The Old Brown Hen by Louisa Lawson

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The bane of my life is an old brown hen,
You never know where to find her, or when;
She's all day long on her wings or her feet,
Tormenting the neighbours, or out in the street;
There never was a fence built so high it could pen
Or keep out of mischief that old brown hen.

She scratches the flower-beds, takes out the seed,
Then gets in the manger and scatters the feed;
She wakes up the baby, and flies at the cat,
And tears, like a fury, the fibre door-mat.
Sometimes I could kill her in cold blood; but then
She lays a fine egg - does the old brown hen.

She upsets the dust-box, fills up the sink,
Then leaves on the white step a footprint like ink:
She makes me so angry, the bird I could choke:
I chase her with potsticks, and pelt her with coke.
But would you believe it? Nine times out of ten
She dodges them all, does the old brown hen.

No beauty or breed has the old brown hen,
She never set foot in a fancier's pen;
Her breast has no feathers, her tail is awry,
And sometime I think she is blind of an eye.
Nobody would steal her, that's certain, but then
They don't know her value -- the old brown hen.
She's laying or hatching the whole year round,
She nests in the long grass, and sits on the ground;
And though she's a terror, and so full of tricks,
If I do not get eggs I'm sure to get chicks.
She never once brought out chicks fewer than ten --
She pays for her keep, does the old brown hen.

First published
in The Australian Town & Country Journal, 13 June 1906;
and later in
The Worker, 22 December 1910; and
Louisa Lawson: Collected Poems with Selected Critical Commentaries edited by L. M. Rutherford, M. E. Roughley and Nigel Spence, 1996.

Author: Louisa Lawson (1848-1920) was born Louisa Albury in Mudgee, New South Wales, and married Niels "Peter" Larsen in 1866; the couple later anglicised their surname to Lawson.  Louisa's son Henry Lawson was born in 1867, and she separated from her husband and moved to Sydney on 1883.  She bought the Republican in 1887 and produced most of the copy in partnership with her son.  In 1888 she started the Dawn, Australian's first publication for women.  After an accident in 1900 her newspaper work slowly waned and she died in Gladesville in 1920.

Author reference sites: Austlit, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Poetry Library

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 13, 2011 9:12 AM.

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