The Bookbook Owl [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Singing Garden (1935).]

The Bookbook Owl

Not for any airs and graces
When, to lonely, silent places
Men return in memory,
Come these kindly thoughts of me.
But they hear again my calling
Where the dappled moonlight, falling
’Mid the shadows of the gums,
Weaves strange patterns; and there comes,
Blending with the hobble’s jingle,
As the faint bush odours mingle
With the scented camp-fire smoke,
Suddenly my call —

Now a weary swagman camping
After miles of mountain tramping;
Now, ’mid spinifex and sand,
A drover of the overland;
Now a timber-getter sitting
In his hut, the firelight flitting
O’er his old face, lost in dreams;
Now the man who punches teams
Where the blacksoil plains go rolling;
Now a fossicker, pot-holing,
Hopeful ever, ever broke —
Hears me in the night —

Never while one bushland lover
Camps beneath the great sky’s cover,
And my call comes once again
To the ears of lonely men:
Never while to silent places
Memory of old days traces
Olden pictures in the fire,
And men dream of youth’s desire,
Dream again of youth’s high daring:
Never while men yet go faring
Forth beyond the ken of folk,
Shall my night call fail —

C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 95-96

Editor’s notes:
ken = knowledge, perception, understanding (also means “know”, particularly as used in Scotland)

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

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

swagman = a roaming labourer who carries his personal belongings in a swag, or bundle, whilst traveling about in search of casual work; especially used to refer to itinerant labourers traveling around the country areas of Australia in the late 1800s to early 1900s (also known as a “swaggie”)

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