by crook,
Himself and myself.
Time was, then, that I had the notions
I thought I would change, d’you see,
The world in its sports and devotions
If they only would listen to me.
I’d knock down their idols like pins in a row
And a fig for their profit and pelf;
I’d break through their shams with the ball at the toe,
And I figured myself as the whole of the show,
The same as Himself.
But time is a wonderful teacher
And he sees that we render the tithe,
And professor and prophet and preacher
Pay up to the Lad with the scythe;
And Himself there will find his opinions of steel
Are as gimcrack and brittle as delf,
And they’ll go overboard at each turn of the wheel.
Then he’ll walk and he’ll talk and he’ll think and he’ll feel
The same as Meself.
John O’Brien. The Parish of St Mel’s and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1954
delf = earthenware with an opaque white glaze and an overglaze decoration, usually in blue, or pottery that is similar (also may refer to an excavation, usually referring to a mine or quarry; or to a square heraldic bearing used as an abatement and supposed to represent a square sod)
pelf = wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired; from the Old French term “pelfre” for booty (related to “pilfer”) [see: Walter W. Skeat (editor). The Concise Dictionary of Etymology, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, 1993, page 340]
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