Marsupial Bill

1
IT was the time when geese despond,
And turkeys make their wills;
The time when Christians, to a man,
Forgive each other's bills;
It was the time when Christmas glee
The heart of childhood fills.

2
Alas! that, when the changing year
Brings round the blessed day,
The hearts of little Queensland boys
Wax keen to hunt and slay—
As if the chime of Christmas time
Were but a call to prey.

3
Alas! that when our dwellings teem
With comfits and with toys—
When bat and ball and wicket call
To yet sublimer joys—
Whatever can't be caught and killed
Is stale to certain boys.

4
Strange that, with such instructive things
From which to pick and choose,
With moral books and puzzle maps
That “teach while they amuse,”
Some boys can find no pleasure save
In killing kangaroos.

5
Where Quart Pot Creek to Severn's stream
 
Its mighty tribute rolls,
There stands a town—the happiest town,
I think, betwixt the poles;
And all around is holy ground;
In fact, it's full of holes.

6
And there, or thereabouts, there dwelt
(Still dwells, for aught I know)
A little boy, whose moral tone
Was lamentably low;
A shocking scamp, with just a speck
Of good in embryo.

7
His name was Bill. To wallabies
He bore an evil will;
All things that hop on hinder legs
His function was to kill,
And from his show of scalps he won
The name, Marsupial Bill.

8
His face and form were pinched and lean,
And dim his youthful eye:
'Tis well that growing Queensland boys
Should know the reason why;—
My little lads, 'twas all along
Of smoking on the sly.

9
Through this was William small and lean,
Through this his eye was dim,
Nor biceps rose on nerveless arm,
Nor calf on nether limb;—
Ye growing boys and hobbledehoys,
Be warned by me—and him.

10
His elevated shoulders stood
But little way apart;
 
His elbow joints—Oh, poor avail
Of mere descriptive art!
I would I had an artist man
To show them William's “carte!”

11
And should you ask how such a one
A mighty hunter grew,
So many flying does outsped,
So many boomers slow—
Bill owned a canine mate, to which
His victories were due.

12
A brute so complex that he set
“The fancy” all agog;
Of breed that ne'er found name in ex-
hibition catalogue!
Oh, would I had an artist man
To show them William's dog!

13
On Christmas-eve, at set of sun,
A hollow tree he sought;
A match, a scratch, a puff, and Bill
Was lost in smoke and thought,
And “all his battles o'er again”
In fervid fancy fought.

14
No ha'penny thing, no penny thing,
No thing of common clay
Such brilliant memories evoked,
With hopes as bright as they—
It was his father's Sunday pipe
That Bill had stolen away.

15
For many a time and oft had he
Admired the wondrous bowl,
The stem, the mouthpiece, and the tout
 
Ensemble of the whole,
Until desire of it had grown
A portion of his soul—

16
Until desire o'ergrew the fear
Of kick, or cuff, or stripe.
That eve, when Bill stepped forth from home
The guilty scheme was ripe—
His right-hand trouser-leg concealed
His father's Sunday pipe.

17
And now within a heaven of smoke
Against the tree he leant,
The while the mellow influence
Through all his vitals went,
And for the first time in his life
He knew what meerschaum meant.

18
So subtly stole the influence
His inmost being through,
He did not mark the sudden bark
That signalled kangaroo,
Nor noted that his constant mate
Had vanished from his view.

19
His mind and eye were on the pipe
And he had just begun
To count how many scalps would go
To purchase such a one,—
When turning round his head, he saw,
Against the setting sun,

20
A Boomer! . . . and, as when the waves
Close o'er a drowning head,
Sudden the whole forgotten past
Before the soul lies spread,
 
And all the charge-sheet of a life
In one brief glance is read—

21
Ev'n so in instant tumult thronged,
About his wildered mind,
A thousand shapes of wounded things,
Of every size and kind;
And some were scalped, and some were maimed
And some were docked behind.

22
The kangaroo, the wallaroo,
The wallaby was there;
The 'possum jabbered in its fright,
Sore wept the native bear;
The stricken paddamelon moaned
Its ineffectual prayer;
The
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James Brunton Stephens

James Brunton Stephens was a Scottish-born Australian poet, author of Convict Once. more…

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"Marsupial Bill" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 16 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/20006/marsupial-bill>.

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