Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Smell of the Wattle

We had our first rains last night -- the first of seven -- no, eight -- months. They were not torrential, they did not scour away my earthworks. But they dampened the ground and they settled the dust, and oh, their fragrance!

Now we are praying for a respite, for clear skies and a dry tomorrow. For tomorrow is The Party. In honour of Hallowe'en. And if everyone who's invited comes, more than one hundred souls will be feasting here tomorrow. School friends of Best Beloved from Nicosia and their families, friends of Alex and Sophia, of Zenon and Leo. Cypriots, English, mixed marriages... 'The whole' (as Kazanzakis's Zorba) would say, 'catastrophe!'

The first rains always remind me of this poem by Kipling.


       (New South Wales Contingent)

Smells are surer than sounds or sights
To make your heart-strings crack--
They start those awful voices o' nights
That whisper, " Old man, come back! "
That must be why the big things pass
And the little things remain,
Like the smell of the wattle by Lichtenberg,
Riding in, in the rain.

There was some silly fire on the flank
And the small wet drizzling down--
There were the sold-out shops and the bank
And the wet, wide-open town;
And we were doing escort-duty
To somebody's baggage-train,
And I smelt wattle by Lichtenberg--
Riding in, in the rain.

It was all Australia to me--
All I had found or missed:
Every face I was crazy to see,
And every woman I'd kissed:
All that I should n't ha' done, God knows!
(As He knows I'll do it again),
That smell of the wattle round Lichtenberg,
Riding in, in the rain!

And I saw Sydney the same as ever,
The picnics and brass-bands;
And my little homestead on Hunter River
And my new vines joining hands.
It all came over me in one act
Quick as a shot through the brain--
With the smell of the wattle round Lichtenberg,
Riding in, in the rain.

I have forgotten a hundred fights,
But one I shall not forget--
With the raindrops bunging up my sights
And my eyes bunged up with wet;
And through the crack and the stink of the cordite
(Ah Christ! My country again!)
The smell of the wattle by Lichtenberg,
Riding in, in the rain!



  1. I wonder which wattle he was referring to?
    Wattle (anatomy), a fleshy growth hanging from the head or neck of certain animals.
    Wattle (dermatology) is another term for Congenital cartilaginous rest of the neck
    Wattle-and-daub, a building technique using woven wooden supports packed with clay or mud
    Croatian wattle, decorative pattern found in medieval Croatian art
    Wattle, a common name for trees and shrubs in the genus Acacia
    Black Wattle, a common name for several species of Acacia, as well as the unrelated Callicoma
    Golden wattle, species of Acacia which embodies the Australian country
    Wattle bagworm, caterpillar native to Southern Africa
    Wattlebird, a member of the Honeyeater family, native to Australia
    Wattle-eye, a family of small insect-eating birds native to Africa
    Three-wattled Bellbird, a migratory bird native to Central America and South America
    Wattle Cove, Auckland, New Zealand
    Wattle Dam Gold Mine, a gold mine near Kambalda, Western Australia
    Wattles Mansion, a house in Hollywood, California, owned by Gurdon Wattles
    Wattle Day, an Australian celebration of the first day of spring
    Steam tug Wattle, a vessel formerly in commercial service in Victoria Harbour, Melbourne, Australia

  2. smells like banjo Patterson