Home-Sick [poem by Grant Hervey]

[Editor: This poem by Grant Hervey was published in Australians Yet and Other Verses, 1913.]


I steered me north by the Milky Way, and I kept the throne in sight,
Till I came to the Gate with the jasper posts,
And the heavenly hosts in the Holy Realms of Light.
Lo ! I sat me down by Peter’s ghost, and it spake weird words to me ;
It said : “There’s a stranger here with wings,
And he won’t play harps and he never sings,
And he does — well, really — the strangest things, and he spits in the Glassy Sea !”

I says to the ghost : “I’d like to see this chap that you speak about,
For perhaps it’s a cove I used to know
In an earthly hamlet down below, and who never was known to shout.”
So Peter’s wraith it took my arm, and we strolled along the track ;
And it talked in a friendly, affable way
About some hymns they had tried that day,
When all of a sudden I yelled “Hooray ! — I’m hanged if it isn’t our Jack !”

Then Peter’s ghost it turned quite pale, and it looked suspicious at me ;
It said — and its voice was cold and sharp —
“So you know this person who hates the harp and who won’t be nice and agree ?”
I stares at the ghost as hard as you like, and I claps it quick on the back ;
“Know him ?” I said ; “I should think I did —
Why, many’s the time he’s lent me a quid
That he’s rose on his watch from the pawnshop
Yid — why, there’s no one on earth like Jack !

“Why, we lived together for years,” I said, “and we wrote for the self-same rag ;
He’s the best old pal that ever I had —
He was always cheerful, straight and glad, and a most reliable snag.
Excuse me, ghost,” I says just here, “but I want to shake Jack’s hand ;”
So I knocks a choir right out of the way —
They were making a most untuneful bray —
And I yells to Jack : “Hoo-blessed-ray ! — so you’re here on the Silver Strand !”

Then Jack jumps up and he stares at me, then grabs my earnest fin ;
And the tears ran out of his bad old eyes,
As he says : “Great Scott !” — what a great surprise — it’s my cobber in earthly sin !”
Then I takes Jack’s arm, and I drags him back to where the ghost stood still
And I said : “Jack’s simply homesick, ghost —
He yearns for a fresh terrestrial post —
Not out on Saturn or Jupiter’s coast, but down in the earthly mill !”

Then Jack speaks up and he says : “That’s true — it’s exactly what I desire ;
Send me back to Australia once again —
For I’d rather live there in trouble and pain than sing in the white-robed choir.
No disrespect to you,” says Jack, “but a man’s own land’s the best ;
For there ain’t no wattles or gums up here,
And your ways are strange and your manners are queer —
So, if it’s the same, I’d rather clear than remain a heavenly guest !”

Then the ghost thinks hard, and he says to Jack :
“Er — what is Australia like ?”
And Jack replies, “It’s a paradise —
If you’ll just subtract the heat and the flies it’s the best that a man could strike !
But I don’t mind flies and I like the heat, so send me back again ;
Send me home again on some excuse,
For I’m not the least dashed heavenly use” —
Here Jack’s orbs trickled with pearly juice, and his face grew pale with pain.

Then the ghost says : “Well, it seems to me that your life is a vain thing here ;
We gave you a golden harp to play,
But your mind don’t seem to run that way, so perhaps you’d better clear !”
Then he turns to me, and he says : “Young man, I think you’re about the same ;
For I notice your halo is not on straight,
So you’d better make tracks for the Heavenly Gate —
Yes, you and your mate must absquatulate for the sake of our Heavenly fame !”

So we steered us south by the Milky Way, and we left the throne behind,
Aye, we left the Gate with the jasper posts,
And the heavenly hosts in the town with the pearly rind.
We tramped through space for an age-and-a-half, till we reached Australia’s shores ;
Then Jack yelled out : “Hoo-blessed-ray !
For this is a land where a man should stay —
It’s better for me than the Milky Way, and the harps, and the Golden Doors !”

Grant Hervey. Australians Yet and Other Verses, Thomas C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1913, pages 72-75

Editor’s notes:
absquatulate = to abscond, to flee; a pseudo-Latin word

Hoo-blessed-ray = hoo-ray, an exclamation of pleasure or celebration

Yid = a derogatory name for a Jewish person; “the pawnshop Yid” would be a reference to the stereotype of past years regarding Jews and financial occupations; however, as a pro-Labor poet, Hervey is likely using the term as an anti-capitalist reference rather than as an anti-Jewish reference

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