David Lewis Paget
Hellfire & Reuben Rose - Poem by David Lewis Paget
A hundred and thirty years has passed
Since Reuben strode our turf,
A Hell-fire Methodist Preacher
Cursing souls with every breath,
He claimed an exclusive license, sanctioned
By our gracious Lord,
To dispense both sulphur and brimstone
To the sinners of the world.
At Moonta, in the mining days,
When copper ruled as king,
A fluctuation in the price
Soon ruined everything.
Families left in droves; for jobs
Were harder then to find,
The congregations withered,
They were the few that stayed behind.
There wasn't enough to pay the fund
To keep their minister,
So he took off to Castlemaine
To save Victoria,
And when the Primitive Methodists
Declined to send another,
All Hell broke loose at the altar then,
Set brother against brother.
Enraged at the Executive
For showing them such contempt,
Half of the congregation said:
'We'll fix their argument!
We'll just secede from the Primitives
And run our own affairs.'
But Reuben Rose was a Primitive,
Who had his own ideas.
'Who owns the Church, ' he sagely said,
'The age-old Primitives! '
'Not so, ' declared the rebels, then,
'We paid for it with our tithes! '
But neither side would give an inch,
They claimed it, theirs alone,
Two armies of the Lord lined up
To seize the good lord's throne.
And so it was that, Sunday noon,
The rebels got there first,
They sang a lot of Sankey's hymns
To scorn the Primitive's verse,
They raised their voices mightily
And damn near raised the roof,
The Lord was on their side, they said
To the others, in reproof.
The Primitives stood there at the back,
And thought to rush the font,
A thrust along the centre aisle
A rush around the flank,
But Reuben Rose stood still and grim
His eyes as black as sin,
The veins along his forehead popped
Like corn in the summertime.
He waited 'til the evening prayer
And reached the altar first,
Secured it for the Primitive's
Against a greater force.
The earth seemed then to open up
To fill men's eyes and bones
With the stink of the smell of sulphur
And a tisane of old brimstone.
The rebels seized the chapel gate,
Locked it against the foe,
The Primitives went around the side,
Took an iron bar to the door,
Reuben Rose picked up a stone,
And held it up on high,
Then burst the lock on the chapel door,
Left the rebels high and dry.
The people from the mine soon heard
The threats no Lord forgives,
Then marched up there in a body to
Eject the Primitives,
'The battle's not yet over, '
Reuben Rose was heard to shout,
'You may be one with the devil,
But you never will lock us out! '
It came to Bloody Monday, when
The Primitives took hold,
Assaulted the chapel building
In the morning, gained control.
But soon retaliation was
The order of the day,
The rebels beat the victors off,
The rebels soon held sway.
They nailed up the windows and
They boarded up the doors,
They made a mighty fortress of
The chapel of the Lord,
And so in pure frustration, when
The Primitives saw black,
They marched to the one time minister,
Demanded his furniture back.
A crowd of angry women soon,
They marched there, hobble-hob,
They'd had their fill of Primitives,
And Reuben Rose's mob,
Each woman carried the sweeping broom
That lay about her house,
To sweep the Primitive Methodists
Away from East Moonta South.
The seeds of time have swallowed
Reuben Rose, and all his clan,
The church, it lies in rubble,
All in one with the works of man.
But if you listen carefully,
Right next to the pile of lime,
You'll hear the veins of his forehead,
Pop like corn in the summertime.
(And somewhere up in heaven
By the side of the Pearly Gates,
The Primitives are waiting,
Over a hundred years too late.
The rebels are inside, cosy, while
Old Reuben is heard to shout:
'You may be one with the devil,
But you never will lock us out!)
20 July 2008
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