Hell, Hay and Booligal!
I glean them from signposts in these country places,
Weird names, some beautiful, more that make me laugh.
Driving to fat-lamb sales or to picnic races,
I pass their worshippers of the golden calf
And, in the dust of their Cadillacs, a latter-day Habbakuk
Rises in me to preach comic sermons of doom,
Crying: “Woe unto Tocumwal, Teddywaddy, Tooleybuc!”
And: “Wicked Wallumburrawang, your hour has come!”
But when the Four Horsemen ride their final muster
And my sinful country sinks in the fiery rain
One name shall survive the doom and the disaster
That fell on the foolish cities of the plain.
Like the three holy children or the salamander
One place shall sing and flourish in the fire:
It is Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra
And there at the Last Day I shall retire.
When Numbugga shrieks to Burrumbuttock:
“The curse of Sodom comes upon us all!”
When Tumbarumba calls for spade and mattock
And they bury Hell and Hay in Booligal;
When the wrath of God is loosed upon Gilgandra
And Gulargambone burns red against the west,
To Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra
I shall rise and flee away and be at rest.
When from Goonoo Goonoo, Underbool and Grong Grong
And Suggan Buggan there goes up the cry,
From Tittybong, Drik Drik and Drung Drung,
“Help, Lord, help us, or we die!”
I shall lie beside a willow-cool meander, or
Cut myself a fly-whisk in the shade
And from Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra
Fill my cup and whet my whistle unafraid.
When Boinka lies in ruins (more’s the pity!),
And a heavenly trump proclaims the End of Grace,
With: “Wombat is fallen, is fallen, that great city!”
Adding: “Bunyip is in little better case;”
When from Puckapunyal and from Yackandandah
The cry goes up: “How long, O Lord, how long?”
I shall hear the she-oaks sough at Mullengandra
And the Sweet Waters ripple into song:
Oh, there’s little to be hoped for Grabben Gullen
And Tumbulgum shrinks and shudders at its fate;
Folks at Wantabadgery and Cullen Bullen
Have Buckley’s chance of reaching Heaven’s gate;
It’s all up with Cootamundra and Kiandra
And at Collarenebri they know they’re through;
But at Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra
You may pitch your camp and sleep the whole night through.
God shall punish Cargellico, Come-by-Chance, Chinkapook;
They shall dance no more at Merrijig nor drink at Gentleman’s Halt;
The sin of Moombooldool He shall in no wise overlook;
Wee Jasper and Little Jilliby, He shall not condone their fault;
But though I preach down Nap Nap and annihilate Narrandera,
One place shall yet be saved, this I declare:
Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra
For its name and for my sake the Lord shall spare.
Alas! my beautiful, my prosperous, my careless country,
She destroys herself: the Lord will come too late!
They have cut down even their only tree at One Tree;
Dust has choked Honey Bugle and drifts over Creeper Gate;
The fires we lit ourselves on Mt Boothegandra
Have made more ruin than Heaven’s consuming flame;
Even Sweet Water Creek at Mullengandra,
If I went there now, would it live up to its name?