Henry Lawson

Black Bonnet

A day of seeming innocence, A glorious sun and sky, And, just above my picket fence, Black Bonnet passing by. In knitted gloves and quaint old dress, Without a spot or smirch, Her worn face lit with peacefulness, Old Granny goes to church. Her hair is richly white, like milk, That long ago was fair And glossy still the old black silk She keeps for chapel wear; Her bonnet, of a bygone style, That long has passed away, She must have kept a weary while Just as it is to-day. The parasol of days gone by Old days that seemed the best The hymn and prayer books carried high Against her warm, thin breast; As she had clasped come smiles come tears, Come hardship, aye, and worse On market days, through faded years, The slender household purse. Although the road is rough and steep, She takes it with a will, For, since she hushed her first to sleep Her way has been uphill. Instinctively I bare my head (A sinful one, alas!) Whene’er I see, by church bells led, Brave Old Black Bonnet pass. For she has known the cold and heat And dangers of the Track: Has fought bush-fires to save the wheat And little home Out Back. By barren creeks the Bushman loves, By stockyard, hut, and pen, The withered hands in those old gloves Have done the work of men. ….. They called it Service long ago When Granny yet was young, And in the chapel, sweet and low, As girls her daughters sung. And when in church she bends her head (But not as others do) She sees her loved ones, and her dead And hears their voices too. Fair as the Saxons in her youth, Not forward, and not shy; And strong in healthy life and truth As after years went by: She often laughed with sinners vain, Yet passed from faith to sight God gave her beauty back again The more her hair grew white. She came out in the Early Days, (Green seas, and blue and grey) The village fair, and English ways, Seemed worlds and worlds away. She fought the haunting loneliness Where brooding gum trees stood; And won through sickness and distress As Englishwomen could. ….. By verdant swath and ivied wall The congregation’s seen White nothings where the shadows fall, Black blots against the green. The dull, suburban people meet And buzz in little groups, While down the white steps to the street A quaint old figure stoops. And then along my picket fence Where staring wallflowers grow World-wise Old Age, and Common-sense! Black Bonnet, nodding slow. But not alone; for on each side A little dot attends In snowy frock and sash of pride, And these are Granny’s friends. To them her mind is clear and bright, Her old ideas are new; They know her real talk is right, Her fairy talk is true. And they converse as grown-ups may, When all the news is told; The one so wisely young to-day, The two so wisely old. At home, with dinner waiting there, She smooths her hair and face, And puts her bonnet by with care And dons a cap of lace. The table minds its p’s and q’s Lest one perchance be hit By some rare dart which is a part Of her old-fashioned wit. ….. Her son and son’s wife are asleep, She puts her apron on The quiet house is hers to keep, With all the youngsters gone. There’s scarce a sound of dish on dish Or cup slipped into cup, When left alone, as is her wish, Black Bonnet washes up.

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