[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]
We meet him first in frills immersed,
By everyone caressed and nursed,
A bonny baby — rather!
But, though they please his every whim,
Fill up his comforts to the brim,
And “ketchie ketchie” say to him,
He whimpers for his father;
Nor any plan of all the clan,
Nor fiction re the bogie-man
Can coax him from his father.
Then, done with frocks and curly locks,
Promoted into knickerbocks,
This wholesome, healthy laddie
Will entertain the other kid
With tales of what his Daddy did;
He lives a splendid dream amid
Heroic deeds of Daddy.
In grief or mirth he’s proved his worth;
The greatest man in all this earth
Is Knickerbocker’s Daddy.
Long pants at last, and stretching fast —
Said pants are what is termed “half-mast,”
And most attenuated—
Great notions now his head doth hold,
And schemes of mischief manifold,
He talks as though he had a cold
In slang adulterated.
He has the shy and shifty eye,
He burns tobacco on the sly,
In black butts immolated.
Now mark his ways these latter days;
He sounds no more his father’s praise
With fervent admiration;
In fact, his father’s got to be
An out-of-date necessity,
A clog upon his destiny
And youthful recreation.
As like as not, in anger hot,
He’ll speak of him as “my old pot” —
A homely appellation.
Another page, the dandy stage
That starts at eighteen years of age.
His talk is all of horses;
He now selects his socks and ties
To match the colour of his eyes;
He’s learnt the art of looking wise,
And on his Dad’s resources
He gaily goes in Yankee clothes,
And backs the ponies through his nose
At most suburban courses.
He swaggers when amongst the men,
And takes a “tonic” now and then
To make a good impression;
And by the hour he will relate
The deeds that made him truly great,
Just pausing to expectorate
By way of a digression.
And here, mayhap, to fill a gap
He’ll just allude to his “old chap” —
A valueless possession.
Next, older grown, the rolling-stone
Is out in business on his own.
We find him somewhat later
With this new burden to his song,
“Your old contraptions all are wrong.”
He’s going to move the world along,
His fortune’s own dictator.
And, all the while, he can but smile
About the antiquated style
That ruled the poor old Pater.
We meet him next somewhat perplexed,
By business problems badly vexed —
The other fellow’s caught him.
Then, while he’s chafing in the thrall,
Dad in some ways, he can recall,
Was not so hopeless after all
As in the past he thought him;
At any rate, he’s free to state
The old man’s head was “screwed on straight,”
And knocking round had taught him.
We come again to find him when
He’s stood within the lion’s den,
And trembled at disaster.
It was the Dad who pulled him through,
And now he will admit to you
The old man knows a thing or two;
Then, troubles coming faster,
He’s very glad to mount his prad
And go and have a word with Dad,
For Dad is now the Master.
But further on, life’s springtime gone,
The winter snow his brows upon,
Adown the current carried,
He’ll show you with a tender glance
A photo framed with elegance —
The old man in the “bell-bot” pants,
The suit in which he tarried
That day in town a joy to crown
(Most likely ’twas a “reach-me-down”),
The day the Dad was married.
His dreams dispersed, the bubble burst.
We find him where we found him first.
Right proud about his father.
And now again he writes in sooth
The head-line of his early youth,
But he observes — unwelcome truth,
At times he’s worried, rather —
His hopeful son has just begun
The same old devious course to run:
And now it’s he’s the father.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
bell-bot pants = bell-bottom pants, pants with legs that flare (widen out in the lower leg area)
prad = horse
Deidre Chambers says
My father Harry Chambers of 88 years of age loves this poem.