[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]
The Church upon the Hill
A simple thing of knotted pine
And corrugated tin;
But still, to those who read, a sign,
A fortress on the farthest line
Against the march of sin.
Though rich man’s gold was lacking quite,
We built it strong and sure,
With willing hands and (Faith’s delight)
The savings spared, the widow’s mite,
The shillings of the poor.
Nor could it fail to meet the eye
And reverent thoughts instil,
As there above the township high,
And pointing always to the sky,
It stood upon the hill.
And through our lives in wondrous ways
Its holy purpose led
From limpid lisping cradle-days
To where the silent moonlight lays
White hands upon the dead.
For when the Holy Morning strung
Its beads upon the grass,
You’d see us driving — old and young —
The tall white graceful trees among.
On every road to Mass.
It brought the brave young mother there,
Surrounded by her brood,
To wrap their tiny hearts in prayer,
And teach them how to cast their care
Upon the Holy Rood.
It watched the little bush girl grow,
And kept her life from harm,
Till, spotless as the virgin snow
In wreath and veil, it saw her go
Upon her husband’s arm.
It blessed strong, trembling shoulders bent:
Helped many a soul in thrall
To climb again the steep ascent,
And reft the grim entanglement
That brought about the fall.
It soothed the gray old mother’s pain,
A-swaying while she told
Her rosary o’er and o’er again
For griefs that rent her heart in twain —
So new, and ah, so old!
(There’s “that poor boy who went astray,”
And lined her gentle brow;
There’s “them that’s wand’rin’ fur away,”
And “them that’s in their grave to-day”
And “beck’nin’” to her now.)
Refuge it gave the weary heart,
Beyond the sordid din
And conflict of the crowded mart,
One sweet, sequestered nook apart,
Where all might enter in.
Though high and grand cathedrals shine,
To my mind grander still
Is that wee church of knotted pine,
That rampart on the outer line
That stood upon the hill.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
Beautiful and heartfelt love for the little church upon the hill, may all who read this and feel a pull on their heartstrings return once again to God and his church – he’s always there.