Honeymooning from the Country
To the rooms where I am dining in the glaring city’s day
Come the happy honeymooners from the country far away,
Two days old, and very awkward as they wander straight ahead,
Much too careful lest the people should suspect them country-bred.
He’s a well set-up young fellow; she’s a dainty little bride;
And he follows where she leads him with the bush swing in his stride,
Makes himself at home — or tries to — with defiance in his stare,
Thinks he’s in the old bush kitchen with his hat beneath the chair.
Every eye is turned upon them, and the kindly smiles that flit
O’er the faces of the diners seem to bless them where they sit;
But for me the past revives with thronging memories in its train,
And I’m thinking that it’s Jim and Laughing Mary once again.
Don’t I see it all before me? and I feel the mood is good —
There’s the horse tied by the sliprails, and a hole worn where he stood;
There’s the dreamer riding homewards while the same old fancies throng,
With the same old stars a-staring, and the same old lilting song.
There’s the “talkin’ matters over,” “gettin’ all arrangements straight,”
Mum and Dad in the committee for the fixing of the date;
Then the buggies and the jinkers at the church upon the hill,
And the ribbons and the garlands, and the flounces and the “frill”;
There’s the breakfast down at Mother’s — oh, the planning o’er and o’er,
And the murder and the tearing that went on the day before!
Working double shifts and bustling — every female in demand —
Half the women of the parish round to lend a helping hand,
Offering loans to bridge the shortage of the cups and spoons, and then
Tying threads around the handles, so they’ll know their own again;
Racing in and out and fussing, so to strike the country dumb;
But they’ll talk, of Mary’s wedding for a score of years to come!
Yes, the breakfast down at Mother’s — there’s the long, long table spread,
And a houseful of the neighbours with the old priest at their head;
And the speeches — Lord, the speeches — hitting hurdles every stride,
Full of awkward, heartfelt blessings for the bride-groom and the bride;
And the lad himself “respondin’,” when the cheers had died away,
Shifting crumbs around the table in the worst speech of the day.
Don’t I see it all before me? and my heart and head resent
All the smiles that patronize them, though they may be kindly meant.
“Scent of gum-leaves!” ’Tis a byword in the city’s roar and push,
Where they do not know the greatness and the kindness of the bush.
“Scent of gum-leaves,” so they whisper. Oh, it sweetens not the air
In the overcrowded city, for the spirit is not there.
Scent of gum-leaves to be scoffed at in the land that gave them birth!
“Scent of gum-leaves” — cease your jargon. ’Tis the finest scent on earth.
Ay, it clung around the Anzacs when they stormed Gallipoli;
And it steeps the nation-builders from the centre to the sea.
Speed the day when all united, heart to heart and hand to hand,
We’ll proclaim the scent of gum-leaves to be sacred in the land.
But my honeymooners leave me, — and I watch them passing through —
They are homesick for the freshness of the open spaces, too —
So they gather up their bundles, and they wander home again
Back to where the morning magpies lather out the old refrain,
Back to love in fullest measure, pressed and flowing overtop,
Through the green months and the brown months, in the house behind the crop.
From the overcrowded city, from the bustle and the push
Pass my sturdy, happy couples who are sticking to the bush.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921