Brothers o’ Mine [poem by C.J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C.J. Dennis was published in Backblock Ballads and Other Verses (1913). Most of the poetry of C.J. Dennis is written in the style of the Australian vernacular. See the Glossary for explanations of words and phrases.]

Brothers o’ Mine.

Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine,
All the world over, from pole to pole —
All of them brothers of mine and thine —
Every wondering, blundering soul.
Banded together by grace divine,
Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine.

Good Brother Green at the service sat —
Sat in the chapel and bowed his head;
Praying most fervently into his hat;
Bending his knee when The Word was read.
For good Brother Green was a godly man —
A godly keristian; and what be more,
He loved all sinners, and carefully ran
A worldy and prosperous grocery store.

“Brother o’ mine, brother o’ mine,”
Quoted the preacher, with dolorous drone:
“The Lord He hath given thee all that is thine.
Love thou not gold for itself alone.
E’er to the fallen thy mercy incline,
Love thou thy neighbour! O, brother o’ mine.”

Good comrade Hal in the tavern sat —
Sat in the tavern and tossed his head,
Tilting a glass to the brim of his hat;
Bending his arm when the toast was said.
But comrade Hal was a godless man —
A godless sinner; and what be more,
He loved good liquor, and carelessly ran
A long, long bill at the grocery store.

“Brother o’ mine, brother o’ mine,”
Shouted the tippler in riotous tone,
“Toiled thou, and sweated for all that is thine;
But love not the gold for itself alone.
Gold bringeth gladness and red, red wine.
Fill up another! O, brother o’ mine.”

Every Sabbath, since childhood years,
Good Brother Green at the service sat —
A traveller stern in this vale of tears —
Breathing his piety into his hat;
Praying for guidance and praying for light;
Vowing unworthiness more and more;
With a nice warm feeling that all was right
With the business of Green’s Cash Grocery Store.

“Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine,”
Turn not away from thy brother in sin.
Afar let the light of your righteousness shine,
A beacon to gather the wanderer in.
Lovers of wickedness, lovers of wine,
All,”
said the worshipper, “brothers o’ mine.”

Every Sabbath, since childhood’s years,
Comrade Hal in the tavern sat —
A rioter gay in this vale of tears,
Tilting his glass to the brim of his hat;
Drinking from morn to the fall of night;
Vowing good-fellowship more and more;
With a nice warm feeling that all was right,
And a curse for the bill at the grocery store.

Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine,
Seek ye a pew or a pewter to-day?
Where is the brotherhood vaunted divine —
Here, in the tavern — or over the way?
Drink is a snare, and a mocker is wine;
But the world? — Nay, forget it, O brothers o’ mine!

Monday morn, with a soul for work,
Good Brother Green stood rubbing his hands —
Rubbing his hands with an oily smirk;
Seeking the trade a good name commands.
Came there a widow who pleaded for time —
For a month, for a week! Ah, what would it mean!
“Sell up her sticks. This pretence is a crime!
And business is business,” quoth good Brother Green.

Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine!
Cover your drunkenness, cover your spite!
Brother in piety, brother in wine —
Are we a brotherhood? Lord give us light!
Lover of cant, or the lover of wine —
Which lov’st thou of these brothers o’ thine?

Heavy and dull on the Monday morn,
Comrade Hal went rubbing his head —
Rubbing his head with an air forlorn;
Seeking the tavern where wine is red.
Passed he a beggar who aid invoked.
“Catch, then, brother,” he merely cried,
Spinning a coin as he smiled and joked,
“Now I go thirsty,” the tippler sighed.

Brothers o’ mine, brothers o’ mine —
Brothers in purple, brothers in rags —
Who can the bonds of your kin define?
Plead ye beggars, and jest ye wags!
“Nay, beggar brother, why dost thou whine?
All these good people are brothers o’ thine.”




Source:
C.J. Dennis. Backblock Ballads and Other Verses, E. W. Cole, Melbourne, [1913], pages 99-101

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