[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]
Said the White-Haired Priest
Said the white-haired priest, “So the boy has come,
And the old, old dreams are o’er you,
And you give no thought to the gray humdrum
Of the world that lies before you!
’Tis a queer old world; ’tis a jumble wild
Where the fairest hopes may smother;
Ay, and things are just as they seem, my child,
To the likes of your fine old mother.
“Put the dreams one side; give your head a chance,
For the heart discerns but poorly,
And it beats the time of a mad wild dance,
When a lover has gripped it surely.
There is one wise heart in the wanton whirl,
Though you find through life no other;
And it beats with a sober pulse, my girl,
In the breast of your grand old mother.
“Let them paint fresh colours on vale and hill,
Let them say new flowers bloom brighter;
’Tis the same old rut on the highway still
Which she trod when her steps were lighter
And the same old hopes that her way beguiled,
And the same old griefs, — no other,
Ah, they wait hard by for yourself, my child,
As they did for your poor old mother.
“On her tired breast shall you tell your tale
When the drifting doubts distress you;
You shall kneel to her in your bridal veil,
And no holier hands shall bless you.
Put your young bright head, with its wealth of curl,
By that old white head of the other,
And entwine the gold with the gray, my girl,
By the side of your dear old mother.
“Though her eyes be weary and dim to-day,
In the shade of the dusk advancing
She sees the visions along the way
Where your young swift feet are dancing;
At your fond sweet dreams she has gently smiled! —
Yes, and you will smile at another
When you see the tinsel and sham, my child,
With the eyes of your wise old mother.
“Then go to her side and your story tell
With its hopes and its fears completed:
She will understand, ah, she knows it well,
It is merely her own repeated.
She will fold you close, and the tides that swell
In your bosoms shall choke and smother;
Oh, it’s blessed indeed is the bride, my girl,
When she kneels by a gray old mother.”
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
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