The Parting Rosary
They have brought the news, my darlin’, that I’ve waited for so long.
Faith, ‘twas little news they brought me; every story, every song
That I’ve heard since you enlisted seemed to bear the one refrain,
Till the whole world used to tell me that you’d never come again,
They’ve been cruel times, alannah, since you left us for the fight,
Potterin’ dazed-like all the daytime, thinkin’, thinkin’ through the night;
Yerra, what’s the use complainin’, when the world is all amiss,
When the hopin’ and the strivin’ ever come to dust like this.
’Twas the green months when you left me; now the brown, brown months have come,
Stand the ripe crops in the paddocks, but the harvesters are dumb.
There’ll be flowers again in plenty, and a carpet o’er the plain —
Oh, it’s hard you won’t be comin’ when the green months come again!
Still, I’m thankful, oh, I’m thankful for one golden memory.
That the last time spent together was to say The Rosary.
Don’t you mind it, boy? we said it in my own room there beyond,
Where I have the little altar where your early prayers you conned,
By the statue that I cherish of the Holy Mother fair,
With the blue cloak round her shoulders, and her white hands crossed in prayer.
They were singin’ in the parlour, them that came to say good-bye;
And they sang their gay songs to me — och, I knew the reason why!
They are always kind in trouble in this big warmhearted land;
Ah, but their way was’t my way, and they mightn’t understand.
So I lit the little candles, and I beckoned you away,
And you came — God bless you for it, boy — the partin’ prayer to say.
Ay, the partin’ Rosary, darlin’ — I can see you kneelin’ there,
With your big broad shoulders bendin’, and your hands joined on the chair,
And your man’s voice like an organ rollin’ out its soul apart —
Och, to-night, boy, in my dreamin’ it is dronin’ in my heart.
Yes, we said it with the music strummin’ ragtime songs throughout,
Just our two selves there together, answerin’ t’other turn about.
’Tis a quare, quare world, alannah, when the storm can work its stress
On the strong limb, while the withered leaf is left in loneliness.
“Lay your treasure up in Heaven,” for there’s nothing here below;
Och, we Irish mothers learned it in the old land long ago!
Short life’s springtime with its blossom; and it comes not back again,
Only haggard trees in winter stretchin’ naked limbs in pain.
Oh, I’m thankin’ God, my bouhal,* though the achin’s in my breast,
’Twas He took you from me, darlin’, and He knoweth what is best:
And His Holy Mother Mary, with her Baby on her knee,
Sure she lost Him in His manhood, for He died at thirty-three.
There’s a numbin’ in my heart, boy; like a cold, cold hand it grips —
Oh, I’m thankful that we parted with the Rosary on your lips.
It has ever been my refuge; it has been my hope and stay,
Been my hymn of sweet thanksgivin’ for what good there came my way.
It has been my only comfort when the heart was sick and sore,
When the bad days past the countin’ flung their troubles round my door.
I was taught it by my mother; ay, and when we crossed the sea
For to seek the gold we never found — the old man there and me
(Sure he stood six feet and higher then, and coal-black was his hair —
Och, you’d never know ’twas him at all, that bent old man in there) —
We have said it in the slab hut, strong and clear in flood and drought,
Just our two selves there together “answerin’ up and “givin’ out.”
We have said it by the cradle, we have said it by the cot;
When the babes the angels brought us made us happy in our lot.
When the house was full of childer, and the pride of livin’ glowed,
Och, we said it till the neighbours heard us, passin’ on the road.
But ye’ve gone and left me lonely; one by one, my doves, ye flew;
One by one the circle’s dwindled, till the Rosary’s said by two —
Said by two old husky voices, old and weak and wearin’ out,
Just our two old selves together, answerin’ t’other turn about.
Sure it won’t be long, alannah, till the troubled sea is calm,
And the beads drop from my fingers and they bind them on my arm.
You would tease me with the “trimmin’s” in the dear days that are dead,
There’s another trimmin’ now, boy, every time the Rosary’s said.
But there won’t be many Rosaries, for the singin’s in my ears
And the Holy Mother’s beckonin’ — I can see her through my tears.
These old feet have done their journey, better leave them restin’, then;
They will bring me to the hill-side ere the green months come again.
Sure I’ll tread the House of Glory, where the soul is free from harm,
And you’ll know ’tis me, alannah, by the Rosary on my arm.
* Boy; also spelt bouchal.
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921
alannah = my child; also spelt as “alanna”, from the Irish “leanbh” (lannav) for child [see: P. W. Joyce. English As We Speak It in Ireland, Longman, Green & Co., London, 1910, page 210]
bouhal = boy; also spelt as “bouchal” or “boochal”, from the Irish “buachaill” for boy [see: P. W. Joyce, page 222]
quare = queer or strange (in its Irish usage it can also mean “very” or “extremely”) [see: P. W. Joyce, page 309]
yerra = yerra or arrah is an exclamation, a phonetic representation of the Irish airĕ, meaning take care, look out, look you — ‘Yerra Bill why are you in such a hurry?’ [see: P. W. Joyce, page 62]