[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bush-land Ballads (1910).]
The Old Kit Bag
Its musty old leather smells sweeter to me
Than attar of roses, or afternoon tea;
Its mottled skin, showing the wear o’ the weather,
Brings back the long trails that we travelled together;
The battered old Kit with its labels and stains,
Mid friends and good fellows, most constant remains.
The grate of the wheel and the kick of the screw;
The fog in the morn with the sun breaking through;
New dreams and new hopes and the lure of new places,
Strange inns and fresh beds and the charm of fresh faces;
These things never weary — the lash of the seas,
The roar of the south wind, the cry of the trees.
Man houses temptation. And once in his life
May come to him dreams of another man’s wife.
But an old Kit Bag, like a friend and a fellow,
Will index his tracks to the regions where mellow
The fruits of Love’s fancy that ripe in the sun,
Nor sour on his conscience o’er-greatly when won.
For Love is a vestal; as Love is a rake,
Hell baiteth its hooks with A Fair Woman’s Sake;
But the old Kit Bag, with the world for a college,
Full crammed to the neck with his collars and knowledge —
With never a heart ’neath his tough, wrinkled hide
Has oft baffled Hell — and the lady beside.
Man sups with Misfortune; the scourge and the flail
Are laid to the backs of the culprits who fail;
But Fortune, her wings like a falcon may fold in
Some Isle of Beyond, or some far gully golden;
And the Old Kit Bags that we packed in despair,
Our guiding stars prove to the good days out there.
A cooler for passion, a cure for the wine,
Dear prodigal comrade, gone husking with swine,
When cash is run out and your credit is ended;
A pill for the patient, well-tried, recommended,
Is the old Kit Bag that you dolefully pack,
Kick under the berth, or consign to the rack;
’Twill carry your pictures, pyjamas and clothes;
Your worldly possessions and most of your woes,
For when you are down with your face to the gravel
There’s nothing so wholesome and healing as travel;
There’s nothing so musical, soothing and true,
As the skirl o’ the wheel, or the grunt of the screw.
The plains are a blessing, the seas are a boon:
The surf on the shingle, the scud o’er the moon;
And never a grief or a sour human sorrow,
Is final while dawneth a human to-morrow —
Let Ada go wanton, let Maggie flaunt by,
My son, you’ll forget ’em next week — if you try.
So, here’s to the Djinn with his leathery grin,
His solace for failure and falsehood and sin!
Here’s to the kits of the roving outsiders,
The wandering wild geese, the ready rough-riders!
Till the curtain is down, the corpse candles lit,
Here’s to the Kit,
The dandy old, bandy old, handy old Kit.
E. J. Brady, Bush-land Ballads, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1910, pp. 77-85
[Editor: Added a comma after “wild geese”.]
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