Poem: "Poor John Farrell" by V.J.D. (Victor Daley)

"I knew all now and reckoned that 'nothing mattered much' in this world, as poor John Farrell used to say." - SUNDAY TIMES

You may live all your life half-drunk
   You may live hard and fast,
You may be sober as a monk --
   It comes to this at last.

It comes to this that when you die
   One fact you can't escape --
Above your grave will mope or cry
   Some living owl or ape.

He sang full many a rousing stave,
   And brewed full many a barrel
Of humming ale; yet in his grave
   They call him "poor John Farrell!"

His means were small, his spirit fine
   And generous and grand;
His heart it was a ruby mine,
   Johannesburg his hand.

His sympathies ran round the globe,
   He scorned your fine apparel --
He wore the radiant singing-robe,
   Our dear old "poor John Farrell."

Is it because his soul has fled
   From earth, they call him poor?
Why Homer's dead, and Shakespeare's dead,
   And so is Thomas Moore.

If being dead -- or gone, at least --
   Means indigence so sore,
Jay Gould has been some time deceased,
   And Midas is no more.

This always was the way with men;
   One dies, and his compeers
Crow o'er their immortality,
   Of ten more months, or years.

I know them well, the foolish band,
   Who mournfully remark --
"Poor Adam Lindsay Gordon" and
   "Poor dear old Marcus Clarke."

I know, too, that beyond our dry,
   Small shrunken periods,
Farrell is brewing in the sky
   Ambrosia for the gods.

How he would laugh if he could know
   That still his name is craped
By brother scribes in weeds of woe --
   Because he has Escaped!

No mournful string for him I strike,
   But lilt a careless carol,
And drink his health -- as he would like --
   Good luck to you, John Farrell!

First published in The Bulletin, 7 July 1904

Note: John Farrell was born at Buenos Aires in 1851, and his family arrived in Melbourne in 1852, attracted by the goldfields. Farrell's verse was first published in the Albury local press and his first "Bulletin" contribution appeared in 1882. His first significant book of verse, How He Died, appeared in 1887 and another collection, My Sundowner and Other Poems, edited by Bertram Stevens, appeared in 1904. He died in Sydney in 1904.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 3, 2007 11:29 AM.

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