Bashful Gleeson

A poem by Edward Dyson

From her home beyond the river in the parting of the hills,
Where the wattles fleecy blossom surged and scattered in the breeze,
And the tender creepers twined about the chimneys and the sills,
And the garden flamed with colour like an Eden through the trees,

She would come along the gully, where the ferns grew golden fair,
In the stillness of the morning, like the spirit of the place,
With the sunshafts caught and woven in the meshes of her hair,
And the pink and white of heathbloom sweetly blended in her face.

She was fair, and small, and slender-limbed, and buoyant as a bird,
Fresh as wild, white, dew-dipped violets where the bluegum’s shadow goes,
And no music like her laughter in the joyous bush was heard,
And the glory of her smile was as a sunbeam in a rose.

Ben felt mighty at the windlass when she watched him hauling stuff,
And she asked him many questions, ‘What was that?’ and ‘Why was this?’
Though his bashfulness was painful, and he answered like a muff,
With his foolish ‘My word Missie!’ and his ‘Beg your pardon, Miss.’

He stood six foot in his bluchers, stout of heart and strong of limb;
For her sake he would have tackled any man or any brute;
Of her half a score of suitors none could hold a light to him,
And he owned the richest hole along the Bullock Lead to boot.

Yet while Charley Mack and Hogan, and the Teddywaddy Skite
Put in many pleasant evenings at ‘The Bower,’ Ben declined,
And remained a mere outsider, and would spend one half the night
Waiting, hid among the trees, to watch her shadow on the blind.

He was laughed at on the river, and as far as Kiley’s Still
They would tell of Bashful Gleeson, who was ‘gone on’ Kitty Dwyer,
But, beyond defeating Hogan in a pleasant Sunday mill,
Gleeson’s courtship went no further till the morning of the fire.

We were called up in the darkness, heard a few excited words;
In the garden down the flat a Chow was thumping on a gong;
There were shouts and cooeys on the hills, and cries of startled birds,
But we saw the gum leaves redden, and that told us what was wrong.

O’er ‘The Bower’ the red cloud lifted as we sprinted for the punt.
Gleeson took the river for it in the scanty clothes he wore.
Dwyer was madly calling Kitty when we joined the men in front;
Whilst they questioned, hoped, and wondered, Ben was smashing at the door.

He went in amongst the smoke, and found her room; but some have said
That he dared not pass the threshold,that he lingered in distress,
Game to face the fire, but not to pluck sweet Kitty from her bed,
And he knocked and asked her timidly to ‘please get up and dress.’

Once again he called, and waited till a keen flame licked his face;
Then a Spartan-like devotion welled within the simple man,
And he shut his eyes and ventured to invade the sacred place,
Found the downy couch of Kitty, clutched an armful up, and ran.

True or not, we watched and waited, and our hearts grew cold and sick
Ere he came; we barely caught him as the flame leapt in his hair.
He had saved the sheets, a bolster, and the blankets, and the tick;
But we looked in vain for Kitty,pretty Kitty wasn’t there!

And no wonder: whilst we drenched him as he lay upon the ground,
And her mother wailed entreaties that it wrung our hearts to hear,
Hill came panting with the tidings that Miss Kitty had been found,
Clad in white, and quite unconscious, ’mid the saplings at the rear.

We’re not certain how it happened, but I’ve heard the women say
That ’twas Kitty’s work. She saw him when the doctor left, they vow,
Swathed in bandages and helpless, and she kissed him where he lay.
Anyhow, they’re three years married, and he isn’t bashful now.

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