The Reaper in the Bush

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis 1876 (Auburn) – 1938 (Melbourne)

He was lyin' on his bunk,
In the hut behind the mill,
Ravin' like a man wild drunk,
Never silent, never still,
'Best go in an' say Good bye,'
Says old Blair. 'He's got to die.'

God! I never want to see
Any face so wrung with pain,
Nor to hear such blasphemy
Ever in my life again.
White he was, an' starey-eyed,
With his hand pressed to his side.

'Now he raves,' says Daddy Pike.
'He ain't wise to what he says
Never have I heard the like
All me wicked livin' days.'
'Raise him up a bit,' says Blair.
'Put that pillow under there.

'Raise him. . . . There now, easy, lad.
Turn a little - gently - so.
You'll not feel it near so bad. . . .
Painin'? Yes, I know, I know.
Yes, old man; it's Blair, your friend. . . .
(Boys, he's very near the end.')

Soon a saner, calmer look
Came in Murray's strainin' eyes.
Though his body heaved an' shook,
He held back his awful cries
Till another wave of pain
Gripped him, an' he shrieked again.

'Christ!' he called. 'O, Christ, the pain!
Boys, you know I ain't a funk.'
Still he took the Name in vain,
Writhin' there upon his bunk.
'Do you call him?' says old Blair.
Pointin' upward. 'He is there.'

'Blair!' he gasps. 'Do you believe?
Such as me! Is there a chance?'
'Easy, Murray. Don't you grieve.
You ain't worth a single glance
Save of pity from His eye.
Laddie, pray before you die.'

'God! I'm frightened, Blair!' says he . . .
'Boys, you know I never whined. . . .
Where's the hope for one like me?
I ain't no hymn-singin' kind.'
There was pleadin' in his glance:
'Blair,' says he, 'is there a chance?'

Old Bob Blair reached for his hand.
'Chance there is, an' certainty.
Try to think an' understand.
Nothin's There to fear,' says he.
'Him, the Merciful, the Mild,
Think ye He would strike a child?

'Think ye that he put you here,
Gave you labour, gave you pain,
So your end should be fear
That you plead to Him in vain?
Nay, dear laddie, while you've breath,
Live in hope, an' smile on death.'

With a hard hand, woman-kind,
He pushed back the sweaty hair.
'Now then, laddie, ease your mind,
Pain will end for you out There. . . .'
An' the smile on Blair's rough face
Was a blessin' an' a grace.

'God!' says Ben, 'You are a friend:
Friend, old man, an' father too.
Hold my hand right to the end
They'll take notice There of you. . . .
Good-bye, Jim, an' Dusty Dick,
Simon, Pike. . . .I'm goin' - quick.'

With his eyes shut tight he lay,
His breath comin' in great sobs.
An' his poor lips seemed to pray,
As his hand held fast to Bob's. . . .
Now his sobs an' prayin' cease.
Says old Blair, 'God give him peace!

'Give him peace!' sighed old Bob Blair,
As he rose beside the dead.
But I caught his wistful stare,
An' the muttered words he said:
'God,' he prayed - 'if one there be -
Give such faith an' peace to me.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis

Clarence Michael James Stanislaus Dennis, better known as C. J. Dennis, was an Australian poet known for his humorous poems, especially "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", published in the early 20th century. Though Dennis's work is less well known today, his 1915 publication of The Sentimental Bloke sold 65,000 copies in its first year, and by 1917 he was the most prosperous poet in Australian history. Together with Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, both of whom he had collaborated with, he is often considered among Australia's three most famous poets. While attributed to Lawson by 1911, Dennis later claimed he himself was the 'laureate of the larrikin'. When he died at the age of 61, the Prime Minister of Australia Joseph Lyons suggested he was destined to be remembered as the 'Australian Robert Burns'. more…

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