The Wiree’s Song

"The Wiree sang that Christmas Day..."

The wiree* sang that Christmas Day,
A rippling, limpid, liquid lay
In clump and cover trilling;
On ripened grain and gleaming road
The molten, golden sunlight glowed,
The lone land’s rapture stilling.

And health and strength and youth and grace
Were gathered down at Casey’s place
In mirthful mood of madness;
While, hidden in the currajong,
The wiree sang his limpid song,
Responsive to the gladness.

And Mary sparkled everywhere,
The sunlight weaving through her hair
The colours of December;
Ah, two shall strive – but one shall win
And one shall feel the javelin
‘Twere poison to remember!

The silent bush that Christmas Day
In molten, golden sunlight lay,
Nor bough nor leaf a-tremble;
All hushed and mute, it seemed asleep,
Or wrapped away in musings deep
That sleep itself resemble.

One voice the outer spaces filled —
That lilting lay the wiree trilled,
Like raptures of a lover,
“Wir-ree, Wir-ree, Itchong, Itchong” —
Then rippled through its liquid song,
Leaf-hidden in the cover.

And one has seen the love arise
To shade the light of laughing eyes
Like white clouds in December;
But one has felt the piercing pang
That thrilled the song the wiree sang —
And he shall still remember.

*Known to ornithologists as the ‘Rufous-breasted Whistler’. The lovely old aboriginal word is pronounced ‘wiry’.

This two poem was included in the classic collection of verses about the Irish in Australia, Around the Boree Log. **

It was published in 1925 and the author was given as ‘John O'Brien’. In fact, he was Father Patrick Joseph Hartigan (1878 – 1952) who was born in Australia. Both of his parents were from Lisseycasey in County Clare.

**’Boree’ (sometimes accented — Cork/Kerry-style — on the last syllable) is the aboriginal name for the ‘Weeping Myall’ — the best-burning firewood in Australia except for the ‘Gidgee’.

A more humourous poem for Christmas by Father Hartigan.

Saint Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick's Day as seen by Father Hartigan.