The Tidy Little Body [poem by John O’Brien]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]

The Tidy Little Body

Faith, and little Miss McCroddie was the tidy little body,
Just as trim and prim and handy as you’d ever wish to see
(She was well upon the weather-beaten side of thirty-three);
And she’d chuckle and she’d titter when the people used to twit her
On the most pronounced attentions of one Lanty Hallissey
(Now this Lanty was a bachelor of some antiquity).

Well, he’d said good-bye to fifty; he was solemn, he was thrifty,
And he’d come to Mass each Sunday decorated handsomely
(With an eye upon the Tidy Little Body, don’t you see);
And you’d see him titivated in a much abbreviated
Kind o’ sort o’ style of swallow-tail that flogged him viciously
(Which it needed the judicious use of treacle at the knee);

And his hat was like a Quaker’s; but some fifteen hundred acres
More than evened up the lee-way of the said deficiency
(Faith, he had a tidy cottage on the little property).
So, when Mass at length was over, round his jinker he would hover,
While the women teased the Tidy Little Body merrily
(And my hero was unconscious of their jesting, homely glee);

There he’d fool about, and truckle with a strap or with a buckle,
And tighten this, and loosen that, a-gammon he do be
(With the eye out for the Tidy Little Body, don’t you see).
And the more they used to tease her, well, the more it seemed to please her;
And she wriggled and she giggled, and she tittered girlishly —
“Oh, it’s all so very silly. Picture Mr. Hallissey!”

But, bedad, for all her stricture on the paintin’ of the picture,
There were some of ’em a-bouncin’ in the swithers — true for me —
When the Tidy Little Body married Lanty Hallissey.

Published in:
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921

Editor’s notes:
bedad = an Irish exclamation, a euphemism for “By God”
swithers = to be in a state of agitation (alternatively, to be perplexed or hesitant)


  1. Greg Riddell says:

    This poem is about my grandmother on my mothers side. Elsie Hallissey. She used to get so cross that she had been put down in history as on “the weather beaten side of 33” she was early 20s. Pa, Pat Hallissey, was not 30. John O’Brien (Fr Hartigan) was the Priest who performed their marriage.

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