When Brother Peetree Prayed

A poem by Edward Dyson

’Twas a sleepy little chapel by a wattled hill erected,
Where the storms were always muffled, and an atmosphere of peace
Hung about beneath the gum-trees, and the garden was respected
By the goats from Billybunga and the washer-woman’s geese.
In the week-days it was sacred to my young imagination
From its walls there oozed a sentiment of reverence profound;
And on Sabbath morns the murmuring of the childish congregation
Seemed to spread a benediction in the bush land far around.
But when Brother Peetree prayed all the parrots flew dismayed,
And the hill shook to its centre, and the trees and fences swayed;
And we youngsters heard the rumble of the Day of Judgment there,
When the pious superintendent wrestled manfully in prayer.

They were horny-handed Methodists, and men of scanty knowledge,
Who controlled that ‘little corner of the vine-yard’ by the pound;
Their theology was not the kind that’s warranted at college,
But their faith was most abundant, and their gospel always sound.
Brother Peetree was a miner at the Band of Hope. His leisure
He employed in ‘sticking porkers’ for his neighbours, and his skill
Was a theme of admiration; but his soul’s sublimest pleasure
Was to speak a prayer on Sunday in the chapel ’neath the hill.
Froze the marrow in our bones at the sound of hollow groans,
And the shrieks of moral anguish, and the awful thunder tones;
And we saw the Hell-fire burning, and we smelt it in the air,
When dear Brother Peetree struggled with the Lord of Hosts in prayer.

Brother Peetree always started with a murmured supplication,
Knelt beside a form, serenely, with a meek, submissive face;
But he rose by certain stages to a rolling exhortation,
And a wild, ecstatic bellowing for sanctity and grace;
And he threw his arms to heaven, and the seats went down before him
As he fought his way along the aisle, and prayed with might and main,
With hysterical beseechings. Then a sudden peace fell o’er him,
And he finished, sobbing softly, at his starting-point again.
And the elders, to their ears pale with reverential fears,
And the sisters and the choir indulged in hot, repentant tears;
And the sinners for salvation did with eagerness declare,
When beloved Brother Peetree wrestled mightily in prayer.

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