MR GREENWAY’S STONE DOUBLET
Damme the Mr Bigges of this world! Propensity to ornament, they sneered, mere curlymurly; A tromperie of Greek temples in Rat Castle; The Stables a fable for unicorns, all turrets and towers; A rummy Hospital patched up like an ailing rumdoxy; Obelisks in the shrubbery. How dare you emulate London! Blocks! The Philistines are upon thee. Bigge was my snuffer, my sneezelurker, A tattler up to the cackle with poison quill. Do you see, Mary? The beauty and dignity of classical style Actuates the mind, elevates the soul. The consonance of numbers, harmony, measure. Witness the creation of the Architect of the Universe. When I first set eyes on the headlands, those cliffs, The trim of cannonsmoke capstones atop The silvery glim of salt stacks splashed ochre And the gleam that illumines that pewter visage After lashing storms. A swallow’s Eden! Ha, Capability Brown’s gateway to Port Jackson. Sandstone, I trembled! In a crack, I saw Arcading and colonnades and terracing of stonework honeyhued. Dear airy Clifton and Hot Wells! My imagination unfettered! Then I found myself back at the Assizes, Bristol, The Recorder placing the black cap upon his wig: You shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead. The scrag’em fair was nigh; I was afloat upon the grating, Under distress of rent and bankruptcy, so desperate as to fake a signature, Nibbed, a smith riveting the darbies, the horrors of deep descent. That slippery goddess, Fortune, as the Governor would say, Saved me from that hempen necktie and ignominy, But not the hellfire hot or hellish freeze Of that dreadful hold, black as Newgate. Oh, Mary, I can never forget, not even in my sleep, The ceaseless jangle of jarring iron. Two hundred haunted thinguts would collapse in a heap of chains Smirched in slime; truly a frieze from a circle of Hell. On that ship of dead souls, one ninth part of the poor devils Were heaved overboard from scurvy or gaol fevers. Pressed below hatches day after day, writhing on their narrow cots, The foul stench a very choker on the triningcheat. Our filthy bedding, our rags of linen, were damped as our spirits, Our rations of salt horse weeded. Eagled in that jakes of a saltbox,
I had not the strength to design my own coffin. Only ghastly schemes of Pissing Conduits. When, thanks be to God, I hobbled off that pinchgut transport, The General Hewitt, more skeleton than skinandbones, The town of Sydney was a vast stonetavern, An eyesore of crude, crumblingdown buildings Scattered higgledypiggledy, military mills, brick kilns, St Philip’s Church, ugly as sin, the double barracks, Nutbrown canaries in old kersey or yellow woollens. I taught iron to swim, Mary. These pickers and stealers Concerned only with peck and booze and rubbelly. Indeed, I instructed those wretches in hammer, chisel and wedge, Not to patch like a tinker, but to joggle and cramp, Mould and work the stone, hone the ironbarks into beams. Do you remember Governor Macquarie’s words of admiration? How he praised my lighthouse. Ha, no slight pepperbox. Approved, L. McQ. Mm. Every evening before retiring, In his scarlet uniform and aiguillettes, He was wont to look eastward to Southead And gaze upon the crown of cupola and lanthorn from afar. He was on the square, Old Sandy, thrifty not pinchpenny. Slyboots agin’ the Colonial Office. Our visions of civil grandeur in league. For a while. Mm. Did I mag him too warmly, do you think? Quizzing at his precious patternbooks. I fear I was a grumblegizzard. But surely tip me my just dues! Three bob a day For the agent of the Architect of the Universe! Declared my claims too salt! How could he? After he’d sworn. I’d counsel him frequently the measure of a nation’s good depends on How its artists, mechanics and labourers are used. Mm. And paid. I perceived a lazy stroke of working, so I brought in rewards, task work. Materials were scarce and expensive, so we unearthed our own. I tallied an honest bill of quantities, reproached builder slags. Yet I durst not forget the suffering of those isolated lags at Iron Cove, Plunging in up to the middle at high tide, like cold meat awash, To dredge and scrape and scour shells with broken mittens to burn lime. There but for the Grace of God. Ah, dear Mary . . . Shells of men. And those cursed culls in black and white raiment chained from neck to ankle Cutting and hewing the massive slabs of sandstone Under the lash of the law. Not even the Colonial Architect could bolt From the legs of the law. When Colonel Sanderson horsed me For not beating his masonic apron with gold, I, though an Emancipist, could never come the nob. ‘Twere as if I’d been branded on the hand, Whereas that fart in a bottle was an officer and gentleman. Huh, but they all showed ingratitude, Mary . . . Humbugging contractors, lazybones in the Lumber Yard, Poor doers on site, that inquisitor Bigge splitting upon my work, Judging the Governor and me had gone quite mad with useless magnificence.
All for a colony of felons, Mary. For a colony of felons. O glorious ignorance! Michael Small March 19April 21, 2004 published LiNQ, vol.32, no.1, James Cook University, Queensland
MR GREENWAY’S STONE DOUBLET All for a colony of felons, Mary. For a colony of felons. O glorious ignorance! Michael Small March 19April 21,...