Monday, February 10, 2020

Readers Write



From Steve M, in response to the bushfire poems posted last Saturday, one by Colin Baxter and one by Henry Lawson: 
Beautiful poetry yesterday Otto, many thanks 
Steve m 
Thanks, Steve. 


Comment by US reader Tobye P on the poems and poets: 
Amen to all that!

Enjoy the weekend, Regards, Tobye 
Thanks, Tobye. 


Also in respect of those poems, an email from David B, who lives in the Old Dart: 
What a great poem, Bush Fire by Henry Lawson. Had me laughing and crying at the same time.

And thank you for introducing me, through Bytes Daily, to Henry Lawson. As a poet I group him with Robert W Service and Rudyard Kipling as what George Orwell described, apropos Kipling, as a good bad poet. A poet who tells a rattling good yarn, who pulls your emotions, yet without any literary pretensions. And all the better for it 
Thanks, David, I fully agree. 


By the way, the term “the Old Dart” is one used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to England. It has a meaning equivalent to “the old country”. There are a number of explanations for a possible origin: 
  • Possibly from the river Dart in Devonshire which enters the sea at Dartmouth, location of a Royal Navy College. Royal Navy officers who were returning to England at the end of a foreign tour of duty referred to going back to the "Old Dart" for further training. 
  • Alternatively it is a dialectal way of saying “dirt”, possibly Irish in origin, meaning “the old sod”. 

On the topic of Australian bush poets . . . 

I have posted the poem below previously. It seems appropriate to post it again in the light of the above comments in that Australia is experiencing drought, has recently had extreme bushfires, followed by blanketing smoke, followed by a cyclone and floods. I told my daughter, who is overseas, that God doesn’t seem to like Australia at the moment. 

John O'Brien was the psuedonym of Patrick Joseph Hartigan (1878-1952), who was born in Yass, New South Wales. Hartigan was a Roman Catholic priest in the Goulburn diocese and later parish priest at Narrandera, rural towns in New South Wales. 

“Said Hanrahan” (1921) gently pokes fun at the pessimism of the Irish Catholics and the attitude that sees difficulty in each situation, but against a backdrop of very real drought, floods and bushfires, constant threats in the Australian landscape and the Australian psyche. The poem remains relevant today as new generations face difficulties in the environment and in society. 

Said Hanrahan 

- John O'Brien 

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
In accents most forlorn, 
Outside the church, ere Mass began, 
One frosty Sunday morn. 

The congregation stood about, 
Coat-collars to the ears, 
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought, 
As it had done for years. 

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke; 
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad, 
For never since the banks went broke 
Has seasons been so bad." 

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil, 
With which astute remark 
He squatted down upon his heel 
And chewed a piece of bark. 

And so around the chorus ran 
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt." 
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
"Before the year is out." 

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work 
To save one bag of grain; 
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke 
They're singin' out for rain. 

"They're singin' out for rain," he said, 
"And all the tanks are dry." 
The congregation scratched its head, 
And gazed around the sky. 

"There won't be grass, in any case, 
Enough to feed an ass; 
There's not a blade on Casey's place 
As I came down to Mass." 

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan, 
And cleared his throat to speak - 
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
"If rain don't come this week." 

A heavy silence seemed to steal 
On all at this remark; 
And each man squatted on his heel, 
And chewed a piece of bark. 

"We want an inch of rain, we do," 
O'Neil observed at last; 
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two 
To put the danger past. 

"If we don't get three inches, man, 
Or four to break this drought, 
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
"Before the year is out." 

In God's good time down came the rain; 
And all the afternoon 
On iron roof and window-pane 
It drummed a homely tune. 

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves 
On dripping spout and window-sill 
Kept talking to themselves. 

It pelted, pelted all day long, 
A-singing at its work, 
Till every heart took up the song 
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke. 

And every creek a banker ran, 
And dams filled overtop; 
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
"If this rain doesn't stop." 

And stop it did, in God's good time; 
And spring came in to fold 
A mantle o'er the hills sublime 
Of green and pink and gold. 

And days went by on dancing feet, 
With harvest-hopes immense, 
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat 
Nid-nodding o'er the fence. 

And, oh, the smiles on every face, 
As happy lad and lass 
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place 
Went riding down to Mass. 

While round the church in clothes genteel 
Discoursed the men of mark, 
And each man squatted on his heel, 
And chewed his piece of bark. 

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man, 
There will, without a doubt; 
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan, 
"Before the year is out." 


I was tempted to add two verses to the above poem, here they are:

It’s a harsh land, it gives and takes,
It rewards those who don’t succumb.
It’s helping your mates, of giving a hand.
And of striving to overcome.

The pollies in Canberra though wouldn’t know
Their arses from flood and drought,
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Unless we vote Scomo out!”


From Tim B, responding to the Kirk Douglas memory: 
Hello Otto,  
Loved Kirk Douglas in “Man From Snowy River”, one of my favorite movies. He does a great job in the dual roles. Also loved the “Return of the Man From Snowy River.” Thanks for the Bytes.  

Thanks, Tim 

Another "By the way": 

Actor Tom Burlinson did all his own riding and nearly all his own stunts in both films, including the “terrible descent”. Burlinson had ridden a horse only a few times before being cast in the film. He was taught to ride by mountain cattleman Charlie Lovick, who owned the buckskin horse Burlinson rode in the film. Burlinson did not do the jump at the beginning of the terrible descent and the jump into the path of the brumbies (wild horses for overseas readers). 

The Man from Snowy River 1 and 2 are available on Stan. 


An anecdote concerning Kirk Douglas, from the IMDB trivia re the film Lust for Life, the Van Gogh biopic:
In his memoir "The Ragman's Son" Kirk Douglas recounted that John Wayne attended a screening of the film and was horrified. "Christ, Kirk! How can you play a part like that? There's so few of us left. We got to play strong, tough characters. Not those weak queers," Wayne said. Douglas tried to explain, "It's all make-believe, John. It isn't real. You're not really John Wayne, you know." Wayne (born Marion Morrison) looked at him oddly, as if Douglas had betrayed him.


I recently posted a list of the New York Times 2019 best neologisms, whereby readers submitted words with one letter changed to come up with a new meaning. 

Here is a contribution from Byter David J
A neologism that I came up with: Salivation Army

Salivation Army (n.) The front row spectators in a Strip Bar. 
Thanks David, very good. 


A final note: 

Some readers have sent me items and links that I have not yet had a chance to post. I will be doing so in the coming week.

Thanks for sending them, guys.

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