[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]
Peter Nelson’s Fiddle
Do you ever dream you hear it, you who went the lonely track?
Do you ever hear its simple melodies
Tossing round deserted beaches, with the flotsam and the wrack,
When the moonlight sprinkles silver on the trees?
Do you hearken now, I wonder, when the birds have gone to rest,
And the blotted book of day once more is shut?
When the saffron stains have faded, and the swans have vanished west,
Does your heart remember Peter Nelson’s hut?
Lonely, stooped old Peter Nelson, with his “most peculiar” ways,
With the clean-cut face, and hair as white as snow!
Something lingering round the old man seemed to tell of better days,
Seemed to hint of love and laughter long ago.
Kindly silence wrapped the bushland; every warring note was still
Soft heart-tremors stirred, and smiling eyes grew dim.
Weaving fancies went the fiddle; dreams prophetic made us thrill —
From the grave the visions stretched their hands to him.
There was rapture in the stillness; there were voices in the night;
Trooped the angels with a beat of velvet wings;
And the stars stood still and listened, and the moon’s face, strangely white,
Kissed the sleeping world to dreams of better things.
Joy was lit in every corner, love was smiling at our side,
Golden glamour o’er the dawning days was cast;
Gaily, gaily sang the fiddle, while we marched with swinging stride
Through the flowers that hid the failures of the past.
Do you ever dream you hear it? Does it bring the vision back,
With the curlew, and the moonlight ore the trees?
Do the waveless ripple shoreward with the flotsam and the wrack,
When a fiddle plays the simple melodies?
Lonely, bent old Peter Nelson with the quaint, uncommon ways,
“Spruced and tidied” when the book of day was shut,
With the dim light in the window, and the friends of better days
Summoned round him by the fiddle in the hut.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
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