1 Dec 2009

Christmas in Australia


The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
And galvanized the old bush church at Confirmation time.
And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
With Sunday clothes, and staring eyes, and ignorance profound.
Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
An overgrown two-storey lad from Tangmalangaloo?

A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has her fling,
And grows the trefoil three feet high and mats it in the spring;
Where mighty hills uplift their heads to pierce the welkin's rim,
And trees sprout up a hundred feet before they shoot a limb;
There everything is big and grand, and men are giants too--
But Christian Knowledge wilts, alas, at Tangmalangaloo.

The bishop summed the youngsters up, as bishops only can;
He cast a searching glance around, then fixed upon his man.
But glum and dumb and undismayed through every bout he sat;
He seemed to think that he was there, but wasn't sure of that.
The bishop gave a scornful look, as bishops sometimes do,
And glared right through the pagan in from Tangmalangaloo.

"Come, tell me, boy," his lordship said in crushing tones severe,
"Come, tell me why is Christmas Day the greatest of the year?
"How is it that around the world we celebrate that day
"And send a name upon a card to those who're far away?
"Why is it wandering ones return with smiles and greetings, too?"
A squall of knowledge hit the lad from Tangmalangaloo.

He gave a lurch which set a-shake the vases on the shelf,
He knocked the benches all askew, up-ending of himself.
And so, how pleased his lordship was, and how he smiled to say,
"That's good, my boy. Come, tell me now; and what is Christmas Day?"
The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew--
"It's the day before the races out at Tangmalangaloo.

John O'Brien (Father Patrick Joseph Hartigan 1878 – 1952


  1. Hi Jeanne,
    ROFL :D

    That was funny.


  2. I love that poem. Each year on christmas day we read it. nanna used to, now dad does. dad grew up in broken hill and my nanna always laughed at the last line - even though she knew the poem word for word. i think i'll have to make it part of our christmas ritual now! thank for reminding me about it

  3. Great poem, eh! Great memories for me too of my sister reciting it when I was still quite young.
    Being brought up in an Irish RC family, with all the trimmin's of the rosary, and a glory, dadda glory! O'Brien's poems are especially entertaining for me. I once loaned Around the Boree Log to a Presby brought up friend. She said she enjoyed them but just couldn't get some of them!


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